The Time: July 16, 1990
The Place: Anaheim Stadium
The Event: The Birth of "The Pissant"
I distinctly remember listening to the radio broadcast of the Brewers/Angels game that night. It was a 3-1 victory, but all I remember is the performance of a kid who came out of nowhere to go 3-for-4 in his major league debut. That kid's name: Lee Stevens.
1992 Topps Stadium Club #281 Lee Stevens
I guess I just have something against precociousness. Wanna trigger my gag reflex? Tell me a story about a kid who graduates from college at 13. Show me an 8-year-old who can blurt out "Millard Fillmore" when you try to stump him on his memorization of the presidents with "13th."
And then there's rookies who bat .750 with their first taste of The Show.
Maybe there's something to be said about paying your dues. Maybe there are more deserving players, harder workers, guys who fortune decided not to smile upon. Lee Stevens isn't the go-to example for the pissant, but he's the first I can remember noticing. The next night he did not let up, going 2-for-4 with an RBI in a 8-1 ass whipping. Sure, his average dipped to .214 at season's end, but for a few fleeting nights against Milwaukee, he was a baseball god.
Fast forward 21 years. Thorzul buys his annual box of Topps Update Series. He lucks out... his one promised autograph or jersey card is an AUTO. A sinking feeling starts to overcome him when he sees who it is. He is the owner of an autographed card of a Modern Pissant... Colby Rasmus.
2011 Topps 60 Autograph #T60A-CR Colby Rasmus
Great, I get an autographed card and it's of this a-hole, this guy who stuck in my craw for the past couple of seasons until he was finally traded across the border? I don't know exactly why, but this guy was on my shortlist of my least favorite players, at least until he was sent to the Blue Jays. A true Modern Pissant.
I've used that word several times, but haven't had the chance to explain it. It's hard to define, much like Justice Potter Stewart's stance on what determines pornography: "I know it when I see it." I'll try to put together a few non-binding criteria to help you identify your pissants.
*Not a major star.
(This is important. Albert Pujols, while he decimated my Brewers in the playoffs, cannot be a pissant by any stretch of the imagination. He's too damn good.)
*Always seems to do unusually well against your team.
(How can a guy mash three home runs in a series against your team when he's batting .232? 'Cause he's a pissant!)
(This is hard to quantify, but is has a lot to do with respect. St. Louis Cardinal Jon Jay may have played the Brewers tougher than most other teams, but he's a good player worthy of respect, so he's not a pissant.)
*Skinny white guy.
(Rasmus was a big dude, so that doesn't apply here. And being a person of color and a pissant are not mutually exclusive, but there is a trend.)
(Pissants often, though not always, have a stupid-sounding first name. Colby is just a moronic, trendy, three-second-glance-at-a-baby-name-book kind of name, as are all of its similar variations. Cody. Coby. For that matter, Mason. Names like that cause me to picture non-working mothers with tightly stretched face skin and sunglasses atop dyed black hair not watching their suburban children well enough at a public place. A little specific, but I hope it paints a picture for you.)
Now that the parameters are out if the way, let me share with you a couple more current pissants.
2009 Topps Unique #68 Ryan Ludwick Red Parallel (0585/1199)
Ludwick is the Jason Voorhies of pissants. I hated him during his early years in St Louis, thought I was rid of him. Then he shows up on division opponent Pittsburgh. Then, holy shit, just yesterday he gets signed by the Reds. Could you leave the fucking division already???
I hate his last name, too. Ludwick is a little too close to Lampwick, the naughty boy from Pinocchio who got turned into a jackass. I know nothing about the guy, but he's a pissant.
2011 Topps #347 Darwin Barney
This guy hasn't achieved full-fledged pissant status yet, but he's on his way. Small in stature, division rival, extremely stupid first and last name, he might be the burr under my saddle for years to come. Teammate Koyie Hill is also close, but mostly for his fucked-up name (see "Colby," variations, above). Catchers don't make good pissants, and neither do pitchers.
Pissants aren't exclusively residents of Major League Baseball. College basketball is full of them, and that's fueled by a lot of factors. Taunting student sections, proximity to the court, and all of that blasted "get big" defensive floor slapping makes college b-ball an ideal breeding ground for the specimen. I remember a guard from Iowa quite a few years ago who fit the bill. Ugly read hair, a stupid yellow mouthguard, and the propensity to hit big buckets against the Badgers were enough for club membership. And let's not forget Bobby Hurley, probably nature's most perfect pissant of all-time.
Now's your time to shine. Based on the established criteria, who are your pissants? And don't even think about naming someone I have in mind: Having anything against him just makes you a racist.