The [Paul] Mitchell Report

December 14, 2007


Summary of the [Paul] Mitchell Report:

Point 1: Nothing is occurring. A slouching man offers his right arm to the viewer, the arm limp and possibly burdensome, as if it has fallen asleep. Two other men loiter in the background. Visible also are seats, all of them empty. Presumably all the seats in the stadium are empty. No one bears witness. No one cares. Perhaps beyond the frame of the photo there are other men standing around.

Point 2: I never had homework as a kid, at least none that I can remember. After going to a regular class for first grade I became a charter member of a rural hippie-founded elementary school classroom where there were no grades (as in grades awarded) and no grades (as in first grade, second grade, etc.), and the general idea was that we would flourish by growing wild, in whichever direction we wanted to grow. Anyway unlike children today I never had to lug a giant backpack back and forth to school and I had a lot of free time to disappear into the strange flat dioramas of cards such as this one featuring Paul Mitchell. I wonder how all those hours spent staring at these miniature rectangles of stopped time affected my development.

Point 3: It has become unusual for nothing to be occurring. They don’t make cards like this anymore. Now every photo is of a moment of drama, an action shot. Action shots leap from the frame, adding noise to the wider noise beyond their borders. Still-life dioramas quietly invite viewers with time on their hands to enter. I imagine standing around on the green grass shown here. I imagine a strange peace. I pose. I linger.

Point 4: I guess I started getting homework in junior high, but I don’t remember ever doing any. Eventually my mom was called into school and all my seventh grade teachers sat in a circle of desks around her and took turns expressing their disappointment in me. My mom kept this to herself for years, and somehow I continued to skate by scholastically, gathering Cs and a couple Bs here and there, not running into the wall of an F until my sophomore year in high school, when I neglected to complete, or even start, a big idiotic project involving planning an imaginary trip to a far-off city. For some reason the F didn’t prevent me from gaining admittance for the following year to Northfield Mount Hermon, the boarding school where my brother had just graduated. Maybe they overlooked my lackluster grades and my mumbling, unimpressive interview, happy to get the tuition money, for which my mom had to take a loan that took many years to pay off.

Point 5: We linger here where something has departed, all of us posing our empty poses. We exist in an aftermath, depleted. The championship years, which we were too late for, are over. We were throw-ins in a deal sealing the end of those years. The Superduperstar has departed. We have arrived.

Point 6: At boarding school I started getting tons of homework. I did some of it, I guess, but if there was a big project assigned to me I let it slide and let it slide until the day before it was due, usually around the middle of the term or the end of the term, at which point I’d swallow some Vivarin pills (or, on one regrettable occasion, chop up and snort some Vivarin pills) with other slackers in my dorm and stay up all night, mostly fucking around, and by dawn’s sickly light have some feeble facsimile of a report done. It’s fitting that the action that got me kicked out of that place—smoking pot—came during official Study Hours. If there was work to be done, I avoided it (occasionally with the aid of drugs) until it was this huge anxious specter looming over me, at which point I flailed blindly at it (occasionally with the aid of drugs).

Point 7: We will move on elsewhere soon. We will experience expansion. We will lose and lose.

Point 8: I took some time off from school after getting kicked out near the end of my senior year. During that time I tried acid for the first time. When the trip started kicking in my friends and I were near a playground. We got on some swings. While we were on those swings childhood returned, and not just the memory of childhood but the full feel of it. I was ecstatic, changed. When I resumed my schooling a few weeks later, enrolling in a small state school in northern Vermont, the embers of that feeling were still glowing. For the first time in a long time, I wanted to learn. I also wanted to continue doing drugs, and I did, mostly hallucinogens of the mild and not so mild variety, plus occasional gigantic helpings of beer from kegs. I remember one evening, running with a friend through a hard-dirt parking lot, both of us already high and holding our empty personal keg-mugs. Someone asked us where we were going. “We’ve got a buzz to catch,” my friend said. Laughing, I felt like my running feet weren’t even touching the ground.       

Point 9: Soon enough our release will be tendered. Given a moment like this, free of meaning, we linger as long as we can.


  1. 1.  Awesome.

    (But you have two Point 5s.)

  2. 2.  Regarding Pt. 3 –
    If I recall, the psychedelic 1972 Topps set contained a whole series of “In Action” cards, featuring spellbinding and mesmerizing shots of a few stars from each team “In Action.”

    You know… Teddy Martinez smearing pine tar on his bat handle in the on-deck circle…Dave Kingman striking out…Tim Foli polishing his glasses…

    …Scipio Spinks… IN ACTION! Enzo Hernandez…IN ACTION! Horace Clarke…IN ACTION!!!

  3. 3.  1 Gah! Thanks for the heads-up. I fixed it.

    2 : Tha Baseball Card Blog recaps the In Action series:

  4. 4.  Thanks also to Ramblin’ Pete for providing the Human Victory Cigar for the “Who Would You Start Your All-Time Basketball Team With?” discussion (see Magic Johnson comments)…

  5. 5.  My friend Joey Garcia was always more interested in what was going on in the background of baseball card pictures. He gave me a Wade Boggs rookie for some guy’s card that featured Bob Dernier in the background. I like to think that the two guys behind Paul Mitchell were screaming at each other. Joey would have wanted this card.

  6. 6.  Revive…with Vivarin!

    I was a No-Doz man myself. I took a handful of No-Doz as a college freshman and had so much energy I stayed up all night and then woke up my buddies the next morning at 5:45AM to see if they wanted to go shoot baskets when the gym opened at 6.

    Don’t do (too many) drugs kids and, yes, caffeine is a drug.

  7. 7.  I couldn’t help it.

    “That to which the relation to the world refers are beings themselves – and nothing besides.
    That from which every attitude takes its guidance are beings themselves – and nothing further.
    That with which the scientific confrontation in the irruption occurs are beings themselves – and beyond that nothing.

    But what is remarkable is that, precisely in the way scientific man secures to himself what is most properly his, he speaks of something different. What should be examined are beings only, and besides that – nothing; beings alone, and further – nothing; solely beings, and beyond that – nothing.”

    –Martin Heidegger, “What is Metaphysics?”

    It is shocking how much we depend on nothing and yet we never seem to give it much thought, or as you say, let it occur. Brilliant.

    (and the reason for the extended quote is because my term paper that I am now pouring over and tearing apart to use as my writing sample in my apps to grad school deals extensively with Heidegger and the Nothing. crazy)

  8. 8.  Looks like Heidegger used drugs to write his papers too.

  9. 9.  7 : Thanks for checking in, paulz. I always appreciate the Heidegger angle.

    I just read a pretty good novel (called Indecision) about a directionless 28-year-old guy leaning pretty heavily on Heidegger (the author uses a fictional philosopher but acknowledges that the quotes from this fictional fellow actually came from Heidegger).

  10. 10.  I recall that trade that sent Reggie Jackson from Oakland to Baltimore for Don Baylor and Paul Mitchell. I also remember that the previous season Mitchell won 20 games in the minors. How often does that happen these days?

  11. 11.  Josh,
    After my post, I did some more research and it appears I am wrong about Mitchell winning 20 games in the minors. I don’t know where the hell I got that from. Can you flip that card over and confirm how many games he won in 1975.


  12. 12.  11 : I’ll check as soon as I get home. I spent some time looking at the back of his card last week, and I don’t remember any big win numbers jumping out at me, but I think there were some good minor league ERA numbers, and I definitely recall that he was drafted in the first round by the Orioles, who presumably knew how to spot pitching talent at that time.

    I bet winning 20 games in the minors is pretty rare these days, if not extinct, and I bet it was rare in Mitchell’s day, too…

    OK, I just poked around in the minor leagues section of baseball reference.com and it seems that in 1992 a 23-year-old guy named John Fritz, in his first season of pro ball, became the last man to win 20 games in the minor leagues, going 20-4 for the Quad City River Bandits. Fritz never quite made it to the majors. Here’s his minor league stats:


  13. 13.  Furthering the conversation about Paul Mitchell’s merits at the time of the trade, I can recall reading a Sporting News article indicating Oakland’s belief that he would be the key to the trade when the smoke cleared. Hindsight is 20/20.

    Also, Don Baylor reportedly cried when he heard that he’d been traded away from Baltimore. Considering his status as a rented bat in the twilight of his career, I hope he eventually got used to changing teams.

  14. 14.  13 : Here’s the trade in question:

    April 2, 1976: [Paul Mitchell] Traded by the Baltimore Orioles with Don Baylor and Mike Torrez to the Oakland Athletics for Reggie Jackson, Ken Holtzman, and Bill VanBommell (minors).

    Hard to say who “won” the trade, since none of the players involved lasted much more than a season with their new teams. In a way, a team not even involved in the trade, the Yankees, ended up reaping the benefits, as 3 of the 5 major leaguers in the trade helped the Yankees win a World Series title in ’77, and a fourth, Baylor, played pretty well for the Yankees in the mid-’80s. Mitchell was the only major leaguer in the trade to never don the pinstripes.

  15. 15.  11 : Joe: Mitchell went 10 and 1 in the minors (Rochester) in ’75 (2.07 ERA). He went 3 and 0 with the O’s that year. The previous season he posted a 14-6 record at Rochester (2.89 ERA). It’s easy to imagine him being a thought of as a key in the Reggie deal.

    (Also on the back of the card, accompanying a general trivia note about the Mets being the last team to tour Japan, is a caricature of an “Oriental” in a baseball uniform: buck teeth, round spectacles, slits for eyes.)

  16. 16.  I just love reading your stuff. It always makes me think and remember my own childhood.

    First, though, talking about minor league pitchers that won 20 games, that triggered Mark Bomback. I remember his card with the Mets and I always was amazed that he won 22 in the minors the year before(1979), thank you Baseball Cube. I kept waiting for him to become a star for the next several years and couldn’t figure out why he hadn’t yet. Now I kind of know in my head a number like 22 wins has to be explained but then I was 11 and 22 wins was just magic.

    On your going to a hippie school, I had one year of this. Let me first explain that I grew up on a farm near small town NE. Where I was we still had the 1 room country school houses, where basically all of the farm kids for about 5 mile radius would go to this school. It was right before my 2nd grade year(1976) the school board hired a new teacher straight out of Univ of NE Lincoln, Mr Eisenach or something like that. That was my year of no grades, many field trips and lots of art and recess. The field trips were mostly 20 kids walking through the ditches by the gravel roads just looking at what was there. I really loved school that year, not sure I learned anything but I do have some scattered memories of the year. Mr. Eisenach was fired right after the school year–small town/farm NE is very conservative and he didn’t go over well at all. He joined the Peace Corps for a few years and then when he returned to NE he eventually became a house man/mentor(or whatever the title is/was)at Boys Town in Omaha. That was probably 15 years ago or so, not sure where he would be at today, but is probably the closest thing to a hippie I knew growing up and the rest of his life kind of followed that as well. Good memories, thanks for your writing, it brings those back to me.

  17. 17.  16 : Thanks a lot for that story, Daryl.

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