Wayne Cage

July 29, 2010

I’ll resume regularly writing about my childhood baseball cards next week, but until then a couple quickies:

1. The infielder crouch. By 1980, the year of this Wayne Cage card, the stiff poses that had dominated the earlier years of my childhood were beginning to dwindle. By then this was a rare sight, a guy in the ol’ infielder crouch. I channeled Wayne Cage and others, most specifically master of the genre Denny Doyle, during a photo shoot last week for the Chicago Tribune. The photographer came over to my apartment and we went out behind my apartment building where he took several shots of me. This put my knowledge of baseball card poses to the test. (The shoot also put my creaky 42-year-old body to the test: while doing the ol’ “pitcher follow-through” pose I almost fell over and while jerkily trying to stop the fall I pulled a muscle in my shoulder.)  The crouching infielder was the one the Chicago Tribune went with in the story they did on me in today’s paper. You can access an online version of the story (and also get a “behind the story” wrapup from the folks at the Tribune), but the version in the printed paper looks better, as in the print version they were able to do a bunch of formatting to make the story really look like the front and back of a card.

2. An event! Next week on August 4, I’ll be part of the Reading Under the Influence series at Sheffield’s in Chicago. The details:

Reading Under the Influence
Theme: The Gods
3258 N. Sheffield Ave., Chicago, IL
Reading and trivia contest (also reading: Marc Paoletti, Simon Smith, and Alex Bonner)
$3 cover charge

3. Luke Cage, Power Man. Wayne Cage, whose brief time in the majors concluded with this 1980 card, his last, stood out to me among the scores of more nondescript short-timers primarily because of the possibility that he was related to Luke Cage, Power Man. Luke Cage, Power Man looked cool with his giant metal Afro-creasing headband and metal wristbands and battle-tattered yellow shirt. God, I wish I could spend the rest of the day today lying around reading old Luke Cage, Power Man comic books from the 1970s, but I no longer have comic books or anything except my baseball cards from those days, so Wayne Cage will have to suffice, and only for a few more minutes because I have to go to work. Such is life.

Still, can I just linger for a second longer on Luke Cage, Power Man, god damn it? Why, I wonder, did I like him so much? Not too many others seemed to, judging from his spotty series history and the inability, suggested by his eventual prolonged pairing with fellow B-lister Iron Fist, to carry his own title. I guess with superheroes I was drawn to characters who had complex and difficult daily lives and comparatively simple superpowers who fought battles that did not veer too far from the recognizable troubles of the “regular” world. I loved the ever-angsty Spider Man, for example. As for the Fantastic Four, whose powers, besides those of the negligibly important, aptly named Invisible Woman, were also pretty basic and elemental: I liked them so long as their ongoing family soap opera didn’t veer too deeply and confusingly into the far reaches of, say, the Negative Zone. But nobody was simpler in their powers or more tangled in the brambles of the everyday world than Luke Cage, Power Man. Luke Cage, Power Man couldn’t fly or shoot rays out of his fingertips or read people’s thoughts or cast spells. Luke Cage, Power Man even had trouble paying rent. But there was this, and I loved it: Luke Cage, Power Man could punch shit real good.

And then again, my love for Luke Cage, Power Man may have derived in part from his status as the only superhero saddled with a comma in the middle of his name, and I was thus drawn to him both because of the inherent pity-invoking belittlement in that mealy-mouthed element of his sobriquet and because I knew, deep down, that I’d grow up to be someone paid to notice commas, a quiet, cubicle-bound proofreader, surely the polar opposite of a wall-smashing street-smart brute with a steel Afro-creasing headband.


  1. That first link to Luke Cage, Power Man presented a striking resemblance to another Chicago “Power Man” (at least to me it did) – Sweetness himself, Walter Payton – http://tiny.cc/6k45p.

    I also wanted to make some statement regarding your mild-mannered, quiet, cubicle-bound, self and the obvious parallels with Peter Parker or Clark Kent, but I will have to leave that up to someone with much more adroit writing skills than myself.

  2. I am testing my memory on this one, but I believe I read in Sparky Lyle’s book The Bronx Zoo that Graig Nettles once pointed to Wayne Cage and told Lyle “I never saw a player with his address on his uniform”.

  3. I also came across that anecdote about Nettles when casting around the web for traces of Wayne Cage. The witticisms of Nettles come up a lot in such searches. He seems to have been pretty quick with the wisecrackery.

  4. Yeah, Nettles was always quick with acerbic one-liners. The Georgie Jessel joke may be my favorite.

    As soon as I saw you’d posted Wayne Cage, I thought “Luke Cage – Power Man!” What was Iron Fist’s deal? He was some white guy who was good at kung fu, right? Did Power Man & Iron Fist even have cool villains or did they just beat up ghetto gangsters? It’s all a bit hazy. Do you remember all the MEGO action figures of comic book heroes and villains? Captain American & Falcon were always favorites.

  5. Ah, yes, “Falcon.” He’d have to be the honorary superhero of the Oates/Garfunkel/Messina world tour.

  6. Though long neglected, Luke Cage has had a bit of a revival in recent years, and is now one of the key characters in the Avengers (the Superfriends of the Marvel Universe, for those of you not comic book nerds.) Unfortunately, he no longer wears the afro and yellow shirt.

    Also, you aren’t the only Power Man fan out there. The actor Nicholas Coppola chose “Cage” as his stage name because of his love of the character. (Of course, he also named his child Kal-el. Some people do take their pop culture obsessions a bit far, don’t they?)

  7. I’m glad to see you are back and writing some more Josh. We all enjoy it. Ever since I read your book a month or so ago, I have been back into enjoying my cards and collecting. I’m not sure my wife appreciates it nearly as much as I do. 🙂

  8. ralphdibny: Yeah, I guess I’m not the only Luke Cage fan. Apparently there’s a Luke Cage Power Man movie in the works, to be directed by John Singleton.

    philo65: Thanks for the encouragement!

  9. I’ll see your Luke Cage/Iron Fist and raise you Shang Chi: Master of Kung Fu. I was always (and still am) a DC guy first, but Marvel DEFINITELY had the ’70’s Kung Fu fad cornered.

    RE: “The Infielder’s Crouch”…we’re only taking about posed shots, right? Because my favorite college football player (Rick Leach, University of Michigan Class of ’79) had a 10-year MLB career as a journeyman utility player…and his Fleer rookie card (#272) from 1982 and his last card as a Tiger from 1984 (Topps #427) both show good examples in profile (he was a First Baseman, after all). Actually, I’m just looking for any excuse to add Rick Leach to the discussion…GO, BLUE.

  10. So odd.

    I just finished reading your book last night and it reminded me of my comic-book hobby from the 1970’s. And Luke Cage Comma Power Man was one of my favorite superheroes too. So I spent a bunch of time looking at the covers to his books over at Cover Browser (http://www.coverbrowser.com/).

    Then I come here today and see this. Chills.

  11. beearl: That’s a great coincidence–thanks for letting me know. I think I might have mentioned Luke Cage in the book, in the JR Richard chapter. My thoughts never stray too far from comic books, Mad Magazine, and, of course, baseball cards.

  12. @Josh – Yeah, you did mention Luke Cage in the book, but…ahem…as Luke Cage: Power Man. Colon instead of Comma. Works either way. 😉

  13. I’m only now catching up. Josh, shouldn’t there be a comma between “wall-smashing” and “street-smart?”

    Just kidding…great as always.

  14. tzig9: I think I picked up the habit of piling adjectives one on top of the other without commas from Ginsberg and Kerouac.

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