Archive for the ‘San Diego Padres’ Category

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Alan Foster

February 23, 2012

Tour Guide

Pitcher and Sky #1

Note how the blue deepens as it rises, as if to suggest an unutterable perfection beyond the frame, just above the human figure’s clasped hands, that makeshift steeple. I love the idea of blue sky. I don’t know what to do with my life.

When my mother was just about the age I am now, edging into the mid-40s, she quit her job and left her home. She had been working as an editor and writer of technical manuals for a synthesizer company. This was in the mid-1980s. She had raised two kids, my brother and me, and we were both safely away at school. She was accepted into the NYU graduate program for art history and found a room to rent in a duplex in Manhattan owned by a woman who lived there with her daughter. She had use of the kitchen but tended to stay away. She studied art textbooks in her little room eating takeout, a nervous new life, cheap deli soup and centuries of beauty.

The figure in this card would seem almost sculpted, adamantine, if not for the entirely human facial expression, that uncertainty and self-consciousness, however slight, that cuts against the otherwise iconic nature of the portrait. The history of art is a history of disenchantment, of gods stumbling to earth, of humans in heroic poses reckoning that no moment is eternal, that the next moment, inevitable, will be some sort of undoing.

My mom was older than most of her fellow students, many of whom had not yet ventured out into the working world, as my mother had many years earlier. The department also reflected the tradition in that field of attracting members of the upper class, the future curators of major museums, those who had been practicing all their lives on Nantucket yachts and the slopes of Vail to float with grace and magnetic charm through gatherings of deep-pocketed donors. My mom didn’t have much in common with them. She had just gotten through two decades of raising children and getting by. She had been a painter herself, filling our house with colorful pop-art portraits of friends and family, and she had moved from that passion, when her family needed money, to the more stridently commercial artistic endeavor of opening and running a sign-painting business, and when that also didn’t bring in enough money she had edged away from art altogether for a while to just work and make a steady living, editing and writing the technical manuals. But art was always calling. Maybe because she had intimately experienced the pressure that needing money can exert on the creation of art, she was drawn in her new life to the study of popular art forms. Cartoons, prints, caricatures, comics: so-called low art. The kind of thing made to sell and sell cheap. The kind of thing everyone can get their hands on.

This particular example of low art appeared in 1976, selling for 25 cents with 14 other cards and a piece of gum in a waxy plastic wrapper. That year would turn out to be Alan Foster’s last in the major leagues, though he was also featured in a card in 1977. Here he wears the brown and yellow of the Padres, a homely juxtaposition to the backing blue sky, but he had come up in the system of the Los Angeles Dodgers, seemingly destined for a career entirely in blue, the life of a Dodger superstar. In 1967, with the Dodgers’ top minor league club, Foster had thrown two no-hitters, the first to ever do so in the history of the Pacific Coast League. This level of achievement did not transfer to the majors. In 1969 Foster surrendered a 506-foot blast to Willie Stargell, the first home run ever hit out of Dodger Stadium. The next year he was shipped to the Indians. He went from the Indians to the Angels to the Cardinals and finally to this last stop, the Padres.

After completing her master’s level course work, my mother spent several years researching a PhD thesis on a 19th century French caricaturist named Honoré Daumier. She spent most of a year in a small apartment in Paris. Every day she went to the national library and requested materials from the archives in her timid but capable French and worked. I visited her for a week or so in the spring, taking an unpaid break from my job at a liquor store. I walked around a lot. I looked at a lot of art. I played basketball with some French guys in a park near my mom’s apartment. They were fairly skilled but soft and didn’t know or care about boxing out, so I kept grabbing offensive rebounds and finally, after otherwise playing terribly all game, I scored the winning basket on a tip-in. It’s ridiculous what stays with you, what haunts you. Later that day I took a tour of some underground catacombs filled with thousands of human bones and skulls. Ever since then I have periodically thought of my skull below the skin of my face, just waiting there for the temporary covering to fall away.

Here in Topps 1976 card number 266 there is a covering of homely yellow and brown. Everything goes from one thing to another to another, declining, and everything goes from one thing to another and another, on up to a vanishing into blue. One day during my visit to Paris my mother took a day off from researching and we went to Chartres. We took a tour with a British tour guide famous for his illuminating spiels and erudition and learned devotion to the cathedral. He had based his whole life on one thing, that cathedral. I remember wondering how anyone could limit themselves like that. I don’t remember anything specific about the tour except that the guide was entertaining in describing the years of anonymous human toil that went into the creation of the cathedral, and that at the end of the tour he deftly let us all know that he needed our tips to survive. We all looked down at the ground and dug in our pockets for bills and coins as the cathedral beside us pointed unequivocally upward, toward an unutterable idea, the perfection of blue.

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Ekim Xuddam

October 27, 2011

The Cardboard Gods Ass Backwards ABCs of Parenting

X Is for Xuddam

After a few weeks of being a father, I have everything pretty much figured out and am certainly among the world’s foremost experts on the subject, but I am as yet undecided on which of the following theories should become the central pillar in my philosophy of fathering:

1. The Theory of Cancellation: To be a father, one must accept a large X across the version of oneself that existed up to the point of becoming a father.

2. The Theory of Total Upheaval: To be a father, one must accept that everything has been so completely upended that one’s anus is now one’s brain and vice versa, and in this upheaval nothing will really seem to work, and it will be as if one has been a right-handed pitcher all one’s life and is now being asked to escape late-inning jams while pitching left-handed.

Let me hasten to add that these theories, now that they are written out and not merely thoughts in my mind, both strike me as repugnant in that they focus self-pityingly on the father and not on the child or even the fathering of the child. I can’t help it, it seems. I have to complain, it seems. Acquaintances, friends, family members all ask about the baby, and while I may be able to briefly mouth a platitude about the child’s well-being and my genuine loving feelings for him, I then can’t help myself from trying to channel at least some of my darker thoughts into a conversational exchange set up to bear only platitudes.

“He doesn’t sleep,” I say.

Depending on my mood at the moment and on how well I know the person I’m speaking to, I might say this cheerfully, as if it’s just “one of those things,” or I might say it more weightily, like I’m trying to communicate over the phone that I am in a dire hostage situation, my captor pressing the barrel of a gun to my head.

My actual captor would not be able to hold a gun yet, but if you place a rattle near his fingers he’ll grab hold of it and grip it in his fist. He can’t control the rattle, but he’ll hold onto it pretty tightly. He usually ends up flailing his arm and bopping himself in the head with the thing. And yet, despite his inability to control a rattle or wield a gun, he’s got me wrapped up as securely as if I were mummified to a chair with several yards of duct tape. He doesn’t sleep, he wails, all day, all night, I hold him and stand and bounce and rock him in my arms and go “shhh” until my legs ache and I’m covered in sweat and I’m so low on saliva that my “shhh” sound is no more impactful than the scrape of a dry leaf on concrete several blocks away, and he’s still there, staring wide-eyed at the wall or up at me.

Here I am, he is saying.

It’s a statement that I am able to appreciate at certain times as the greatest gift of my entire life. The statement takes on a different meaning when I’ve been rocking him uselessly for a long time and my poor wife—who bears an exponentially larger amount of the brunt of the ravages of this sleepless hostage situation than I do—is staring at the wall like she just got carted home after storming the beach at Anzio. In those moments, which are so plentiful as to suggest themselves as the norm, my son’s “here I am” is more like the living, breathing embodiment of the kind of math problem that shows up in nightmares, an unsolvable complexity designed expressly to confound, frustrate, and defeat.

And another problem is that everything I try to write on this subject misses the mark. For example, just as I was finishing off the above paragraph, I heard my son making “talking” sounds upstairs with my wife, and I stopped writing and went upstairs and played with him on a blanket on the floor and took a video of him using his legs to push off his mom’s hands and slide across the blanket and smile. He has been trying to laugh lately, but he doesn’t quite know how to do it. He smiles and goes “uuuuh,” not getting how to break the sound up into laughs. Whenever he does this I laugh so hard my face hurts. I came back downstairs from that and the words I’ve written so far make me want to carve a big X over the writing. This is how the writing has been going lately—everything I say seems within moments like it deserves cancellation. Whatever used to work or appeared to work doesn’t work anymore. Parenting is like that for me. Whatever worked the day before doesn’t work today, so you have to write a big X through it and start over. One moment doesn’t seem to offer much relation or support to the next.

I had a moment on the bus a few days ago, coming home. I can’t really access it now, but the whole world seemed to be glowing and I was thinking about writing, thinking about how the way to do it is like Van Gogh and approach form in a siege of messy feeling instead of caution and hesitating care. I was thinking about my son, hoping and praying for him to have moments when the world is all possibility, a sunflower the same as a creator deity’s cupped hands full of brand-new stars. The bus groaned past a guy standing in a sandwich board in the growing dusk outside a muffler shop, advertising $10 off something, and even that or especially that in conjunction with an inexplicable burst of a memory of watching the sun set in China at dusk when I was 21 years old moved me almost to tears, to think that my son will have the feel of life inside him, the weight of a sandwich board on his shoulders, maybe, or the glow of a sunset in a faraway place, the memory of his mother’s soft words, all of it, the highs and lows, and I wanted to find words for this and started wondering whether I could find a way to use it in this post about Ekim Xuddam, left-handed unassuming pencil-mustached journeyman and representative of a world turned upside down.

The X in the surname of this player, Xuddam, is pronounced as an “sh” sound, as if it is an X in pinyin, the pronunciation system used for the rendering of the Chinese language into our alphabet. Also in keeping with the upside down nature of the player, and in line with the Chinese custom, this surname is listed first on the player’s card. I studied Chinese for a few months in Shanghai when I was 21, and this study pinnacled one day in a public park with a conversation I was able to hold, barely, with a Chinese toddler. Almost all the words I learned are gone from my mind now, cancelled like most things that come and go in a life. I sometimes worry about my memory, my purchase on life, my lack of expertise about anything, even baseball, that primary lifelong means of escape from life, but in a way it is good to be—at least in terms of baseball fandom—in possession of a porous, faulty memory, because it allows the game to retain the vastness and mystery it had when I was first discovering it. The day before my glowing bus-ride moment, when still trying to figure out who I could possibly write an “X is for” essay about in the world of baseball, I started casting around baseball-reference.com, and for several minutes I lingered on the player with the most X’s in his name in baseball history, plus a nickname (“Double X”—one of two nicknames, along with “The Beast”) that made reference to the X’s. As I was studying Jimmie Foxx’s page on baseball-reference.com I was remembering the particular pleasure or even joy in first discovering his numbers, back when I was a little boy just beginning to explore baseball history. I knew Ruth and Aaron and Dimaggio, but in those early days there was actually a moment when I loved baseball yet still didn’t know Jimmie Foxx, who was tucked away just a little, a surprise for the young baseball explorer to find. And what a find.

The game never stops offering up these surprises, though in different ways, no monumental icons like Foxx left to discover but plenty of other discoveries to be made, even in the recent past. I drift into and out of the game. Years go by where it seems in retrospect that I was hardly paying attention at all. I don’t know what the fuck else I was doing but somehow I couldn’t even get it together to grasp the details of whatever baseball season was unfolding somewhere beyond my personal fog. For example, after I left Jimmie Foxx’s page in order to search for more candidates for the “X is for” post, my search brought me to Xavier Nady, and though I then searched my shoebox for cards for this player and found I had none (and none for Xavier Hernandez, either), I lingered on the Xavier Nady page because I guess I don’t want to entirely cancel my former self in these strange new sleepless days and instead want to linger and digress and waste time, just a little, please, and I poked around Xavier Nady’s page until I got to his first at-bat, which turned out to be against a pitcher whose first name, incredibly, was Onan. What is incredible about this is that I had never heard of this Onan, despite his presence in box scores for a couple of years and despite Onanism being very near the foundation of the cluster of practices and habits and compulsions that have ferried me haphazardly through 43 years and that more or less make up the self that is known as Josh Wilker and that seem now under the duress and angst and joy of parenthood in need of either cancellation or total upheaval, depending upon which of my self-pitying theories of fatherhood is holding sway at any given time.

Oh Onan, I can’t believe I missed you. What am I missing now? I guess I never catch much on the first go-round anyway but only ever find anything in the detritus after the fact, little treasures left behind and forgotten. Onan was born in Hawaii but the name suggests Japanese descent. I was in Japan once, but only for a night, a stopover on my trip to Shanghai, the night after I wept in a weakened state at the in-flight movie Field of Dreams while thousands of feet above the Pacific. The next day I arrived in China and knew no words at all, not even hello. One of the words I learned early on, and one of the few that haven’t been X-ed out in the acid-bath barrel of my memory, is the word for thank you, which is written as “xie xie” in pinyin and is pronounced with the same “sh” sound that begins Xuddam, so the word to express gratitude sounds like waves or like the sound I use to try to get my son to sleep.

Here I am, he keeps telling me, eyes wide open.

Xie xie, I say. I’ll keep saying it. I’ll say it to him the rest of my life. I’ll never forget what it means.

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Previous installments in the Cardboard Gods Ass Backwards ABCs of Parenting:
Z Is for Zisk
Y is For Yeager

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Gene Richards

April 6, 2011

According to the Gods: a 2011 Team-By-Team Preview

San Diego Padres

At a certain point, you learn that you aren’t very powerful. You start choking up, just a little at first, hoping to retain a shred of the primal illusion of willful potency. You choke up some more, and then some more. Results are dubious. There’s no right way. What can be done? You keep choking up. Dreams of long ball glory recede beyond reach. In the end, you cling only to a hope for continued survival and, at most, tepid sporadic connection. Your posture is suggestive of a cringe. There’s no way to avoid the moment, sooner or later, of complete usurpation. To exist is ridiculous. You exist, you exist.

***

How to enjoy the 2011 baseball season, part of 22 of 30: Consider the fate of Mascots Who Have Come and Gone Leaving Nary a Trace, for example (via Gaslamp Ball), Bluepper

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2011 previews so far: St. Louis Cardinals; New York Mets; Philadelphia Phillies; Washington Nationals; Pittsburgh Pirates; Arizona Diamondbacks; Colorado Rockies; New York Yankees; Cleveland Indians; Detroit Tigers; Milwaukee Brewers; Minnesota Twins; Atlanta Braves; Cincinnati Reds; Oakland A’s; Seattle Mariners; Chicago Cubs; Baltimore Orioles; [California] Angels; Texas Rangers; Boston Red Sox

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Willie Davis

October 19, 2009

Willie Davis 76

In college I lived for a year in a house on a steep dirt road a couple miles from campus. In the morning, I walked down the dirt road toward the town, and as I walked I chanted “om mane padme hum,” which I think means “jewel in the heart of the lotus.” That was the year I stopped taking LSD, because my experiences with the substance kept getting narrower and narrower, but I wanted to find a way to hold on to a sense of elevated reality that the hallucinogens had offered. After about twenty minutes of walking and chanting, I reached the place where the dirt road turned to asphalt, by a lumber yard at the edge of town. I stopped chanting. Often, a morning mist was still hanging over the stacks of wood and parked forklifts. I felt high and awake and had no thoughts in my head for a little while.

After I passed through the small town I climbed another hill for a while and arrived among the complex of brick buildings. Often I got to the library just as it was opening. I’d been a bad student through high school, but in college I was interested in everything. I read and wrote in the library until it was time to go to my first class, and then during free periods I went back to the library, or else went to the gym to play pickup basketball. One evening after classes were done for the day I was walking back up the steep dirt road toward home and I looked up at the stars and prayed silently to Jack Kerouac. I don’t remember what I said or what exactly I was thinking. We had been reading the Dharma Bums in one of my classes, and at one point I’d blown up at the teacher (the poet Neil Shepard, one of the great teachers of my life) for allowing a few criticisms of Kerouac to seep into his lecture on the book. But the prayer wasn’t about that. It was more like an imitation of the yearning plea for meaning woven through that book.

Jack Kerouac: What am I supposed to do with myself in this life here on earth?

And then a comet streaked across the sky, going almost from one horizon to the other, the longest shooting star I’ve ever seen.

I thought of that dirt road this morning, twenty years after those mornings and evenings, as I read that Willie Davis, underrated centerfield standout of the pitching-dominated 1960s, took up Buddhist chanting in the early 1970s. He didn’t use the chant I used but used the one that I’ve been encouraged by strangers to use on a couple of occasions, long ago, when I was young and walked around with the open, searching look of the pilgrim or rube on my face: Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. This chant is supposed to enable you to get whatever it is you want. In a 1975 article in Ebony, Willie Davis implies that the chant was going to allow his team at the time, the Texas Rangers, to “win it all.”

They didn’t, of course, and neither did any of his subsequent teams as he finished up his long pro career, but this didn’t stop him from chanting. In Japan, where he went to play after a year with the team he is beatifically depicted as a member of in the 1976 card above, he expected that his chanting would be welcomed and celebrated, but instead his teammates hated it, thinking that it made the clubhouse resemble the rite most likely in Japan to include Buddhist chanting: a funeral. (To put yourself in the cleats of those Japanese teammates of Davis, imagine if Ichiro hung around the Seattle clubhouse in a black suit and dark sunglasses singing “Amazing Grace” and weeping all the time. It’d kind of sap your will to go out and crisply hit the cutoff man.)

I live in the city now, and so I can’t walk around chanting like I did on that empty dirt road unless I want to attract the kind of attention crazy people attract. And I feel sort of stupid just sitting around in my apartment chanting, plus when I’m in my apartment I am more often than not shoving food in my mouth and staring at the television. I don’t know if that’s what the Kerouackian shooting star had in mind for me. But Keroauc died fatly watching TV, so who knows? [Correction: He died in a hospital; I may have been thinking of Kerouac’s poem about Charlie Parker, in which Bird is described as dying laughing while watching a juggler on TV.] Anyway, there’s a jewel in the heart of the lotus. No matter what. There’s a gleaming answer in the sky. There’s a stillness below everything, and morning mist everywhere. There’s a big shining smile on the face of Willie Davis.

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Fred Kendall

September 16, 2009

Fred Kendall 77

I’ve spent some time on this site wondering about the 1976 Expansion Draft that breathed life into the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays, largely because it’s the first league expansion I ever consciously witnessed, but I have yet to explore the machinations of the league expansion of 1969, which necessitated not one but two expansion drafts in 1968, the same year, as it happens, that I joined my own family as an expansion franchise.

I was a few months old when the drafts occurred over two days in mid-October, the first just four days after the conclusion of the Detroit Tigers’ seven-game victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. The National League draft came first, on October 14, and the San Diego Padres and Montreal Expos built their rosters with the likes of Billy McCool, Larry Jaster, Remy Hermoso, and Mike Corkins, among others. One day later, an odd element of off-rhyme characterized the otherwise random unspooling of names called by the brand new Kansas City Royals and Seattle Pilots: Joe Foy following Ray Oyler, Jack Aker echoing Steve Whitaker, and a late-round multi-name flourish sounding more like the obsessively rhythmic expressions of a madman than a litany of athletic elites: Dick Bates, Dick Drago, Larry Haney, Dick Baney.

Fred Kendall was the fourteenth name called on the first day, and he must have among the very youngest of the players gathered that day or the next. He had been drafted into professional baseball only the year before, a 1967 fourth-round pick of the Cincinnati Reds, and he was just twenty when the Padres selected him. He got into 10 games during the team’s inaugural campaign, batting .154, and played just 4 games the following season, going 0 for 9. He starting playing more after that, and in 1973 became the team’s regular backstop, posting his career high in just about every offensive category.

From there came a gradual slide back toward the relative irrelevancy captured in the card shown here. He goes about his business with an air of glum resignation, the lack of a chest protector evidence that he will not be seeing any action in the game itself but will only warm a series of anonymous Padres relievers before they trudge into the action and allow the runners on second and third to jog across home plate after a series of events too dispiriting to elaborate upon.

I’d be able to withstand the demoralizing undertones embedded in the front of Fred Kendall’s card if the 1977 Topps series been one of the yearly sets that eschewed the tendency to try to embroider a player’s lackluster statistical record with a line or two of overly cheerful praise. However, on the back of this card, below Fred Kendall’s statistics, is this line of text: “The only original Padre remaining on club’s roster, Fred ranks high in almost all of San Diego’s offensive categories.” Fred Kendall: All-Time Padre Great. I don’t know, something about it makes me want to walk along the shore of an empty beach in late November and weep.

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Larry Hardy

January 28, 2009
Untitled

Somewhere I Lost Connection

(continued from Tom Brunansky)

Chapter Three

As I experienced it, the Red Sox were swept out of the 1990 playoffs instantaneously. I barely had time to dry my eyes from my emotional envisioning of the Brunansky catch before buying another Herald Tribune to find that they had been flicked aside in four quick games by the Oakland A’s.

Whatever seems like it might be something is really just nothing in a cheap, unraveling disguise. But don’t grip too tightly to that glib shard of nihilism, because the opposite is also true. Or neither is true. Who knows? A few days after my team’s disappointing el foldo, I ended a long passage in my battered travel notebook this way: There is a holy hum that runs through everything, I am trying to believe.

***

This is Larry Hardy’s only baseball card. The back of his card shows that he progressed in a straight upward line through the Padres system, with just one exception, one tiny and seemingly insignificant hiccup that ended up being a much more accurate harbinger of things to come than the otherwise upward-pointing line of his minor and major league stats as of 1974. This hiccup occurred in 1971, his second year as a pro player, when he was sent back to the Padres lowest-level minor league team after moving up and away from that team at the very tail end of the previous season.

The low-level team he was sent back to was located in Lodi.

***

I don’t know where I lost connection. I can tell you that as my years in college went on, I had fewer and fewer friends, mainly because all of the guys I’d started with in a cloud of bong smoke had eventually dropped out or been asked to leave or, in a couple rare cases, had continued their nondescript education by transferring to another anonymous diplomatorium. With them gone, I spent more and more time in the library. I became a passionate student. Perhaps the best path for me to have taken right after college would have been to continue straight on into grad school, to keep wrasslin’ those books. But I had it in mind that I needed to go out beyond the walls of the library and experience life like the heroes of all the stories I loved. I wanted to be a hero. I wanted to travel up out of this world to the world of the gods and return with the holy hum coursing through my body and springing from my fingers.

***

In his debut season of 1974 Larry Hardy set a major league record. It was not a negligible, trivial mark, either, no mere accident or oddity, but a significant single-season achievement that at the very least illustrates that Larry Hardy mattered, at least for one year: He pitched in more games than any rookie ever had. His name, which had never been called by a major league manager, was suddenly called more than anyone in the league aside from the name of another reliever, Mike Marshall, who was in the midst of appearing in more games than anyone ever has, rookie or otherwise.

“What’s the kid’s name? Right, he’s not really a kid anymore, but you know who I mean. Hardy? Get him warm.”

“Well, this one’s out of reach. Get me Hardy.”

“Guess things can’t get any worse. Might as well get Hardy going.”

“Who’s left out there. Just Hardy? Christ. [Long pause.] Get him up.”

Yes, Larry Hardy wasn’t particularly effective, getting knocked around to the tune of a 4.69 ERA that was over a run higher than the league average, but he did get credit for 9 wins against just 4 losses, and this for a team that won just 60 games while losing 102. Larry Hardy mattered. Larry Hardy won. Things were looking up for Larry Hardy.

Why then the expression of apprehension and mute alarm, as if Hardy was watching nothing shed the last of its cheap disguise?

(to be continued)

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Gaylord Perry

July 29, 2008
 Untitled 
In hopes of compensating for a recent summertime slowing of output here at Cardboard Gods, I offer this spectacular specimen, a card that has for some days now rendered me speechless with its boundless magnificence. Where do I start? Should I attempt to reconnect to that giddy feeling from childhood (long since faded as such things always do with the tendency to take things for granted) that derived from learning that there was a person, and not just any person but a major leaguer, and not just any major leaguer but a superstar, named Gaylord?

Or should I try to start a discussion about cheating? Though it has quieted down a bit since last year’s revelation of The Mitchell Report and Barry Bonds’ breaking of the all-time home run record, the issue of cheating still seems to be one of the dominant themes in baseball today. Bonds can’t get a job this year, even though he wants to play and surely can still hit better than all but a few people on earth. I suppose this is mostly due to teams not wanting the headache of the media circus sure to erupt upon Bonds’ arrival with the team. Part of that circus would certainly include the copious use of the word cheater. At the recent Hall of Fame induction ceremony, this issue was also present, in the form of an absence. By now, Mark McGwire’s prodigious numbers would have certainly gained him entry into the Hall of Fame, but it looks instead that he may never get in, voters unwilling to elect someone who is roundly assumed to have cheated by using performance enhancing drugs. The obvious hypocrisy that I’m driving at with all the finesse of a bulldozer is that in that very Hall of Fame is a plaque for the man pictured here, who rather openly admitted to cheating whenever possible. The thing is, while I see intellectually that this is a double standard, I feel on a gut level that I’m OK with this double standard. The baseball world at large seems to agree. I wonder why? Maybe it has to do with romance. Gaylord’s an Old West cardsharp, crafty and skillful. McGwire, Bonds, and Clemens, on the other hand (to name the three most prominent figures in the ongoing issue), seem to be greedy, inelegant brutes. How much skill does it take to jam a needle in your ass?

And speaking of ass, we finally come to the subject I most want to address in terms of this card. The photo, which on first glance appears to be a great action shot of a crafty gray-haired veteran in the midst of a wily offering sure to reduce the batter to a frustrated obscenity-laden tirade, on closer look appears in fact to offer the secret to the hurler’s long-running and otherwise somewhat difficult-to-explain success. Please look closely, and without the prejudical knowledge of both baseball pitching mechanics and the usual placement of body appendages. Do you see what I see? That Gaylord Perry was able, with some exertion showing plainly on his well-lined face, to excrete, from his anus, a third hand.

This would explain a lot, wouldn’t it? I mean, of all the many entertaining instances of a player getting caught red-handed (Joe Niekro trying to toss away a file as an umpire approached him on the mound, cork exploding from Sammy Sosa’s bat, etc.), the most notorious rule-stretcher of them all, Gaylord Perry, who even entitled his 1974 mid-career autobiography Me and the Spitter, eluded authorities for his first 21 years in the majors, not earning his first suspension for rule-bending until his second-to-last go-round in 1982. Everyone agreed he made baseballs do ungodly things. But how?

Probably this card shows nothing but the fact that he had a way of keeping his right arm close to his side in the middle of his delivery to add to his prodigious arsenal of deceptions. But maybe it shows, like those rare photos of Bigfoot or Nessie, something more monstrous and wondrous. I mean, maybe, just maybe, we are glimpsing Gaylord Perry’s uncanny assball.