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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Billy Ripken Obscenity Bat: He Finally Talks 20 Years Later

For nearly 20 years, Billy Ripken hasn’t told the whole story. That is, until he revealed to me how it all went down:

“I got a dozen bats in front of my locker during the 1988 season. I pulled the bats out, model R161, and noticed—because of the grain patterns—that they were too heavy. But I decided I’d use one of them, at the very least, for my batting practice bat.”

“Now I had to write something on the bat. At Memorial Stadium, the bat room was not too close to the clubhouse, so I wanted to write something that I could find immediately if I looked up and it was 4:44 and I had to get out there on the field a minute later and not be late. There were five big grocery carts full of bats in there and if I wrote my number 3, it could be too confusing. So I wrote ‘F—k’ Face on it.”

“After the season was over, in early January, I got a call from our PR guy Rick Vaughn. He said, ‘Billy, we have a problem.’ And he told me what was written on the bat and I couldn’t believe it. I went to a store and saw the card and it all came back to me. We were in Fenway Park and I had just taken my first round of BP. I threw my bat to the third base side and strolled around the bases. When I was coming back, right before I got up to hit again, I remember a guy tapping me on the shoulder asking if he could take my picture. Never once did I think about it. I posed for the shot and he took it.

“I tried to deflect it as much as I could. It was fairly easy to say that somebody got me with a joke because people think you’re the scum of the earth for doing something like this. The truth is that there’s a lot of words like that that are thrown around in the clubhouse. They just don’t get out there.”

“I can’t believe the people at Fleer couldn’t catch that. I mean, they certainly have to have enough proofreaders to see it. I think not only did they see it, they enhanced it. That writing on that bat is way too clear. I don’t write that neat. I think they knew that once they saw it, they could use the card to create an awful lot of stir.”

“I have no idea where that bat is today. If I were to guess, I would say it probably got lost after someone used it in a game. Probably a guy like Brady Anderson because he choked up so he could use a heavier bat.”

One of the great mysteries of our time is finally revealed. Now that Deep Throat and “F—- Face” are out of the way, it’s time to find out about JFK.

Gamingboy Posted: December 09, 2008 at 03:32 PM | 52 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, memorabilia, orioles

Reader Comments and Retorts

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Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. Shooty would run in but these bone spurs hurt! Posted: December 09, 2008 at 04:13 PM (#3023829)
“I tried to deflect it as much as I could. It was fairly easy to say that somebody got me with a joke because people think you’re the scum of the earth for doing something like this. The truth is that there’s a lot of words like that that are thrown around in the clubhouse. They just don’t get out there.”

I didn't think he was scum. He went up a few notches in my estimation. I can't believe he feels ashamed of this 20 years later. It's one of the top 10 baseball card moments of all time, right up there with Oscar Gamble's 'Fro and Gary Pettis pulling a fast one on Topps.
   2. Hello Rusty Kuntz, Goodbye Rusty Cars Posted: December 09, 2008 at 04:15 PM (#3023833)
If cybernanny for bats had existed, the Ripken name would have faded into obscurity.
   3. DCA Posted: December 09, 2008 at 04:16 PM (#3023834)
I'm disappointed that he didn't do it on purpose. Billy Ripken was one of my favorites -- I always liked (s)crappy 2B, since I was one.

I'm not familiar with the Pettis card of which you speak. Story? And more importantly, photo?
   4. Rants Mulliniks Posted: December 09, 2008 at 04:19 PM (#3023837)
And then there's the Dennis Rodman card (not sure which one) that shows his wang hanging down the leg of his shorts (yes, it was before they wore shorts down to their knees).
   5. Shooty would run in but these bone spurs hurt! Posted: December 09, 2008 at 04:20 PM (#3023840)
I'm not familiar with the Pettis card of which you speak. Story? And more importantly, photo?

The 1985 Topps card of Pettis features Pettis' little brother instead of Gary Pettis himself.
   6. My name is Votto, and I love to get Moppo Posted: December 09, 2008 at 04:22 PM (#3023844)
So that's where Rick Vaughn got his start!
   7. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 09, 2008 at 04:23 PM (#3023847)
“I can’t believe the people at Fleer couldn’t catch that. I mean, they certainly have to have enough proofreaders to see it. I think not only did they see it, they enhanced it. That writing on that bat is way too clear. I don’t write that neat. I think they knew that once they saw it, they could use the card to create an awful lot of stir.”


That was always pretty clear to anyone who ever saw the immortal F-Face card. It was as obvious an enhancement as Groucho's moustache.
   8. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: December 09, 2008 at 04:26 PM (#3023852)
Now that Deep Throat and “F--- Face” are out of the way, it’s time to find out about JFK.
Ed Delahanty, Amelia Earhart, Judge Crater, D. B. Cooper and Jimmy Hoffa say hi.
   9. Shooty would run in but these bone spurs hurt! Posted: December 09, 2008 at 04:28 PM (#3023857)
Ed Delahanty, Amelia Earhart, Judge Crater, D. B. Cooper and Jimmy Hoffa say hi.

Bullsh!t. If they could say hi we wouldn't be wondering about them.
   10. Cowboy Popup Posted: December 09, 2008 at 04:30 PM (#3023860)
D. B. Cooper

Adam West was D.B. Cooper.
   11. Gamingboy Posted: December 09, 2008 at 04:32 PM (#3023862)
Big Ed Delahanty was driven by a strange notion to Niagara Falls. Didn't you listen to "The Baseball Project"?
   12. BDC Posted: December 09, 2008 at 04:34 PM (#3023863)
And we also have to clear up who's responsible for the Kiick/Csonka SI cover.
   13. RJ in TO Posted: December 09, 2008 at 04:36 PM (#3023866)
And then there's the Dennis Rodman card (not sure which one) that shows his wang hanging down the leg of his shorts (yes, it was before they wore shorts down to their knees).


So that's the reason he was nicknamed "The Worm".
   14. Gamingboy Posted: December 09, 2008 at 04:36 PM (#3023867)
And we also have to clear up who's responsible for the Kiick/Csonka SI cover.
Didn't Billy Martin do something similar on a Baseball card?
   15. billyshears Posted: December 09, 2008 at 04:42 PM (#3023875)
What a coincidence - I put all of my files for each of my clients into a different redweld, but they all look alike, so I wrote \"#### face" on one of them so I could grab the right redweld quickly if I have to run to a meeting. The others are labeled \"#### head", \"#### stick" and \"#### nut".
   16. winnipegwhip Posted: December 09, 2008 at 04:44 PM (#3023880)
Say it ain't so Billy. Say it ain't so.

My innocence is lost. Next thing you know Jimmy Page will be saying it wasn't him playing all the great leads on Who and Kinks classics.

If you listen closely to the beginning of The Beatles' "Back in the USSR" you will hear that it is Jimmy Page flying the plane.
   17. bunyon Posted: December 09, 2008 at 04:48 PM (#3023890)
One of the great mysteries of our time is finally revealed. Now that Deep Throat and “F--- Face” are out of the way, it’s time to find out about JFK.

JFK? Deep Throat and #### Face are a clear call to Bill Clinton.
   18. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: December 09, 2008 at 04:51 PM (#3023897)
That link to the Pettis card isn't working; this should.

I didn't know about Gary's trick. Just awesome.
   19. John DiFool2 Posted: December 09, 2008 at 04:52 PM (#3023899)
   20. BDC Posted: December 09, 2008 at 04:59 PM (#3023918)
Hey, I think that card actually says "F.CK FACE." That would even get past the nanny.
   21. My name is Votto, and I love to get Moppo Posted: December 09, 2008 at 05:04 PM (#3023930)
I'm intrigued by the Rodman card...any idea what year/brand the card was?
   22. Elvis Posted: December 09, 2008 at 05:18 PM (#3023964)
I'd rate the Aurelio Rodriguez/batboy card, the Aaron batting lefty and the ghost Mantle as more interesting goofs than the Billy Ripken card.
   23. Craig Calcaterra Posted: December 09, 2008 at 05:39 PM (#3024001)
One of the great mysteries of our time is finally revealed. Now that Deep Throat and “F--- Face” are out of the way, it’s time to find out about JFK.


I thought we all agreed that this was Garvey.
   24. Walt Davis Posted: December 09, 2008 at 06:42 PM (#3024084)
I thought we all agreed that this was Garvey.

Not quite. Garvey, just 13 at the time, slept with Marilyn Monroe and, naturally, got her pregnant. This put JFK in a violent rage (and led to Monroe's suicide) and he was planning to have Garvey killed. Tommy LaSorda, already scouting Garvey because we all know he has a great eye for young talent*, got wind of this plan and called up some of his Mafia friends and put out a hit on JFK.

Jim Ray Hart was the triggerman -- it's always the guys with 3 names after all.

* don't forget, he decided to sign Wilton over Vlad.
   25. Dock Ellis Posted: December 09, 2008 at 07:00 PM (#3024107)
Didn't Billy Martin do something similar on a Baseball card?

1972 Topps. He gives the finger.
   26. Jeff K. Posted: December 09, 2008 at 07:19 PM (#3024133)
I can't find a link to a picture of it, but 25 posts and no mention of Frank Thomas (Big Hurt FT, not the older one) flipping the bird on an Upper Deck card circa 1991 or so? He was sitting on the bench.
   27. Dock Ellis Posted: December 09, 2008 at 07:23 PM (#3024139)
I can't find a link to a picture of it, but 25 posts and no mention of Frank Thomas (Big Hurt FT, not the older one) flipping the bird on an Upper Deck card circa 1991 or so? He was sitting on the bench.

That's debatable.
   28. Justin T's pasta pass was not revoked Posted: December 09, 2008 at 09:51 PM (#3024321)
I think not only did they see it, they enhanced it. That writing on that bat is way too clear. I don’t write that neat. I think they knew that once they saw it, they could use the card to create an awful lot of stir.”

I doubt they enhanced the picture in any way to more clearly show the obscenity, but there must have been some attempt to capitalize on it through making like four different corrected versions of the card. There was one with whiteout, one with a black box over the writing, one with it scribbled out, etc. Maybe one of those I mentioned didn't actually exist, but the point remains. What was the point of that?
   29. vortex of dissipation Posted: December 09, 2008 at 10:14 PM (#3024349)
“Now I had to write something on the bat. At Memorial Stadium, the bat room was not too close to the clubhouse, so I wanted to write something that I could find immediately if I looked up and it was 4:44 and I had to get out there on the field a minute later and not be late. There were five big grocery carts full of bats in there and if I wrote my number 3, it could be too confusing. So I wrote ‘F--k’ Face on it.”


What, exactly, would be wrong with writing "B. Ripken" on it, instead?
   30. JoeD has the Imperial March Stuck in His Head Posted: December 09, 2008 at 10:28 PM (#3024369)
Post #22, I don't get the Aurelio Rodriguez thing. Is that not him?
   31. Alex Vila Posted: December 09, 2008 at 10:29 PM (#3024373)
Is that Sammy Sosa in the background of the Frank Thomas card?
   32. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: December 09, 2008 at 10:34 PM (#3024382)
That logo on the White Sox hat in comment #27 is a logo I have no memory of seeing before. Clearly it's a "C", but it looks a lot like the "I" that adorns some Indians hats nowadays.
   33. More Dewey is Always Good Posted: December 09, 2008 at 10:40 PM (#3024388)
That logo on the White Sox hat in comment #27 is a logo I have no memory of seeing before. Clearly it's a "C", but it looks a lot like the "I" that adorns some Indians hats nowadays.

It's one they used from @1988 - 1990. It looked like an "E", much like the Indians "I" looks like a "J". That uniform was both boring and ugly.

Given how many uniform changes the Sox have had over the years, it's amazing that they haven't really made any major changes in the last 18 years.
   34. zempf Posted: December 09, 2008 at 10:45 PM (#3024392)
Post #22, I don't get the Aurelio Rodriguez thing. Is that not him?


It's apparently an Angels bat boy.
   35. 1989FF Posted: December 09, 2008 at 10:49 PM (#3024397)
Hello, My name is Donovan, the one mentioned in the article. If you go to our website, you'll find many pics of adult cards. Some unconfirmed if legit or not. Others, like the C3PO are pretty funny.

I enlarged the Rodman card and it appears to be a shadow. There's another similar Rodman card and that one is not what it appears to be either.

For a real view of something like that...search for a 1987 Winston Nascar poster. (few on ebay) Check out what the Foldgers guy put on the shoulder in front of him ! lol

Aurelio Rodriguez - batboy was pictured on the card

"making like four different corrected versions"- Theres more than 12 !!


Any questions or whatever, send us an email.
   36. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 09, 2008 at 10:50 PM (#3024399)
I doubt they enhanced the picture in any way to more clearly show the obscenity,

I dunno, look for yourself, and think how many times you've ever seen a well used bat with writing that clearly defined on the knob. It's as if they'd auto-contrasted it in photoshop or something. I can't believe that the writing stood out nearly that well in real life.
   37. Justin T's pasta pass was not revoked Posted: December 09, 2008 at 11:05 PM (#3024409)
I dunno, look for yourself, and think how many times you've ever seen a well used bat with writing that clearly defined on the knob. It's as if they'd auto-contrasted it in photoshop or something. I can't believe that the writing stood out nearly that well in real life.

I think it's debatable whether that bat qualifies as well-used. According to Ripken, it was part of a batch of bad bats that he decided to use in BP. The portion of the barrel over his shoulder that is visible doesn't look very worn either.

Looking at the card did remind me of one more thing about that set. The slightly diagonal orange lines at the top and bottom of the picture. In many instances, the wrong color was put on a card. An A's player would have red instead of green, for instance. My friends and I got all caught up in those. I'm not sure if we imagined they were valuable error cards or if there was any short term buzz in the marketplace as well.
   38. JoeD has the Imperial March Stuck in His Head Posted: December 09, 2008 at 11:08 PM (#3024412)
That's the oldest batboy ever. He looks like he's 50. I would have believed it if you said Aurelio's dad stepped in for him.
   39. 1989FF Posted: December 09, 2008 at 11:14 PM (#3024415)
Hank Aaron appears to be batting left handed, because it is a reverse negative. (Proved by the reversed numbers on his jersey)
   40. 185/456(GGC) Posted: December 09, 2008 at 11:26 PM (#3024423)
It's one they used from @1988 - 1990.


Wow. I saw a game at Comiskey in 1980 and I don't remember that logo.
   41. Justin T's pasta pass was not revoked Posted: December 10, 2008 at 12:16 AM (#3024461)
Hank Aaron appears to be batting left handed, because it is a reverse negative. (Proved by the reversed numbers on his jersey)


Same thing happened with Juan Gonzalez's Donruss rookie card. 1990, I think. I had both versions. I guess it's cooler when it's Hank Aaron though.
   42. 1989FF Posted: December 10, 2008 at 12:40 AM (#3024477)
There was a few popular reverse negatives. The Juan was a popular one as was the 1982 Fleer Littlefield.
   43. vortex of dissipation Posted: December 10, 2008 at 01:00 AM (#3024486)
The 1959 Topps "Lew" Burdette showed him as a lefty pitcher.
   44. Tom Nawrocki Posted: December 10, 2008 at 01:08 AM (#3024490)
I must be missing something in post 40. The Sox were wearing the black pajamas in 1980, FWIW.
   45. 185/456(GGC) Posted: December 10, 2008 at 01:23 AM (#3024500)
No, I meant 1990. It looks like Chicago was phasing them out around then.
   46. 185/456(GGC) Posted: December 10, 2008 at 01:27 AM (#3024501)
Not quite. Garvey, just 13 at the time, slept with Marilyn Monroe and, naturally, got her pregnant. This put JFK in a violent rage (and led to Monroe's suicide) and he was planning to have Garvey killed. Tommy LaSorda, already scouting Garvey because we all know he has a great eye for young talent*, got wind of this plan and called up some of his Mafia friends and put out a hit on JFK.

Jim Ray Hart was the triggerman -- it's always the guys with 3 names after all.

* don't forget, he decided to sign Wilton over Vlad.


Wrong brother, Walt. Lasorda was linked with the RFK assassination.
   47. 1989FF Posted: December 11, 2008 at 10:50 PM (#3026905)
Follow up story from CNBC-

http://www.cnbc.com/id/28159667?__source=RSS*blog*&par=RSS
   48. Tulo's Fishy Mullet (mrams) Posted: December 13, 2008 at 07:46 PM (#3028445)
Also the '87 Topps Jim Gantner reverse negative on the 'ball and glove' logo on his cap. Somewhat forgettable considering how many people never realized it was a ball and logo.
   49. Roy Hobbs of WIFFLE Ball Posted: December 13, 2008 at 07:59 PM (#3028450)
Claude Raymond's fly is unzipped on his 1966 Topps.
   50. Dock Ellis Posted: December 13, 2008 at 10:52 PM (#3028502)
Claude Raymond's fly is unzipped on his 1966 Topps.

And again in 1967!

See for yourself: 1966 and 1967
   51. Bowling Baseball Fan Posted: December 13, 2008 at 11:05 PM (#3028507)
Is that Sammy Sosa in the background of the Frank Thomas card?


Yes.
   52. asinwreck Posted: December 14, 2008 at 12:24 AM (#3028528)
No, I meant 1990. It looks like Chicago was phasing them out around then.

Near the end of the season, the team phased in the gothic logo and pinstripes they use to this day, but Thomas and Alex Fernandez got in a few games with the old uniforms after they were called up in August.

I always thought that the uniforms used from 1987 to 1990 were part of an elaborate plot by Jerry Reinsdorf to repel fans and make it easier for the team to leave town. But if a year of Hawk Harrelson as GM couldn't shake the fans, nothing could.

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