Orioles Card "O" the Day

An intersection of two of my passions: baseball cards and the Baltimore Orioles. Updated daily?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Vintage Fridays: Baltimore Orioles, 1968 Topps #334

Sitting front and center in this team photo is Jay Mazzone. Jay was the Orioles bat boy from 1966-1971, meaning that he got to experience four World Series (including two championships) in his six years as a young employee for the O's. He usually assisted the visiting team, and worked Sandy Koufax's final game in the 1966 Series. The Birds even gave him a partial World Series share in his final season. He also had the opportunity to meet three presidents. But that's not the only thing that makes Jay remarkable.

A few nights ago I was watching a replay Game One of the 1970 World Series on MASN. It was the infamous Bernie Carbo game, in which Elrod Hendricks fielded a ball with his bare hand and tagged Carbo with his empty glove, and the confused umpire (who had been entangled with the players) called the Reds player out. The Birds won 4-3.

In the middle of the game, the camera settled upon Jay Mazzone and the play-by-play announcer pointed out that the teenager had lost both of his hands in an unfortunate accident when he was just a toddler. At the age of two, his snowsuit caught fire and amputation was necessary due to the severity of the burns. He was outfitted with prosthetic hooks, which he had learned to use deftly to handle objects - including bats and balls. I was surprised that I had never heard about him before, beyond passing mentions of his name. I checked the team cards in my collection, and none give a really clear view of Jay's appendages. The closest was the 1971 card, but I'd already used it last summer.

I checked online to see if there was any more information about Mazzone, and found a few articles. The Baltimore Sun caught up with him in 2007, and found that he was living in Parkton (north of Baltimore) with his wife Bobbie. At age 54, he was working as a heavy equipment operator for R&F Construction Co. on Eutaw Street, within shouting distance of Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

The other article was a USA Today piece about kangaroo courts, and they had Jay share an amusing story about the O's brand of clubhouse justice. Frank Robinson presided over the team's mock court, and he got along well with the bat boy. However, Mazzone felt that many of the other players were overly sensitive to his disability and didn't know how to treat him. During one "trial", Robinson asked for a thumbs-up or thumbs-down vote to decide whether a fine should be levied on a teammate. Afterward, he announced that Jay would be fined for not voting. That broke the tension, and from then on the players treated him more inclusively. Jimmy Tyler even made Mazzone a big cardboard thumb so that he could participate in future votes!

(With this, my second blog entry about bat boys, I now believe that I hold an unofficial record in the baseball card blogosphere.)


Doug C. said...

Kevin, I'd forgotten about Jay Mazzone, thanks for reminding us of his story.

Kyle said...

Brooks Robinson talks a little bit about him in his book 'Putting it All Together' about the 1970 WS. Interesting stuff...

Kevin said...

Doug - You're welcome.

Kyle - Thanks, I'll have to check it out.