When I was 8 years old, my uncle gave me a catalog full of toys, clothes, and other knick-knacks for Christmas. He told me to pick one thing out of it and he would buy it for me. I was just beginning to take my first interest in baseball at the time and settled on an assortment of 250 Major League Baseball rookie cards. The set was mostly duds. I found “First Round Draft Pick” and “Rated Rookie” cards singing the praises of players like Alex Fernandez, Shane Andrews, Hiram Bocachica, Donovan Osborne, and Todd Van Poppel. Mixed in with the career minor leaguers and early flameouts was one named that jumped off the cardboard at me: Delino Deshields.
Delino DeSheilds. It’s a name that sounds like a character from Norse mythology, right next to Herald Hildetand and Ivar Vidfamne. The card pictured him in his powder blue Montreal Expos road jersey of the early 90’s, sporting a Clark Gable mustache and a chain so big you’d think it was a part of his workout regimen.
A year later I opened the St. Louis Post Dispatch to the 1997 spring training preview and saw a full page spread with a picture of DeShields sliding in to second base in his St. Louis Cardinals finest. Now, not only did he have the best name I’d ever heard, but he would be playing second base for my hometown team. I immediately became engrossed in Delino and everything that he did on the field. I still have about 8 of his rookie cards at my mom’s house that my best friend bought me for every birthday and christmas for about 3 years. I lost one when a friend flushed one down the toilet, knowing full-well it was the best way to get back at me for whatever childish prank I had pulled on him that week.
There was so much more to like about DeShields besides his terrific name. He was one of the fastest players in the league during his prime, slapping 22 triples and swiping 76 bases over 267 games with the Birds. He had a semi-afro, and bulging white eyes. He wore his pants just below the knees in honor of negro league players, and he looked genuinely angry when he played. His all-out hustle endeared him to the masses in St. Louis.
DeShields spent only two short years with the Cardinals before signing as a free agent with the Baltimore Orioles for 2 years in 1999, then finishing with the Chicago Cubs in 2000 and 2001. These days DeShields still makes his living in baseball, managing the AA affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, the Pensacola Blue Wahoos. Apparently Delino’s pedigree is just as impressive as his speed and flair. His daughter, Diamond, is one of the top 3 high school basketball recruits in the country and just signed a letter of intent to play for the University of North Carolina. His son, Delino Deshields Jr., was the 8th overall pick of the Houston Astros in 2010 and is currently one of the organization’s top prospects. Whats a bigger prospect than Delino Jr.? The prospect of hearing his name over and over for the next 15-20 years.