I have been staring at this Vicente Romo card for over an hour and I still don’t know where to start. With his giant head? With his puzzling pose, which seems to suggest any number of scenarios such as that he’s playing air piano or putting a hex on the opposition or leeringly blocking a ball girl from exiting the field? With the fact that by the time this card made its way to my 7-year-old hands in East Randolph, Vermont, Vicente Romo had already been released from the San Diego Padres?
The release is puzzling, due to the fact that Romo had been a fairly effective relief pitcher for some time–as the back of the card puts it in the customary caveman syntax of baseball card text, Romo was “one of club’s top firemen.” I guess the lesson here is that no one really knows what’s going to happen from one day to the next. One minute you could be horsing around during one in a seemingly endless succession of yearly Topps photo shoots, and the next minute you could be packing up your locker.
When Romo was released, he had a perfectly even won-loss record of 31 and 31. He wasn’t that great, but he wasn’t that bad either. He had just completed a season in which he had gone 5 and 5, proving that he had mastered this kind of reliable albeit somewhat dubious consistency. But is there not a place for us Vicente Romo types who maybe don’t continuously find innovative ways to widen the profit streams of our employers a hundredfold but who also don’t accidentally burn company headquarters down after a negligently concluded cigarette break?
Well, apparently not. Romo did not latch on with another major league club in 1975. Perhaps word had gotten around that his best days were behind him. After all, he was 31 years old (a year for each win and for each loss), no longer young enough to be counted among the developing guys who might suddenly blossom into something better than what they were. He did not play in the majors in 1976, either, or in 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, or in the strike-marred season of 1981.
But in 1982 Vicente Romo returned. The incredible, improbable comeback of a man who had been out of the majors for exactly as long as he’d been in the majors was only slightly overshadowed by the fact that Romo finished the season with a 1 and 2 record. He vanished from whence he came when the season ended, and did not reappear on a major league roster in the next year, or the one after that, or the one after that, or ever. But even to this day there are those of us who believe that Vicente Romo will return once again to even his record and to prove that anything that is gone can return.