Andy Van Slyke had a golden glove and silver tongue, and I'm not sure which I preferred more. As a strong-armed center fielder with tremendous range, he won five Gold Gloves, posted four seasons of double-figure assists and uttered a lot of great quotes and observations during his 13 years in the bigs.
His .274 average, 164 homers and 792 RBI didn't tell the entire story of his career. He played with grace and acumen and always seemed a few steps ahead on the diamond and in front of a microphone.
He had personality. Lots of personality.
I miss thoughtful and humorous players like him.
As a tribute, here's a sampling of some of his best quotes, courtesy of the World Wide Web.
"I can only guess that, for guys in their 30s and 40s who watched me play, they understood that the score never mattered and my paycheck never mattered (in relation) to how I played. I played with Little League enthusiasm and professional flair. That's what fans are really looking for.''
"(Barry Bonds) turned and looked at me (after Van Slyke motioned for Bonds to come in a few steps before Francisco Cabrera would dump a single in front of Bonds to score the winning run in Game 7 of the '92 NLCS)and gave me the international peace sign, so I said, 'Fine, you play where you want.'''
"Every season has its peaks and valleys. What you have to do is eliminate the Grand Canyon.''
"i have an alka seltzer bat. you know, plop, plop, fizz, fizz. when the pitcher sees me walking up there, they say, 'oh, what a relief it is.'''
"If everyone were like him (Mitch Williams), I wouldn't play. I'd find a safer way to make a living.''
"I've never even hit batting practice before a crowd (1,519 on April 18, 1988, at Three Rivers Stadium) that small at Busch (Stadium).''
"Last year, we had so many people coming in and out they didn't bother to sew on their names on the back of the uniforms. They just put them there with Velcro.''
"My biggest problem in the big leagues is that I can't figure out how to spend $43 in meal money.''
"They wanted me to play third like Brooks (Robinson), so I did play like Brooks -- Mel Brooks.''
"With the Cardinals, everybody would be reading the business section to see what their stocks were doing. You get to this locker room (Pirates) in the morning and everybody is looking at the sports page to see if Hulk Hogan won.''
"I don't care what you do -- baseball or politics -- George W. Bush is always going to be compared to his father. I just want it to be an easy answer in 50 years: Who was the better player, me or my kids? I want it to be my kids.''