I’ve never really been from anywhere. I was born in New Jersey, but my family moved out of there before I’d forged any significant connection to that place. In central Vermont, where I spent most of my childhood, people who weren’t born in Vermont, especially ones with long hair and foreign cars cluttering their driveway and half-Jew kids in hippie school and no freshly shot venison clogging their meat freezers, were considered outsiders, flatlanders. Later, I lived in New York City for a long time as a young man, where I felt sort of like a goy from Vermont, and drifted back to Vermont for a couple years, where I felt sort of like a Jew from New York. Now I live in Chicago, where I don’t really feel like I’m from anywhere except somewhere else.
Marty Pattin, on the other hand, was one of the guys whose “Born” town was the same as his “Home” town on the back of his card, in his case a place called Charleston, Illinois. I always noticed the same-Born-and-Home guys and considered them more solid than me, more rooted. I always imagined the houses they’d lived in their whole lives had white pillars in front and a tire swing hanging from an old oak in back.
But by the time of this card Marty Pattin had been drifting around the American League for nine years, from Anaheim to Seattle to Milwaukee to Boston to Kansas City. If you trace these places on a map you will make something that looks a bit like the outermost curl of a spiral. Southwest, Northwest, upper Midwest, Northeast, lower Midwest. The only thing left to do to make the curl a complete spiral is to give it a center, and the center point, one would imagine, would be slightly north and slightly east of its most recent stop of Kansas City. In other words: Charleston, Illinois.
I don’t know if Marty Pattin is actually on the brink of spiraling home in this photo. I could look it up of course, but sometimes I like to rely only on these cards and my memory. The card says he is 33 years old and that he has just gone 8 and 14 for the 1976 Royals. The memory says the 1976 Royals were really good, maybe too good to retain a 33-year-old 8 and 14 pitcher for too much longer. The memory is unclear on whether Marty Pattin endured throughout the Royals’ impressive run of division titles or conversely whether he vanished. He kind of morphs into Mark Littel a little in memory, a long reliever type far from the frontline status of Gura, Splitorff, and Leonard.
The card also presents a photographic portrait of Marty Pattin, of course. He is enacting the familiar still-life-of-pitcher pose, which makes him look like a weary, aging mouthbreather bending down to reach for a doorknob. I wonder what’s behind that door.