Archive for the ‘Montreal Expos’ Category

h1

The Tao of Expo

March 5, 2013

expo in guitarFor most of my life, when baseball cards came to me, I sorted them into teams. The majority of my baseball cards from my childhood are sorted by teams right now, each team wrapped in a rubber band. The exception to this general rule is in the cards that I’ve written about, which have been removed from their teams and are loose in the shoebox, as if the process of writing about the cards is a way to offer them back into the originating randomness of life. I vowed early on to write about every single card that remains from my childhood, and I still plan to keep that vow, but right now the shoebox with all my old cards is in a closet, out of my immediate reach for the first time in many years. There are a few reasons for this. One is that I’m using whatever small pockets of time I have for writing to work on a new book (that’s not about baseball cards). Another is that I don’t want my 19-month-old son to get his hands on those cards just yet. Finally, after writing about my baseball cards for several years, there’s something appealing to having them go away, get a rest from my exhausting attention, gain strength in silence, like they did all those years when they were in a storage facility.

But baseball cards are still in my life, more actively now than at any time since my childhood. They belong to my son, a heaping pile of loose cards, some new ones from 2012 and 2013 and some older ones that came as a gift to me from my wife’s aunt, who found the cards in a binder at a garage sale. They’re all from the late 1980s and early 1990s. My wife helped me remove them all immediately from the protective plastic of the binder, and we piled them on the living room rug like leaves, where our son Jack started doing something very much like the breaststroke through them. Then, the diaspora: the cards were gradually scattered all over the house. This is how things get sorted now, through play. I find a card in the bathroom, another on the cat scratch pad. A favorite site for cards is my guitar. Jack likes dropping them in there. He can’t say guitar yet, but he makes a sound that approximates the sound of a guitar being strummed. “Dao,” he says when he wants to play with the guitar, the same way you’d pronounce the Chinese philosophy of embracing the randomness and transience of life. He said this the other day, and when we got to the guitar a backup catcher from a defunct team was inside. Oh, to live inside music, holiness itself. Oh to be an Expo forever, free of the sorted world.

h1

Mike Torrez

January 31, 2012

How Strange the Design

One

The few 1974 cards I own have aged more gently than my cards from later years. I wonder why. Is this difference a result of a change in the materials and processes being used to create cards after 1974, or is it just a trick of my own mind, some kind of deeper, more distorting nostalgia for the longest-tenured cards in my collection? The edges of my 1974 cards have all been rounded to thin furry shoulders with the years, while the edges of the cards from the following years seem stiffer, more rigid, less personal, or less prone to allowing the personal to merge with the impersonal.

The 1974 cards remind me of my brother. All my cards do, but the cards from this year most of all, simply because as the years went on I separated from him a little more all the time; in the beginning, I didn’t know or want to know where I ended and he began. In a way, my possession of my own 1974 cards was a way to begin possessing a sense of a self independent from him. He had his cards and I had mine, but since the 1974 cards were the first in this separation they have the strongest air of being shared, not mine but ours.

It’s all one song. The past and the present and the future, the objects we’re drawn to, the people we’re drawn to, the people we drift from, the distances, the absences, the erosion, the softening, the blurring, the converging. One day this Mike Torrez card will disappear altogether. It is in the process of disappearing right now. It is itself the process of disappearance posing as a solid object. The worn-soft edges, the feel of love, it will give way and give way and finally be gone. I’ll be ashes long before that happens, but it’ll happen, and when it does it means this card and I will be everywhere and nowhere, all one song.

Mike Torrez is poised as perfectly as humanly possible at the center of the disappearing. He kicks one leg high, balanced, alert, focused, the potential of the moment at its peak. Everything is still to come, for me and for Mike Torrez. He will become a 20-game winner in 1976 and a World Series hero in 1977. There will be more beyond 1977 for Mike Torrez, but for now let’s stop right there with thoughts of what will be. That’s the year I’ll be starting little league. I’ll be standing in centerfield with a baseball uniform on, pounding my glove and cheering on my brother. He’ll be on the mound, wearing the same uniform, pivoting in his pitching motion and kicking his leg high.

h1

Del Unser

December 6, 2011

The Cardboard Gods Ass Backwards ABCs of Parenting

U Is for Unser

1.
One Christmas when I was a kid, my grandmother got me a book called Juggling for the Complete Klutz. I was not then or now prone to mastering skills of any kind, useful or otherwise, but for some reason I applied myself to the book’s lessons, most of which were accompanied by a cartoon of a befuddled bearded fellow amusingly failing. Attached to the book was a small red mesh sack with three square beanbags inside. You started out throwing one beanbag, getting the arc of that toss and catch down, then moved on to practicing the mundane exchange of throwing two at a time, first one and then the other, back and forth from hand to hand. Finally, you moved on to trying to get all three beanbags up in the air at once. In that last stage, I tried and failed many times. There was a faint alluring feeling in the failures of something almost happening, as if the latch of a locked treasure chest was on the brink of giving way. I kept failing. I kept trying.

2.
In this 1978 card, Del Unser has just connected, propelling the ball up into the air. It’s not clear from the photo alone whether the ball will land safely, but the angle of Unser’s head as he follows the path of the ball would suggest that he has hit a fly ball and not a line drive or a grounder. I have determined after considerable study the likely time and place of this moment, and it’s during an inning in which two outs have already been recorded, thus eliminating the possibility of a sacrifice fly, and so the only hope for Unser’s at bat to be considered a useful one is for the ball to carry all the way into the centerfield stands. This is a long shot. It is always a long shot. Most at bats are useless.

3.
I remember I was in my room, alone, once again trying and failing to juggle, when, finally, I got all three beanbags going at once for a couple of seconds. I lost control of my throws almost as quickly as I had all the other times before, but this time the slight difference was unmistakable. I’d juggled. Learning to walk must have felt the same way. Learning to ride a bike. One of those moments when you feel like you’re floating in a brand new way, like the laws of gravity have loosened. I ran downstairs to find someone and tell them the news. I’d juggled!

4.
I’ve been pondering this 1978 Del Unser card for quite some time, and, as I mentioned, I have a theory on the time and place, the particulars of the moment. It took certain skills to be able to place this moment, I suppose. First, you have to be willing and able to look at a baseball card for a long time, to do something, in other words, that most people would consider to be, for an adult, a complete waste of time. You have to know your way around baseball-reference.com. It helps to know that the photographers who took shots at the ballpark in the 1970s most often showed up in New York and the Bay Area. I guess you have to have some powers of deduction. Anyway, I’ll spare you the details, but the key piece of info is that the on-deck hitter is almost surely future Hall-of-Famer Andre Dawson (joined, in the even more remote background, to the right of Unser’s left leg, by fellow Hall of Famer Gary Carter), and Dawson’s presence along with a couple of other indicators and probabilities suggests to me that the photo on this card is from the top of the sixth inning in a game between the Expos and Mets on Monday, May 30, 1977. Most of our efforts in life, let’s face it, amount to the equivalent of a failed at-bat against Bob Apodaca in a game between two also-rans. Moments that turn out like so:

Batter Pitcher Result
D. Unser B. Apodaca Flyball: CF

5.
Everyone in my family enjoyed my new skill, and I was glad to show it to them, especially my grandmother. Warmed and emboldened by my family’s acclaim, I marched off to school with my three square beanbags, envisioning kids chanting my name as they carried me on their shoulders through the hallways; instead, everyone I juggled for smiled briefly, then asked over rapidly encroaching boredom whether I could juggle four things, then turned away to other more interesting matters, such as learning multiplication tables or poking one of the classroom gerbils with a pencil. This reaction was a letdown that could serve as a prototype for all subsequent letdowns in my life. I came to understand, eventually, that I had devoted myself with uncharacteristic tenacity to learning something so gaudily useless that it could, were it necessary, be used to illustrate the very concept of uselessness.

6.
For most of his career, Del Unser played for also-rans, a term seemingly designed primarily to convey uselessness. There are contenders, and games that matter, and moments upon which history hinges, and then there is everything else. Del Unser played for the second edition of the Washington Senators in its death throes, then logged a season with a typically moribund Cleveland Indians outfit, then hitched on with the Philadelphia Phillies for two seasons before, just as they were on the brink of escaping mediocrity, he was shipped to the declining mid-1970s Mets for a year and a half, who then passed him along to the Expos. From the photo on the front of Del Unser’s 1978 card it’s clear, at least in retrospect, that the Expos, armed with young future superstars such as Dawson and Carter, would soon be climbing into contention, but Del Unser’s destiny was to always be on the move, and he wouldn’t be around with the Expos when, in 1979, they finally began to play games that mattered. It must have seemed to Del Unser that he would never find a crucial moment when he might be of use.

7.
I kept juggling. It became a solitary practice, like most of the other things I did or would do or still do, like reading, writing, walking, mulling fantasy sports rosters, jogging, shooting baskets, meditating, beating off. I learned how to juggle bowling pins, big plastic rings, basketballs. I learned to flip tennis balls under my leg and around my back while juggling them. However, as if to highlight the gulf growing between me, the juggler, and a hypothetical audience, a possible connection, I never was able fulfill the inevitable ubiquitous request of anyone who ever saw me juggling—can you juggle four?—with any regularity. I juggled three things, just three things, in seclusion. I tried to imagine that it was some kind of a Zen practice. At my wintry college, where my Zen pretensions were at their most pronounced levels, I sometimes juggled snowballs outside the classroom before big tests “to focus.” I’m sure I secretly hoped that I would be seen doing so, and admired, but no one ever said anything about it, at least not to my face.

8.
Some months ago the birth of my son thrust me into the frazzled center of a rapid unending series of baffling crises. The whole thing started with the birth itself, in which my role was to smile and say “You can do it!” to someone in terrible agony who later confirmed my suspicion that she was looking entirely past my cheerleading to search with animal ferocity the faces of the nurses and doctors for signs that the end of the unbearable pain might be in sight. My efficacy or lack thereof throughout the long ordeal crystallized during one of the terrifying peaks of my wife’s pain, when I was sent out of the room so that my wife could receive an epidural, which she had hoped to avoid back when we imagined that together we could calmly visualize away the rumored pain of labor contractions by believing it would all be like riding rising and falling waves. During the administration of the epidural I sat in a little waiting room alone. It was 2 a.m. or 3 a.m., somewhere in there. I sat and stared at the dim institutional carpeting and hoped and prayed, two activities of limited if not altogether useless impact. I wanted my wife to be all right but couldn’t do anything about it. I was scared that the epidural would lead to some kind of complication. I was also scared it simply wouldn’t work, that we’d have to go on as before, one of us wrenching around on a hospital bed like a fish suffocating at the bottom of a boat, the other standing alongside, useless, hoping and praying.

9.
In 1979, the trend in Del Unser’s career toward less and less playing time continued as the former regular turned fourth outfielder took what most would interpret as a further demotion in role, to that of a pinch-hitter. He had always been a good outfielder (in fact, the moment in the 1978 card at the top of this post testifies to his fielding abilities, as in the game in question he was the centerfielder, chosen to play that key defensive position over Andre Dawson, who would go on to win several Gold Glove awards as a centerfielder), and so he continued to occasionally get playing time as an outfielder, and, proving his versatility, he also logged innings occasionally at first base, but his primary role in 1979 was pinch-hitter. It must have seemed to Unser that this reduction in playing time would be compensated for by an increase in crucial moments, as going into 1979 the Phillies had won the previous three National League East crowns. As it turned out, the 1979 Phillies would finish up the season as also-rans, 14 games out of first behind the Pirates (and 12 behind his contending former teammates on the Expos), but fairly deep into the season there must have persisted the hope that the three-time defending NL East champs might still have a chance to make a charge toward the top. On June 30, the Phillies were trailing the St. Louis Cardinals late and were on the brink of falling to just one game above .500 when Del Unser was called in to pinch-hit. Unser homered to tie the game, which the Phillies would go on to win. Unser homered in his next pinch-hitting appearance, a July 5 loss to the Mets, and was next called in to pinch-hit with two outs and two on in the 9th inning of a July 10 game against the Padres, the Phillies behind 5-3 and future Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers on the mound. No one had ever hit three pinch-hit home runs in a row before. You can tell where this is going, I’m sure, so let’s just say that in that not altogether unimportant moment, the Phillies still within shouting distance of first place, Del Unser proved to be quite useful.

10.
The epidural worked, for a while anyway, probably not because of my prayers, but who knows. It eventually wore off, leading to another long terrible passage of pain that finally ended in the best and weirdest moment of my life, my bloody son riding on the hands of strangers out from between the legs of my wife. Since then, the boy at the center of that moment has centered my life, and my life has been that of a complete klutz. I trip over stuff. I drop things. Sometimes I barely remember how to walk. A few nights ago, I had a dream that I was trying to juggle and couldn’t do it any longer. I kept trying but I’d forgotten how.

11.
Del Unser followed up his 1979 record-setting feat of three pinch-hit home runs in a row by performing multiple off-the-bench heroics for the Phillies in the 1980 postseason, helping the team to its first-ever World Series title. Unser’s efforts on a colorful star-studded Phillies roster including eventual all-time hits king Pete Rose, league MVP Mike Schmidt, Cy Young award-winner Steve Carlton, comically gorilla-armed slugger Greg Luzinski, and the charismatic sloganeering Dionysian relief ace Tug McGraw, among others, provide some guidance to me on how to be father. Being a father, you’re not really the star of the show, the starting pitcher, the cleanup hitter, what have you, but you may be called upon at certain times to step off the bench and into the spotlight. You don’t have the uterus or the boobs or the 500 career home runs or the 300 wins but you still might be called upon to perform a small but necessary duty successfully. You can carry a car seat out to the car. You can change a diaper half-decently. Maybe once in a while you can get the kid to sleep. You are the pinch-hitter.

12.
After my dream about not being able to juggle I searched the house for three tennis balls. It took a while—in step with the new general disorder of things, all three were in different places, and my wife found the last one behind a bureau. She also found what she termed “a hundred-pound wad of dust” behind the bureau, so after she cleaned back there she stomped off to the shower, asking me to watch the baby in her absence. Time to pinch-hit! The baby was sitting and playing in a little high chair thing by the dining-room table. I kept one eye on him while I gathered up the three tennis balls. I hadn’t juggled in a while, but it came right back to me. Three balls in the air. After all these years, it still gave me some pleasure, or maybe even some kind of very quiet joy. This feeling, joy, announced itself as always having been there, in a kind of diminished, hibernating form, as I noticed it rousing itself to something fuller, a whole note, with the awareness that two small blue eyes were now on me. My son, who had been attempting to jam a small furry book about a family of bears into his mouth, had noticed what I was doing. His fierce grip on the book loosened and the book slid to the floor. I kept juggling, turning to him, calling his name and babbling baby sounds. He was watching the worn yellow balls rise and fall, rise and fall. He was watching the pinch-hitter do what he knew how to do and he was smiling.

h1

Scott Sanderson

July 22, 2011

When I was younger I assumed that human history was like a ladder, leading upward. But the whole span of it from cave paintings to internet porn is an illusion, at least when you consider the temporary nature of the sun, which will implode or whatever eventually and sweep everything that’s ever been done, every word, every kiss, back into the void from which it came. Even if you kind of shield your eyes from that obliterating eventuality and focus on human history as if it were somehow indelibly real, you can see that we more often disintegrate than advance.

My wife has two shelves of books about the space program. On our first big road trip together, nine years ago, when Abby was in the full bloom of her obsession with the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, we digressed from the primary focus of the trip—attending a series of baseball games in different cities—to spend a day at the Neil Armstrong museum in Ohio, where the narrative of a Midwestern boy intensely interested in flight gradually connected with a collective central human quest to explore the unknown and then, more specifically, to perhaps the greatest or at least most iconic moment of that quest, when Neil Armstrong walked on the fucking moon.

He took that giant leap 42 years ago Wednesday. I was rooting for our first kid to arrive on that date, July 20, but no dice. On the bright side, our busted air conditioner was working again, so the pretty miserable last mile of my wife’s pregnancy was not as bad as it could be that day. The air conditioner worked yesterday, too, and then last night it conked out. Oddly enough, it may or may not be working again this morning, but even if it is it seems to be laboring like a shopping cart with a busted wheel, cockeyed, groaning. Maybe that’s what history is, a half-broken thing, haltingly moving.

Scott Sanderson was born 55 years ago today, on July 22, 1956. Today is my wife’s due date. Today I’m waiting for the air conditioning repairman, Maurice, to come back and try to figure out why it keeps breaking, which seems as if it will be particularly difficult to determine now that it’s sort of working again.

In the last room of the Neil Armstrong museum, nine summers ago, Abby and I each played in a simulator booth in which you could pretend to steer a lunar landing module down onto the surface of the moon. The simulator piped in a voice as if from Mission Control that reacted encouragingly to the progress of the landing. I believe on one of my successful moon landings I was told that NASA would be calling me soon. There were kids behind us in line, waiting to use the simulators, so after helming a couple last miraculous leaps forward in human progress we exited the simulators and left the museum to get back into the Dodge Neon we had rented for the trip.

Landing on the moon in a simulator is as close as anyone is going to get to the real thing for a long, long time, or maybe ever. Yesterday, the space shuttle Atlantis landed, ending the space shuttle program. When we got to the moon a little over 42 years ago, it seemed like we were stepping onto a rung that would only lead higher. Mercury to Gemini to Apollo to who knows? But Apollo turned out to be the pinnacle, and after it came Skylab, then as Skylab was falling in flaming chunks back to earth in 1979, the year the photo on this Scott Sanderson card was taken, the space shuttle program was underway. The space shuttle program is over, and there’s not really anything lined up to replace it. No money, no vision. No ladder. Makes me think, perversely, of a Bob Dylan song: “May you build a ladder to the stars and climb on every rung/and may you stay forever young.”

Or maybe it’s not so perverse. The song is a prayer Dylan wrote to his newborn child. I know how to strum the song on my guitar and probably will when the kid finally gets here. I’m not religious but I find ways to pray. So here’s one to Scott Sanderson, or at least to the cardboard version of him from 1980, when I was 12 and thought life would be a ladder to the stars, and here’s a thank you to the world that made me feel that way back then, and to my loved ones, and to the kid on the way from the stars, a reminder.

h1

Woodie Fryman

March 3, 2011

According to the Gods: a 2011 Team-By-Team Preview

Washington Nationals

By the time Woodie Fryman joined the Expos for the first time, he’d been around a while and was no longer a young man. Had he ever been a young man? It seems like he may have somehow sprang from the womb already equipped with a paunchy full-grown build and melancholy eyes and the ability to change a tire, chip adequately out of a sand trap, and itemize federal tax deductions. This card doesn’t do a whole lot to dispel that notion, what with the information on the back that he was not signed to his first contract to play professional baseball until the uncommonly ripe age of twenty-five. By the time he arrived on this 1977 card, he was thirty-seven and had played for the Pirates, the Phillies, the Tigers, and, for the previous two seasons, the Expos, and before anyone but Topps employees had a chance to consider this offering from the 1977 series, Fryman would be moved once again, to Cincinnati, who would in turn, before 1977 was done, ship him to the Chicago Cubs. By the following season, 1978, Woodie Fryman had become so transient and anonymous in the baseball world—the opposite of his life away from baseball, where the lifelong farmer stayed rooted to the land in Ewing, Kentucky, where he was born—that he was bestowed the ultimate honor for anonymous transients: he was traded for no one in particular, i.e., a player to be named later. Then, just as it seemed that Woodie Fryman might never find a place in baseball that he could truly call his own, he switched from his long-time role as a decent, unspectacular starting pitcher with a 117-137 lifetime record to the role of an uncannily effective reliever whose ERA kept growing infinitesimally smaller the older he got. And because this quiet golden moment of Woodie Fryman’s long career came during the historical peak of the Montreal Expos, there would, so it seemed, forever be an association of Woodie Fryman and the Montreal Expos. He had finally found his place in the baseball world. So what happens when that place disappears?

No future can be told for the Montreal Expos because the Montreal Expos don’t have a future. They don’t even have a present. There is only a past. Does any of this past seep into the present? I was thinking about this the other day in connection with Woodie Fryman, who died in Ewing, Kentucky, last month. If the Expos still existed, would they have taken the field in 2011 with a black armband to honor Woodie Fryman? I don’t know how these things work, but my guess is that you’d have to be a former superstar or else a current member of the team at the time of death to be remembered with a black armband, and though Woodie Fryman had some good years with the Expos, it would not be accurate to call him a superstar. From what I can gather, however, he loved his time with the Expos, and he made a connection with the fans there. If the Montreal Expos still existed, they might not wear a black armband to remember Woodie Fryman, but there would certainly be some kind of official remembrance of the man at some point during the season, especially considering the backward-gazing motto of the province that contained the Expos: “Je me souviens.” It’s sad to think that, because the Montreal Expos no longer exist, there will be no team around to remember Woodie Fryman. But what about the team that paved over the Expos and, with it, the Expos’ past? The Expos have no future, but what can be said about the future of the Washington Nationals? By virtue of this Woodie Fryman card, in which the pitcher holds only the ghost of a baseball in the glove above his head, I see for the Washington Nationals a 2011 season that will soon enough be lost to the ages, a fading echo, a ghost.

***

How to enjoy the 2011 baseball season, part 4 of 30: read Bruce Markusen’s informative backward glances, as in this recent recollection of Woodie Fryman

***

2011 previews so far:
St. Louis Cardinals; New York Mets; Philadelphia Phillies

h1

Jose Canseco

January 4, 2011

Here is a slugger miraculously, awe-inspiringly oblivious. He is at the end of the road, clad in the uniform of a team he just joined and will within a matter of days be released from. His surroundings seem barren, bush league, speaking of the silences we all try to avoid and obscure. The tale in numbers on the back of the card is one of encroaching decay, early years of sturdy cohesion giving way to the spindly, fractured records of a faltering itinerant. The slugger is beyond even the faintest awareness of his apparent demise. Give him a bat and a uniform to leave jauntily untucked and some object to prop one foot up on and he will strike a biceps-displaying pose and project an aura of complete calm certainty. Jose Canseco, at the time of this photo, is finished. There would not be another card in his likeness, or another major league game in his future, and all the numbers on the back of his card, which by the time of the card had already begun to seem pretty iffy, would soon enough in the minds of many be rendered as insubstantial as the promised riches in a collapsed Ponzi scheme. Even the team whose uniform he is modeling for likely the one and only time would soon be erased from the face of the earth. Jose Canseco is finished. The Expos are finished. Everything is finished. But Jose Canseco remains utterly free of doubt.

I can’t say the same. I always get the new year off to an enervating start by trying and failing to bring time itself to a halt, and my inevitable failure to do so always delivers me back to real life in a particularly agitated, fearful state. I attempted the impossible task of stopping time this past weekend, as I usually do when one year collapses into another, by moving as little as humanly possible and eating mounds of salted fatty starch and watching various television marathons depicting the end of the world. As I went back and forth between Twilight Zone episodes, a plodding 1994 miniseries version of The Stand, and, most terrifyingly, a Jersey Shore marathon to which my previously uninitiated eyes were drawn as if to a flaming multicar wreck on the highway, everything eventually blurred into one seemingly endless meandering narrative shifting back and forth from black-and-white to color and from lonely cold war paranoia to leaden post-pandemic Christian fable to a particularly hideous nightmare vision of the End Times in which leather-faced 20-year-olds with the rigid cartoon-hideous builds of plastic 1980s action figures are incarcerated in a brutish Sisyphean loop of teeth-baring, preening, slap fights, and grunting zoological copulation. The latter dystopia, identified periodically as “Season Two,” seemed to be situated in Miami, Florida, which as it happens is the place listed on the back of this Jose Canseco card as “Home.” Canseco’s self-satisfied smirk, his tan, his necklace, and his unnaturally bulging musculature all mark him as a prototypical member of the race of orange dim-eyed humanoids doomed to survive into the senseless mutant aftermath beyond the apocalypse.

Anyway, the reentry into everyday life after my year-opening orgy of ominous television marathons is always difficult, but this year seems particularly tough. The defining thread of this year’s narrative of global collapse was, after all, a “reality” show, set not in the future but in the present, suggesting that we may already be living through the apocalypse. Put another way, this does indeed seem to be Jose Canseco’s world.

The card at hand suggests as much, and it also implies that the best way to endure the insistent idea that everything is finished is to ignore it completely, as Jose Canseco did the day he was asked to pose in the uniform of the Montreal Expos. Jose Canseco continues to smirk in the face of doom to this day, this new year, nine years after he took his last muscular cuts. He has not appeared in a major league game since the photo for this card was snapped, and for most of that time it seemed certain that this would be his last baseball card. But lately the 46-year-old has been campaigning to get a spring training tryout from any team that will have him. The slugger ensures all prospective employers that he can still, as he last did twenty years ago, “lead the league in home runs.”

May we all imagine such preposterous glory forever.

h1

Don DeMola

August 3, 2010

In 1970, at the age of seventeen, Don DeMola won the Carl Yastrzemski award, given to the best high school baseball player in Suffolk County, Long Island. The Yankees drafted him and shipped him to their Rookie League farm club in Johnson City, Tennessee, the first of three minor league stops in two years before the Yankees released him in April of 1972. This 1975 card doesn’t offer any reasons for this decision, which is illustrated by the use in the 1972 line in DeMola’s career major and minor league record by the always mysterious stat-less listing: Not In Organized Ball. 

It took exactly nine months beyond the reach of numbers, like some kind of second embryonic passage, before Don was signed in January 1973 by the Montreal Expos. Back among the organized, Don sped up through the Expos system and within a couple years reached the big leagues and made it onto a baseball card, this 1975 offering, his first and second-to-last cardboard incarnation, which references Don’s rare skill: “Don’s best pitch is a fastball which ‘smokes.’” His minor and major league strikeout totals, which in most years hovered near the elite one-strikeout-per-inning mark, also attest to the wonders inside the seemingly normal arm he holds out toward the viewer on the front of the card. His small smile and the reaching arm ending in a loose fist make Don DeMola seem like a friendly, generous guy, someone who wants to share a handful of M&Ms with you.

Others among the upper echelon of smoke-throwers do not generally give off such an approachable aura, but Don DeMola seemed like somebody who wouldn’t mind if you just called him up one day to chat. This approachability, if it ever was fiction and not fact, has become a reality in the present, at least in terms of Don DeMola’s online presence. On Don DeMola’s website, you can contact Don, who proudly identifies himself as a Montreal Expos pitcher, to receive baseball skills instruction. Also, if you live in Suffolk County, you can have Don come over to your house to install an entertainment system. And that’s not all. When arm trouble curtailed Don’s career as a flamethrowing major leaguer, Don went into the fur business, and this facet of his life is also represented on his website in the form of an offer by Don to get you up to speed on the most effective strategies in the fur-buying and fur-care game. Finally, Don offers tips on how to get rich and live your dream life. “I’d like to share a few secrets with you,” Don says. “Simple truths that have helped many people create a life of wealth, freedom and abundance.”

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 124 other followers