“I didn’t know what the heck I was doing [in Vietnam], but I was there. I learned that life, it’s beautiful to be alive. I saw a lot of people dead there. When I got out of there, I was happy I was out, happy I was alive.” -Ed Figueroa
That quote, from a 2008 Daily News article by Anthony McCarron, fleshes out the stat line for 1969 on the back of this card. (The card merely states “IN MILITARY SERVICE” for that year.) Figueroa had already spent three years in the minors before that year, and when he got home from serving with the Marines in Vietnam, he spent several more years in the minors. In all, it took him eight years, with nine minor league teams, to reach the majors, and he didn’t spend an entire season in the majors until 1976, a full decade after signing his first professional contract. I’ve written some before about Figueroa’s short, quiet span of excellence with the dynastic Yankees, so all I’ll add here is the added appreciation for him (grudging, of course, since he is a Yankee) that I got this morning upon looking at the long, winding road on the back of this card. (The back of the card also features a retroactively ironic trivia cartoon relating that “Fergie Jenkins was 1st Canadian pitcher to win 20 games in a season”; the year after this card came out, Figueroa became the first, and still only, Puerto Rican pitcher to win 20 games.)
As for the front of the card: For some reason he looks to me like he’s about to break into a stiff sales pitch for one of those ads you might see just after returning home from a night at the bar and just before falling into boozy unconsciousness. I don’t know if he ever got any endorsement deals, but if he did, considering his low profile on a team of loud, colorful characters, don’t you think that they’d have to have been the kind that aired late at night? “Oh . . . hello. I did not see you come in. Hey, now that you are here, let me tell you about this really groovy new mustache-sculpting tool that has changed my whole outlook on life.”
Well, maybe I’m prone to imagining versions of Ed Figueroa because he made some headlines yesterday in the imaginary world over at Play That Funky Baseball, the site currently replaying the 1977 season in serial novel form. The biggest story of the resurrected season so far has been Rod Carew’s 46-game hitting streak, which came to an end yesterday at the hands of Figueroa and the Yankees.
And speaking of baseball replay, I have an article up on the Huffington Post that bloviates with varying degrees of coherence about the current Joyce-inspired clamor for the expansion of the use of instant replay for umpiring decisions.
Finally, just a reminder that I’ll be sitting behind a table, or perhaps standing periodically, at a bookstore in Chicago tomorrow. Here are the details:
SATURDAY, JUNE 5TH, 3 PM CENTRAL
Barbara’s Bookstore @ Macy’s, 111 North State Street, Lower Level, Chicago, IL
Author appearance and book signing.
Free and open to the public.
For more info call: 312.781.3033
Please see my “book tour events” page for more details about other upcoming events, including a June 10 appearance in South Pasadena, a June 12 appearance in San Diego, and a June 13 appearance at the Printer’s Row festival in Chicago.