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Don't believe everything you read on the Internet
David West baseball card
David West

A few years ago, the principal in an effort to improve SWHS's web profile asked us all to put an image on our website and put up basic information. Because I thought it would be funny, I put up David West's baseball card and a caption that implied I was he, who had pitched for the Minnesota Twins decades ago and I claimed he/I was now teaching English at SWHS. 

This was all mildly amusing to me, some of my students and cohorts. I taught 9th grade at the time and a good portion of my students actually believed I'd had a professional baseball career. I always finished the year with a baseball literature unit that included not only W.P. Kinsella's Shoeless Joe, Ernest Thayer's Casey at the Bat and Abbott and Costello's Who's on First, but also an inter class softball tournament. Interest was always pretty high and to top it all off we had a staff vs. student all star softball game on the last day of school where the smarter of my students usually figured out that I'd never played professional baseball in my life, or even come close. For the record though, bad as I was, Sue Mortensen was the worst. While playing centerfield, she once reacted to a fly ball with the utterance “Oh oh” and watched it drop at her feet. I swear to God.

There were also two student teachers that dutifully researched me before coming to Southwest High School and believed that I was "that David West." One of them even brought a baseball card for me to autograph, only to be disappointed. He got me back though at an August staff development where we were doing a team building activity that involved storytelling. You told stories in small groups and then the best stories were told to the group at large. He told a devastatingly funny version of the episode and of course I was the butt of the joke. Evidently, I'm not as funny as I think I am, or anywhere near the baseball idol that I want to be. 

So by this time, many people were in on the joke and yet I was still fooling a few ninth graders every year when all of a sudden out of the blue I got a call from the former Mrs. David West, apparently divorced from the actual baseball player. She didn't think my little prank was at all funny. "How am I supposed to run a business with all these people thinking I’m connected to you” she barked into the receiver. As I was trying for the life of me to figure out what possible business she could be involved in which that fact could actually matter, she informed me "There's a word for what you're doing Mr. West and it's called fraud." Not wanting any trouble with the former Mrs. West or the present one actually either, I immediately removed the offending image. Sure enough the next day Dr. Smith called me into his office and told me he'd gotten a call from the police. He played dumb because he was of course aware by now what I had up there but he calmly visited the site with the investigating officer and naturally neither of them could see what the irate Mrs. West was talking about and so they closed the investigation. I’m still indebted to Smith for that.

I really never thought anybody would believe I was David West the relief pitcher whose post season ERA by the way is infinity. I mean he’s left-handed for Pete’s sake. Doesn’t everybody know that? Apparently not. I also don’t think I look a bit like him but whatever.

I guess there are two lessons here: don't believe what you read on the Internet, and if you like to prank people, be ready to pay the consequences.