Muggsy Allenson crops up in an essay I wrote today on Just a Bit Outside, but only in passing, as a way to highlight that I never quite get to anything anymore. This theme can also be seen in the dates on the “recent” posts on this site. I’ve had my hands full with two very young kids, plus work, plus another book. My baseball cards have been sitting there, waiting for me, just as they did for many years between the end of childhood and when I first started putting words to them, about fifteen years ago now, in notebooks in a cabin in the woods.
Anyway, if you’re here for the first time by way of the Just a Bit Outside piece, please have a look around the archives (players are listed by team along the right hand sidebar), and please leave a comment under any card or player you have a story about. I’m hoping the conversation here goes on and on, even if I have times when I can’t add much to it. I can tell you that the cards are always talking to me.
This one talks to me with its gray vagueness. I can barely make anyone out except for a few general observations, such as that there were an abundance of guys this year—1981—who looked like varying versions of Dick Drago. Drago himself is in there somewhere, but I couldn’t say for sure where. I’m pretty sure I can make out Carlton Fisk and Fred Lynn in the first row, over to the right. This is ironic given that by the time the 1981 season got underway they were gone, leaving a much grayer, vaguer team in its wake.
The one player I can make out for sure is Muggsy Allenson. He’s in the middle row, third figure from the right.
If you search “Muggsy Allenson” on google, one of the first few links to come up is to a piece of dialogue in my book about growing up through baseball cards:
“Muggsy Allenson,” I said glumly.
In that passage in the book I’m talking to my brother about the early 1980s Red Sox. One name epitomized that era for me, obviously. I’ve always painted that passage as a glum one, a comedown, the reduced possibilities represented by the great gap between the strapping and handsome Carlton Fisk and his squat, limited replacement, Muggsy Allenson. But life just changes. No reason to wail about it.
And in fact, one of my very favorite baseball memories of all was authored by Muggsy Allenson. This is what I was verging on in the piece on Just a Bit Outside but could never get to. I’m talking about the late-summer game in 1982 that went into extra innings. The Red Sox loaded the bases with two outs, and Muggsy Allenson came to the plate. My brother and I were watching. We looked at Muggsy Allenson and we had no hope. He would finish that year hitting .205. But, in a move that predated by several years the fictional heroics of Major League’s Jake Taylor, Muggsy laid down a surprise bunt. Oh to see Muggsy beating out the throw on that bunt on his stumpy legs. We didn’t even cheer, just laughed.