Carl Yastrzemski, 1978

October 29, 2007


The Yazmobile

Chapter 3

 (continued from Carl Yastrzemski, 1977)

A couple years after the dud peyote in Truckee I moved in with my brother, who was living in a tiny railroad apartment on 2nd Avenue and 9th Street in Manhattan. I’d just finished my aimless post-college trip around Europe and I needed money. I got a job as a UPS driver’s helper for the holidays, then when the holidays ended I switched to loading trucks at the UPS warehouse on 10th Avenue and 42nd Street. My shift started in the middle of the night, but for some reason instead of taking the 3rd Avenue bus uptown from 9th Street and then transferring to the crosstown 42nd Street bus I walked the whole way. I set out at around 2 in the morning. Nothing ever happened to me on all but one of the nights, even though for most of the way I walked out of earshot and sight of any witnesses. But one night I got hit by a car. The driver had been blazing up 3rd avenue and made a left-hand turn onto the west-bound street I was crossing. He hit the brakes, but I still got scooped up onto the hood and then tossed back down onto the street. The guy got out, his eyes wide. I struggled quickly to my feet. The two of us stood there, staring at each other.

“I’m OK,” I said. I said it a few times, trying to convince the both of us. “I’m OK. I’m OK.”

I banged up my knee pretty bad and ripped my jeans and the elbow of my shirt, but nothing was broken. I walked the rest of the way to work and punched in and worked my shift, my knee hurting more and more as the shift went on.

My job was to grab packages coming down a long groaning conveyer belt and sort them into one of four trucks parked behind me. Four other guys also worked the conveyer belt, each with four trucks to load. Five guys facing us worked a second conveyer belt. A cheap boombox played Everybody Dance Now over and over. The guy to my right shadow-boxed during the occasional lulls in packages coming down the line. The guy to my left had an African name and made an anti-Israel comment one night. I was the only white loader, but the supervisor was a harried white guy with a receding hairline and a mustache. He wore a tie and white short-sleeve button-down shirt and was always in a rush.

It was tiring, monotonous work. The boxes turned my hands black and all my clothes gray. During the daily 10-minute break, I sat in one of my trucks and read Dante, hell then purgatory then paradise as the months went by. At quitting time I walked home down the west side and cut across 29th Street past towering early morning prostitutes, spent condoms strewn all over the sidewalk like kelp left behind by the receding tide. Near home I yanked a newspaper out of the trash and read it back at the apartment while eating generic three-for-a-dollar mac and cheese and drinking cans of beer, the blinds shut against the morning light.

One day near the end of my walk home from that job I stopped at a light and looked across 3rd Avenue and saw my brother standing there, staring back at me. He was on his way to work. He had a heavy duffel bag weighing him down. I had my newspaper from the garbage. We both started laughing. Why not? One minute you’re a kid and the next you’re chained all night long to a conveyor belt. And your brother, your hero, is lugging a duffel bag full of undone work to an office job where his biggest thrill in many months has been finding and correcting a misspelling of the proper noun Yastrzemski.

(to be continued)


  1. 1.  The oldest pack of cards I ever bought was a cello pack of 1979 Topps, wrapped in cellophane. This was about four years ago, so it set me back at least $10, probably more. Upon opening it, I knew it was worth every penny: I pulled Yaz and Jim Palmer (I’m an Orioles fan).

    I probably should’ve waited until tomorrow, when you’ll likely post that 1979 Yaz, but what can I say? I’m not a patient person. I did want to remark on the similarity between the 1978 and 1979 Yaz cards, though: In each, he has the same length hair, the same wide, blocky sideburns, the same headshot tilted and staring off through the top and right border of the card. The angle is slightly different, as if the photographer is orbiting Carl as his career soldiers on, entering its twilight.

    I’d like to think that in the early episode of The Simpsons in which Milhouse pines for a $30 card of Carl Yastrzemski with the big sideburns, the card in question is one of these two. Research indicates that it was specified as his 1973 card, but let’s be honest: if you’re looking for Yaz sideburns, the 1978 and 1979 issues are each about 30% sideburns.

  2. 2.  “I probably should’ve waited until tomorrow, when you’ll likely post that 1979 Yaz”

    Good thing you didn’t wait: I don’t have a 1979 Yaz. My whole 11th year on earth came and went with no Yaz card, and then YOU! An Orioles fan! Get a 1979 Yaz on your first try!

    Anyway, I’d forgotten about that Milhouse reference to the Yaz card. Thanks for reminding me, and for filling in the blanks about the ’79 card.

  3. 3.  No problem, Josh. For further reference:


    And sorry to snap up that Yaz card. The gods work in mysterious ways, as I’m assuming Clarks Summit, PA in 2003 would have been the last place you’d have been looking for your 1979 Topps fix.

  4. 4.  I think I had that ’79 Yaz card until my sister threw all my cards away a couple of years ago. She’s dead to me.

    I had the voice of the narrator of The Wonder Years going through my mind reading the last couple of sentences.

  5. 5.  I loaded and unloaded trucks for a while while I was in school. It was the last time I was in shape. Helluva workout. Unfortunately it wasn’t in the city that never sleeps. I was in South Windsor and later Willington, CT.

    I love the red Red Sox hat. Because I started following the team in ’75, I thought that that was the way the hat always was.

  6. 6.  I don’t know why, but to me, the 1979 set wasn’t as aesthetically pleasing as 1978, 1977, or 1976.

    Perhaps it was because the Dodgers had just lost the World Series for the second year in a row to the dreaded Yankees. Or maybe, objectively, the 1979 set was just lame.

  7. 7.  “finding and correcting a misspelling of the proper noun Yastrzemski.”

    I was there. That was a good catch.

  8. 8.  Josh – nice. Some random thoughts:

    1. I bet you have LOTS of 1980 Yaz cards (assuming you bought at least one pack). The 1980 Topps set was numbered to 726, so instead of having 6 sheets of 132 unique cards each, they had 4 sheets with 132 unique cards an a 5th sheet with 66 unique cards and 66 “double prints”. Yaz was a 1980 double-print. I don’t know if he was double printed before, but I have 18 1980 Yaz cards. Topps cured this problem with the 1982 set (792 cards and 6 sheets of 132 unique cards each).

    2. I wonder what he’s thinking in the picture. Is he looking at the flag during the national anthem, or is he shooting beaver ala Jim Bouton? Maybe he’s wondering why Sy Berger at Topps would ever allow his card to be double printed?

    3. I think that around ’79 (some of you Sox fans can certainly correct me if I’m wrong), Yaz started using that “Leaning Tower of Pisa” stance. Even as a Yankees fan, I had to imitate it for awhile in PE Softball games and on the playground in the Summer. Maybe that was the name Joe Garigola gave it.

    4. Finally, late in his career, I was watching the Sox and the A’s on the NBC game of the week. Yaz hit a single and burst around first and stretched it into a double. Even as a lifelong Yankees fan, I had to love Yaz a little bit when I saw that. His bones were battered and bruised from playing 20 years and he probably felt like he’d been hit by a car sometimes, but he still hustled up the line and seized opportunity.

  9. 9.  Your UPS supervisor sounds like he was right out of central casting.

  10. 10.  7 : It was an edit that surely must have felt to my brother like it was . . . [Dr. Zaius voice] his destiny.

    8 : Yaz, unlike the Splendid Splinter, was good (and dilligent) at everything. Unlike Williams he wasn’t the best at anything.

    9 : Yeah, it’s great when you get to cross paths with an honest-to-god archetype. It was, in retrospect, something like what it would have been like to go to San Francisco in the late ’50s and meet a bongo-playing, beret-wearing “beatnik.”

  11. 11.  There’s a good new story by CMcFood in the comments for the Dwight Evans (Red Sox) post. It sent me to baseballreference.com, where I found (yet more) evidence that memory often clings to the essence of a moment while the details slip and morph and change. As Faulkner said, “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.” Yeah, how can the past be dead when we keep creating it?

  12. 12.  10 Josh! I love the Planet of the Apes movies….Any chance that you have some of those cards (even of the TV series) and could post something about Zaius?

  13. 13.  12 : “Any chance that you have some of those cards (even of the TV series)…?”

    God, I wish I did. It hurts that I don’t. I’m pretty sure I used to have some from the TV show (as well as some Star Wars cards, plus, for some reason, some Creature from the Black Lagoon cards) but they have gone the way of all flesh. But maybe I can find a way to work some ruminations on apes and the end of the world and Heston into a profile of some unsuspecting, blameless baseballer.

  14. 14.  Bruce Taylor and Chuck Taylor played in the 70’s…Johnny Ray’s middle name is “Cornelius”. There were lots of Brents (the main character in “Beneath the Planet of the Apes) in the 70’s and 80’s, and one of Jose Mesa’s middle name is “Nova”.

    Unfortunately, there’s no Zaius, Zira, Ursus or Hasslein (the scientist who theorized about the time curve — he later murders Cornelius and Zira in “Escape from the Planet of the Apes”, but fails to kill their son, “Caesar”).

    Tom Candiotti’s middle name is “Caesar”. And if you really want to get obscure you could find one of the names of the mutants from the Internet Movie Data base (e.g., Mendez).

    Of course, if you want the name of the actors and not their character names, then Norm Charlton would be a must.

  15. 15.  Tom “Caesar” Candiotti pitching to Johnny “Cornelius” Ray (I bet we could find that on retrosheet) would be kind of like the Griffeys sharing the same outfield. I wonder if, when they faced off, any announcer thought to mention that.

    “It’s a reunion of sorts as son will pitch to father…”

  16. 16.  Tom Candiotti played with Jamie Easterly for the 1983 Milwaukee Brewers
    Jamie Easterly played with Jim Bouton for the 1978 Atlanta Braves

    Johnny Ray played with Eddie Solomon for the 1981 Pittsburgh Pirates
    Eddie Solomon played with Jim Bouton for the 1978 Atlanta Braves

    Bouton appeared in The Long Goodbye. It shouldn’t be too hard too link Charlton Heston or Roddy McDowell to Bouton. But the Oracle of Bacon isn’t working for me at the moment.

  17. 17.  Success!

    Roddy McDowall was in That Darn Cat! (1965) with Grayson Hall
    Grayson Hall was in Pick-up (1975) with Jim Bouton

  18. 18.  17 Nice connection. I was trying in my head to get from Bouton to Heston through Elliot Gould, but I couldn’t quite get there…

  19. 19.  It’s my goal to find the most linkable person. Early Wynn is the #1 or #2 most linkable baseball player and he played with Dave DeBuscherre one year. DD played in the NBA. I’m not sure yet if any of Wynn’s teammates played in the NFL (Total Baseball has a section on two sport guys)or if he played with anyone in the imdb.

  20. 20.  Chuck Connors had short MLB and NBA careers and a little acting career, including Soylent Green with Heston.

  21. 21.  Heston’s “Omega Man” co-star Anthony Zerbe (who played the leader of the Mutant “Family”) also played in “The Life and Times of Roy Bean”…

    Perhaps Zerbe could reprise his role in “The Life and Times of COLTER Bean”.

    AND “Omega Man” is based on the same book — “I am Legend” — as Will Smith’s new movie by the same name. And this is the same movie they were trumpeting during the World Series this year.

  22. 22.  I’m trying to link Early Wynn to George Blanda. There was a Green Bay safety named Tom Brown who played a year as a 1B-OF for the Senators. Don Rudolph, Cal Neeman, and Minnie Minoso were teammates of Wynn and Brown. Brown had teammates who played with Ben Davidson and he played with Errol Mann. Davidson played with Blanda and Mann played with alot of his teammmates. That’s four degrees. I’m not sure if I can get any closer. There were some two way players in the 40s, but I’m not sure how to connect them to Blanda. Ben Davidson, BTW, appeared in Conan the Barbarian with Schwarzenegger, M*A*S*H with Elliot Gould, and the TV version of “Ball Four” with Jim Bouton. He was also one of the Beach Boys before they hit it big (which connects him to Night Ranger, believe it or not.)

  23. 23.  22 My first thought was to go through Bo Jackson:

    Early Wynn – Luis Aparicio ’58 White Sox
    Luis Aparicio – Carlton Fisk, ’73 Red Sox
    Carlton Fisk – Bo Jackson, ’91 White Sox
    Bo Jackson – Howie Long, ’90 Raiders
    Howie Long – Art Shell, ’81 Raiders
    Art Shell – George Blanda, ’75 Raiders

    But that’s more than four degrees.

    Personally, I have a two-degree separation from Deion Sanders, who links me into the NFL, MLB and IMDB. I was once a co-worker of Doug Brien, who was a teammate of Sanders on the ’94 49ers.

  24. 24.  Early Wynn and Vic Janowicz were both teammates of Ralph Kiner and Preston Ward.

    Janowicz played for the Redskins in 1954 and 1955 and must have had common teammates with Blanda within one or two degrees.

  25. 25.  A tight end named Johnny Carson played with Janowicz with the Redskins and then played with Blanda in Houston in 1960.

  26. 26.  You know, I think the card Milhouse is referring to is the 1967 card. I remember being a kid and looking at the card an noticing the prominent sideburns.

    As a kid, in 1980 or 1981, I remember waiting outside the chain link fence of the player’s parking lot (a ludicrously small lot where they player’s cars were all blocked in, waiting for Yaz to emerge. He was the elder statesman in Boston, and having just become the first AL player to reach 3,000 hits and 400 homers (Al Kaline had 399), which for some reason was a huge deal at the time.
    Anyway, Yaz was godlike, and after waiting seemingly forever, Yaz came out… with an untucked golf shirt, holding a six pack with one beer missing and one in his hand and with a cigarette in his mouth. It was shocking. He didn’t seem like a god at all. I liked the baseball cards better.

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