Archive for the ‘Barry Bonnell’ Category


Asselstine, Royster, Bonnell

November 8, 2010

What Is the Meaning of the 1978 Atlanta Braves? (cards 7-9 of 25)

(continued from Andy Messersmith)

As of a few weeks ago, I had only a handful of 1978 Atlanta Braves cards—the Bobby Cox card that has now been featured twice on this site and these three repeaters. All the other Braves came to me recently courtesy of Joe Stillwell of STATS, who’d read my past complaints about the mysterious disappearance from my childhood card collection of almost all my Braves and sent me most but not all of the 1978 team. I didn’t notice any absences at first but when I did it made me happy, in that it made the influx of Braves into my collection more realistic. I never got all the cards for any team, so it’s fitting that there are gaps in my collection of 1978 Braves.

There are three missing cards in all, among them the glum team’s ray of hope for the future, Dale Murphy. I’m proceeding through the 1978 Braves in the order in which the players featured appear in the Topps numbering system for that year, and this approach, coupled with Murphy’s absence, has front-loaded the 1978 cardboard version of the Braves’ meager collection of notable players to such an extent that even though most of the cards are still to come there’s virtually nothing left in terms of star power or historical significance or, well, anything much else at all. We’ve already seen the team’s lone Hall of Fame player (Phil Niekro), its soon-to-be Hall of Fame manager (Bobby Cox), its 1976 and 1977 All-Star Game representatives (Dick Ruthven and Willie Montanez, respectively), its sole former MVP and best slugger (Jeff Burroughs), and its trailblazing former ace (Andy Messersmith).

What’s left?

I don’t know. This morning, the first morning of a new week, I meditated. In theory, this is something that I do every day, but the truth is I let days and sometimes weeks go by without taking a few minutes for this practice. When I was younger, I did this zealously, fueled in part by the afterglow of hallucinogens and more generally by the belief that I would soon be perfect and painless. When this vision of permanent spiritual triumph kept failing to arrive, I lost more and more motivation to just sit there and gaze at a wall and breathe. It’s hard to do. It’s always been hard to do. Life is not a championship season.


Barry Bonnell

March 27, 2008

My days, most of them, a skipping record—up, food, walk, ride, sit-and-stare, food, sit-and-stare, ride, walk, food-and-sit-and-stare, sleep, repeat. Each day has slight differences. Yesterday during the second of the day’s walks I saw within a span of two minutes three dogs humped into a crouch and shitting, the last of them doing so while being dragged by an oblivious jogger. Since New Years I’ve tried to write one detail down every day in a hand-sized notebook, but after the first couple weeks most days have gone by without a detail noted. Sometimes I feel uneasy and I don’t know why. It happened most recently a few weeks ago. I’ve had the feeling before. I was surfacing from a self-imposed shallow depression, an emotional fetal curl. Inside it I was melancholy and dim. Coming out of it, I felt more awake, aware, and shaky. I felt like I should brace myself for impact. I wonder if life is a freefall and we only ever notice it in dreams. Maybe God is the ground that shatters you, or maybe it’s godlessness. Either way, I’m only ever falling or ignoring the fall. If I was a minor leaguer in the Braves chain in the 1970s and saw Barry Bonnell reading scripture on the bus by the light of a flashlight taped to the seat in front of him, I wouldn’t be drawn toward his conception of the almighty, as his teammate Dale Murphy was. According to Bonnell, Murphy asked Bonnell about his reading and about his religion, and eventually Bonnell baptized Murphy, bringing him into the Mormon fold and giving him a ticket to life everlasting. He shattered on the ground of God, did Murphy, or else was saved from the shattering by God. Or maybe both. Or neither. Who knows? Circle the globe and you’ll find as many gods as I have baseball cards, and each one will have a different thing to say about your days and what they are worth and where they are going and what will become of you at your end. So how can you say that one religion is better than another, one god better than another? Barry Bonnell knows the answer, as do all true believers, and I suspect does not feel uneasy. He leaps from one challenge to another, triumph giving way to triumph. Now he is a writer. Before that, just after his ten-year baseball career ended, he was an airline pilot. I have a little trouble flying on airplanes. I’m afraid the thing will plummet from the sky and we’ll all die screaming. Whenever I’m in a plane and it lands and everyone whips out their cellphones to resume their lives of ceaseless chattering I close my eyes and say a prayer. I try to make it as sincere as my shriveled heart will allow. People unbuckle and stand and wait for the door to open. I envision the faces of all the people I love and give thanks. I leave part of the prayer, the subject, blank. People start moving toward the exit. I stay seated a little longer, my eyes clenched shut, and give thanks to the blank.

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(Love versus Hate update: Barry Bonnell’s back-of-the-card “Play Ball” result has been added to the ongoing contest.)