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Story behind Las Vegas Stars pitcher’s unique baseball card told

Updated August 22, 2019 - 3:03 pm

Don Logan keeps his entire baseball card collection in his office at Las Vegas Ballpark. It consists of just two cards.

One is of Willie Mays, a boyhood hero of the Aviators’ president. It is displayed prominently on a cabinet behind his desk. The other is of former Las Vegas Stars relief pitcher Keith Comstock.

The card of Comstock is not prominently displayed in Logan’s office. He keeps it in a desk caddy organizer behind business cards and schedule calendars.

The card shows Comstock grimacing, and a baseball appearing to strike him in his personal strike zone.

The photo for ProCards’ minor league set was taken in 1988 at Cashman Field. But until this week, the story behind “the funniest baseball card ever made” — according to ESPN’s website — had never been told. Comstock’s first-person account, as told to Robert Sanchez, was published by ESPN Wednesday morning.

Logan told his version before the Aviators strafed Reno 18-4 Wednesday night.

Only one or two names were changed to protect the innocent.

Creative juicing

Comstock wrote that by the time he arrived in Las Vegas, he had had his picture taken for so many minor league cards that he was bored by the process.

“There was absolutely zero creativity with minor league cards. There was the balance position, where the photographer tells you to raise your leg, like you’re ready to throw. There was the one where you extend your throwing hand, like you’ve just released a pitch. There’s the one where you’re standing with a ball and glove, doing nothing. Like I said, zero creativity.”

So he decided to show some in 1988, which, maybe not coincidentally, was the last time Las Vegas won the Pacific Coast League championship.

“He kept putting white athletic tape on (the ball) and sticking it on the uniform, but it just wouldn’t stick,” Logan recalled of Comstock’s efforts to place the baseball in front of his crotch. “They talked about him holding it, but then it would be obvious.”

Neither pine tar nor thumbtacks were considered, for obvious reasons.

“It might have been Krazy Glue, but we got just enough tape on the ball to where you couldn’t see it,” Logan said.

Comstock wrote that super glue indeed was used. He said kids and perhaps not even Gaylord Perry, perhaps the most accomplished doctorer of a baseball the game has ever known, should try this at home.

“Someone grabbed a tongue depressor from the trainer’s kit and slowly started to pry my fingers off the ball,” he wrote. “It took a while, but my hand finally got free. Now I just had to get the photographer …”

The photographer balked. But when some of the Stars’ future big league prospects — Joey Cora, Bip Roberts, Shane Mack and the Alomars, Sandy and Roberto, played for that team, and a guy named Bruce Bochy was the backup catcher — said they wouldn’t sign to have their cards released unless Comstock got his wish, the photographer relented.

Wrote Comstock of what he told the shutterbug: “I want it to look like a comebacker hit me in the (privates).”

Precious memory

When Keith Comstock (and fellow Stars prankster Todd Simmons) got the idea for the nutty baseball card, the former was 32 years old and trying to hang on. He had pitched in the majors with three teams — Twins, Giants, Padres. He was twice demoted to Las Vegas, and later spent parts of three seasons with the Mariners.

In 1990, he appeared in 60 games. He was good enough to earn a nickname, or at least a suffix, from ESPN’s Chris Berman.

Keith Comstock Lode, Berman called him.

Jim Skaalen, a Toronto Blue Jays scout who was at the ballpark Wednesday, said he wasn’t aware of the Comstock baseball card. But having been a Class A manager when the left-hander was coming up, he vouched for its authenticity.

“Knowing Comstock, it doesn’t surprise me,” the former Brewers and A’s hitting coach said with an appreciative grin.

To which Logan added a hearty chuckle that the official scorer might have ruled the play a guffaw.

“Guys like him are why this game is so special,” Logan said. “It is a game, and you should have a good time with it.”

Before placing the dog-eared card back in his desk caddy organizer, the Aviators’ president probably became the first baseball man or card collector to gaze at the back of the card with an expression that said “look at this.”

“Had 17 saves in ‘88,” Logan said of Keith Comstock, and isn’t that a kick in the … um … head.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.