Eric Karros: A Return to Normalcy by David Meir Grossman

David Meir Grossman writes under his full name so you don’t get him confused with the actually famous David Grossman. He currently writes for Lapham’s Quarterly, and has written for io9 and Thought Catalog. He lives in Brooklyn. Twitter here, tumblr here.

“Sign up with Eric Karros and join the Dodger Blue Crew!” Those might not have been the exact words, but I remember the feeling I saw when Eric Karros’ smiling mug popped up on the Dodger Stadium big screen: that ain’t right. The former leader of the Dodgers kids klub, Mike Piazza, had just been traded, and in what must have been a desperate PR move Karros was named temporary leader, the Omar Sulieman of getting free Dodger trading cards.

In retrospect, the move made perfect sense. It would have seemed odd to push newly acquired Gary Sheffield so soon, especially with an Ol’ Reliable like Karros around. The first of what would be five straight Dodger Rookies of the Year, Karros had quickly established himself as type of player Tommy Lasorda wanted: powerful. Although ROY runner up Moises Alou had a now-noticeably larger batting average and OBP, who cared about such things in 1992? Karros had twenty dingers and eighty-eight RBIs. He could hit big, and and he could stand around.

And it stayed that way for a while. Karros would flirt with excellence from time to time, mainly in ’95 and ’99, but on the whole stayed around .260 and twenty-five homers his entire career. He stuck around with the Dodgers for eleven years- seemingly because he showed up and did his work. There was little truly remarkable about Karros, but he became an institution in the way only players who don’t leave can. That Los Angeles is a town that loves flash and noise is a cliché, and Karros became fan club president because he embodied the opposite of that, what every kid looks for in a hero ballplayer- a distinctly local hero, someone who will show up everyday and you can claim as your own. We had to share Piazza with the rest of the league, and eventually Florida and New York. Eric Karros was ours.

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