It’s Labor Day Weekend and that means the end of Summer Vacation for kids across the nation. Year after year, elementary teachers would ask my classmates to write a few paragraphs about what we did during our time off. I always talked about playing baseball in my backyard, going to the neighborhood pool, and driving to visit aunts and uncles in nearby states. Sometimes my friends would make up incredibly far fetched activities to see if our teacher would believe them. Former journeyman baseball player Todd Zeile managed to put together a true life summer vacation story that sounds like something even one of my most trusting teachers would have laughed off.
Ten years ago Zeile and a buddy went to Scotland, rented a castle near Loch Ness, and proceeded to row around the lake at night fishing for the Loch Ness Monster*. It’s been said that fishing is a polite term for describing the activity of “going drinking while enjoying a boat ride.” A monster-themed do-it-yourself aquatic pub crawl sounds about right for an over the top summer trip, and it rings even more true considering who accompanied Zeile on his expedition.
Zeile was joined on this quest by actor/baseball afficionado Charlie Sheen. The two met while Zeile was utilizing Dodger Stadium’s indoor on-deck facility on a particularly chilly game night. Sheen had gotten lost while looking for his seat, recognized Zeile, and spoke with him while the Dodgers’ infielder awaited his turn to bat. Zeile found someone in the Los Angeles staff to escort Sheen to his seat and promptly lofted a home run into the bullpen. The two have remained friends since this encounter, working together on television and film projects. Zeile and Sheen both have production companies and worked together to create the sitcom series Anger Management.
To baseball fans of the late 1990s, Zeile represents one of those veteran players who hopped from team to team in hopes of shoring up the odds of a late season playoff run. To baseball fans of the late 1980s and early ’90s, he is the can’t miss prospect that was projected to revolutionize the St. Louis Cardinals. He sort of did that – leading the team in home runs in 1991. Unfortunately he did so with only 11 dingers, an indictment of that era’s Cardinals more than Zeile himself. He was actually a dependable player, eventually topping the 2,000 hit and 250 home run marks over the course of his career and probably performing better than the average #1 draft pick.
Both Zeile and Sheen made their Major League debuts in 1989. Zeile appeared in 28 games that year for the Cardinals and Sheen portrayed pitcher Ricky Vaughn in that year’s comedy Major League. (Fun fact: Major League’s $11 million production budget was more than $2 million greater than the payroll of the 1989 Cleveland Indians, the team Vaughn plays for).
The Zeile Refractor
Zeile had been a hobby darling in 1990, a period in which his rookie cards featured prominently in collectors’ want lists. By 1993 the hype had died down and it was clear that he wasn’t the next Yogi Berra or Johnny Bench. The Cardinals had moved him to third base the year before in an effort to keep the catching position from eating up his knees and to get his bat into their lineup more often. He would crack 100 RBIs for the first time in the year this card was produced.
Fun fact: Zeile is a descendant of former US President John Adams.
*A brief digression regarding the existence of the Loch Ness Monster: I find an alarmingly high number of otherwise rational people who not only think the existence of this creature is possible, but even likely. Most of their arguments come in the form of claims that it could be possible for a highly isolated population of Cretaceous-era sea creatures to have survived a mass extinction event by hiding in the deep waters of the lake, followed by the misguided idea that one cannot prove a negative. Sigh. The lake itself did not exist until a few tens of thousands years ago, not the 65+ million years of time elapsed from the time of dinosaurs and over 175 million years removed from the time of plesiosaurs. The lake was only filled when the glaciers of the last Ice Age finished carving their way through the Great Glen and filled the resulting void with their meltwater.