Collecting "Mick The Quick"
A shrimp-eating contest might be considered an unusual way to spend time with your favorite player. But if your favorite player is Mickey Rivers one of baseball's true characters it only seems fitting.
The contest is just one of many experiences that long-time Rivers' fan Shawn Smith has had with his boyhood idol. Working in baseball has afforded him the opportunity to meet the former all-star on several occasions.
"I have also toured the Hall of Fame with him," recounts Smith, who is now the general manager of the Lowell Spinners (Boston Red Sox affiliate). "That was a thrill for me."
Through these meetings, baseball contacts, and the internet, Smith has managed to build a collection of more than 500 pieces of Rivers' memorabilia.
"I can say with confidence that I have the most complete Mickey Rivers collection in the world. But I can also say with confidence that no one else cares," says Smith.
As a kid, Smith was captivated by Rivers' hustle and enthusiasm on the field.
"He always worked hard and looked like he was having fun," recalls Smith. "I loved the way he played the game."
It was this love that motivated him to start collecting Rivers' baseball cards.
"I remember hiding Mickey's 1976 Topps Traded card in a bucket for a treasure hunt. I had to rip it in half so it would fit," says Smith. "After the hunt was over, I taped the card back together. I still have it with the tape on it and everything."
His collection now consists not only of baseball cards, but game-worn jerseys, bats, and balls marking milestones in Rivers' career.
"I think the jerseys are the most interesting," says Smith. There's still one jersey I would like to add to my collection: his #5 jersey that he wore for California during the 1972 and '73 seasons."
Smith also owns several one-of-a-kind items, including cheques signed by Rivers, high school and junior college pictures, and his honorable discharge from the National Guard.
"Some people think I'm crazy for collecting this stuff. But it's something I really enjoy. It makes me feel like a kid again," says Smith.
Nicknamed "Mick The Quick" for his lightning speed, Rivers enjoyed a 15-year major league career with California, New York, and Texas. During his career, the Miami native hit over .300 three times, lead the league in triples twice (1974, 1975), and was named an all-star in 1976. He was also a member of the New York Yankees World Series winning teams in 1977 and 1978.
Despite his impressive on-the-field accomplishments, Rivers is just as likely to be remembered for the Berra-like quips he made off the field (See "Quotes From 'Mick The Quick'" section below). As a member of the Yankees, Rivers was once overheard talking to teammate Reggie Jackson. Jackson boasted that he had an IQ of 160, to which Rivers responded, "Out of what, a thousand?"
More of Rivers' infamous quotes can be found on Smith's "Ultimate Mickey Rivers Website" located at www.mickeyrivers.net. Started in 2000, the site also includes biographical information, photos, and pictures of Smith's collection.
Smith says he is fortunate to be able to call his boyhood idol "a baseball friend."
"It's been interesting getting to know him over the years," says Smith, "Some fans are disappointed when they met their favorite player, but I haven't been. Mickey is a sweet guy who wouldn't hurt a fly."
Quotes from "Mick The Quick"
"The wind was blowin' about 100 degrees."
-Rivers said about the wind one night at Chicago's Comiskey Park
"I don't get upset over things I can't control, because if I can't control them there's no use getting upset. And I don't get upset over things I can control because if I can control them there's no use getting upset."
"Me and George and Billy are two of a kind."
-Rivers said about his relationship with George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin.
"My goals are to hit .300, score 100 runs, and stay injury-prone."
"What was the name of that dog on 'Rin Tin Tin?'"
"It was so cold today that I saw a dog chasing a cat, and the dog was walking."
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