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Golden Sombrero: Jay Bruce (again)

Bottom 2: Jay Bruce struck out swinging against Jon Niese

Bottom 4: Bruce struck out swinging against Niese

Bottom 5: Bruce grounded out to first against Niese

Bottom 7: Bruce struck out swinging against Ryota Igarashi

Bottom 9: Bruce struck out swinging against Tim Byrdak

Final Line: 0-for-5, 4 K

Notes: Bruce’s golden sombrero against the Mets on Tuesday night was his second of the season.  On a night where the Reds pounded out 12 hits and six runs, Bruce was one of two starters not to record a hit.  After Bruce hit a walk-off home run off Byrdak to clinch the N.L. Central last season, the left-handed reliever definitely got his revenge, as he fanned Bruce to end the game.

Total 2011 Sombreros: 76

The ‘ol Hot Foot: Justin Verlander pranks Don Kelly

Justin Verlander revived a decades-old dugout tradition Sunday afternoon by giving teammate Don Kelly the ‘ol “hot foot.”

Perhaps Verlander just felt the need to bring Kelly down to earth after the career .236 hitter (.628 OPS) was spotlighted by the New York Times as the only active major leaguer to have played innings at each defensive position around the diamond.

The hot foot has been in pranksters’ repertoires since at least the 1980s. The Mets blog Hot Foot credits former Miracle Mets Roger McDowell and Howard Johnson with originating the trick.

Here’s an explanation of their technique in this clip from “1986: A Year to Remember.”

Where are they now? Vance Wilson

That's me - amazed in the summer of 2006 that I had just netted the autograph of my all-time favorite backup catcher: Vance Wilson.

Backup Catcher Edition

What has Vance Wilson been up to in his post playing days?

Vance Wilson now manages the Kane County Cougars.

Even for baseball fans of the hardest core,  that’s a seldom-asked question. Why would anyone ask about the former Met and Tiger catcher, forever a backup, who never played in more than 96 games in any of his eight years as a player?

But I had to smile today when I discovered that Wilson has stayed in baseball, now as manager of the Kane County Cougars (Low-A, Kansas City Royals).  (Though I was disappointed in myself for failing to realize I was in his midst at a Cougars game in May.) Because for reasons I still don’t completely understand, Wilson was my all-time favorite player.

Maybe it was because he was the true unsung hero on his teams. Not just a under-appreciated catcher, but an unheralded backup catcher. He could come into games late and produce results – a hard-to-do task after a full day sitting on the bench.

Though his sporadic playing time rarely allowed him to get into a rhythm, he had a solid .250 career batting average, and he threw out a whopping 40 percent of would-be base-stealers. That’s awesome.

But even better, the guy I inexplicably called “Vance the Pants,” provided me with one of my all-time favorite baseball memories.

On a sunny summer day before a Tigers-White Sox game in 2006, Wilson was signing autographs down the left field line. I ventured down a few rows at Comerica Park to see if Wilson would sign the Paul Konerko foul ball I had gloved during batting practice.

There wasn’t much of a crowd around Wilson, so the task was easy. I handed him the ball and, emboldened by what seemed like a once in a lifetime chance to chat, said: “Vance, this is going to sound really weird, but you’re my favorite player.”

“Kid, you’ve got problems,” Wilson said, handing me back a newly-inked baseball that had just become a prized possession.

Golden Sombrero: Josh Hamilton

Bottom 1: Josh Hamilton struck out swinging against Jon Niese

Bottom 4: Hamilton struck out swinging against Niese

Bottom 5: Hamilton struck out swinging against Niese

Bottom 7: Hamilton struck out on a foul tip against Bobby Parnell

Final Line: 0-for-4, 4 K

Notes: I can’t help but consider that Hamilton mixed in this sombrero last Saturday solely to support his claim that people with blue eyes don’t see as well during the day. Well played, Mauer.

Total 2011 Sombreros: 57

Golden Sombrero: Hideki Matsui

Top 2: Hideki Matusi walked by R.A. Dickey

Top 4: Matsui called out on strikes against Dickey

Top 7: Matsui struck out swinging against Dickey

Top 9: Matsui called out on strikes against Francisco Rodriguez

Top 11: Matsui walked by Tim Byrdak

Top 13: Matsui struck out swinging against Bobby Parnell

Final Line: 0-for-4, 2 BB, 4 K

Notes: Needing just one more long ball to become the first player to hit 500 combined home runs between Japan and the MLB, Matsui came up painfully empty in the A’s 3-2 loss to the Mets on Wednesday night.  Although I haven’t seen any highlights of his at-bats, I can easily picture Godzilla flailing at Dickey’s fluttering knuckleballs.

Total 2011 Sombreros: 46