August 11, 2004

Merkin Graffiti

I thought I was all done with this whole Merkin thing, but I cannot ignore the demands of my audience.

- As it turns out, Merkin Valdez hasn’t always been who he says he is. It has often been the practice for major league ballplayers, especially those from foreign countries, to lie about their ages to appear younger- at least until the practice was kiboshed after 9/11 by immigration authorities, leading to the exposure of many players’ false ages. The Dominican-born Valdez not only lied about his age, but also his name- when he signed with the Braves organization in 1999, he was known as “Manuel Mateo,” having swapped names (and birthdays) with a friend. Because if your first name were a euphemism for “pubic wig,” you’d change your identity too.

- There’s that baseball urban legend about a player being traded for “$500 and a sack of baseballs.” In 2002, Russ Ortiz was traded from the Giants to the Braves for Damian Moss and a Merkin.

- The #1 Google News search result for "Merkin" is a baseball prospects update from the other day written by none other than Aaron Gleeman.

- Merkins make music too. There’s a grunge-rock band called The Merkins (based in Rockford, IL), and Pearl Jam released a two-song EP in 1995 called “Merkin Ball” (which I somehow don’t remember, even though they were one of my favorite bands at the time). And don’t forget about the Merkin Concert Hall at Lincoln Center.

- The president in “Dr. Strangelove,” played by Peter Sellers, was named “Merkin Muffley”. And the Drew Barrymore movie “Never Been Kissed” featured a character named “Merkin Burns.”

- That “A List” gossip master list website defines a “merkin” as “a man who dates or marries a gay or bisexual woman so that the woman can pretend to be heterosexual,” sort of a male version of the female “beard.” It gives such examples of merkins as Bill Clinton, Hank Azaria, Paul Newman, and Lenny Kravitz. However, I can’t vouch for the accuracy of any of the rumors on that site, and as far as I know that definition of “merkin” was made up by its author.

- Sports Guy hasn’t addressed the topic yet, but it’s only a matter of time. I still can’t get over his reader’s contention that Michael J. Fox wore #42 in “Teen Wolf” as a tribute to Jackie Robinson, because “ he was the first werewolf to play organized, competitive basketball.”

Posted by Stephen Silver at August 11, 2004 06:25 PM
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