Mario Guerrero, 1974November 20, 2006
This weekend I went on a 13-mile run, kayaked the length of the Chicago river while sighting and cataloging four rare species of birds, wrote eleven new songs for my forthcoming album, incorporated my many investment and charitable interests into a robust crossplatform transnational web of proactive revenue-generating synergies, kept up a constant string of brilliant witticisms, cobbled my own shoes, performed life-saving CPR not once, not twice, but thrice, punched a guy, weighed a run for public office, rebuilt the engine of an automobile, aided the bereft, oozed rugged, manly charisma, won a javelin-hurling competition, translated a volume of ancient Sanskrit poetry, and took out the garbage.
Actually, all but one of the above things may be an exaggeration. What I really spent most of my time doing this weekend was thoroughly organizing my baseball cards and then searching through them ceaselessly (to the point where I actually began to develop some sort of dust- and obsession-related migraine) for a single set of six cards of the same guy (any guy) from the six years, from 1975 to 1980, in which I spent all my allowance on baseball cards. Why did I do this? What did I hope to gain? In the end I didn’t succeed in my “quest”; I kept getting close but ultimately all I found were gaps.
(I’ve also just been informed on this early Monday morning after my weekend of futile searching that I do not smell very good.)
I do have a few cards from the border years of 1974 and 1981, and eventually I responded to my failure to find a complete set of six by idiotically expanding my hopes to that of finding a miraculous run of eight cards of the same guy. This just led to even more gaps. But it also led me to Mario Guerrero. Mario Guerrero was a presence for much, if not all, of my childhood.
This 1974 Mario Guerrero is among the first cards I ever owned. The year I got it my father moved to a small apartment in New York City and the rest of my family moved from New Jersey to Vermont. That was also the year I got a baseball encyclopedia from my uncle for Christmas and the year I began having what we called nightmares at the time but which I found out many years later are known as night terrors. When I learned what night terrors were I did a little research on them and discovered that they most often occurred to children from ages six to twelve (exactly the range of my baseball card collecting years), and though they haven’t been identified as being caused by any particular psychological trauma they often seem to occur to children involved in significant familial changes.
I’ve tried and failed for years to describe these night terrors from a first-person point of view (contrary to the claims in some of the research books on the subject, which state that the child experiencing night terrors will not recall them in the morning, I remembered all but one or two of these nights in vivid detail). Here’s the third-person view: the boy wakes up in the middle of the night and runs through the dark house wide-eyed and screaming at the top of his lungs. Nobody can do anything to help him.
I just spent the last several minutes trying to augment the above third-person view with yet another in my endless stabs at a first-person account of the experience. I deleted the text because as usual it didn’t get anywhere near it. But I’m sure I’ll try again some other time. All I can say now is that the world looked wrong and this terrified me. Part of the fear was that I was never going to get back to seeing things “normally,” that the wrongness was infinite.
It’s probably not a coincidence that I began filling my days more and more with the memorizing of concrete, finite statistical information from my brand new baseball encyclopedia and with the collection and perusal of cards such as this 1974 Mario Guerrero. Topps placed Mario Guerrero (I mispronounced his name–unintentionally at first but then intentionally as well, then as ever after grasping at the shreds of the infantile–as a rhyme: “Mario Guh-rario”) in a classic middle infielder pose. Topps often seemed to enjoy humiliating the light-hitting utility infielder types by making them pose this way, as if the subjects were in the woods trying to take a dump while simultaneously preparing to ward off the advances of a porcupine or a wild boar.