Count local novelty purveyor Ken Andersen among those who wish local baseball fans would cut Joe Mauer some slack. However, his reasoning differs from those who ask critics to look at his freakish on-base percentage or topline performance in high-leverage situations: he just wants people to start buying fake Joe Mauer sideburns again.
Andersen's Amalgamated Novelty, LLC, has been selling the tiny hairpieces since the St. Paul native broke into the majors sporting the trademark sideburns in 2004. In 2012, his struggling business could really use a lift from fans who've chilled on the perennial All-Star. "Time was I had a half-dozen guys and gals bagging, boxing and shipping out pairs of those little [expletive] things, pallet after pallet, 6 days a week. Now, I'm sitting on a warehouse full of these goddamn things, and it's just me in this [expletive] office park, waiting for death or Captain America to hit some more bleeping home runs."
The Lino Lakes businessman, 44, says the situation is compounded by the loss of the team's workhorse starting pitcher, Carl Pavano, and his notorious mustache.
"Oh, man, when he had his mustache going, and Mauer was on one of his hot streaks, it was a license to print money," said Andersen. "Last guy who had it that good was Murray Jeffries, who had all the novelty shop work in Wisconsin when Rollie Fingers was with the Brewers. ‘Course, he sold the business, bought one of those cigarette boats and the very next day, he crashes right into the side of a yacht on Lake Michigan. Blew himself, his mistress and the entire board of directors for Kohler Savings & Loan to smithereens. Guys in the industry still talk about ‘going out like Murray.'"
Andersen figures that, unless there's an uptick in Mauer's popularity, the company's outlook is bleak.
"Ain't another guy on that team who can grow facial hair worth a crap," exclaimed Andersen. "You see the beards on (Jared) Burton and (Glen) Perkins, and it's like, yeah, parents are gonna want their kids to look like Kurt Cobain's heroin dealer. They're all patchy. No one with the Twins is calling me up and asking if I can bag and ship 30,000 Jared Burton Sketchy Heroin Beards for a Saturday night game."
For now, Andersen says the company is hoping to stay afloat by selling "hockey smiles," which are fake teeth with some of them blackened to look as if they're missing. "Really hoping to move some of these at the Wild's home games this year, what with all the free agent signings those guys did," Andersen said.
When asked how he reacted to news of the NHL lockout, Andersen laughed heartily before realizing the question wasn't a joke. He turned to his PC, checked a sports website to verify that the league was in fact shut down, opened a desk drawer, removed a clear flask that appeared to be filled with a brown liquid, and drank the contents.
"This interview is over," sputtered Andersen, before being wracked with full-body sobs.