Monday, November 16, 2009

The Best of Baseball Reference's Sponsorship Comments

Most internet-savvy baseball fans spend a lot of time over at the ultimate resource, Baseball Reference. If you have, I don't need to tell you what a superb website it is. One feature I've always enjoyed is the ability to sponsor pages. In fact, I finally took the plunge this year and decided to sponsor some pages of my own. Those yellow sponsorship boxes are special. They can link you to interesting sites, give you fun facts or make you smile with a cool story or witty comment. I was thinking it a shame that some of those comments would be lost for the ages after the sponsorships expired, when suddenly I was hit with an idea. Why not pay tribute to some of the better ones by dedicating a blog post to them?

I compiled a list of candidates so long that I unfortunately can't share them all here. Perhaps later I'll dedicate a separate post to the honorable mentions. For now though, I'll just give you a top ten countdown, since it's a nice round number and all.

10. 1987 Chicago Cubs

Andere Richtingen sponsor(s) this page.

Seemed every game I attended that season featured Greg Maddux as starter. And he sucked!

In a different time, before he became one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history, Greg Maddux was a young Cub trying to solidify a place in the Majors. This fan undoubtedly remembers taking trips to Wrigley and wondering why the home squad couldn't find anyone better than this kid. On a last-place Cubs team you can imagine Maddux blending in with the ineptitude Mr. Richtingen witnessed all summer long. This comment serves as a sort of mental time capsule, which I find fascinating as well as humorous.

9. 1993 Boston Red Sox sponsor(s) this page.

"Click on the link to fast forward 10 years to my favorite baseball moment!", G Travis Crawford.

Who doesn't love the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry (well, besides pretty much all non-Yankee or Red Sox fans, that is)? Overhyped though it may be, the rivalry produces some solid smack. Take this sponsorship, for example. The link is listed as "," which sets the reader up to think it'll be a pro-Red Sox moment. Of course, ten years after 1993 was 2003, the year the Red Sox lost the ALCS in seven games to the Yankees. Clicking on that link takes you to the page of Aaron Boone, whose homer sent the pinstripers to the World Series. How irate must some fans be who fell for it?

8. Len Koenecke
Eric Enders sponsor(s) this page.

"Please remember that Federal Aviation Regulations require passenger compliance with crew member instructions."

This comment won't make much sense to you if you're not familiar with Len Koenecke's untimely death. If you are, this comment should elicit one of those "that was so wrong" chuckles. For those of you unfamiliar, Koenecke was beaten to death with a fire extinguisher when he attacked the crew of a small plane he was riding on. Ahhhhh, makes sense now, doesn't it? Isn't that comment so wrong?

7. Dale Sveum
Brewer Fan Ange sponsor(s) this page.

I once saw him throw a ball from third base in to the fifth row of the box seats, well done. Also love the fact that a player who's career strikeout average (.260) is higher than his career batting average (.236) is our hitting coach. SPLENDID HIRE!!

There are comedians who make careers out of being bitter and angry, so we know those emotions can be played for their humor value. I think that's what Brewer Fan Ange was going for here. The punctuation and grammar mistakes convey a sense of muddled frustration, which is simultaneously cathartic for the sponsor and a source of amusement for the reader. What can I say? It works.

6. 1872 Washington Nationals
Bob Vesterman sponsor(s) this page.

They would've won the twelfth.

Perhaps you need to see the whole page to get this one. The joke is that the Nationals went 0-11 before folding. It's inspiring, in a way. It's almost as if 137 years later there's still one lone advocate who believes in this team. Does it matter at this point? Of course not, but it's a sentiment we can all appreciate. Mr. Vesterman repeated this joke on the 1873 Baltimore Marylands page.

5. Todd Hollandsworth
D.J., Stephanie and Michelle Tanner sponsor(s) this page.

You're the greatest, Uncle Joey!

Wow. A Full House reference? The joke here is that many people think Hollandsworth resembles Dave Coulier, who played Joey on the popular family sitcom. My only gripe is that D.J., Stephanie and Michelle didn't call the character "Uncle Joey." Jesse was the girls' mother's brother, which made him "Uncle Jesse." Joey was their father's college buddy, which made him just "Joey." It's clear to me that whoever left this comment had only a casual familiarity with the show. Despite the inaccuracy, it's clever enough to make the list.

4. Terry Francona
An Anonymous Supporter sponsor(s) this page.

Now we know! Welcome back to Woodrow Wilson, a loaf of bread for 10 cents, and The Curse. 2004 and 2007 are tainted beyond question. Welcome back to 1918 Red Sox Nation.

You may have noticed that there are a bunch of Red Sox-related pages that blast them for copying the Yankees' "spend to win" approach. I find it amusing, because I hate the Red Sox as much as anyone (well, maybe not anyone, since I don't hate them enough to sponsor a bunch of BB-Ref pages bashing them, but whatever). This comment is in the same vein, so I can appreciate it. I assume it was in response to Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz' PED revelations. The second sentence is what makes this one truly great. Listing historical markers to get your point across appeals to the intellect while tickling the funny bone.

This comment, presumably from the same person, is repeated on the 1978 Red Sox page.

3. Quinn
An Anonymous Supporter sponsor(s) this page.

The man, the legend....Quinn!

Several 19th Century players are shrouded in mystery. Their careers were so short and their names so common that it's nearly impossible to find any information about them. In some instances we don't even know their first names, as is the case with Mr. Quinn here. What better way to honor one of these unknown soldiers (and spend the $2 credit from BB-Ref's user survey), than to make a joke about his obscurity? It comes courtesy of "An Anonymous Supporter," whose decision to remain unnamed gives him some commonality with his subject. I wish I knew if that was intentional or just a great coincidence. Nonny, whoever you are, you made me laugh.

2. Ruben Rivera
Nesta Jones sponsor(s) this page.

September 1995. Rookies Derek Jeter and Ruben Rivera sit in the Yankees dugout, mouths full of Big League Chew, on the verge of stardom.

I like it. It paints a picture of a moment in time. Here you have two players at the dawn of their Major League careers looking forward to the glory that awaits. The future is bright and shiny, and they can't help but eagerly anticipate its arrival. Of course, the twisted irony is that one became a franchise icon while the other, the man being sponsored here, became a mediocre journeyman. Rivera was one of the Yankees' top prospects back in '95, but these days the only thing he's remembered for is stealing Jeter's glove and getting kicked off the team. How quickly the bright, shiny future becomes the disappointing, ignominious past.

Finally, the comment that beats all others I've encountered:

1. Marvin Benard
A high fastball sponsor(s) this page.

I loved this guy. He couldn't hit me with a tree trunk.

Genius. Pure genius. It personifies something as ephemeral as a pitch, then says that this hurtling sphere of cork and cowhide decided to pony up ten dollars and razz the player consistently baffled by it and its brethren. It's perhaps the most creative way one could pick on a former player's weakness as well as give a laugh to any fan who remembers it. Well done, McCovey Chronicles!

So there you go: the best of the best for 2009-10. Hopefully all these sponsors will renew them once they expire, because their brilliance deserves to live on and be enjoyed by many generations. If they decide not to renew, hey, the future generations can visit this blog.


  1. Great post! I love the idea and I love the list. I can't imagine how many BR pages you must've gone through...

  2. Thanks, lar! Let's just say BB-Ref is a sea of purple for me right now.

  3. Okay, I am the one who put up the Uncle Joey comment about Todd Hollandsworth. This stems from Game Chatters on Baseball Think Factory back in those days, where someone pointed out the Dave Coulier resemblance and Cubs Game Chatterers referred to him as "Uncle Joey" from then on. I am indeed ignorant of the show, being about ten years too old for it. The names of the Tanner girls, of course, were Googlable.

    Anyway, I'm honored to have been recognized twice!

  4. Thanks, Andere! I'm glad to know you liked this post! I grew up with Full House, so the "Uncle Joey" thing was something I noticed instinctively. It's not the first time I've seen someone call the character that. I guess when you have two guys with similar names who fill similar roles on the show, some degree of conflation tends to occur.

    By the way, your comment on the 1966 Cubs was also one of my finalists. You know how to write 'em!

  5. Untrue that stealing Jeter's glove is the only thing Ruben Rivera is known for. Among Giants fans, Rivera was also known for, as Jon Miller put it, "the worst baserunning in the history of the game."

  6. I am Marvin Benard's sponsor. Thanks for the shoutout! We at McC poke fun at Marvin on occasion, but we also have some good memories of him as well, such as his walk-off HR against the Dodgers on 07/02/2000. I'm in my third year of sponsoring that page, and I also sponsor Felix Rodriguez.

    Brian Bocock's sponsorship is a hoot. That's from Grant, the head blogger at McC. We use all the time, and sometimes we kick in some coin and plug McC at the same time. A total win-win.

    Very nice article and thanks again!

    -"Stuttering John Tamargo" from McCovey Chronicles

  7. Austin - Giants fans may remember him for that, but I think most fans nationwide would only remember hearing about his locker room thievery. Still, it certainly adds to Rivera's shameful legacy.

    Max - Thanks! It's great to hear from the legend himself! I thought that Felix Rodriguez comment had a similar tone to it. Keep up the good work over at McCovey Chronicles!

  8. no no no, the #1 sponsor was definitly (and it pains me to say that it no longer exists) for Russell Branyan, who at one point, I swear this is true, was sponsored by the Rob Deer Fan Club.

  9. That's because at the time Russell was the king of 3TO (Google it if you don't know what it means). Rob Deer is one of the all-time 3TO greats.

    This article has inspired me to renew my sponsorship of Jeff Liefer's page; it can be viewed by clicking on my URL.

  10. Anonymous - Broken Door Handle is correct. I remember the first time I heard about the 3TO it was in an article by the Rob Deer Fan Club, who touted Russell Branyan as carrying on the tradition for the next generation.

    Broken Door Handle - That's funny stuff.

  11. Curt Schilling's is pretty good:

    "Curt Schilling: 38 pitches and 42 hot dogs"

  12. Andy here--I write for the blog. Just wanted to say thanks for this funny and well-written post!

  13. I wish I could remember the sponsorship that was once on Todd Hundley's I recall, it was quite bitter and amusing.

  14. Maybe because I sponsored it myself, but I kinda think the Darren Dreifort entry is pretty damn good.

  15. The best one I saw was a Pirates fan sponsoring Francisco Cabrera's page out of spite, so a Braves fan couldn't.

  16. This was a good one, no longer on the site but now preserved in screencap form.

  17. The anti-Red Sox guy sounds like he has IQ around 20. In 2004 and 2007 the league tested all players for PEDS and not one Red Sox player tested positive. The joker doesn't even have the cojones to tell us who his team is. Sore loser!

  18. Marvin Bernard is actually my most hated player of all time.

    It stems from Kevin Brown's no-hitter against the Giants. KB had a perfect game going late until he hit Bernard with a pitch. Marvin barely moved a muscle and then I swore he smiled at Brown for having ruined his perfect game.

    I have no rooting interest in the Marlins (Brown's team at the time) or Kevin Brown as a player, but I hate outright displays of bad sportsmanship.

  19. Ian: Great concept. Love the post. It's the baseball equivalent of the plaque on the Statue of Liberty, especially the part about the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

    You can find garden-variety, hardcore baseball analysis anywhere. But there's only one place to find this kind of esoterica.

    Keep up the great work!