Well, I haven’t been working very much the last week or so. I have had three snow days and two 2-hour delays, so at this rate I’ll never work again!!! With all this free time, I have played plenty of MLB the Show. While I played, I started reflecting on some of my favorite players. Some of these players maybe weren’t Hall of Fame worthy, but they were gamers and all the same. I have decided to make a little series out of this. I have written several pieces about some of my players that I have come to love in a new series called “Memorable Careers.” Our first name is Paul Byrd.
You’re not a true baseball fan if you have never heard of the name Paul Byrd. His motion set him apart. His windup was a blast from the past. He looked like he came right out of old newsreel footage that featured Babe Ruth and Bob Feller. His arms would rock back behind him and go over his head before delivering the ball to the plate.
He wasn’t a flame thrower. He relied on control and grit alone. During his short time in Cleveland, I got to watch him pitch several times and made a very memorable impression on me.
Paul Byrd was drafted in the 4th round by the Indians in 1991 before being traded to the Mets 5 years later. He played for the Mets, Phillies, Braves, Royals, Angels, Indians, and Red Sox during his 14 year big league career. He had Tommy John Surgery. He had personal controversy being named in the Mitchell Report for alleged improper use of Human Growth Hormone (HGH). Yet every time something has knocked him down, he has gotten back up.
Now, to be honest, the first time I had ever heard the name Paul Byrd was in 2006 when the Indians signed him. I was in middle school and I was in no way, shape, or form as nerdy as I am now with baseball stats. He was coming off a bounce-back season with the Angels with a 12-11 record a 3.74 ERA in 205 innings pitched. For an Indians team that needed starting pitching, he fit the bill as someone that could soak up quality innings.
Fast forward now to March of 2007. My family would always try to go somewhere for spring break every year and for this year, we decided to go to Indians Spring Training for the first time. My sister and I made it a goal of ours to get as many autographs as we possibly could. We would hang around the weight room and practice fields to see if a player would make a quick stop to sign autographs before going back to the clubhouse. We met some of the nicest players: Jake Westbrook, Casey Blake, and of course, Paul Byrd. From that point on he became one of my favorite pitchers.
Paul had a fantastic 2007 season. He became a 15 game winner and helped the Indians get back to the postseason. I remember waiting in line outside of the Indians Team Shop that year to grab a copy of his autobiography when it came out. I read Free Byrd twice that year. Unfortunately, during the 2007 playoffs was when stories broke about Byrd’s supposed use of performance enhancing drugs and by mid-season 2008, he was traded to the Red Sox. He would only play a half season in 2009 before hanging up his cleats. Byrd now works for Fox Sports and covers the Atlanta Braves. This second phase of his career has been just as entertaining to watch as his playing days, such as watching attempt to race “The Freeze”:
Or having a dog eat food off of his head:
Even though he did not spend a lot of time in Cleveland, he became one of this Indians fan’s favorite players. From his clutch performance against the Red Sox in the ALCS to his conversation with me during an autograph session on a muggy spring morning in Winter Haven, those impressions have not been lost on me. You truly are a Free Byrd.