Joe Shlabotnik

I love underdogs in sports.

Hell, I even rooted for both the 1988 and 2021 Baltimore Orioles to just win a game when they eventually ended respective losing streaks of 21 and 19 games…even though if they had kept right on losing in either one of those seasons they could have possibly broken the record of the longest losing streak in major league baseball’s modern era…23 games by the Philadelphia Phillies.

I don’t like to see teams get embarrassed because as a fan I know full well what that feels like. I am a product of my environment, living in the suburbs of Philadelphia. All of our professional teams have a long, inglorious history of being quite far removed from championship glory.  Our current ledger looks like this:

Phillies – World Series Champions in 1980 and 2008. (131 seasons)

Eagles – Super Bowl Champions in 2017. NFL Champions in 1948, 1949, and 1960. (89 seasons)

Flyers – Stanley Cup Champions in 1973-74 and 1974-75. (54 seasons)

76ers – NBA Finals Champions in 1954-55 (as the Syracuse Nationals), 1966-67, and 1982-83. (73 seasons)

Which may be why I love Joe Shlabotnik. It’s usually this time of year – in the baseball dog days of August – when I most often think about Joe. For those who have not previously heard of Joe, he is a fictional baseball player featured in Charles M. Schulz’s classic Peanuts comic strip. He was Charlie Brown’s all-time favorite baseball player.

Charlie Brown worked endlessly to hunt down any and all memorabilia associated with Joe Shlabotnik. He once bought 500 one-card packs of baseball cards to try and get one card of Joe’s. While he wasn’t successful, his pal Lucy van Pelt bought only one pack and what-do-you-know…she was the proud owner of a Joe Shlabotnik baseball card. Unfortunately, Lucy then steadfastly refused to trade Joe’s card to Charlie Brown, even though she had no idea who Joe was. Once Charlie Brown exhausted himself trying to entice her to give up Joe’s card…she eventually decided he wasn’t quite as cute as first thought…and tossed the card into the trash.

Charlie Brown also once was under the impression he had a Joe Shlabotnik autographed baseball…which in fact turned out to be a forgery. But, it isn’t just Charlie Brown’s futility trying to get Joe Shlabotnik memorabilia that makes Joe an underdog for us all to root for. It is the “legendary” career of Joe Shlabotnik:

  1. Joe was demoted to the minor leagues after hitting .004 over an entire season. The one hit was a bloop single…with his team comfortably ahead.
  2. Joe once promised to hit a home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. He instead popped out…but circled the bases anyway.
  3. Joe had a knack for making routine fly balls into spectacular catches. He also had a talent for throwing out runners who had fallen between first and second base.
  4. Joe eventually retired as an active player and took a job managing the Waffletown Syrups. He was fired after one game when he called for a squeeze play…with no one on base.

Charlie Brown never got to meet Joe Shlabotnik. He bought tickets to a sports banquet where fans could dine with their favorite athletes…but Joe was the only athlete who didn’t show up. It turned out Joe had marked the wrong event, city AND date on his calendar. Joe was also invited to attend a testimonial dinner for Charlie Brown. He got lost on the way there.

Ironically, this might be one of the best pro sports years we’ve had in a while. The Phillies are competing down the stretch for a wild-card berth. The Eagles should be in the hunt for the post-season. The Sixers should be a lock for their post-season. The Flyers…they will likely have a season similar to the ones Joe Shlabotnik experienced. Not. Good.

In any case, thank you for allowing me to acknowledge Joe as one of my favorite characters in sports. When it feels like the pro athletes representing Philadelphia are performing poorly, I will think of Joe and realize they aren’t that bad.

 

Picture Courtesy United Feature Syndicate

37 thoughts on “Joe Shlabotnik”

  1. We watched about five minutes of the Cowboys vs. Denver game on Saturday before my husband changed the channel. Said he’d never heard of any of the guys out on the field and none of them were starters. It’s a good thing too. We lost to the Broncos 7 to 17. *sigh* That being said, if I collected trading cards of any kind, I’d want Charlie Brown, Lucy, Sally, Linus, SNOOPY OF COURSE, etc. 🙂 Mona

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    1. Mona, if I still had my old trading cards they’d probably be worth a few bucks…but the sentimental value would be higher. I still remember them though, so that’s good enough for me. And, I certainly have a lifetime of memories from the Peanuts gang as well. 🙂

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  2. I think Minnesota has you beat in the distance from a championship contest (is it a contest?). The Vikings haven’t even made it to a Super Bowl since the 70s (where they made it and lost four times). When the Twins won the World Series in 1987 the Twin Cities went crazy. First championship game for the state ever. I don’t think there’s been another since they won the World Series in 1991, so if the Vikings ever win the Super Bowl, insanity will reign. But thank you for mentioning Charlie Brown. I’m a huge Peanuts fan and they always win with me.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Belinda, I remember those great years of the Twins in the Metrodome. That place was a house of horrors for opposing teams. I also remember the Vikings overcoming the cold at Metropolitan Stadium to get out of the playoffs and on to the big game four times, but nothing but frustration there. Yes, if the Vikings ever win the Super Bowl, the celebration will be one for the ages.

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  3. Poor Charlie Brown. Those incidents you brought up bring back sad memories, lol.
    Man, the only time I got into baseball was the ’90s when I lived in NYC for a while. Hubby grew up in Brooklyn and would watch the Metz with his father and evidently…they always lost? And the games would go extra innings… and on and on… but they’d lose anyway? lol. So he became a Yankees fan later in life…’cause they were winners! I found out how much people loathed the Yankees, ’cause of course they were good, due to all the $$ spent on them, right? The best moment, though, was when we went to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. We picked up our tickets… and this old man who looked like he’d stepped out of the ’40s or ’50s… shuffled around this immense, empty room to retrieve the tickets out of these various little cubby holes. It was amazing (to me, at least). A little bit of time travel. A little peek into slower, calmer times.

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    1. Stacey, I am sure there are other New Yorkers who have switched allegiances from one ball club to the other over the years, although some won’t ever admit it. I can identify with the guy who stepped out of another time pulling your tickets out of a wall of cubby holes as that is pretty much the same vibe I used to get when we’d pick up our tickets at Veterans Stadium for Phillies games. Those indeed were much “quieter” times.

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  4. I like it when underdogs win, but for different reasons: watching the arrogant fans of the favorites deflate when they realize they are not invincible (and I get down right giddy when it is Yankee and Red Sox fans).

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  5. I’m a huge Peanuts fan, so I knew immediately who Joe Shlabotnik was. Funny you should mention him, too: our local paper reruns old Peanuts comics, and just a few weeks ago, Charlie Brown goes to camp and ends up catching a Joe Shlabotnik game. In fact, he actually speaks to Joe through the window of a bus as the team is driving away, and Joe tosses him a ball. I think that counts as a meeting!

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    1. Mark, that could very well qualify as a meeting, but in doing my due diligence on this it turns out when Joe tosses Charlie Brown the ball back it hits him in the head and knocks him out. Since we had no baseline testing for concussions back then, I’m not sure if Charlie Brown remembers it!

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    1. Geoff, I get it. No World Series appearance ever. It will happen one day for you guys. I did notice it has been 41 seasons since the Pirates last appeared in the WS, and 38 for the Brewers…which used to be the Pilots of course. Sometimes I forget that fact, even though I kind of remember the Pilots’ lone season in Seattle.

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  6. We all have the wonderful sports saying, Bruce … Wait ‘til next year! I’m a Mets-Jets-Islanders pro sports fan. Basketball was the Nets but once Roy Boe sent Dr. J to your 76ers upon receiving entry to the NBA, that was hard to continue and a lot of Knicks-watching creeped in. My alma mater Maryland is No. 1 in college sports, and my live-here-forever Syracuse is 1A. So that’s a whole lotta wait-til. Still I watch and root season after season after season. Good job pulling Joe S out of the Peanuts archives!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Mark, that IS a whole lot of wait-til, but maybe this will truly be a season to remember for the Mets. I was sad when Maryland went to the Big Ten because I grew up watching a ton of ACC basketball and they lost all of their great rivalries. Maybe when and if college realignment stops, they’ll be playing those schools again. We were quite happy to get Dr. J from the Nets. I saw the Knicks and Sixers may play Christmas Day at the Garden. Also saw the NFL has 3 games on Christmas Day this year. The NFL won’t even let the NBA have Christmas.

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      1. I had ONE season when Maryland and Syracuse both were in the ACC before the switch to the Big Ten, Bruce. Now that a bunch of years have gone by, I don’t want another switch for the Terps. They were always treated as the Northern-school-out by all those southern ACC schools anyway, I knew in my heart. One rivalry I do truly miss is that Maryland-Duke tangle on the basketball court, but both coaches that drove the steam for that one are gone now anyway.

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  7. I didn’t remember Joe, though I’m sure I encountered him a time or two in the comics. I do have a soft spot for the underdogs, though maybe not in baseball. As a Cardinals fan, I’ve not encountered too many truly terrible seasons. Good luck in your wildcard race!

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  8. Our local newspaper recently ran the Joe Shlabotnik autographed baseball strip, but I didn’t realize it was a forgery. Dang.
    I might live in Florida, but I was born and raised in New Jersey, so the Yanks and Mets are my teams. Marlins and Rays? No way.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. From age nine to twenty-eight, I followed Glasgow Rangers. Though Celtic dominated when I was young, Rangers had their moments. But it was always one of them (think here was one exception) whoo won the league. I then moved to Manchester, where I decided to follow the underdogs – City and Stockport County (still do.)
    You know, I got / get far more enjoyment from watching a team IN HOPE of a win, rather then IN EXPECTATION. Losing also brings out great gallows humour in the fans. And winning becoomes more special.
    Yeah – ‘MON THE WEE TEAMS!

    ** I kinda buck the trend with my baseball team … since the ’60s it’s always been the DODGERS (awaiting incoming …! 😉 ) though my Minor League team is Hartford Yard Goats.

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