Don Mossi & The T-Shirt Tease: New Orleans JazzFest Anecdotia II

Posted: April 15th, 2011 | Filed under: Culture, Music, Ruminations | 2 Comments »

Of former MLB pitcher Don Mossi, baseball’s statistical savant Bill James wrote a piece titled, “The Man Who Invented Winning Ugly.”

James is a numbers guy. So, one can’t be sure if a double entendre was intended. Mossi’s pitching style was quirky. But nothing compared to his visage. Mossi had the weary look of a WWII vet, who’d spent too much time on the German front.

And then there’s his ears. Had “Dumbo” not been released a decade before Mossi hit the bigs, one would have surmised that Uncle Walt’s animators used the hurler as model.

Mossi’s 1958 Topps baseball card is a classic.

And, what might that have to do with JazzFest, you’re probably asking yourself by now? A legit query. Read on.

There are two more actors to this tale.

One is a fellow named Rupp, who, in the early 90s, along with his wife, manned the artists parking lot at JazzFest. I forget his first name. When I asked him if he was any relation to the famous Kentucky Wildcat coach, he said no. As best I recall. But he did have some roots in Kentucky. At least, that’s how I remember it.

Talk about quirky, Rupp, who I still see walking about JazzFest annually is all that. He dresses as if  he follows the fashion advice in “Boys Life” — that’s right, the scout magazine. He rides an old Schwinn around Crescent City, when he’s not behind the wheel of some 50s Dodge or DeSoto or something similar. He smiles a lot. He’s a charactor — pronounced Dr. John Style: care-ACKK-tur –torn from the pages of  “A Confederacy of Dunces.”

In ’94, he had fashioned some suitably retro chic t-shirts for friends coming to the festival. And to sell on the sly. One of which I was able to score that Saturday afternoon at the festival.

The third actor in this mini epic is my friend Bill. Yes, the same Bill about whom I wrote the other day of the time he got us tossed from Mosca’s. You can read that tale here.

Anyway that evening in ’94, Bill, our krewe and I attended an Allman Brothers Band concert at UNO’s arena up by the Lake.

During intermission, we’re in the men’s room, relieving ourselves in urinals that were close but not adjoining. (Pardon the indelicacy, but I’m trying to set the scene here.) Meaning there were other festers between us, through which the conversation I’m about to describe was passing. The room was jammed, meaning we had a big audience, an attentive audience.

As a non sequitur, Bill bellows over to me out of the blue, “I saw the greatest t-shirt I’ve ever seen today.”

“I’ve got one.”

“Wait a second, dumbass, you don’t even know what I’m going to say.”

“I’ve got one.”

“Listen, I know you’re a cocky guy and all but you haven’t the slightest idea what I’m talking about.”

“I’ve got one.”

Which conversation continues along those lines for a minute or more, increasing in volume. Along the way, being a fellow who has been known to pontificate loudly and to all within earshot, I start playing to the crowd. Bill’s exasperation mounts with each back and forth.

He finally throws down the gauntlet.

“Okay, Mr. Big Shot, what you got?”

“Don Mossi.”

At which point, Bill morphs silent and forlorn. His jaws go slack. He is silenced by the gotcha.

After a deliciously pregnant pause, Bill finally utters, “How . . . wha . . . ”

Which happens just as I’m finishing my business. So, I zip and turn, smiling, arms raised in triumph to face the assembled. Who reward me with a Standing O.

It’s a great shirt Rupp had made. A Mossi baseball card image with some JazzFest sloganeering. What one has to do with the other remains a mystery. (The following year, he did one with Satchel Paige on the front. The image was from the ’53 Topps card on which Paige’s first name is misspelled “Satchell.”)

Truth is, as much as I loved it, I never wore that Don Mossi JazzFest shirt.

The following Christmas, I gift wrapped it and put it under Bill’s tree.

2 Comments on “Don Mossi & The T-Shirt Tease: New Orleans JazzFest Anecdotia II”

  1. 1 Dough said at 12:42 pm on April 16th, 2011:

    I had that baseball card and this dude was one of the most handsome ball players to grace the majors and a baseball card. Had to retire cuz of too much ear wax buildup.

  2. 2 Wildcat said at 8:51 pm on April 20th, 2011:

    What a great damn feeling it is to get “one-upped” by The Maven in the pisser.

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