From Rachaels to Reubens: The John Kruk Story
There are few instances during our time on earth that we have the
opportunity to chronicle a man so vast. This man is vast in his talent
and ability to play America’s greatest pastime, baseball. He is vast in
his love for his family. He is vast in his appetite for specialty
sandwiches. This man is John Kruk.
John Kruk was born in the West
Virginia Mountains to John & Jon. Early in his life, John developed
a love for baseball and Reuben sandwiches. This insatiable appetite for
fame, glory and golden mustard led to his being drafted in 1981 by
MLB’s San Diego Padres.
One of Mr. Kruk’s seminal moments came on
a steamy June afternoon in 1985, while playing with San Diego’s AAA
affiliate, the Anchorage Iodines. On this day, John Kruk laid down a
walk off sacrifice bunt that gave his team the 1-0 win in the 13th
inning, but perhaps the greater accomplishment was his victory in the
post-game Reuben eating contest. Kruk consumed 17 Reubens. “The trick is
to let the cole slaw slide down your throat first to ease the rest of
the Sammie,”[i] John jovially recounted. After puttering around Mexican
Winter League ball where Kruk earned his nickname, “El Perro Loco,” he
finally got a chance in 1987.
John Kruk was called up to the show
with San Diego, where he hit .313, 20 dingers and 91 RBI. But, in that
same year, tragedy struck when he was relocated to back up duty in my
Nintendo’s “RBI Baseball” video game. This blow to his ego was followed
by a blow to his stomach, when Kruk announced that he was going on a
hunger strike: he refused to eat Reubens. Making up 94% of his diet,
Kruk nearly starved. He was eventually saved by a call-up to the
Phillies and a Reuben-based protein shake administered by right-handed
specialist Danny Cox.
At a healthy playing weight of 300 lbs, a
dedicated and re-invigorated Jon Kruk paid huge dividends for the
Philadelphia Phillies. In 1993, Kruk was elected to his first All-Star
game at a venue that would play an integral role in his career – Oriole
Park at Camden Yards.[ii] Here, John Kruk had the most memorable
exhibition at-bat of his career. Down 0-2 to Mariners’ lefty and white
trash hero, Randy Johnson, Kruk stunned the crowd of 48,000 plus by
reversing his batting helmet and swinging at a 100 MPH pitch that flew
over the catcher to the backstop.
Unfortunately for the
centerpiece of the 1993 Phillies line up known as “Macho Row”, this
would be his last on-field success. Due to the concrete under the
Astroturf at Veteran’s Stadium in Philly, and his growing weight
problem, he was released after the 1994 season.
“One benefit of
the American League is the DH.” These famous words came at a time of
reflection for Kruk. He had seen it all and tasted most of it, but his
soul and his heart still burned for glory and sandwiches. He found his
opportunity with the Chicago White Sox. His role as DH allowed him to
hit four times a game, but also to eat turkey Cubans in the clubhouse, a
delicacy brought-over by veteran lefty Wilson Alvarez.
existence for a once proud hero proved unsustainable and unsatisfying.
“After a night of 6 or 7 Cubans, I was still hungry. I ate the post-game
spread like John Candy ate on Victoria Day,” a sweat-drenched late
scratch Kruk told reporters.
On June 30, 1995, Kruk returned for
the final time to a place of prior heroism – Oriole Park at Camden
Yards.[iii] In the first inning of that night’s game, Kruk singled, took
stock of where he was and where he had been, and pulled himself from
the game, never to see another professional pitch. “It was time. It was
time to go to Sizzler and eat Ruebens.” And so he did. John Kruk bought 6
Sizzler Restaurants in the United States and Puerto Rico. He currently
sits on the board for the Cuban-Reuben Heritage Trust. He is still a fat
[i] All quotes attributed to John Kruk are unverified, but could be true.
[ii] This stadium should be hailed as the Sistine Chapel of baseball. You’re welcome America.
[iii] Yankees suck!
- Matt Grisbach, ORE
The Birth of Tebowmania and Linsanity
The media creates stories, and then, when the inevitable public
backlash comes from overexposure, they throw their hands up and act like
they weren’t the ones driving the story. Of course, the individual
sports organizations love this; it increases overall revenue while
boosting under-achieving teams. Now, I’m not going to say that the
sports media and sports organizations collude to put forth a mutually
beneficial agenda that influences public perception and buying habits. I
am simply stating that the sports media has much more responsibility
for the stories they create and “report” than they acknowledge.
a sports figure “attacks” the media, everyone in that medium, even
those who cover other genres, are quick to defend and condemn the
person. “We don’t make the stories, we only report them” is the
nauseating mantra you hear time and time again. The fact of the matter
is that ESPN created the Tim Tebow phenomenon, taking a seemingly bland
story, an underachieving quarterback and team, and making it the theme
of the season. The ingredients are there, all that’s needed is a catch
phrase, something that can justify the almost non-stop “coverage” that
will follow. That is how Tebowmania was born. Every single time ESPN
“reported” on Tim Tebow’s mechanics, the overwhelming public perception
that he can’t make it on the NFL level, or the internal strife he caused
within the Broncos’ organization, they created new levels to the story.
They act like there is a whole mass of people who are saying and
thinking these things and causing the media blow-out. There is, and it
was within the walls of ESPN studios.
Most people get their fund
of sports knowledge and information from ESPN. So like it or not, ESPN
is influencing the way millions of Americans think about sports. Some
people know nothing about a sport, and start watching highlights on ESPN
and hearing “experts” like Merrill Hoge and Antonio Pierce talk about
how hard Tom Brady works at practice. There is an entire generation
weaned onto sports from sound bites and hollow quips. Tim Hasselbeck
thinks Eli Manning is better than Ben Roethlisberger; who gives a fuck?
ESPN’s NFL coverage does nothing but create mini soap-operas and dramas
surrounding guys who throw and catch footballs. And we still watch it.
We buy into the farce because men need melodrama, too.
this digression is actually setting up my point. Tim Tebow and Jeremy
Lin. One was a first-round pick. One was undrafted. One was the most
celebrated college player of all time. One went to Harvard and studied
economics. One led his team on an unbelievable run to the divisional
round of the playoffs. One led his team to 7 straight wins and a
play-off berth. These are interesting facts to know, but they are all
filler for the big reason why these two are jerked-off to exhaustion by
ESPN. Both had to overcome adversity and non-believers. Both are
underdogs. There it is. The defining metaphor for this young decade that
ESPN will use as a model for years to come. The underdog. America loves
the underdog. Going from sleeping on your brother’s couch to banging
Kim Kardashion in your swanky new Manhattan apartment. Going from
Merrill Hoge wanting to murder you and your entire family because of
your throwing motion to having Skip Bayless lick your nuts every morning
from 10 – 2. That’s all it is, overcoming adversity. Shit you have to
do every day. This, to ESPN, is the American dream, and they are going
to make sure you hear about it. But don’t accuse them of creating the
hype; they’re simply doing their jobs.
- Brendan Delaney
Blogs are like A$$holes
Twitter > Facebook
I know, another blog from another guy
that you don't care about. My first entry is on my love for Twitter and
my scalding hate for Facebook. I’m addicted to both, so how I feel
about them isn’t going to change the way I use them. But only in 140
characters. Now for the list of things Twitter has going for it that
2. Celebrities actually
re-Tweet you, whereas if you try to friend-request Tim Sylvia he’ll
accept your request three years after he retires.
3. 140 Characters. No boring, epic posts about what someone with an 8th-grade education thinks about Obama.
4. Breaking News. I found out Bin Laden was dead about 30 mins before everyone else. A USA chant was immediately started
be honest Facebook is past its time. I know this is mostly trivial and
we shouldn’t care about any of this, but in the end we all have a little
bit of that geek from every 80's movie who wants to hang out with the
cool kids. That’s what social media is all about.
- Dan: @dk993