Second chance heaven.
August 14, 2007 7:46 PM   Subscribe

St. Louis Cardinals' manager Tony La Russa loves re-treads more than a long distance trucker. And even though the Cards are often willing to take a chance on former big league players with problems, their latest retrieval from the scrap heap is unusual, even for them. At the ripe old age of 28, former pitching phenom Rick Ankiel is back. As a hitter.
posted by paulsc (25 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Not just a hitter, a power hitting outfielder with three home runs in his first three games back. Makes for a great story!

I wonder what will happen if he forgets how to throw the ball in from the outfield?
posted by fenriq at 7:53 PM on August 14, 2007

Stoked that you posted about this. Not only is this what my beloved troubled franchise needed right now, it's a great story all around.
posted by evisceratordeath at 8:09 PM on August 14, 2007

Thanks for posting this. Rick Ankiel's story is like an enormous bushy beard. In the sense that it's pretty much totally awesome.
posted by psmith at 8:10 PM on August 14, 2007

I never comment in the blue, but I'll do it for this one. I don't care if you absolutely goddamn loathe sporting events, the Ankiel story is one moving, inspiring story about how sheer lock-jawed determination and white-knuckled will can get you over some amazing humps.

His rookie year, I thought he was ultimately going to be the next Pedro Martinez (back when Pedro was Pedro). After he crashed and burned, I hoped he'd become the best Cinderella pitching story this side of Sandy Koufax. Little did I dream he'd hit and field the way he does, but he's certainly woken the fucking team up, so my fingers are tightly crossed.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:22 PM on August 14, 2007

Wow, that's a great story. I was actually choking up reading the wikipedia article, for God's sake.
posted by smackfu at 8:50 PM on August 14, 2007

Excellent use of the "gumption" tag, btw.
posted by middleclasstool at 9:02 PM on August 14, 2007

I read that whole dang post. I just love that it all ends rubbing elbows with Babe Ruth. Perfect, thanks.
posted by carsonb at 9:33 PM on August 14, 2007

As far as sports go, I'm just psyched the NBA ref and Mike Vick are going to plead guilty in the same week!
posted by b_thinky at 9:52 PM on August 14, 2007

From the Hardball Times article:

[Rick Ankiel] did get to play in the major leagues (which is more than you can say for flameouts like Brien Taylor or Josh Hamilton).

Of course, they're talking about this Josh Hamilton, who is in his first year in the majors this year, recovering from drug trouble. Here is a good story on him.
posted by christonabike at 10:56 PM on August 14, 2007

It's good to see Ankiel back. It's good timing, and I'd always felt bad at his inexplicable fall from grace. Even when he was blowing it for my beloved Cards in the playoffs, any anger I felt towards him was overshadowed by my empathy: "Man, how hard is it to be Rick Ankiel right now?" It just seemed so improbable, and must have been supremely frustrating.

And now speaking of improbable. His is already an impressive feat. Welcome back to the Bigs, Rick.
posted by Brak at 11:18 PM on August 14, 2007

God, I hate the Cardinals.

And, God, I really hate that I'm cheering for Rick Ankiel.
posted by PhatLobley at 11:22 PM on August 14, 2007

Ankiel's curveball was one of the filthiest pitches I've ever seen. That thing looked like it had a full 180+ degree break on it, and it looked like it was coming at you from first base. His breakdown was both sad and unbelievable. What is almost more unbelieveable is that the team stuck by his for all these years. It's a cold, cruel business. But LaRussa and Walt Jockety stuc with him and did him right.

Ankiel coming back, and announcing his return with a three-run bomb at home, in front of a crowd that appreciates what he's done, is just what baseball needs right now. For a couple of days, no one is talking about steroids and tainted records. For those who remember the infamous wild pitch inning, this is sweet, sweet cleansing.
posted by azpenguin at 11:33 PM on August 14, 2007

God, I hate the Cardinals.

God forgives you.
posted by middleclasstool at 3:59 AM on August 15, 2007

Is Bernard Malamud getting royalties from this?
posted by dzot at 6:50 AM on August 15, 2007

What PhatLobley and middleclasstool said (including about the "gumption" tag). Thanks for the post!
posted by languagehat at 7:04 AM on August 15, 2007

Yeah, we were all sure this kid was going to be a perennial Cy Young candidate before he got psyched out. Now we're hoping he'll be a Reggie Jackson/Dave Kingman/Adam Dunn/Ryan Howard type. It's either a strikeout or homer, and you know he'll be swinging hard no matter what.

Great story.
posted by mbd1mbd1 at 7:19 AM on August 15, 2007

When I saw La Russa (who's 'tough' act always irked me) going absolutely nuts in the dugout, and then later at a press conference say that it was taking everything for him to keep it together, I got tears in my eyes. And I'm a Houston fan.
posted by sicem07 at 7:36 AM on August 15, 2007

Can I congratulate MeFi at large for getting at least 18 comments deep without a single whine about sports posts being lame? Gumption indeed.
posted by rokusan at 8:26 AM on August 15, 2007

This is a great story, and I don't even follow baseball. I'm trying to think of other sports where the skills involved in the two aspects are so different, and drawing a blank. This guy must be both super-talented and mentally tough. Good on him.
posted by djgh at 9:09 AM on August 15, 2007

Yeah, it's been great watching him play. In last night's game against the Brewers, when the Cards were up 8-3 in the 6th, he hit an infield dribbler then beat the play to first with some great hustle up the first base line. You sure as hell won't see Pujols or Encarnacion run out a play like that, especially with a 5-run lead.
posted by slogger at 9:35 AM on August 15, 2007

I much preferred the play where Ankiel couldn't catch the ball in the outfield, and Ryan Braun got a triple.
posted by drezdn at 11:25 AM on August 15, 2007

Sorry about that, last night's game left me cranky.
posted by drezdn at 11:31 AM on August 15, 2007

drezdn, I feel your pain. As a former Wisconsinite I loved seeing the '82 Brew Crew and throwback uniforms last night. As a current resident of Mizzourah and STL fan since 1994 I have a hard time with my loyalty during a Brewers/Cardinals series.

Ankiel could have signed with any team back in late 2006 when the Cardinals declined to offer him a contract. Whew.
posted by badger_flammable at 12:03 PM on August 15, 2007

Update (via Sportsfilter, which has a great discussion and links, including a relevant piece about Human Growth Hormone in Slate earlier this year):

Rick Ankiel received 12-month supply of Human Growth Hormone

September 7th 2007
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Rick Ankiel, baseball's feel-good story of the season, received a 12-month supply of human growth hormone in 2004 from a Florida pharmacy that was part of a national illegal prescription drug-distribution operation, the Daily News has learned...

Ankiel, 28, has not been accused by authorities of wrongdoing, and according to the Signature records obtained by The News, he stopped receiving HGH just before Major League Baseball officially banned it in 2005. MLB does not test for HGH, but a player who is known to have used it or even possessed it from the time it was banned can face a 50-game suspension...

MLB officials also declined comment, saying they would "look into" the allegations, but weren't sure whether any action could be taken. It is likely, however, that officials will ask to speak to Ankiel and will ask whether he used HGH beyond the time he received the shipments.

posted by mediareport at 6:50 PM on September 9, 2007

And Ankiel's response.
posted by mediareport at 7:23 PM on September 9, 2007

« Older Come in... Leave a comment and have some...   |   Transitive Nightfall. Now with Extra Diamonds! Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments