Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Speaking of real and true "great and grand designs"--those born knowingly from the intersection of the spurious and the sublime: the voter population of the Baseball Reliquary has done it again.

Proving that there is no real bad karma associated with the number 13 (this is the baker's dozen year in the Reliquary's Shrine of the Eternals--its ongoing "alternative Hall of Fame" project), the minions of Pasadena's "work small, think big" baseball confabulation have struck more gold in their quest to honor and validate the principles of adversity, extremity and otherness in connection with the National Pastime.

The inductees for 2011: 
Maury Wills

Maury Wills.

Pete Gray.

Ted Giannoulas (aka the "Famous Chicken").

Odd that we wrote about Maury a few months back (a felicitous coincidence--as Reliquary Executive Director Terry Cannon will attest, I've never been a voting member of the organization, though I did threaten long and loud to intercede should Dick Allen continue to languish in the voting results: thankfully for all concerned, he didn't). Wills probably had the best career of any player with such marginal tools, and had the most impact (at least psychologically, if not as measured by now-fashionable value models). 

As is sometimes the case with the SoCal-based Reliquary, they honor local heroes--and Maury, despite his often larger-than-life sense of self, remains a vital symbol of the greatest five-year stretch in Los Angeles Dodger history.

The amazing fielding technique of Pete Gray
Pete Gray clearly exemplifies the Reliquary's threefold cultural formulation--in a way, it's a bit shocking that he didn't get the call from the voters earlier. The amazing Gray was not only one-armed, but a late-bloomer to boot, having to fight long and hard for his chance to play. His dedication in the face of impossible odds is exactly the type of narrative that fits into the Reliquary's wheelhouse, as is his "otherness"--there is no greater haven for the marginalized than in the Shrine of the Eternals.

A Chicken for all seasons, but especially baseball...
Last, but by no means least, one of baseball's greatest comedians, the man who reinvented the concept of the team mascot in what should truly be seen as post-modern terms--Ted Giannoulas is criminally underappreciated for the invention of an alter-ego that literally transcends the milieu in which it was created. The Chicken both lampoons and exalts the entire "fan base" surrounding sports (with baseball, of course, being the richest opportunity for exploitation). Clearly the Chicken is extreme and "other" in ways that literally no one else in baseball can ever hope to be--and Giannoulas himself suffered through a lingering period of adversity, due to protracted lawsuits that threatened his character's right to exist. (Fortunately for us and for our sense of fair play, Ted finally prevailed--with the only downside being that he is much less frequently seen in the context of major league baseball.)

Every year the followers of the Baseball Reliquary wonder whether or not Terry Cannon and his merry band of voters can continue to create a uniquely resonant trio of Eternals. And every year, despite what seems to be mounting odds, they step up to the plate with the bases loaded, two outs in the last of the ninth, down three runs--and sock the ball out of the park. 

They've done it again.

Mark your calendars: July 17th is Shrine of the Eternals Day in Pasadena. The "Hall of Fame for the rest of us" will come to order in its anarchic, unprepossessing way, and (as I've said elsewhere) baseball gold will be spun out of thin air. Don't miss it.