Carl Yastrzemski, 1980November 2, 2007
(continued from Carl Yastrzemski, 1978)
Here is the baseball card I love the most. It’s pretty beat up. I handled it a lot as a kid, then as an adult had it taped to the wall by my writing desk for many years. That’s how you’ve got to do it, I told myself, looking at the card. Dig in. Stay balanced. Wait. Hang in there. Wait. Be quick when the right pitch comes. The statistics on the back of the card provided further instruction. The tiny type, the many seasons, the stunning number of hits, the even more stunning number, hidden but revealed by simple subtraction, of outs. You’ve got to work at it for years. You’ve got to fail thousands of times. You’ve got to keep getting back in there, each time as awake and alive as you were your very first time.
I must have looked at the card thousands of times. I don’t know if any of it rubbed off on me. Eventually I put it back in with the rest of my cards, but then four years ago I made a wall-hanging by bordering a copy of the front page of the October 28, 2004, Boston Globe with the holiest of my Cardboard Gods, the Red Sox players from my childhood in the 1970s, and this card found a place in the upper left hand corner. It was a crude piece of craft-making, the kind of thing a little boy would do. But I guess I wanted to hold on to the feeling of late October 2004 a little longer, the feeling of being a little boy again.
By October 2004 I had moved to Chicago. My decade or so of trying to cling to boyhood and hide from adulthood by sharing an apartment with my brother had come to an end a few years earlier, those first years apart painful for me, as if below the surface entangled roots were being torn. Our stuff had been mixed together for years. Now some of my stuff was missing, and other stuff that I did have made me feel guilty to have it, because it wasn’t mine. I’m reaching for metaphors here, but there actually were some real objects involved. I ended up with some of my brother’s novels; he ended up with some of my comic books. I ended up with an autograph made out to the both of us from cartoonist Daniel Clowes; he ended up with an autograph made out to the both of us from Steve Balboni. But of all the things I ended up with that weren’t mine, the one that made me feel the guiltiest was perhaps the one that had cost the least. I’d been with my brother when he’d bought it, at a souvenir store outside Fenway a couple years after Yaz retired, a closeout item, the price slashed: a white painter’s cap with the word Yaz on the front and various career achievements listed on the sides. Somehow over the years of living together in New York I’d appropriated the cap (the cap is mentioned elsewhere on this site in a description of a grisly fight-filled Opening Day at Yankee Stadium), and it had been among my things when I’d moved off on my own.
I wore it to a Red Sox bar in Chicago to watch the fourth game of the 2004 World Series, and one of my favorite memories of that beautiful night was walking through the packed bar after the final out, on my way to take my first piss as a champion, and accepting the Yaz-based congratulations of other Red Sox fans who patted the top of my Yaz-capped head and shouted “Way to go, Yaz!” or “We fucking did it, Yaz!” or just, simply, “Yaz!!!!!”
It was a good moment, but since it was my brother’s cap it should have been my brother’s moment. I tried to assuage my guilt about this with the fact that I’d soon be handing the cap back to my brother; we had decided to meet in Boston for the victory parade. I don’t know if my brother feels cheated out of his own rightful Yaz-cap moment, but if he did it didn’t stop him from manufacturing his own Yaz moment, festooning his car with Yaz-related signs and banners in preparation of the drive from his house in Brooklyn to the parade in Boston. He had decided, in short, to turn his car into The Yazmobile:
(to be continued)