Gary Matthews Sr., aka "Sarge," is one of the players I have vivid memories of from my youth. Although he was in the MVP conversation several times and was the ROY in 1973, he only went to the AS game once in 1979. He was, like many ballplayers, perennially underrated. His lifetime OPS+ of 117 supports that.
And like many underrated ballplayer, he played for some godawful teams (Phillies, Braves, Cubs). Now, those teams DID have some successful years and there are a few pennants in there, but there's A LOT of futility mixed in there. Growing up in the south and watching the Braves on TBS for many a year, I feel that nothing says "Braves baseball in the 80s" quite like this card.
I'm sure Gary's looking up the line for a sign, but he looks lost, like he just wandered out on the field and has no idea where to go, who he is, or what he's doing. And if you watched a good bit of Braves baseball in the 80s, you probably wondered those same things, perhaps at high volume, while watching the Braves struggle.
But Gary, Gary was one of the good guys (despite being, on occasion, just as lost as everyone else). He was a bright spot for the Braves and, along Andre Dawson, would go on to be a bright spot for some sour Cubs teams. Some below average players seem larger than life because fortune smiles on them and they play for great, winning teams (ahem David Eckstein). And then there are guys like Matthews who fade into your memory because they never won too much despite being good ballplayers. It makes you wonder how they dealt with those relatively meaningless at bats as the season dwindled in August and they were somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 games out of first. Did they bother to look in for signs? Did they take in long foul balls to left for some relief? Or did they just feel lost, like Gary here in 1980?
Have a good one everybody and good night Pumpsie Green, wherever you are!