Monday, January 28, 2013

Lonnie was the kingpin...

                            In 1973, Steely Dan released their second album, "Countdown to ecstasy", which, if anything, was weirder and more perverse than their first release, "Can't buy a thrill". Seven years later, while perusing through my brother Brian's record collection, I stumbled upon it.  One of the songs that stuck out to me was a tune called "The Boston Rag"; a song that, like most of Steely Dan's early work, dealt with subjects such as drug dealers and prostitutes.  In this particular song, there was a drug dealer named "Lonnie"; it was the first time I had ever heard the name Lonnie for a man....The only other "Loni" I knew of was Loni Anderson, who portrayed Jennifer Marlow, the beautiful, intelligent secretary from the hit T.V. show, "WKRP in Cincinnati". Then the 1980 World series aired, and I finally saw my first male Lonnie;  Phillies rookie Lonnie Smith.

                 Smith had come up briefly to the Phillies in both '78 and '79, but when they brought him up half way through the '80 season, he was there to stay. He finished 3rd in rookie of the year voting, and played a large part of the Phillies first Championship ever...two years later, he was traded to the Cardinals, where he led the league in runs scored and stole 68 bases, although he was caught stealing a league leading 26 times as well.  The 1982 Cardinals offense was built on speed; manager Whitey Herzog gave everyone the green light, from the biggest stars, to the popcorn vendor...and when St.Louis went to the series that year, they faced their polar opposites, the Milwaukee Brewers.  The Brewers hit 216 home runs that year, and sported a team who mostly looked like extras from the show "Sons of Anarchy". The Cards won that series in would not be Lonnie's last.

                      Fast forward to 1985...Lonnie's now in the WS again, this time for the Kansas city Royals, facing his old team the Cardinals. The Royals won this series in seven, mostly with some help from a terrible call from umpire Denkinger (Jorge Orta, anyone?). W/ this series victory, he became the only position player to play on three different World Champions, and he did it within 5 years of each other (Jack Morris and Dave Stewart did it as pitchers) .  It was also during this time where his drug problems became an issue.  Of course, it wasn't just him that was doing could make an All Star team with the known users then.

             Despite his drug problems, Lonnie pulled himself together and ended up on yet another pennant winning team, the '91 Atlanta Braves. It was this series he was most famous for, but not in a good way.  Late into game seven, a pitcher's duel to end all pitcher's duels between Jack Morris and John Smoltz, Smith was on first, when one of his teammates doubled...instead of scoring easily, Lonnie was faked out by the Twins 2nd baseman Chuck Knoblaugh, who pretended he had just thrown the ball...the deception was just enough to halt Smith for a bit, and only let him advance to third.  The score remained tied at 0-0 until the bottom of the 10th, when the Twins finally scored.  I think it's a shame that Lonnie's remembered for this one play, rather than him being on four different pennant and three different World Champion teams.  Down worry Lonnie, you're not alone...Bill Buckner knows your pain...

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