Wednesday, July 23, 2008

1970 Kellogg's Baseball #5, Mel Stottlemyre

Today's guest recently served as pitching coach for my Seattle Mariners, though most know him as you see him, in a New York uniform. Ten years as a Yankee sinkerballer and a few decades educating pitchers around the bigs built a good reputation for senior Mel. His sons found varying degrees of success on the hill, though any career is still more than the rest of us.

Though their history with sports promotions reaches as far back as the 1930s, collectors know Kellogg's for these cereal box cards with 3-D backgrounds and slick, easily cracked fronts. They created the illusion of distance by cross-hatching the gummy front surface and gluing it to a photo on papery (but still plastic) back.

Being made of different materials, the fronts and backs fight a religious war for tensile dominance. The hatched side usually wins by curling the card into a parchment-like roll. When you try to "fix" this by unrolling it, the card rewards you with a series of cracks at the least flexible points. Many, many Kellogg's cards bear the scars of this schism.

The real way to get around this is to put the curly card on top of something warm, like an oven or radiator. Assuming you keep it out of actual flame, the front will relax and return to its somewhat original shape. (We can assume the same straightening practice works on curly fries, but I never leave them around long enough to find out.)

Mel's got a top-shelf glare going in this shot, not too far from a Steve McQueen or James Coburn. Could he be the lost eighth member of The Magnificent Seven? (At least he's not forced to squint the sun from his eyes like other Yankees I could name.) On the rare occasion I catch an M's game this year, these eyes peer out from their bench, sifting for gold in Carlos Silva's sluggish right arm or Washburn's trick knee. There's always a notebook close at hand. I imagine it covered with freehand sudokus, one-liners, and other distractions from the looming 100-loss season. Maybe he should take up card collecting. I bet he could get 10 - 15 autographs per game, easy. More, if he signs between innings.

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