Ken McMullenSeptember 5, 2008
A perturbed Ken McMullen, fading holdover from an earlier, more cleancut era in baseball, has just noticed a couple of unusual figures in the stands. A couple of freaks.
I can’t know this of course. All I can know is that Ken McMullen, at the time of this 1975 card, had been kicking around the league for twelve years. He started out with the Dodgers in 1962 but was traded to the second incarnation of the Washington Senators after three seasons and 311 at-bats. He had several productive years with that team, establishing himself, most likely (I’m too lazy too research it), as the greatest third baseman in the entire doomed and desultory eleven-season history of the second edition of the Washington Senators.
The Senators shipped McMullen to the California Angels during the first season of the new decade, and in 1973 he came back to the Dodgers, the team of his early major league career and possibly the team of his youth, judging from the fact that he was born in Oxnard, CA, and was still calling it home at the time of this card, suggesting that he had lived there all along and so was there, an impressionable cleancut teen, when the Dodgers relocated from Brooklyn to nearby Los Angeles in 1957. The story told by this card, or by all of this card except the enigmatic expression of the player on its front, could be a comforting one, a story about coming home, the onetime Oxnard-born Dodger an Oxnard-based Dodger once more. Any conjecture about his sour, apprehensive expression, which sends a negating shiver through whatever comfort is offered by the circle-of-life place names on the back of the card, is beyond the borders of the card, and nothing can be affirmed with any certainty about matters that are beyond the borders of the card.
But nothing can be ruled out, either. Anything is possible. So I’ll say it again, as if it were true, because it might be, and in my always-diminishing world might is just about the only right: Ken McMullen, aging holdover from an earlier, more cleancut era in baseball, has just noticed a couple of unusual figures in the stands. A couple of freaks.
One of them, a bushy-haired guy with glasses, is playing the wooden, flute-like instrument known as the recorder. The other is of ambiguous gender and swaying back and forth, eyes closed, either mumbling valium-inspired nonsense or chanting. Ken McMullen can’t make heads or tails of any of it. His world is changing all around him. Getting stranger, harder to understand, worse. He’ll end his career not as a Dodger but far away, in Milwaukee.
“Goddamnit, what the hell,” he is about to say.
(to be continued)