Performer: Robbie Robertson
Songwriters: Robbie Robertson, Martin Page
Original Release: Storyville
Definitive Version: None
As I mentioned, I joined a Rotisserie baseball league at the Flint Journal in 1990. This is not to be confused with generic fantasy baseball.
If you aren’t aware of the differences, in Rotisserie baseball, you pick players from only one league, so the difference between winning and losing sometimes comes down to a set-up reliever that you bought for 20 cents at the end of the draft getting 10 saves instead of none. Rotisserie baseball, in my estimable opinion, is the adult version of fantasy baseball.
Anyway, after my team—Willie’s Wonkas (with proper logo)—won the league, really on the last day of the season, in 1990, I was ready to quit. At the time, I followed a bunch of players and teams in both leagues, and I didn’t like having to root only for certain outcomes when I watched a game. I certainly didn’t like feeling like crap if a few of my pitchers got bombed the night before. In short, I was too much of a baseball fan to play Rotisserie baseball.
But having won as a rookie in 1990, I felt obligated to defend my title in 1991. It wasn’t an ego thing, but part of me also wanted to prove that my championship was no fluke.
It wasn’t. I steamrolled the league from Opening Day the next year. For the second straight year, I led every week but one, except that the previous year the one week I didn’t lead was the second to last, which obviously made for a harrowing conclusion to the season.
In 1991, during one week in July everything lined up just right so the second-place team—also the same as the previous year—passed me by a half-point. One week later, the set of circumstances that allowed that unwound, and I was back ahead by 6 or 7 points.
It was such a cakewalk, in fact, that unlike the previous year, baseball chatter around the paper was all but nonexistent. Instead, the one thing everyone wanted to talk about was how all my victories proved was that the guy who had the team before me built a powerhouse, and I just rode his coattails.
This was a laughable accusation when you consider that I had only two players from his team on my 1991 roster. Granted, they were great ones in a keeper league—Ken Griffey Jr. and Roger Clemens—but this still was when Griffey was more potential than superstar.
No, I won because in 1990, I won the bidding on Cecil Fielder, back from Japan, at the princely sum of $1.70. Then after riding his 51-homer shock explosion to victory, I traded him for a package that had as its centerpiece a guy who hit all of 7 home runs that same year.
Why did I do it? The 7-homer player was a guy by the name of Frank Thomas, and I was so certain that he was going to be a superstar, I was willing to trade the most valuable player in the league based on his production and contract, to get him.
It was a ballsy trade, and, of course, I was right. Thomas had a huge year in 1991, although it wasn’t better than Fielder’s. But the additions in the same trade of Chuck Finley, who won 18 games; and Luis Polonia, who stole 46 bases; more than made up the difference. (I also gave up Roberto Kelly, Kenny Rogers and one other reliever, whose name eludes me now.)
I was pretty sure that the taunts were said somewhat in jest to get my goat, because really what could they say? But one day, when the league commissioner and the paper’s librarian—two guys who didn’t seem to be antagonists—accused me of riding on coattails, I told them how I really felt.
Wrong. I won twice in a row, because I know talent. I don’t waste roster spots on ham-and-eggers just because they play for my favorite team. Who else would have traded their best player from the year before for someone who was nearly waived out of the league? No one. I did it, and I was right to do it.
I won … because I’m smarter than you are.
Needless to say, my immodest oration went over like the Hindenburg. But I didn’t care. One can be pushed only so far.
So I won back to back titles and hung them up just as Storyville came out, but to their dismay the league wasn’t completely rid of me. The biggest transaction of the 1991 season was a behind-the-scenes agreement that had me become Dave’s adviser in 1992. His team had finished seventh and last the past two years. If the Bovines were to stampede to the title suddenly in 1992, that would provide the cherry on top of the Rotisserie YooHoo sundae.
It turns out the cherry crop was plentiful in Michigan that year, but that’s another story.