The Nervous Light of SundayApril 5, 2009
First of all, I wanted to welcome anyone coming to this site for the first time after reading the story about it in today’s New York Times. If you saw the paper version of the story, you already got a look at the happy dufus pictured below, so apologies for the redundancy. I hope you stay a while and have a look through my shoebox (you can access posts on all the players featured so far by clicking on their names in the “categories” section of the sidebar to the right). If any of my old cards strike a chord, I hope you’ll be moved to comment on the post about that card. On most blogs, where there’s a premium on the immediacy of the present moment, on what’s happening right now, conversations have short expiration dates. But since the focus here is mainly on the past, all these cardboard celebrations are by virtue of their unfresh ingredients like internet versions of that unappealing apex, or nadir, of indestructible American production, the Twinkie. Which is just to say, if you feel like sharing your thoughts on, say, other bespectacled baseball players besides the one pictured here, such as Kent Tekulve or Brian Downing or Jamie Easterly, then this is the place and now (or later, or whenever) is the time.
As for this picture, my guess is that it was taken at a game on a Saturday during my last little league season in 1980.
For a couple months in the spring, every Saturday was filled—filled in a way that no day ever could be again—with a baseball game. This picture captures the happiness of those Saturdays. A chance to take my cuts! To connect! (You’ll have to take my word on it when I tell you that I was actually a decent player in little league. I realize that this is hard to believe, given that I was obviously a member in terms of disposition and appearance of the subspecies of bespectacled little leaguers who took the immortal Alfred Lutter‘s athletically inept team statistician Ogilvie from The Bad News Bears as their prototype. My friend Charles just called me and interpreted the photo along those lines, seeing it as capturing the moment when the nerdy benchwarmer with the too-large helmet was dispatched from his stats-keeping spot in a sunless corner of the dugout to make sure all the bats were ready for the “real players.”)
Sundays were a lot quieter. There were long blank passages of time to cross on Sundays. To combat that, there was the fat New York Times my parents got every Sunday. I read the sports page from cover to cover, paying especially studious, Ogilvie-esque attention to the batting average lists. It was a shelter against the rest of that long aimless day, a shelter against a diffuse feeling that was something like a polar opposite of the feeling of being on deck in uniform on Saturday. On Saturday there was literally an order, a batting order, and my name was in it, and when it was getting close to my turn I moved out to the on-deck circle to get ready. On Sunday there was no order, just that island of the sports section. In the years to come, the “nervous light of Sunday” (to use a term coined by one of my literary heroes, Frederick Exley) would spread beyond the borders of its day to all days. Meanwhile the feeling of being a distinct name in a knowable order diminished.
The boy in this picture had begun to see this diminishment. This was, after all, one of the last little league games he’d ever play. What happens when this Saturday version of the boy disappears? I don’t know, but as I continue to try to keep that Saturday version of that boy alive, it’s a nice feeling to see that his name shows up at least this once on a Sunday.