We of a certain age remember a funny game-show-themed skit from the original Saturday Night Live entitled “Quien es Mas Macho?” where contestants had to decide which Latino star best exemplified male bravado: “Quien es mas macho: Ricardo Montalban o Ricky Ricardo?”
The machismo theme hit home last week, quite literally, for Carlos Carrasco of Cleveland and Caracas. A liner off Melky Cabrera’s bat came straight at Carlos’ head, and although he put his glove up, the ball hit him on the chin. The good news is that his injuries were not permanent, and he’ll start tomorrow’s game for the Indians, with two extra days rest. Dodged a bullet there, although not the baseball.
Which brings us to Mets Valencia-born reliever Alex Torres, acquired from the Padres just as the 2015 season kicked off. Alex has decided to protect his livelihood by wearing a rather odd-looking baseball cap, with a protective foam lining. One announcer said it looks like he has a batting donut wrapped around his head. Alex, for one, doesn’t care.
You see, Torres was in the bullpen for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2013 when another pitching Alex, Cobb, got whacked in the head with a line drive. Cobb wasn’t as fortunate as Carrasco. He missed the next two months of the season. The event shook Torres, who relieved Cobb that day and had to finish the game with the memory of his teammate lying on the field, so now he wears a funny-looking hat.
Torres’ first edition of the padded hat is now on display in Cooperstown as part of an exhibit to show advances in player protection. He didn’t do too well for the Mets in his initial appearances, because a specially-made Mets hat had yet to arrive. Now Alex seems to be back in the groove-he got his first MLB save on Saturday wearing his funky-looking hat.
“I love this game and this game is my life,” Torres said. “I need to take care of myself.”
Hey, a generation or two ago hockey goaltenders didn’t wear masks, and non-goalies didn’t wear helmets. Everyone though that was normal. Only in the last decade have soccer goaltenders, led by Chelsea’s Peter Cech, started to wear protective headgear, and now some outfield players wear it too.
The NFL is facing multitudes of legal action by former players who say their brains ware damaged by years of noggin-knockin’ on the American gridiron. It’s hard to whack a guy in the head and get away with it in the modern NFL, but it was de rigueur in the 60’s and 70’s (maybe in the CFL, too, where more French was spoken).
Batting helmets weren’t mandatory in MLB until 1970, and only a few years ago was it made compulsory for first and third-base coaches to wear helmets.
Maybe more pitchers will follow Alex Torres’ example, funny as it looks now.
¿ y Quien es mas macho? That’s for you to decide.