SAN DIEGO: Jason Giambi’s legendary thong hung proudly in his locker in all its sparkling gold glory.
It even had its own hook, which might be wise considering where it’s been.
“It’s made a lot of road trips,” the Indians designated hitter/first baseman said Friday before the Tribe took on the San Diego Padres in an exhibition game at the University of San Diego’s Fowler Field.
In 1997 when Giambi played for the Oakland A’s, a reporter told him he belonged on the all-tan team.
“I said, ‘The only thing I’m missing is laying out in a gold thong,’?” Giambi said.
It wasn’t long before a sports undergarment company he’s affiliated with mailed him the thong.
It eventually became a good-luck charm, the perfect antidote for a friend or teammate who’s slumping at the plate.
“It’s never not gotten a hit, swear to God,” Giambi said. “When somebody’s struggling, it ends up in his locker. Sometimes it gets them out of it because they don’t want to wear it the next day.”
There now are two thongs, the original that stays with Giambi and a replica. Indians first baseman Nick Swisher admitted he wore the latter when the New York Yankees faced the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 3 of the 2009 World Series and remembers all of its magic. (Before that season, Giambi left the Yankees for Oakland.)
“First at-bat, hanging breaking ball, double bounces over the bag down the left field line,” Swisher said. “Second or third at-bat, I went deep, a solo homer off J.A. Happ. I said, ‘Man, I want to wear this thing for the rest of my life.’
“I got to wear the replica, which he has blessed and works just as well. I was 2-for-4 that game. I’ll take it, bro. The World Series?”
Swisher hadn’t been that enthused when a Yankees trainer suggested he needed it.
“I go, ‘I’m not wearing that thing,’?” Swisher said. “He said, ‘Come on, man, it’s guaranteed to get you at least one hit.’ I was like, ‘Ha! Give it to me.’?”
Giambi said no one in the Indians clubhouse wore it last year.
“I threatened it for a few guys, but they got out of their slump,” Giambi said.
Giambi said the premise is the thong takes a player’s mind off his batting woes because it’s so uncomfortable. Swisher agreed.
“My first time I’ve ever seen it, my last time I’ve ever seen it,” Swisher said. “I only got to wear it one time and I couldn’t have been more honored to wear it. Baseball players, we do crazy stuff.”
Tribe lauds drug penalties
Giambi, Swisher and Tribe manager Terry Francona applauded Major League Baseball for the tougher penalties for players caught using performance-enhancing drugs. Giambi has admitted his past PED use.
“Not only the penalties, but you want the deterrent,” Giambi said. “A lot of guys have complained about guys still being able to play [in the playoffs]. It’s definitely voted on by all the players and I think everybody is in agreement with it. This is a step that everybody wants.”
Swisher believes the league is cleaning up the game.
“We are making strides to let guys know that if you do take a chance of doing this, you will get caught,” Swisher said. “With everything we did last year, with the new suspensions now, there’s a little more risk, especially guys who are free agents. Going into your free-agency year, you might miss 80 games. You’ll take that over into your next season with your new club. You break the law you’ve got to pay.”
Francona’s friendship with Commissioner Bud Selig dates back to Francona’s playing days with the Milwaukee Brewers.
“Mr. Selig cares so much about the game,” Francona said. “He kind of took a beating in the early ’90s. I think that’s something before he retires he would like to see a little better.”
Francona said center fielder Michael Bourn (on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring) may go on a rehab assignment or play a couple of games in extended spring training in Arizona before he returns. He must miss at least the first four games and Francona said it could be a few more days than that. He said Bourn will also need a recovery day included.
“Best-case scenario is he misses six days, four games,” Francona said.
Francona on Miguel Cabrera’s $292 million contract: “It’s not going to change the way we pitch him.”… Scheduled A’s starters for Games 2 and 3 in Oakland are ex-Indians left-hander Scott Kazmir and right-hander Jesse Chavez. … Francona said Mike Aviles (held out Thursday with a sore lower back) was hurt while packing his car to leave Arizona, but Aviles said it was nothing major.
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