After a bit of a return to my normal life as a couch-bound shut-in, I’ll soon be leaving my house again to try to use my corporeal presence and astonishing ability to sign my own name to politely strongarm civilians into buying my book. On Saturday I’ll be sitting at a table with a stack of hardcovers and a Sharpie in the Barbara’s Bookstore on the lower level of Macy’s in downtown Chicago. A few days after that, at the request of the great Baseball Reliquary, my wife and I will fly to Los Angeles for a reading and signing at the South Pasadena library, and on Saturday we’ll be at the Upstart Crow Bookstore in San Diego. The following day, I’ll be back in Chicago, on a panel with novelist Billy Lombardo at the Printer’s Row Festival. (Please see my “book tour events” page for more details on those and other upcoming appearances.)
If you’re around for any of those events, I’d love to meet you. I honestly would! I don’t think of myself as a people person, but I really did like meeting people on my trip through the northeast. At a lot of stops, I saw people I hadn’t seen in decades, including some old high school buddies in Manhattan and one of my elementary school teachers in Vermont. I also got to meet people who are readers of the blog, and to talk with them and others about the joys of old cardboard.
One of my favorite meetings occurred with a fellow baseball card lover in my old hometown, East Randolph, where I hung out for a couple hours at the general store that had provided most of my childhood cards. Halfway through my visit, the son of Amy and Joel Messier, who now own the store, showed up, home from a little league game, and he and I spent a while digging through a lovingly protected selection from his baseball card collection. (Both of us were in uniform—Darrin in his little league Dodger duds and me in a Papelbon jersey.) He had some older cards of superstars and, being a fellow Red Sox fan, he also had several Red Sox cards from different eras. One card in this penthouse of his collection might not have seemed to fit in with such lofty company, but being from East Randolph, that little town that is really only a few houses along Route 14 in Central Vermont, I knew why there was a Pat Putnam card mixed in among the likes of Yogi Berra and Willie Mays and Wade Boggs and Dustin Pedroia.
Baseball was the center of my world growing up, just as it seems to be now for Darrin. I understood on some level how far from the action I was in East Randolph. East Randolph was not Mobile, Alabama, or some sun-drenched hotbed of talent in Florida or California, or San Pedro de Macoris. Baseball players did not come from East Randolph, Vermont. They rarely came from Vermont at all. Even Carlton Fisk, born in Bellows Falls, which was a long way from my town anyway, stridently defined himself as a native of New Hampshire, and not of Vermont, where he’d been born only because that’s where the closest hospital was located.
But Pat Putnam, somehow, some way, was born just down the road a few miles from East Randolph, the next small town over: Bethel.
“Bethel!” I said upon spotting Pat Putnam’s card in Darrin’s collection. Darrin’s father, Joel, said it, too.
“I couldn’t believe he was from Bethel,” Joel said, shaking his head and smiling.
Putnam had not, as far as I could ever tell, stayed in Bethel long. There were no local legends of his exploits as a child and teen titan of baseball prowess. I assumed early on that he and his family had quickly moved away to somewhere more populated and warm, and from there he’d begun his ascension to the big leagues. But he’d been there, in Bethel, at least for a second. And by making it to the big leagues, and making it onto a card, his birthplace immortalized on the back, he’d brought my faraway part of the world within reach of the gods.