cardboard gods in sunlight

August 12, 2022

This is me and some baseball cards. It looks like I’m saying “enough already” but with the not unhappy awareness that it will never be enough, that whatever I’m trying without much conviction to hold back in the cards is just going to overpower me.

And it’s true, the cards will outlast me. Even my son was remarking as much the other day.

“Are you going to give me your baseball cards when you die?” he said. He was lying in his loft bed, and I was leaning on the railing of it, about to walk to the door of his bedroom and turn out his light.

“Well, I guess you and your brother can split them,” I said.

“I don’t think he cares about them.”

“He might, who knows.”

“I’ll have them and I don’t know look at them sometimes or I don’t know who knows OK good night.”

“OK then,” I said.

Anyway around the time of that conversation about my death, a day or two on one side or another of it, I actually ventured outside of the house. For over two years I have barely done that at all except to take my dogs around the block to wait for them to shit. My friend Dan Epstein was in town, and he included me in a group invite to a bar with an outdoor patio. I liked that it would be outdoors. Also, I figured if there was ever a gathering where one could bring a sack of old baseball cards (a subset of a larger sack of doubles from my recent windfall), it was that one. Dan, as I hope you know, is, in addition to being a great music writer, the bard of 1970s baseball. I first met him at a bookstore appearance for his definitive work on 1970s baseball, Big Hair and Plastic Grass.

My book, Cardboard Gods, had come out at roughly the same time, and I was full of the same impossible hopes that had been my biggest vice through my twenties and thirties: that a book I wrote would be my literary breakthrough and somehow catapult me into a realm of endless praise and ease. Suffice it to say that that didn’t happen, but I understand now, many years later (and with other books to my name to compare), how lucky I was for the modest success of the Cardboard Gods. But I’m even luckier to have felt the connection that the book has made with some readers, and even luckier beyond that to have made some true friends through the book and this blog. Dan, who I count at the top of that list, is on the other side of the table from me in the photo at the top of the page, and the Fidrych card at the front of his photo was the one non-random item in the sack I brought to the party, because I wanted to be sure he got it.

It was a good party, this first party I went to since I don’t even remember. I didn’t stay for the whole thing, as I wanted to get home for dinner with my family, but I got to talk baseball and writing with Dan and other kindred spirits, including Joe Bonomo and J. Daniel. While I was there, there was some mostly tentative probing of the pile of cards. There’s a difference in how someone will look through a pile of cards that they think belongs to someone and a pile of cards that clearly doesn’t belong to anyone. I sensed that my absence might help things shift to the latter scenario. Dan let me know afterward that that’s what happened:

And yeah, the cards really were the hit of the party; I don’t think we started “passing the bag” until after you left, but it was so much fun that four folks from another table asked if they could get in on it… and we wound up rapping baseball with them for at least an hour. If that’s not an indication that there’s still magic in them there cards, I don’t know what is!

So yeah, these cheap, flimsy cards will outlast me. I’m just grateful I get to feel their magic for a while and try to pass it along.


  1. Carver HS represent! The out of doors suits you, Josh. Enjoy the sunshine so long as it lasts.

  2. I love the fact that you and Dan Epstein are friends! A few years ago I had an Amazon order that included “Cardboard Gods” and “Big Hair and Plastic Grass”. I’ve been reading your blog since 2006, but Dan’s book was my first exposure to his baseball writing. Great to see more of your writing here!

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