Thursday, December 2, 2010

1985 Topps Brad Lesley

Who is this? Former Cincinnati Reds pitcher Brad Lesley
What is this? An autographed card from the 1985 Topps set
Where'd I get it? Nick from Baseball Happenings got it signed for me last month.

Why is this so special? Brad Lesley's career statistics don't really stand out - in four seasons, he appeared in 54 major league games with a 1-3 record, 6 saves and a 3.86 ERA. He finished his baseball career in Japan with the Hankyu Braves, where he had a 7-5 record with 24 saves in 60 games over 2 years.

Yet his stats don't really tell the story. Lesley was one of baseball's characters, earning the nickname "The Animal" (later "Animal-san" in Japan.) There are multiple stories explaining the origin of the nickname - the most plausible credits Johnny Bench, who supposedly said that Lesley "looked like a crazed animal" when he ran over to cover first base on a play.

In Japan, Lesley's unique style stood out even more... and the Hankyu Braves played it up. They had had Animal yelling contests, Lesley look-alike competitions, and other events to capitalize on their closer's cult status for marketing purposes.

Lesley had a role on the 1980s Japanese game show, Takeshi's Castle, which was eventually shown in the U.S. on Spike TV as MXC. He also appeared in several films, including Little Big League, Mr. Baseball and Space Jam.

Lesley's autograph is an ornate, if illegible, scribble.

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