Friday, January 6, 2017


Last week, a retweet scrolled across my timeline that made me think was the ultimate Twitter prank…
I chuckled at such an absurd post and continued scrolling. And then came another…

What followed was a thread long on vitriol from baseball fans and card collectors begging Topps to rescind their invitation – many using vocabulary and graphics I’d hesitate to post here -- interspersed with a string of  giddy self-laudatory tweets from Hample that made one wonder if he was typing with one hand while rubbing up a couple of his precious balls with the other.

It made me want to vomit. Because make no mistake, attention and notoriety are what make this peckerhead  go.

For those fortunate enough to be unfamiliar with the Hample by name, here’s the Cliff’s Notes on him. He’s a silver spoon kid – now middle aged – who, embarrassingly for us all, is a native New Yorker. He's never held a real job and spends the lion’s share of his waking life haunting major league ballparks across North America filming himself removing as many baseballs he can lay his hands on by hook or by crook and patting himself on the back for it.

Not I'm not wanting to give this guy any more publicity than he already gives himself because we can't stand him here at BYB, but since this is a Yankees fan site, it's worth mentioning... he’s the guy who admits he isn’t even a Yankee fan, but bought a season ticket in the Stadium’s right field, just below the Bleacher Creatures mind you, because it was a “good spot” for his ball-collecting fetish – a calculation which paid off in spades.

Hample wound up with Alex’s 3,000th hit/home run and got to hold it hostage for two weeks so he could have a spotlight to badmouth the player and team while photo bombing himself around town holding it, extracting dates and face time with various porn stars, low-lifes and talking heads before suddenly reversing course and agreeing to sell it back to the team and sharing a final moment in the sun with the player he’d swore would never get it.

'That guy’s a d-bag!' said Bald Vinny, leader of the Creatures. 'That guy sucks. He pushes little kids out of the way. He is the worst ever. That guy is the worst ever. There is literally — nobody worse could’ve gotten that home run ball than that f-----’ guy. He’s a d-bag. Tell him I said ‘F--- off.'"

I know MLB sometimes shoots itself in the foot aiming for a broader market share. But is the 800 pound gorilla of the baseball card biz doing so poorly it truly believes it’s good for business to  commemorate a non-player who bribed his way into a military-only game, stole balls there and then lied about it, thereby earning the official personal wrath of the entire 802nd Airborne Division?
I love baseball. I enjoy pretty much all sports, really, but baseball has been a part of me from the beginning. Going to the ballpark with my dad and brothers is one of my earliest memories. Even before I knew how to play catch, I owned a mitt and a ball. They were two of my earliest and most prized possessions. Them and my baseball cards...because back then how else were you going to learn about the players, right? When we all went to a ballgame together, my stuff all went with me -- my glove in the hope of catching a ball; my ball to keep a nice pocket in the glove’s webbing when it wasn’t on my hand; and a two pockets jammed full of some carefully selected cards: players who were in the lineup  so I could share their crucial historical data on the back with my family when they came to bat.

Now, my dad wasn’t a hard-ass, but he had a few rules about how he wanted his sons to act when they were out with him in public places. Some were son-specific and some applied to all of us. For instance,  his rule for me about flipping cards at the ballpark was that I could only do it between innings or else I had to take it to the outer concourse lest my dealing and bartering disturbed the enjoyment of the game for others in our section.

The enjoyment of the game and not disturbing others was big with my dad.

Likewise, his rule about catching balls was if one came to us where we were seated, he would root for us to catch it because 'that’s part of the price of the admission for that seat', he would say.

But we couldn’t run in the aisles or climb over seats after them.

As he explained it to us, it wasn’t just because it would be dangerous for us to do that; it was because we’d be robbing someone else of the enjoyment of catching one in the seat they paid to sit in. And if everyone was permitted to act like fools, thieves and bullies and didn’t care about the game or anyone but themselves it was just be bad behavior at the ballpark, bottom line.  My dad wasn’t raising his boys to become that.

And we didn’t miss out following his advice either. I managed to snag a few balls as a kid. A couple rolled to me under the seats. A couple I caught on a bounce. A couple were tossed by players departing the field after pre-game warm ups and third outs. I caught one on the fly that somehow eluded both my older brothers’ outstretched, gloveless hands directly above my waiting mitt below. That one was sweet.

I guess the bottom line is I can’t do anything about Zack Hample if Major League Baseball won’t. And I’m not naïve enough to believe an email campaign asking Topps to reconsider would have any effect on their decision since the idea is so off-the-charts bloody stupid in the first place that such a plea would clearly be lost on them.

All I can do about Topps is be sure whenever I share my story about my earliest memories of ballparks and flipping cards between innings, I’ll include the story about their idiotic decision to honor the biggest thief who ever bribed his way into a ballpark  and deprived a soldier of an historic baseball event.

And all I can do about Hample is hope one day my seat, he and a fly ball converge. Yes, I’ll let him catch it if it comes my my seat. But boy, after all I learned in my "baseball fan" life, you best be sure he won’t go home with it.  When it's all over, I paid of that seat... and that's my ball.  You know... "'that’s part of the price of the admission'.

My dad taught me well.

 --Barry Millman
BYB Writer
Follow me on Twitter: @nyyankeefanfore

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