While enjoying the A’s-Giants Bay Bridge series this past week I noticed that the A’s second baseman, Eric Sogard, was wearing a regular pair of designer glasses while batting and playing the field. In this age of 15 minute lasik surgery procedures and soft disposable contact lenses being readily available, a bespectacled ball player sighting is almost as rare as spotting a wolf roaming freely in the wilds of the Golden State. Immediately my mind set about trying to recall ocularly challenged athletes of the past who competed at the highest level with a pair of frames nestled on their face.
I can relate. In my early 20’s I suddenly needed the aid of glasses to see past 3 feet and quickly learned the challenges of playing basketball as a 4-eyed small forward. All attempts at a Kevin McHale “Up and Under” would usually be halted prematurely after the “Up” portion of the fake due to the Law of Physics ejecting my peepers 5 feet into the air.
When I began kart racing I tried to emulate Jacques Villeneuve by fitting the specs into the helmet. This worked for a short period of time until a “friend” took the liberty to rub my glasses in a Taco Bell burrito supreme before handing them to me as I sat at the pit exit eagerly awaiting the first session of the Pismo Beach GP. Needless to say, trying to get up to speed on a treacherous track while squinting through beef shades was a recipe for a high speed bonk into a haybale.
So in honor of Sogard carrying on the tradition of Athletes in Glasses, I felt compelled to come out with my personal top 10 list of visually impaired pros.
My one stipulation is I wanted the athlete to be wearing a pair of glasses that you or I could pick up at Lens Crafters rather than a sports specific goggle. In other words, only frames covered in my HMO plan are eligible for inclusion.
And somebody sporting Google Glass is immediately removed from consideration.
Finally, I consider race drivers athletes so they are eligible for inclusion.
10. Martina Navratilova – I will admit that I had a boyhood crush on Chris Evert Lloyd so when Martina arrived with her brute power game and snatched the crown from Chrissy, I was a little traumatized. But looking back at that era I have to give Martina kudos for keeping those lenses so clean and balancing those frames perfectly on the bridge of her nose.
9. Paul Tracy – When Tracy burst on to the Indycar scene as a pudgy bespectacled family man known as “The Thrill from West Hill”, he had a look of innocence about him that belied his ferociousness behind the wheel. Who knew that the likable young man below sitting in the ’94 Benetton F1 car would evolve into such a wild-man?
8. Reggie Jackson – There are few sports figures that have reached the iconic stature of Reggie Jackson. Any kid playing little league and collecting baseball cards in the 70’s and early 80’s knew all about the exploits of Mr October. He was our hero as we swung at Whiffle balls all summer long. And who knows, maybe that tint had something to do with seeing the ball better?
7. Chuck Muncie – I was infatuated with the Chargers “Air Coryell” era as a kid and Chuck Muncie was a bull of a man spearheading their running game. How he did it wearing a pair of wayfarer glasses makes him even more intriguing in my book. It’s like one of the bop jazz cats put down the bass to score a TD. Salt peanuts, salt peanuts!
6. Tom Kite- Tom didn’t have the charisma of Watson, Norman or Ballesteros, but he had a steely determination that won many a gallery over. It must have been rough for the Shark to look up on the leaderboard and see that little pesky Kite snapping at his heels.
5. Darrell Porter – I think there was a period in the 80’s when I received a Darrell Porter card in every single pack of Topps, Fleer or Donruss that I purchased. I used to have a pile o’ Porter cards sitting around my room and they usually made it into my binder of stars. It’s obvious now, that look is phenomenal!!
4. Bobby Rahal – The Ohio native may have looked like your local State Farm agent, but he was a crafty operator who gave the Andretti’s and Unser’s fits during the heyday of CART. He was like the North American version of “The Professor” Alain Prost and even wore the geeky glasses to prove it.
3. Kent Tekulve – When I think sidearm pitching, Tekulve is still the first person who comes to mind. There are probably thousands of kids who tore elbow ligaments trying to copy the wacko below. And look at the man! I hate to say it but he looks like the type of character that my mother told me to avoid as a kid.
2. Kurt Rambis – Local boy makes good! Kurt Rambis is the most decorated player in San Francisco South Bay history. Oakland may have Bill Russell, Gary Payton and Jason Kidd, but Rambis belongs to the old (408)! Every successful team needs a guy to do the dirty work and Rambis played his role on the Showtime LA Lakers to perfection. I just wonder what went through Magic’s mind when he made eye contact with Rambis through those funky peepers?
1. Bob Griese – How Griese didn’t break a lens every time he took a hit is a miracle? Griese was the starter on the ’72 undefeated Dolphins club and those frames are the undisputed champs of the Athletes in Glasses discussion!
If Goggles were permitted into this contest, which they aren’t, my top two selections would be:
2. Eric Dickerson – What a thoroughbred! A young Dickerson was the best back I’ve ever seen.
1. Elliot Perry – I was a big fan of Elliot “Frogman” Perry from his collegiate days at Memphis St. where he demonstrated his quicks in goggles and knee high socks. He never really made it big in “The Association” but the records show that he did score 3,449 points. In goggles!!