Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Player Profile: Wally Backman

I have 57 cards of Wally Backman. This one is from 1992 Topps Gold Winners.

Playing career: Wally Backman was the David Eckstein of the 1980s – a short, white middle infielder who was praised for being “scrappy” and getting his uniform dirty more than for his actual playing ability, which was limited. Even that characteristic was somewhat misleading, though – in 1988, he lost his second base job with the Mets because manager Davey Johnson thought he had “lost his killer instinct.”

My memories: I remember him being part of the second base platoon on the 1986 Mets – Davey Johnson figured out he wasn’t good enough to be an everyday player, but useful when platooning with Tim Teufel.

Where he is now: Manager of the Mets AAA team in Buffalo.

Interesting stories: He is well known for being hired as the manager of the Diamondbacks in November of 2004 and being fired four days later after numerous sordid personal details emerged. He really does appear to be a pretty despicable person. He was arrested on a DUI in 1999 and admitted to being an alcoholic, then later told Sports Illustrated he only admitted to being an alcoholic to avoid jail time. He went into bankruptcy after trying to get out of paying Oregon taxes while playing for teams in other states. He blamed his financial problems on his ex-wife. Court documents reveal a different story (as well as further instances of reckless driving).

Most damning is his history of violence against women. He was accused of domestic violence by his first wife, and was arrested after hitting a female friend of his second wife with a bat he used in the 1986 World Series. The women suffered a serious gash according to the police report. Backman says that in a struggles for the bat, “It barely touched her, just enough to cause the tiniest pinprick of blood.” I didn’t know you could tap someone lightly with a smooth, round baseball bat and draw a pinprick of blood.

Google Autocomplete results: He is second when you type Wally, between Wally Szczerbiak, a Long Island high school basketball star who later played ten seasons in the NBA, and Wally West, the first Kid Flash and third Flash. There do not appear to be any other prominent Wally Backmans.

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