Saturday, March 10, 2012

Clem Labine vs. . . . Clem Labine?

In sorting through some old possessions a few weeks ago, I came across the baseball card for Los Angeles Dodgers' pitcher Clem Labine (pictured at left). I bought this card (actually, my dad bought it for me) at a baseball card show in Seattle sometime around 1980. Clem was in rough shape even then, and I think he cost 50 cents.

The real treasures of that day (the only time I ever went to a baseball card show) were a dozen or so Seattle Pilots cards, among the only accessible remnants of that team's single season tenure. They still feel like relics of some kind of parallel universe or maybe a history-reimagining Star Trek episode.

So, why did I also pick up a Clem Labine baseball card way back when? For one confused, pre-teen radio geek reason: there was a syndicated radio feature called Around The House that I used to hear in those days on Saturday mornings on KIRO AM. Around The House covered topics like restoring old plaster, stripping paint off wooden window frames, and refinishing hardwood floors.

See, the host of Around The House was a guy named . . . wait for it . . . yes, the host was a guy named Clem Labine. "How cool," I thought, "to have an old baseball card for a guy on the radio!" I was an odd little kid, I'll freely admit.

What I didn't know then (and didn't figure out until many years (decades?) later), was that there are, unbelievably, actually two Clem Labines in the world. The Clem Labine of Around The House was actually this guy, an accomplished author and historic preservation specialist.

I'm pretty sure that the Clem Labine I used to hear on the radio never pitched for anybody, and I'm certain he never appeared on a baseball card.