Brought to our attention by SRU Alum Jimi Loomis is a piece of baseball card history that makes me feel unashamed that I am still so into them. From Brobible.
This is kinda one of those things every baseball fan should know, but it still manages to grab our attention every time someone throws it in front of our face. Back in 1988, Orioles second baseman Billy Ripken wrote “fu*k face” front-and-center on the knob of a batting practice bat. He used the bat in a photo shoot for a Fleer baseball card. Whoops. Although Fleer released some of the cards with phrase in clear view, eventually they censored the card and printed it with a black box over the knob. It took Ripken nearly 20 years to explain why, exactly, he had the expletive written on the bottom of the bat.
Here’s Billy explaining the saga a few years ago in his own words:
“I got a dozen bats in front of my locker during the 1988 season. I pulled the bats out, model R161, and noticed–because of the grain patterns–that they were too heavy. But I decided I’d use one of them, at the very least, for my batting practice bat.”
“Now I had to write something on the bat. At Memorial Stadium, the bat room was not too close to the clubhouse, so I wanted to write something that I could find immediately if I looked up and it was 4:44 and I had to get out there on the field a minute later and not be late. There were five big grocery carts full of bats in there and if I wrote my number 3, it could be too confusing. So I wrote ‘F–k’ Face on it.”
“After the season was over, in early January, I got a call from our PR guy Rick Vaughn. He said, ‘Billy, we have a problem.’ And he told me what was written on the bat and I couldn’t believe it. I went to a store and saw the card and it all came back to me. We were in Fenway Park and I had just taken my first round of BP. I threw my bat to the third base side and strolled around the bases. When I was coming back, right before I got up to hit again, I remember a guy tapping me on the shoulder asking if he could take my picture. Never once did I think about it. I posed for the shot and he took it.
“I tried to deflect it as much as I could. It was fairly easy to say that somebody got me with a joke because people think you’re the sc*m of the earth for doing something like this. The truth is that there’s a lot of words like that that are thrown around in the clubhouse. They just don’t get out there.”
“I can’t believe the people at Fleer couldn’t catch that. I mean, they certainly have to have enough proofreaders to see it. I think not only did they see it, they enhanced it. That writing on that bat is way too clear. I don’t write that neat. I think they knew that once they saw it, they could use the card to create an awful lot of stir.”
“I have no idea where that bat is today. If I were to guess, I would say it probably got lost after someone used it in a game. Probably a guy like Brady Anderson because he choked up so he could use a heavier bat.”
“Fleer sent me some of the cards out of the goodness of their heart. I autographed them and used them for my gifts to my groomsman in my wedding (which took place that offseason). I figured, at the time, it was better than giving them a set of cufflinks. I think I devalued the cards by signing them though.”
“When people recognize me, I see the look on their face. They think of the card immediately and, before they even ask, I say, ‘Yeah, it was me.’ I don’t know if it happens daily, but, to this day, it still happens a couple of times a week.”