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Roberto Hernandez

November 10, 2009

Roberto Hernandez 93

I found this card on the street last week, a day after the end of baseball season. I don’t know why I find more baseball cards than the average person. Probably it’s a combination of my general heightened awareness of baseball cards, which gives me a better chance of identifying a piece of street trash as a card, and my depressive personality, which prompts me to more often than not stare morosely down at the ground as I trudge from here to there. Whatever it is, I always take it as good luck. A day with a baseball card is never all bad, especially if it’s a card that appeared from out of the nowhere of gray daily life.

I pried it up from the sidewalk outside a grimy used car lot out on Western Avenue around the corner from my apartment, brought it home, and studied it a little. It has all of the pitcher’s minor league stats, showing that despite being a first round draft pick, Hernandez had a long road to the majors, not appearing there until he was 27 and not becoming a regular until the following year. I had some sense that Hernandez went on after the appearance of this card to have his moments, but I haven’t been paying attention to baseball closely enough to know his accomplishments. Turns out only three pitchers in the history of baseball—John Franco, Lee Smith, and Dennis Eckersley—have both more saves and more games pitched than Hernandez, and only one of those three, Franco, has a superior ERA+. What does this mean? I don’t know. He stuck around for a long time and was an effective closer and set-up guy. That’s part of what it means. The other part is that there’s a whole world out there that I’m oblivious to. The one thing I pay attention to is baseball, and even my awareness of baseball is limited. If you had asked me who Roberto Hernandez was, I would have been able to correctly guess that at some point several years ago he closed games for the White Sox, but I didn’t know he had more saves than Goose Gossage or Bruce Sutter or that he appeared in more games than Catfish Hunter and Whitey Ford combined.

That’s what always happens when I find a card. The world feels bigger, more unknowable. How did this card fall to the sidewalk on Western Avenue? Who bought this card? Who let it slip through their fingers? What am I letting slip through mine?

7 comments

  1. Josh,

    Your card-finding story reminded me of a time back in 1979 when I was 12 years old and I was taking a 8 year old family friend to a local park. The kid spotted a ’79 Seaver card on the ground with dirt and scratches on it and flipped-out trying to retrieve the from the top of a sewer grate.

    I remember telling the kid, “leave it, why the heck do what that messed up card anyway, plus he’s in a Reds uniform.”

    I can’t remember if he actually took the card home or not but I remember always being kind of shocked by his reaction to such a messed up looking card.

    I guess it kind of shows the mystery of human existence, one man’s pot of gold is another man’s piece of garbage.


  2. Thanks for that found card story, johnq11. I’m with your buddy–I can’t imagine passing up a card on the ground, no matter how beaten up and or dubiously-worthed (see Chris Gust post in the Loose in the Shoebox category).

    I like found objects in general. I’ve even sent a couple things into “Found” magazine over the years, including a message on the back of a matchbook that said “Larry smells like poo.” This morning on the way to the train I found a small cartoon tract called “My Best Friend” about a bully who terrorizes kids until one day he runs after them and explains as they cower behind a bush that he is not going to beat them to a pulp anymore and that he has admitted all his sins to “his best friend” and now he’s saved, and in the end the bully and the bullied pray together with big cartoony dilated pupils to Jesus, hallelujah.


  3. Good relief pitcher, and you’re totally right, very overlooked. Reliable, durable, threw strikes, kept it in the ballpark.


  4. Most people don’t realize that Hernandez started his college baseball career at Uconn. I once played against him, Roberto was the starting CATCHER! He never pitched a game at Uconn. Talk about bad talent evaluation.


  5. He pitched in Vancouver in the early 90s and like his teammate Lance Johnson was someone I always kept track of as his career meandered through the majors. He was the first C’s pitcher I really had a handle on and boy did he ever throw hard! Plus, for and 11 year old his name sure was fun to say!


  6. I found a 1989 Topps Darren Daulton lying randomly on the ground outside my office in Beverly, Mass., eight years ago. I never had any particular love for Darren Daulton, but I’ve been carrying that card around ever since. No idea why. Luck, maybe. Respect for a solid catcher. A connection to my childhood back in South Carolina. I keep it pinned up at my desk.


  7. Thanks for sharing that story, Chas. There’s something about found cards. I just got done with a long essay trying to figure out what the deal is with all the cards I’ve found. (Should be coming out pretty soon.)



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