Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Important message from Papergreat and some 1980s baseball players

This activity book, The Pros Say It's O.K. to Say No to Drugs!, was published in 1986 by Playmore Inc.1

It was published in conjunction with the Major League Baseball Players Association (then headed by Donald Fehr) and endorsed by a gaggle of experts and anti-drug organizations, including PRIDE, D.A.R.E. and the National Federation of Parents for Drug-Free Youth.

The activity book's hook, of course, is that it includes the images of numerous Major League Baseball stars of the mid 1980s. (No team logos, though. That would have required the involvement of Major League Baseball itself.) There are a couple dozen illustrations of pro baseball players throughout the book, making it an interesting time capsule for that era.

Let's start with the cover. Can you recognize all of those players?

Top row: Steve Garvey (left) and Dave Winfield
Middle row: Mystery Man and Dale Murphy
Bottom row: Dwight Gooden and Don Mattingly

Of course, there's a sad irony that Dwight "Doc" Gooden was included. Problems with drugs derailed his once-promising career in the mid 1980s. The year after this book was published, in 1987, he tested positive for cocaine during spring training and entered a drug rehabilitation facility.

Meanwhile, it's not 100% obvious to me who the Mystery Man is. In comparing the player illustrations on the cover to the illustrations inside the activity book (which have names under them), I think there are three possibilities: Bob Stanley, Don Slaught2, and Ron Guidry. Given that he's the biggest star of those three, I'd have to say the Mystery Man is probably Guidry.

The activity book is filled with coloring pages, mazes, connect-the-dots and other puzzles. All of these are accompanied by "Just Say No" tips and illustrations of baseball players. It's a little awkward, really. The illustrations just kind of float at the top of the page and come off looking a bit like police sketches. Here are some examples:

I was, however, pleased to see Larry Andersen in the book. Andersen is a former relief pitcher3 and current radio color commentator for the Phillies. Andersen is well known for his quips and one-liners, including "Why do we sing 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame' when we're already there?"

1. More individuals and corporations were involved with this activity book than you can shake a stick at. It was written by Susan Amerikaner (who has her own website), illustrated by Frank C. Smith and edited by Alan Garner. It is described as being "An RGA Creation." It was "Published by Playmore, Inc., Publishers and Waldman Publishing Corp." And it employs the "Creative Child Press" trademark. The two official copyrights are granted to RGA Publishing Group and the Major League Baseball Players Association.
2. This is what I'll always remember Don Slaught for. In January 1985, the Kansas City Royals were involved in a four-team trade in which they gave up Slaught, an excellent young catcher, and acquired Jim Sundberg, a veteran catcher who was about 10 years older than Slaught. In the next edition of The Bill James Baseball Abstract, sabermetrician James wrote:
"The five most reasonable explanations that I can think of why anyone would trade Don Slaught for Jim Sundberg:

1. Don Slaught is a secret hemophiliac and his hobby is playing with chain saws.
2. Don Slaught likes to jump out of airplanes and frequently forgets to put on his face mask before the start of an inning.
3. Don Slaught made a pass at [Royals owner] Ewing Kauffman's wife.
4. Don Slaught made a pass at Ewing Kauffman.
5. Don Slaught's agent carries a razor.

If none of these conditions applies, then I really don't understand the trade."
3. Andersen's biggest moment was probably his 10th-inning save in Game 5 of the 1993 National League Championship Series.

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