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Card Corner: Bevacqua and The Bubble Gum


We need something to laugh about, something that can deliver some amusement. The first nine days of the new season have brought us too much tragedy, beginning with the senseless death of the Angels’ Nick Adenhart and continuing with Monday’s dual losses of Harry Kalas and Mark “The Bird” Fidrych. So this week’s “Card Corner” is just for fun, as we spin the time machine back to 1976, the year The Bird made baseball childlike and naïve.

A few years ago, Sports Collectors Digest held a contest to determine the funniest sports trading card of all-time. This 1976 Topps card, featuring Kurt Bevacqua, some scary-looking calipers, and one enormous piece of bubble gum, finished second in the periodical’s sweepstakes. (The first-place finisher borders on the X-rated, so I opted not to include that in this article; we need to keep it clean at The Banter.)

In baseball’s more innocent time, players took time to participate in the official Bubble Gum Blowing Championships of 1975. The championships were sponsored by the Bazooka Gum Company and overseen by “gum commissioner” Joe Garagiola, who was NBC’s lead play-by-play broadcaster at the time. Each major league team held an individual contest, with winners advancing to the championships. In fact, almost all of the then-24 major league teams submitted a representative, except for the Pirates and Tigers, whose players apparently had little skill in the field of bubble-blowing. (It’s hard to believe Fidrych didn’t qualify here.) Here’s a look at the complete list of participants, which included three Hall of Famers and a few cool nicknames:

American League

Baltimore Orioles: Doug DeCinces

Boston Red Sox: Rick Miller

California Angels: Mickey Scott

Chicago White Sox: Lee “Bee Bee” Richard

Cleveland Indians: Eric Raich

Kansas City Royals: George Brett

Milwaukee Brewers: Kurt Bevacqua

Minnesota Twins: Bert Blyleven

New York Yankees: Walt “No-Neck” Williams

Oakland A’s: Glenn Abbott (the team runner-up who replaced Oakland’s team champion, Angel Mangual)

Texas Rangers: Joe Lovitto

National League

Atlanta Braves: Ed Goodson

Chicago Cubs: Bill “Mad Dog” Madlock

Cincinnati Reds: Johnny Bench

Houston Astros: Mike Cosgrove

LA Dodgers: Rick Rhoden

Montreal Expos: Gary Carter

New York Mets: John “The Dude” Stearns

Philadelphia Phillies: Johnny Oates

St. Louis Cardinals: Bob Forsch

San Diego Padres: Jerry Johnson

SF Giants: Mike Sadek

From these 22 team champions, a “Big Six” of finalists emerged. The gummy gang included Bevacqua (a utility infielder), Oates (a catcher and future major league manager), Cosgrove and Scott (a pair of journeyman left-handers), and right-handers Rhoden and Raich. From there, Oates claimed the National League title while Bevacqua bubbled his way to the top of the American League contest.

The cameras then came out for the head-to-head (or shall we say mouth-to-mouth) finals, which were taped for airing as part of NBC’s 1975 pre-game World Series coverage. With umpire Dick Stello serving as the official judge, Bevacqua’s bubble measured 18-and-a-half inches, a clear winner over Oates’ 13-inch bubble, to claim the championships.

Other than hitting a home run for the Padres in the 1984 World Series, winning the bubble gum title was probably the most illustrious achievement of “Krazy Kurt’s” journeyman career. But any listing of Bevacqua’s achievements must include the infamous Tommy Lasorda tirade that he inspired while playing the Padres. After hearing that Dodgers right-hander Tom Niedenfuer had been fined for intentionally hitting a Padres batter, Bevacqua chimed in with the following insult: “They ought to fine that fat little Italian, too. He ordered it.”

Lasorda responded quickly with one of his own trademark rants. “[Bleeping] Bevacqua,” Lasorda said, “[he] couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a [bleeping] boat.”


1 Alex Belth   ~  Apr 15, 2009 11:33 am

Great Lasorda rant. That's the only voice I can think of when I hear the name "Bevacqua."

2 Diane Firstman   ~  Apr 15, 2009 11:52 am

Lemme guess ... the funniest card ever feature Billy Ripken's bat?

3 williamnyy23   ~  Apr 15, 2009 12:17 pm

Lasorda has a lot of great rants, but that one tops the list. Two other gems is his response to Paul Olden asking how he felt about Kingman hitting three HRs off the Dodgers and captured audio of him lifting Doug Rau from a game in either the 77 or 78 World Series.

Has anyone read Plaschke's biography of Lasorda? I'm not a big fan of Plaschke, but Tommy is one heck of a subject.

4 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Apr 15, 2009 12:53 pm

Tommy's Greatest Hits courtesy of youtube (warning: language, of course).

5 The Mick536   ~  Apr 16, 2009 8:18 am

Cannot whistle or blow bubble gum.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver