The year was 2002. I was seven years old and a member of the Rockies Rookies fan club. I loved baseball more than just about anything else, and being a member of Rockies Rookies got me all sorts of cool perks. I got to run the bases after a game in September, and I actually won a drawing that got me and some of my friends a party in the suite level at Coors Field before a game. I also received a full-roster set of baseball cards. There were some great players on that 73-89 team, including Todd Helton, Larry Walker and Jason Jennings. My favorite card in the set, however, wasn't a player at all. It was Dinger.
Yes, Dinger. In the year 2002, Dinger got his own baseball card. I'm not sure if this is a practice that continues to this day or whether it was wisely discontinued. You can see the card below.
Now, this isn't any ordinary baseball card. This thing is about the size of a 3x5 photograph. Maybe it's because Dinger is larger than an average human, and therefore deserves a larger card in order to be shown to scale. Maybe it's because it made the card less of a choking hazard for its target audience. Either way, the card definitely wouldn't fit in my binder, which is probably a good thing because I totally would have put it in there right between Helton and Walker otherwise.
My main observations about the front of the card—other than the fact that he appears to be pointing the photographer out to security so they can eject him—is that Dinger was a much lighter shade of purple back in the day. This change was lost on me when it happened, but in hindsight the new shade of purple is slightly less terrible than the one seen here. The double-zero on the front of his uniform also changed sides at some point in the last fourteen years. You don't care.
The back of the card is the real star of the show here. It's jam packed with "statistics" and "fun" facts about Dinger. Let's take a look.
There's a lot to dissect here.
First off, his stated position ("in front of Rockies fans") is a little too vague for my taste. I would have preferred "behind home plate spinning his head around like Linda Blair in the Exorcist." Maybe that wouldn't have fit on one line.
Then come the "Bats" and "Throws" puns. I thought these were absolutely hilarious when I was 7. They still make me chuckle. The "Height" and "Weight" lines bring back the vagueness, with Dinger downplaying his obvious, possibly harmful obesity. Every triceratops has big bones, buddy. Hit the treadmill.
All of this "information" pales in comparison to the big bombshell on the next line. Apparently Dinger resides in a cave underneath Coors Field. This raises more questions than answers. Why is Dinger kept in a cave? Is he there voluntarily? Does he feed on unfortunate groundskeepers who make a wrong turn? Is the cave connected to the underground tunnels beneath DIA? Was the real Garrett Atkins locked away in the cave by an evil, light-hitting clone before the 2009 season? The possibilities are as endless as they are frightening.
Now comes the "stats" portion of the card, which contains some oddities as well. Dinger is said to have appeared in 1,458 games, which is more than the total regular season games the Rockies played between 1994 and 2001, including away games. Are they also counting spring training here? Also, Dinger doesn't even appear at road games, so why are those included in the total? Questions abound.
The T-shirt cannon statistics are also odd. I personally have no memory of ever seeing a T-shirt fly all the way out of the stadium, yet the card claims that seemingly herculean feat occurred more than once every ten tries. Did they also start putting the T-shirts in a humidor before the start of the 2002 season? That might be the only logical explanation. If you ever saw Dinger fire a T-shirt completely out of Coors Field, please let me know in the comments below. I need to get to the bottom of this.
Finally, there's a number at the bottom of the card that you can call if you want the "baseball playing" (debatable) triceratops for your event. I tried calling the Dinger Hotline and, believe it or not, the number still works. So if you want to scare the crap out of your coworkers, or if you need a piñata for your kid's next birthday party, you know who to call.
It may have been 14 years (or 2/3 of my life) since this card was new, but the Dinger of today is the same as he was then, though he's a darker shade of purple today. The major difference between now and then are my feelings about Dinger. Back at the turn of the millennium, I legitimately liked him. I even bought a little stuffed animal Dinger that I kept on my desk. If I ever find it again, I'd consider using it as a voodoo doll. It's not 2002 anymore.