What Is the Meaning of the 1978 Atlanta Braves? (card 21 of 25)
(continued from Buzz Capra)
Eddie Solomon was a journeyman, a major league drifter, sometimes able and other times unable to command his pitches. At the time of his 1978 card, Eddie Solomon had played for four teams in the past four years and had during his career compiled a 4.47 ERA and a 7-7 won-loss record. He’d stick with the Braves for a little while, then move on to the Pirates, then the White Sox, then, a little over three years after his career ended, at the age of 34, he would die in a car crash in Macon, Georgia.
The back of Eddie Solomon’s card has an explanation of the rules of “Play Ball” on it, rather than an actual at-bat result, so the Love versus Hate game of “Play Ball” that seems to be nearing its conclusion once again must pause. A batter has just walked, putting the tying run aboard with one out in the bottom of the ninth. It’s easy enough to imagine the card of doomed Eddie Solomon presiding over this tense, fateful stoppage. The sullen manager of Hate, hands jammed in the pockets of his warmup jacket, marches to the mound to gruffly lecture his faltering closer, who after getting the first out of the inning has now surrendered a double and a walk. Due up is the ninth spot in the lineup, a pinch-hitter. A crusty left-handed batsman, a veteran who’s bounced around for years, not a great hitter but a cagey one, never latching on anywhere as an everyday player but continuing to find employment on the margins of one roster after another. He waits in the on-deck circle, attempting to loosen his creaky joints, while Hate’s manager and closer talk past one another in declarative monosyllables and obscenities. As the manager stalks back to the dugout, the pinch-hitter begins, slowly, to move toward the plate.
He’s always been a slow walker on his way to the plate, this fictional character arising from the back of doomed Eddie Solomon’s card. Maybe it started because a coach once told him the struggle between pitcher and batter is all about rhythm, i.e., disrupting his while establishing your own. As his career crystallized into that of a bat for hire, he made this slow walk his would-be trademark (in truth, no one noticed him enough to really care), thinking of himself and his slow walk as an intentional irritant, like he’s a farmer pulling his tractor into traffic for no reason except to make all the drivers behind him late. If nothing else, at least I’ll annoy. But now, late in his underwhelming journeyman passage through the big time, his slow walk has evolved into something else. He has begun to walk slowly everywhere, paying attention to his movement and to the world around him, waking up to an awareness that at any moment the whole big game could end.