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Glenn Abbott

April 12, 2010

Well, I guess today is the “official” release date for my book, though Amazon has been delivering copies to people for a few days, and over the weekend my aunt and my friend Rick reported seeing the book in stores in Montpelier, VT, and in Boston, respectively. Later today, when I get off work, my wife and I are going to head downtown here in Chicago and see if it’s on a shelf at Barnes & Noble or Borders (I’m not holding my breath), and then we’re going to go somewhere and get a beer and some food and enjoy the moment.

This is not something I do very easily—enjoy the moment, I mean—so I thought I’d enlist the help of smiling Glenn Abbott today. My natural tendency is toward feeling slightly miserable. It comforts me to feel this way, I guess. This past week, I neither enjoyed the moment nor felt slightly miserable but instead just felt wound up and anxious. Things began to turn around over the weekend, first when Abby and I went to a park and played catch, using a baseball I had written on as a moronic gag for her benefit back when we’d first started dating almost ten years ago (“To Josh, You’re the true Sultan of Swat. Love, Babe Ruth.”), and then calming down more yesterday by virtue of a Masters-aided nap, truly one of the great experiences in all of sports fandom. The hushed tones, the intermittent calm-ocean sound of applause, the half-dreaming awareness of players charging up or toppling down the leader board, and the life-affirming rally to consciousness in time for the rousing cheers as the leader strides up the 18th fairway.

Yesterday’s Masters nap may have been among my best ever, rivaled perhaps only by the one punctuated by the missteps of Greg Norman’s inevitable and yet still horrifyingly complete, and somehow in its grandeur even heroic, collapse in 1996. Yesterday I drifted in and out as Phil Mickelson forged ahead of a pack that included—most significantly in terms of napping—Fred Couples, whose aura of profound relaxation long ago made him the greatest golfer of all time, for my purposes, and I was awake in time to watch the finish of another contender, Tiger Woods. I’d never liked Tiger Woods, but his recent public fall from grace made him seem human, finally, and so I found myself rooting for him whenever I was awake enough to focus on the action. This newfound personal investment on my part ended with his post-match interview, when he seemed once again robotic and sour, the personification of ruthless gain. He had a chance in the interview to humbly acknowledge the prowess of his fellow golfers, and also to nod to the generously warm reception he got from fans all through the tournament, but instead he groused about finishing fourth and bristled at a question about his emotions. The guy’s a multinational corporation with some public relations issues, not a person down here with the rest of us (to quote the old Social Distortion song). I won’t be rooting for him anymore.

I think what I was hoping for was an appreciation on Woods’ part for being back at something he loved. This is why we watch sports, right? I mean, we don’t watch them to learn how to be good citizens, contrary to what all the moralizing that accompanied Woods’ return would have you believe. We watch to remember that it’s good to be alive. The guy who beat Woods and everyone else came through on that account: when Phil Mickelson won and tearfully hugged his wife, who has been struggling with cancer, it was plain that we were seeing a man who now understands that everything can be taken away at any time. I don’t know what kind of a guy Phil Mickelson “really” is, and I don’t care. Yesterday he gave me what I come to sports to find: inspiration to hold on tight to this life.   

So anyway, I’ll try to follow that inspiration today, and follow also the smiling lead of Glenn Abbott, who beamed in his 1976 card despite being on an A’s team about to plummet, slowly but completely, into its late-1970s abyss, a decline that Abbot would not see the depths of only because he would be experiencing similar daily humiliation with the expansion Mariners. But, really, even with that on the horizon, what’s not to smile about? Not only did Abbott reach the majors in time to chip in for the A’s in both 1973 and 1974, both championship years, he was also fresh off an appearance in the 1975 Bazooka/Joe Garagiola Big League Bubble Gum Blowing Championship.

Abbott’s participation in the tourney is one of the bigger mysteries of that one and only quest to find the greatest blower of bubbles in the major leagues. He was not originally slated to advance from the individual team championships to the league-wide competition, but as A’s runner-up he took the place of team champion Angel Mangual when Angel Mangual was for some reason unable to participate. What was the reason? Did Mangual sprain his lower lip? Was he found out to be augmenting his bubbles with some kind of elastic epoxy? Was he reluctant to join the tournament because he saw bubble blowing as an art, something that could only be defiled in a public competition? We may never know. But we do know that Glenn Abbott bowed out in a first-round loss to oglin’ Mickey Scott of the Angels. You have to think it didn’t bother Abbott too much. He was just glad to be there.

***

Finally, some more book buzz: Big thanks to Brian Joura, who has a very kind review of my book up at fangraphs.com. (Tolstoy is referenced!)

13 comments

  1. Congratulations on the book release! Mine showed up Friday from Amazon and I’m really enjoying it. Your observation of Wilbur Wood being Old Testament had me laughing out loud. I can tell it’s a book that it’ll be sad to see end, but then there’s always the blog. Enjoy the beer(s) tonight, you deserve it!


  2. Logged in as my wife for the above comment. It’s a Monday.


  3. Congratulations, Josh! And I hope you find copies out on display at both stores!


  4. The look of mild confusion on Abbot’s face on his Mariners card is pure gold, when compared to his grinning mug on the A’s card. He went from sunny and cocksure to stunned and distracted in just one season. But playing up here in Seattle will do that to a man, I guess.

    Also, his windbreaker is glorious.


  5. I’m with you on Tiger Woods. What a schmuck. He’s become as crabby as David Ortiz after his daily golden sombreros.


  6. Enjoyed your radio interview.

    At Borders, they have list your book as out of stock with a release date of April 20 on its website. One of the local Barnes & Nobles here in North Jersey supposedly has it. It’s also available on ebay.

    I look forward to reading it. Good luck.


  7. Hey Josh. I’m about halfway through your book. It is outstanding. I love the ‘King of doubles’ idea. Mine was John Dopson. I swear, that guy showed up 3 times in every pack between 1989-1992!!!

    Also, just because random stats are awesome.. Kurt Bevacqua’s first career HR came against Wilbur Wood!


  8. Book came in the mail today! Can’t wait to start reading it. Did not realize it was in hardcover. For some reason I thought it would be like a 150 page paperback. This is the real shit! Josh, I hope you take this all in as a wonderful moment in your life. Every blogger dreams of turning the blog into a book, and you did it.


  9. I found this little article about “Cardboard Gods”.

    http://www.asylum.com/2010/04/08/10-pleasingly-hideous-baseball-cards-from-the-1970s-reggie-jackson-chicago-cubs-oscar-gamble/?icid=main|main|dl10|link3|http://www.asylum.com/2010/04/08/10-pleasingly-hideous-baseball-cards-from-the-1970s-reggie-jackson-chicago-cubs-oscar-gamble/

    If you have a facebook page post it to your profile to spread the word about Josh’s book.


  10. There was a nice write up about the book in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on Sunday. My package awaits at the Post Office as they shut down 5 minutes early yesterday and I couldn’t get in! AUGHH! Actually ordered 2 copies – giving one to my best friend and fellow collector for his BD.

    I also actually own a 1975 game worn Glenn Abbott A’s jersey – though it is not the one pictured in this card. It is the Gold jersey with green lettering.

    Abbott hung with the Mariners longer than any other original M. He made it almost 8 full seasons and witnessed a lot of BAD baseball.


  11. I just ordered the book from Borders.com. I’ve been thinking about the future of Books and bookstores today.

    Abbott’s career is odd in that he started his career with those early 70’s World Series A’s and then spent the middle on those horrible 70’s-early 80’s Mariners. Then he ended his career on the ’84 Tigers.


  12. That haircut always reminded me of Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues. Abbott probably pitched well on Tuesday afternoons.


  13. “Robotic and sour”….What a perfect description.



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