Frank Castillo

March 21, 2011

According to the Gods: a 2011 Team-By-Team Preview

Chicago Cubs

I’ve lived in Chicago for seven years now, and it feels like nothing, like I just got here. Conversely, the roughly equvalent span of seven years of my childhood during which my baseball cards came to me seems immense and inexhaustible. The writing at this site is, among other things, my surrender to the idea that it will take the rest of my life to approach saying everything I want to say about those years. Maybe I live an intentionally narrow life in the present to leave myself time and energy to explore the past. Likewise, I don’t collect cards anymore. I don’t have room for them, physically or emotionally. But I can make room for the occasional stray, like this Frank Castillo card that I found a few months ago on Western Avenue, my fourth and probably last Western Avenue baseball card find. I’ve been looking since then and haven’t found any others, on Western Avenue or elsewhere, and I just moved to another neighborhood that’s not very close to Western Avenue. My new neighborhood is on the Red Line, however, so I’ll be a short shot away from Wrigley. I’ll be seeing the 2011 Cubs in person at least a little, so I’ll get to see if this pummeled Frank Castillo card will turn out to bear any resemblance to the Cubs’ fortunes in their 103rd straight season of wanting.

Everybody knows what wanting is. It’s very close to the feeling of being alive, or else it’s so often present that you come to believe it’s the feeling of being alive. I go through most days wanting and not even knowing what it is I want, and this feeling only rarely goes away. It doesn’t go away with the seemingly logical counterpart to wanting: getting. But sometimes it dissipates if I can surrender to a kind of purposelessness, a way of wandering open-hearted through the world. Going for a walk can bring this to me, especially in a city, where the world seems to show its randomness more readily. Yesterday on a walk I stopped wanting when I spotted a cheap, dark masquerade-ball type mask lying on the sidewalk. A couple days ago I stopped wanting when a disheveled young man who looked he had a lot on his mind walked by me on Chicago Avenue, dragging a golf club behind him like a stiffened, dogless leash.

One of my favorite memories so far of my seven years in Chicago is from when I was sitting in the bleachers for a Cubs game, which is somewhat like surrendering up your individual body in exchange for a much drunker, louder collective with thousands of limbs. A guy sitting in front of me who had been keeping score as he pounded beer after beer rose for a mid-inning bathroom break, inevitably, and without thinking shoved his scorecard into my hands. “You know how to do this, right?” he muttered, and for the next inning and a half I kept track of the game for him until he staggered back to his seat with two more overflowing beers for himself. I don’t remember whether the Cubs won or lost that day. Somewhere maybe there’s a scorecard with my notes mixing together with someone else’s notes, though my guess is that the drunk guy likely was unable to hold onto the scorecard for very long beyond the end of the game. Maybe sometime after it slipped out of his benumbed fingers someone noticed it lying on the street and noticed a different style of handwriting for a couple frames. Maybe not. All this is to say the 2011 Cubs will provide moments of purposelessness and wanting and will be discarded, only to be happened on later by accident, maybe, an artifact of a presiding random indifference, capable of nothing or wonder.


How to enjoy the 2011 baseball season, part 17 of 30: Check out the Scott Simkus’ Outsider Baseball Bulletin for fascinating explorations of the lesser-traveled paths of baseball history. (Additionally, with the recent repurposing of his blog to be one that follows the current trials and tribulations of the Cubs, Simkus has conceded, reluctantly, that baseball also exists in the present.)


2011 previews so far: St. Louis Cardinals; New York Mets; Philadelphia Phillies; Washington Nationals; Pittsburgh Pirates; Arizona Diamondbacks; Colorado Rockies; New York Yankees; Cleveland Indians; Detroit Tigers; Milwaukee Brewers; Minnesota Twins; Atlanta Braves; Cincinnati Reds; Oakland A’s; Seattle Mariners


  1. Hey Josh I great site. I picked up your book in the breakroom of the bookstore I work at about 3 weeks ago (it was an advance reader copy). I finished the book in about 2 days, it was outstanding. Being a baseball card collector during arguably one of the worst eras in the game’s history (I began collecting during the summer of the strike in 94) it was cool to read about the game during one of the best era’s, especially through the eyes of a kid. Anyway, outstanding book, I’ve been recommending it to any customer who asks me what to get. And thanks for having this site, after I finished the book I was worried I wouldn’t get to see anymore of your cool writing about old baseball cards, and life in general.

  2. It’s strange to see Frank Castillo young. I only remember the old, grizzled and occasionally effective Frank Castillo for the Blue Jays and Red Sox in the early 2000s.

  3. Will the Cubbies finally win it all in 2011? Not bloody likely.

  4. I keep score, but have never been drunk at a ballpark. Something about paying $10 per beer keeps it away from me.

    A propos of nothing, I bought three packs of baseball cards yesterday. I don’t think I had bought a pack of baseball cards since 1982 or so. I gave one to my son, one to my daughter, and opened one myself. These were my childrens’ first packs of cards.

    The cards are very, very different now. All glossy and not feeling much like cardboard. Plus, they were outrageously expensive considering that inflation would have predicted that the 10 or 15 card packs in the 70’s would cost only 38 cents now. But… there was a lot of joy in me seeing players I knew and humbling frustration at the nobodies I got in my pack.

  5. What you say here is the way I feel much of the time. Having the words to read gives me the chance to realize this, and know that someone else feels similarly. I don’t know why this is good, but it is.

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