Omar Vizquel is a Platonic Category, Apparently
In the 1990 comedy My Blue Heaven, Steve Martin joked that the difference between a pregnant woman and a light bulb is that “you can unscrew a light bulb.” This past offseason, the Chicago White Sox reversed the irreversible when they “unretired” Hall of Fame shortstop Luis Aparicio’s number 11, and gave it to the newly acquired future Hall of Fame shortstop Omar Vizquel.
On Monday, Vizquel tied Aparicio for the second-most career hits by a shortstop, with 2,674. On Tuesday, Vizquel announced that he would probably retire at the end of the year. Batting only .200 in limited duty, he is an unlikely candidate to unretire in 2011.
Jokes of the ‘what’s the difference between x and y’ variety highlight the sense in which x and y are of different categories. Sports teams, with less comedic flair, highlight similarity; ballplayers are the same- uniform- in so far as they wear the same uniform. The difference between individual players is marked by the unique jersey number assigned to each.
As Plato would say, there may be many horses, but only one horseness. And though the category- horseness- is something to which the many individual horses may aspire, no horse can become horseness itself. Yet baseball tries anyway, by symbolically transforming a uniquely distinguishing number into a higher category, a mark of ideal uniformity.
To mark the anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s breaking the color barrier in 1947, all Major Leaguers wore number 42 on April 15. In so doing, Robinson was transformed from a unique individual into an ideal, something with meaning, something higher. Fans wear the jersey of their favorite player to participate in the glory of their idols; the unique player thus becomes an ideal category with many imperfect instances. Vizquel and Aparicio are not only both shortstops, but are both Venezuelan. Instead of number 11 being unique, something only designating Aparicio, number 11, to the Chicago White Sox at least, has become an ideal of slickfielding Venezuelan-ness, something which any slick fielding Venezuelan may aspire to and hope to become. Take that, Plato.
Last November, Vizquel said of getting his boyhood idol’s number: “For me, it’s like a huge celebration, trying to keep his name alive and trying to spread the word of Venezuelan shortstops.”
Immortality, evangelism (‘word-spreading’, etymologically speaking); these are the marks of a higher ideal. Aparicio approved of his alchemical transformation from person to category, from Earth-bound mortal to ghostly yet approving Ewok party-attender. He said of the double-play turning Jedi who is to take his place:” If there is one player who I would like to see wear my uniform number with the White Sox, it is Omar Vizquel.”
But the Force has a dark side. Jason Giambi played first base for the Yankees as number 25 for eight years. He was replaced at first by Mark Teixeira in 2009, who was promptly given number 25. When Trot Nixon left Boston in 2007 after nine years in rightfield, his number 7 was immediately given to new rightfielder J.D. Drew. Rather than treated as ideals, these players were discarded as fungible, and replaced with newer and (somewhat) improved models. Their individuality taken from them, they were absorbed into the mass of baseball mediocrity and anonymity in Oakland and Cleveland. Rather than being one of a kind- unique- they were just another one of a kind- another lame horse put out to pasture. Hardly horseness itself.
Vizquel, now 43 years old, has 11 Gold Gloves, which is second best by a shortstop (behind Ozzie Smith’s 13). Upon arriving in Chicago earlier this year, however, Vizquel had to forego his traditional number 13, as White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, another Venezuelan former shortstop, already wore it. Vizquel didn’t mind Guillen’s keeping it, for “As long as a Venezuelan is wearing it, I’m pretty happy with it,” Vizquel noted.
Follow us on twitter@thefastertimes
- 1 First Openly Straight Figure Skater Comes Forward
- 2 Brooklyn Man Now Living Entirely Off Own Beard Garden
- 3 “Cra Cra” Now Official Diagnosis in New DSM (DSM-5)
- 4 OfficeMax Marketing Director Struggling to Make Staplers ‘Sexy’ and ‘Conversational’
- 5 Homeless Guy Woos Silicon Valley VCs with Low-Tech Crowdfunding Startup
- 6 Area Man Tailors Life To Be More Relevant To His Hulu Advertisements
- 7 Fan Banging Furiously on Glass Could Be the Difference in Hockey Playoffs
- 8 Survey: 88% of Eagles Fans Too Drunk To Spell Nnamdi Asomugha Last Season
- 9 Local Mom Won’t Stop Being First Person to Like Every Goddamn Thing Son Posts to Facebook
- 10 Shaq Confident He Will Eventually Make Funny Quip on TNT