In 1978 the Red Sox’ young and formerly promising third baseman, Butch Hobson, began maiming fans with his attempts to throw out runners at first base. The Red Sox stuck with him in 1979, but not before installing a backup plan along the lines of buying a moped at a tag sale in case the fraying brakes on the El Camino went out completely. According to the two-item star-bulleted list below the tepid, diminishing statistics on the back of this baseball card, the tag sale moped, Larry Wolfe, had just three short years earlier absolutely terrorized the Southern League by leading it in Sacrifice Flies. Incredibly, just two years before that, this same Larry Wolfe had topped all Midwest League third basemen in Double Plays. (The card does not specify if he participated in the Double Plays as a fielder or a hitter, however.) Other information to be gleaned about Larry Wolfe from the back of this card includes that he was acquired via trade (though it does not say that the trade was for Dave Coleman, two years removed from getting no hits in 12 at-bats in the only major league experience he would ever have), he’s my birthday neighbor (his special moment one thin day from my own), and he was born in the legitimate-sounding Melbourne, Florida, but now supposedly lived in a place in California called “Rancho Cordova.”
My only theories about this preposterous place-name are as follows:
1. Larry Wolfe was living in a van at the time the baseball card people surveyed him. As his profound chinlessness precluded him from enlivening his van-bound nights with female accompaniment, Larry Wolfe had ample time to absorb the lessons embedded in the babble from his portable television, lessons which perhaps reached their most concentrated distillate in the car advertisement phrase “fine Corinthian leather,” a notion invented by ad executives to avoid using just the definable but syllabically-challenged word “leather.” Fantasy Island‘s Ricardo Montalban spoke these words when describing a Buick, and perhaps the mellifluous, exotic lilt of the voice of Montalban, the man who every week taught the likes of Tom Bosley and Shelley Winters important lessons by spiking their deepest fantasy with setbacks that peaked at twenty and forty minutes past the hour, drifted deep into Larry Wolfe’s being, and when he was asked where he lived by a Topps functionary perhaps Larry Wolfe responded in the emptily inventive voice of Tatoo’s overlord, Larry Wolfe a man of his times, mimicking the invention of glamour to wallpaper grim reality.
2. Upon reaching the big leagues, a hopeful Larry Wolfe was immediately victimized by a Glengarry Glen Ross type of real estate scam. In this theory, there is a Rancho Cordova, but it is a desolate expanse of sand and scorpions.
P.S. The brakes soon went out completely on the El Camino. The moped hit .244 in 1979 and .130 in 1980 and by 1981 was one way or another living year-round in Rancho Cordova.