Duane Ward 1992 Fleer

Who?

This, friends, is a tribute to the power of the internet.

It started off with the reading an entry on Rob Neyer’s Sweet Spot blog, about noted blowhard and terrible umpire Joe West defending a decision to deny Tampa Bay’s Carlos Pena a time out in a game last night. Neyer agrees that, yes, despite West’s recent bout of extreme idiocy, he happened to be correct on this one, and links to passages from baseball’s Rule 6.02, which governs when time can and can’t be granted to batters.

At the bottom of this entry was a link to Fan Graphs on Toronto Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston’s near-criminal underuse of his bench. And that was a pretty good read. If there are any fringe Red Sox fans still angry with Terry Francona about Mike Lowell’s regular absence from the starting lineup night after night, just be thankful that Gaston isn’t running the team. You’d likely never see Bill Hall, Jason Varitek or Darnell McDonald again, those gaping holes in left and center fields be damned.

But there was a note at the bottom of that article that told me that Gaston is retiring at the end of the year — of which I was unaware until that moment. So, naturally, I was off to his Wikipedia page to read up on this and any other interesting facts and tidbits.

Gaston has a section on the 1993 All-Star Game in his page, which centers on the wrath he drew from Baltimore Orioles fans for not putting Mike Mussina into the game, even though the game was in the Orioles’ then-new Camden Yards, and Mussina was warming in the bullpen in the ninth. Instead, Gaston’s own closer, Duane Ward, was on the mound, and he was left to finish off the National League.

If you haven’t blacked out from boredom yet, you’ve probably guessed that I went over to Wikipedia’s page on that year’s All-Star Game, and that I relived my childhood when looking at the lineups. Hall of Famers like Paul Molitor, Kirby Puckett, Cal Ripken and Ryne Sandberg are present. Some parts were pleasant reminders (Oh that’s right, Mark Langston started for the American League that year, he was awesome), and some just seemed completely unbelievable (Terry Mulholland started an All-Star Game?!?).

But really, what had me the most hung-up was trying to remember exactly who Duane Ward was. I remembered the name (the Blue Jays were veritable Gods in the early 90s, as my Joe Carter baseball glove will attest), but I couldn’t pin him down in my brain. I remembered Mike Timlin (of course) and Tom Heinke from the Jays’ bullpen, but of course by 1993 Heinke had moved on to the Texas Rangers. I remembered they had a rotation of Juan Guzman, Pat Hentgen, Dave Stewart, Jack Morris and Todd Stottlemyre, that their line-up was stacked (John Olerud, Molitor and Roberto Alomar finished 1-2-3 in the batting race that year), that Gaston, of course, was their manager, and many more frivolous facts that I’d rather not choke this paragraph with anymore.

But who the hell was Duane Ward?

It was at this point that I went to my closet and pulled out my American League binder which, naturally, is where I keep all of my baseball cards from American League teams (not including the Red Sox, who get their own binder, but forever including the Milwaukee Brewers). I suppose I could’ve Googled him at this point and been done with it, but, well, I didn’t.

I flipped through for a second to Toronto, and there they all were. Dave Stieb, Pat Borders, Kelly Gruber, Ernie Whitt, Molitor, Carter, Alomar, Olerud, Dave Winfield, DUANE WARD! And imagine my surprise in myself when my first thought was, “huh. Duane Ward was white.”

So, there it is. I went from reading Neyer’s take on a non-timeout call in Tampa Bay on Tuesday night to fishing through my baseball cards to find out what Toronto’s closer looked like, 17 years ago.

I, for one, welcome our new internet overlords.

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