I found this card on the street last week, a day after the end of baseball season. I don’t know why I find more baseball cards than the average person. Probably it’s a combination of my general heightened awareness of baseball cards, which gives me a better chance of identifying a piece of street trash as a card, and my depressive personality, which prompts me to more often than not stare morosely down at the ground as I trudge from here to there. Whatever it is, I always take it as good luck. A day with a baseball card is never all bad, especially if it’s a card that appeared from out of the nowhere of gray daily life.
I pried it up from the sidewalk outside a grimy used car lot out on Western Avenue around the corner from my apartment, brought it home, and studied it a little. It has all of the pitcher’s minor league stats, showing that despite being a first round draft pick, Hernandez had a long road to the majors, not appearing there until he was 27 and not becoming a regular until the following year. I had some sense that Hernandez went on after the appearance of this card to have his moments, but I haven’t been paying attention to baseball closely enough to know his accomplishments. Turns out only three pitchers in the history of baseball—John Franco, Lee Smith, and Dennis Eckersley—have both more saves and more games pitched than Hernandez, and only one of those three, Franco, has a superior ERA+. What does this mean? I don’t know. He stuck around for a long time and was an effective closer and set-up guy. That’s part of what it means. The other part is that there’s a whole world out there that I’m oblivious to. The one thing I pay attention to is baseball, and even my awareness of baseball is limited. If you had asked me who Roberto Hernandez was, I would have been able to correctly guess that at some point several years ago he closed games for the White Sox, but I didn’t know he had more saves than Goose Gossage or Bruce Sutter or that he appeared in more games than Catfish Hunter and Whitey Ford combined.
That’s what always happens when I find a card. The world feels bigger, more unknowable. How did this card fall to the sidewalk on Western Avenue? Who bought this card? Who let it slip through their fingers? What am I letting slip through mine?