Mario Guerrero, 1977November 27, 2006
This 1977 card signals the passing of the halfway point of both my childhood and Mario Guerrero’s itinerant career. Early in the preceding season, Mario Guerrero was traded by the St. Louis Cardinals to the California Angels for a minor leaguer named Ed Jordan and a player to be named later. The player to be named later turned out to be another minor leaguer named Ed Kurpiel. So by the time he posed for this picture, Mario Guerrero had been a player to be named later, had been traded for a player to be named later ultimately named Willoughby, and had been traded for two minor leaguers, one named Ed right at the start, the other also named Ed, but later. Still, Mario Guerrero seems happy and hopeful here. This makes sense, in a way. Despite his constant involvement in trades seemingly designed to highlight his insignificance, he had proven himself to be a useful major leaguer, averaging well over 200 at bats a year while playing ably at second base and shortstop, arguably the two most important defensive positions on the field. He had, in fact, just completed his best season to date, leading the anemic, league-worst offense of the Angels in batting average with an admirable .284 mark while also somehow swatting his first major league home run.
This hopeful card first lit up my collection right in the middle of my years in the hippie multiage class I mentioned in the last post. When writing of that class I often resort to cheap satire, probably due to a lack of imagination. But the truth is I mostly loved that class, especially the middle years, the Mario Guerrero as an Angel years. All day long, more or less, I was encouraged to make up stories. It occurs to me now that most if not all of the stories–told in the form of comic books, scrolls made to unfurl inside television-like cardboard boxes, animated movies of crash-marred car races, theatrical sequels to Star Wars featuring light sabers made of colored plastic sheets and flashlights, even my autobiography–were about wisecracking ectomorphs surviving disaster. The prototype for all these stories was an early crudely rendered serial drama about a character named Ribad the Rabbit, who was constantly having trees fall on him and other woodland creatures open fire in his direction with automatic weaponry as he tried to go about his day. Why me? asked Ribad the Rabbit again and again. There was never an answer, but on he went, inexplicably indestructable.