Mike Hessman strikes out a lot, doesn’t get on base that much, but hits plenty of home runs; 389 heading into this season, but only 14 in the major leagues. The 389 happened in Myrtle Beach, Greenville, Toledo, Buffalo, Oklahoma City, and elsewhere across minor league America. He also hit a half-dozen in Orix of the Japanese Professional League.
If Hessman plays a few more seasons, he may wear the dunce crown real soon; currently held by Hector Espinosa who hit 484 in the unaffiliated, but AAA level Mexican League. Or if that doesn’t make the grade since many Mexican League players probably preferred playing in their native Mexico, there’s always Buzz Artlett. He hit 432 homeruns plus a whopping .341 in the Pacific Coast League and American Association. But then again, many players in the PCL preferred to stay there as well.
So maybe Mike Hessman is already the king of incapacity and what a lucky son of a bitch he is because home runs are orgasmic and it doesn’t matter at what level; pee wee, kangaroo league, strat-o-matic, World Series. A home run is a rush to everyone involved, but still can’t compare to Ron Necciai.
Because nothing compares to Ron Necciai. He was the master of all masters; the dunce of all underachievers. He struck out all 27 batters in a May 13, 1952 Class D Appalachian League Game. He also threw a no-hitter that day.
Say all you want about the low-level competition, but then put your arm where your mouth is and join a whiffle ball league. You won’t struck out 27 batters. I’ll bet you my Mark Fidrych autographed cover of Rolling Stone Magazine from some time in 1977. I’m not worried because you probably won’t join a league anyway and even if you do , you won’t strike out 27 batters.
And there is nothing easier than pretending to be Zeus on a whiffel ball mound because there’s no pretending. It’s all real. Any shlump like me can throw a curve, slider, slurve and never before seen pitch that has no name because the whiffel waffles with little or no effort, but 27 k’s in the same game? Never. Only Ron Necciai.
Necciai followed up his masterpiece with a two hitter, striking out 24. He was drafted by the Pirates, but went off to war and when he returned to baseball, stomach ulcers and a rotator cuff did him in or at least that’s what I gleaned from wicked pedia.
Crapola, bummer, shit on a sparkplug for Necciai and all the other one hit wonders; from Bob Hurricane Hazle who my father always slips into our conversations to Joe Charboneau to hundreds of others.
For a short while, they were on top of the baseball world; smashing base hits in big league parks or striking out batters with faces they first touched on baseball cards. And then they fell for all sorts of reasons; injury, weird momentum, bad luck, not really that good, who knows.
Maybe they’re bitter these days or maybe they’re grateful, but they’re not hungry anymore, not for baseball anyway.
Meanwhile, Mike Hessman still has his nose to the grindstone. He’s 35 years old and still probably living month to month on a mediocre salary, but he’s real hungry because he’s never really failed at the major league level. OK fine, in 223 at bats, he hit .188, but what the hell, he also hit 14 homeruns for the Braves, Tigers, and Mets. That’s one every 16 time at bat or one every four games or 41 over a full season.
I could go to me grave happy with that, but I would want one more chance, maybe a full season of at bats, but only after breaking the minor league home run record. And I wouldn’t be all melancholic about the record like Crash Davis in the movie Bull Durham. Hell no! I’d order a minor league belt buckle like a heavy weight fighter wears around the ring. I’d be proud of my under achievement.
Perseverance is all over the place; even in a drunk’s ability to scrounge up enough change for a bottle. And if he stays grateful through all the failures and shitty feelings, what’s more brave than that?