Archive for the ‘Toronto Blue Jays’ Category


Dave Hilton

October 18, 2016

dave-hiltonCalifornia Sun


I once had a meeting at Sony Pictures Studios. I was out in California to do some readings and signings for Cardboard Gods. I drove over in a rental car from Pasadena, where my wife and I were staying, to Culver City. Afraid I was going to get lost and be late, I got to the studio very early and wandered around a little. I got a green tea at a Starbucks on the lot, or whatever it’s called, and peered around in vain for people I’d seen on television and got more nervous. I felt tired and nauseous and burned my tongue on the tea.

Dave Hilton never played for the Toronto Blue Jays. In fact, in 1977, the year this card appeared, he was in the organization of the Blue Jays’ 2016 ALCS opponent, the Cleveland Indians, though he never appeared in a major league game for the Indians either. The 1977 Blue Jays—the first edition of the team, with a roster built with expansion draftees and other even more marginal odds and ends, such as Dave Hilton, who was purchased, along with one of a small but baffling series of fellows in baseball history named Dave Roberts, from the Padres—were like this, a collection of phantoms and rumors, as if their main purpose was to illustrate the more mysterious properties of the word expansion. Hilton somehow carried some of this mystery with him beyond 1977 and beyond the Blue Jays and across the ocean to Japan, where he played a role in the launching of the literary career of Haruki Murakami, who once reflected in a New Yorker essay on this turning point in his life:

The crack of bat meeting ball echoed through the stadium. Hilton easily rounded first and pulled up to second. And it was at just that moment that a thought struck me: You know what? I could try writing a novel. I still remember the wide-open sky, the feel of the new grass, the satisfying crack of the bat. Something flew down from the sky at that instant, and, whatever it was, I accepted it.

Marukami went on, of course, to write a lot of great books, I guess. I’ve always meant to give them a whirl but haven’t gotten to it yet. Most of us have these things we mean to do. In the end, what’s it all going to mean? We’re passing through, registering in a soft wash of blue for a moment before disappearing without much left behind to mark that we were ever here.

On the Sony lot, when it was time, I rose and tossed my cup in a garbage bin and moved in the direction of a building that housed the office where my meeting was scheduled. It was the office of a person whose name appeared in shows I’d seen, one of those names that came right before the beginning of the story. Was I moving toward something? Was my name going to be one of those names? Was my story about to begin? The sun was shining, the California sun, and I was wondering if I’d later talk about this day as if it were a turning point, when the sky cracked open and I was grabbed by the collar and led into some permanent golden light.

To be continued.


Dave Stieb

February 16, 2016


Here are, I don’t know, ten things about Dave Stieb:

  1. I associate Dave Stieb with Ivan Lendl. They were around at the same time, inhabiting the tops of their professions right around the time that I was drifting away from childhood and magic and into something steeper and more tedious. In the place of the dashing, colorful comic book heroes of the 1970s were these two colorless, methodical grinders, known for steely endurance and for tireless work ethics that had produced, from sheer will, formidable “best in the world” weapons: Stieb with his slider, Lendl with his forehand. They’d made it to the top on hard work, it seemed, which I found demoralizing. I don’t think I’ve ever realized it, but the other thing that ties them together in my mind—neither quite getting to the very top circle of the history of their games—pleased me. I didn’t want Lendl to ever win Wimbledon, and when Stieb kept losing no-hitters in the ninth I exulted, just a little.
  2. Stieb finally did get his no-hitter, the year this 1990 card came out. Before that, he’d lost four of them in the ninth inning, three of those with two out, one of those one-out-away instances a would-be perfect game. If he’d converted all four of those plus the one that he actually did complete, he’d have five no-hitters, more than anyone but Ryan, and maybe that glittering bauble would have spirited him into the Hall of Fame. The statistic of WAR, which I don’t understand but generally buy as a legitimate contextual estimation of a player’s overall worth, finds Dave Stieb to be the 69th most useful pitcher in baseball history, ahead of such pitchers as Whitey Ford, Sandy Koufax, and Mariano Rivera. Those guys all had a lot of glittering baubles. Stieb? Not so much.
  3. There are three red heart-shaped balloons floating around my house. My wife got them for Valentine’s day for me and my two sons. It’s cold here in Chicago, so the heat is running constantly, blowing warm air up out of the floor vents, causing the balloons to drift around the house. My wife and the boys are out of the house right now. I would never be able to notice the movement of the balloons if they were here. When they’re here it’s all chaos, and I lose my composure constantly in the unending series of annoyances and crises and fits of wailing and whining. In the brief quiet, I can see how full my life is with love.
  4. Dave Stieb had a very small mustache and never wore long sleeves. Maybe he did wear long sleeves once in a while, but I only remember his bare arms, which I associate with the trim, punctilious mustache that was an affront to me somehow, again a reminder that my Rollie Fingers childhood was over. Also, I like a pitcher to wear the sleeves. Bill Lee wore sleeves. It made pitchers seem somehow more cerebral and fragile, and less likely to challenge you to a humiliating arm-wrestling contest, which always seemed like what might happen if I ever ran into Dave Stieb.
  5. Dave Stieb went 8 and 8 in his rookie season with the 1979 Toronto Blue Jays, which is like _____. What is it like? The Blue Jays lost 109 games that year, and it was their third season in existence, and they were getting worse as they went on. Danny Ainge, arguably the worst baseball player in history, was a regular player. No pitcher finished with a winning record, and Stieb was the only pitcher whose losses didn’t outnumber his wins. So what is this like? I used to be able to whip off the similes. I think I’m losing control of my pitches.
  6. Whatever happened to Cardboard Gods? You know, that website that churned out the baseball card celebrations in bunches every week? Guy must have just lost it, right? Did he ever have it?
  7. My wife and sons are back from their outing. I hear crying (the baby) and whining (the boy) and my wife’s voice rising, exasperated. So better make these last three quick.
  8. Dave Stieb came up recently on an episode of the Pop Culture Happy Hour. Is this entire post just an excuse to bring this up? Well, mostly, but I also always want most of all to connect with my writing, and this doesn’t happen a whole lot these days. I’m writing another book, but that’s entirely a solitary endeavor at the moment, so I want to write some words and have them be read, and Dave Stieb is as good a subject as any. Anyway, one of the guests on Pop Culture Happy Hour, Sarah Bunting, mentioned that Cardboard Gods (the book) was making her happy (near the end of the episode, if you are interested), and a key point of connection for her was when the book went into the phenomenon of getting one player’s card again and again and again in seemingly every pack. For me it was Dick Sharon, for her father it was Reno Bertoia, and for her it was Dave Stieb.
  9. Baseball cards are my hobby, but not in the same way that they are to most who use that word. I haven’t collected them since 1980, when I was twelve, and I don’t take good care of the cards I have from then and from sporadic, random acquisitions and gifts since then. They’re all in a couple of cardboard boxes, the post-1980 cards loose and the cards from my childhood still sorted into thick stacks, teams, wrapped in rubber bands, the teams themselves piled into the four divisions that existed back then. I didn’t get this card back then. Dave Stieb is from the great, long aftermath of my life, which stretched from puberty on into my twenties, thirties, forties. I’ve been alive so long I’ve outlived that aftermath! I’m into a whole new unsortable mess, fatherhood, which has cast everything from the past into a kind of evaporating preamble, a rickety, no longer useable bridge that brought me to my boys.
  10. Dave Stieb had one of the most prolonged hiatuses in baseball history. For four years he “did not play.” In the eyes of the world he was retired, but there must have been for him some unfinished business, some nagging voice calling him back to the game. In 1998, after not playing since 1993, he returned for a few games for the Blue Jays. It doesn’t seem like he did so well, but maybe it felt good to be out there again, and maybe he’d needed that feeling. I wish I had an eleventh item on the list so that I could talk about how much I love the idea of the hiatus. I like fantasizing about some hiatus that will lift me up and out of my life like the heat vent lifting one of the red heart-shaped balloons. Up I would rise for a while, a long time, and then at some point I’d come back. That’s the key—you’re just on hiatus, not gone.

Vada Pinson and Jim Mason

October 16, 2015

Jim MasonVada PinsonALCS Preview

This one is pretty simple. The two cards here, representing the American League teams poised to vie for a spot in the World Series, both feature players who got one chance to play at that very pinnacle of their sport. Vada Pinson did so in 1961, when he was 22. He had a spectacular season, the best of his splendid career, and helped the Reds win the National League pennant. In the World Series, the Reds faced one of the greatest teams in history, the 1961 Yankees, and got smoked four games to one. Pinson played poorly, managing only 2 base hits in 22 at bats.

Fifteen years later, the teams met again in the World Series, only this time it was the Reds, not the Yankees, in the role of legendary collective steamroller. Pinson was no longer on the Reds, or anywhere in the majors, but Jim Mason was on the Yankees team that the Reds blasted in four straight. Unlike Pinson, he’d not been a central factor in his team making it to the World Series, hitting .180 in 217 at-bats as one half of a punchless shortstop platoon. In the World Series, the platoon approach seems to have gone out the window, and Mason’s counterpart, the immortal Fred “Chicken” Stanley, got the start in each of the four games. In game 2, Stanley was pinch-hit for early, and Mason replaced him in the field and got a turn at bat later in the game. It would be his only World Series at bat. In his entire career he would have 1756 plate appearances and would homer just 12 times, but he made his one World Series at bat count by lining one over the right-field fence.

It was the only home run by the Yankees in the series. In the ninth inning, Mason’s turn at bat came up again, and manager Billy Martin pinch-hit for him, bringing in righty Otto Velez to face lefty Will McEnaney. Velez struck out. A few weeks later, Velez would follow Mason to the Blue Jays in the expansion draft. Mason didn’t last long as a Blue Jay, but Velez established himself as one of the most prominent of the early Blue Jays—by the time he left Toronto, he was second on the Blue Jays career home run list to only John Mayberry, who is best known as a member of the team on which Vada Pinson finished up, the Kansas City Royals.

Is life a swirling web of interconnected strands, Pinson to Mason to Velez to Mayberry to Pinson, everything tying together with everything else in a dizzying and ultimately infinite everlasting wholeness? Or is it just an absurdity of random occurrences? Who knows? All you can do is break things down into measurable data. And on that level, the level of percentages, Jim Mason, the only player to homer in his only World Series at bat, is—despite his inferiority to, among others, Chicken Stanley—the greatest World Series performer in the history of human civilization.

Edge: Blue Jays


Jim Mason and Len Barker

October 8, 2015

Jim MasonLen Barker 78ALDS preview, part one

So the playoffs begin today for the Blue Jays and Rangers. Beginnings are often romanticized as capacious fountains of possibility, but in actuality beginnings are messy, fraught with disorientation, flailing, clumsy masquerades, mistakes. Jim Mason would be distinctly qualified to verify this, as he’s the only player to play for both the Texas Rangers in their first season, 1972, and the Toronto Blue Jays in their first season, 1977. The Rangers and Blue Jays began life with 100 and 107 losses, respectively, and Jim Mason epitomized both efforts by hitting .197 for the Rangers and .187 for the Blue Jays. You could interpret the repulsed grimace shown on his face here as his reaction to being pulled back into his second formative morass. He’s shown as a Blue Jay, but at the time the card was produced there was really no such thing as a Blue Jay, so Topps staffers had to take their best guess and doctor this blind approximation atop whatever photo they had available, in this case a shot of Mason on his 1976 team, the Yankees, who punctuated their profound distance from stumbling beginnings by winning yet another pennant in 1976, their fucking thirtieth.

Mason didn’t last long on the Blue Jays, which is probably a pretty demoralizing thing to go through—being unwanted on one of the worst teams in history. His old team wanted him, however, or at least wanted him and Steve Hargan more than Roy Howell, who they shifted to the Blue Jays along with some cash, and so in 1977 and 1978 he teamed with his counterpart here, Len Barker.

While Mason, a utility infielder on new and terrible teams, suggested the reality of beginnings, Barker was of the species of baseball player most prone to being glimpsed through the romantic notion of beginnings as daydreams of dazzling, boundless possibilities: a big young pitcher who throws smoke. In 1976 at age 20 he tossed a shutout in his second start, and the following year, at age 21, while teaming with Jim Mason, he posted in limited duty the best numbers, by percentages, of any pitcher on the 94-win squad. Things were looking up for the Rangers! But as it turned out the Rangers sank back into the swamp of losing for many more years, and Barker never really became the next Nolan Ryan, as was hoped, though he continued to show flashes throughout the years.

That’s the reality of life: bright flashes and long, dim slogs. So what’s the right way to think about beginnings? Do you grimace in knowing revulsion or smile? In practice I tend toward the former, but I always hope to at least lean toward beaming idiotic dreams.

Edge: Rangers


Butch Edge

October 1, 2012

(This post originally appeared on The Classical.)

Butch Edge Sent Me

1980, Vermont

Nada. That was the word on the license plate of our VW Camper. It means nothing. It means Mexico. It means love. But it’s gone. The Camper, the license plate. Now we have a new blue Toyota Corolla with a license plate that doesn’t mean anything.

This morning,Mom drove the Toyota Corolla to her job, and Tom drove his old black Saab to his job. My brother is at basketball camp. Little League ended a few weeks ago, my last season. The tennis ball I’m holding doesn’t have any stories in it. Some days it helps me make whole other worlds. I throw it at the duct-tape strike zone on the garage. It hits a rut on the way back to me and caroms into the front yard, rolling to a stop in the grass. I could go get it, try again. Instead I start walking down Route 14 toward Race’s.

I buy a couple of packs and walk home. I open the packs in my room. Nada. No Red Sox, no Superheroes. Mixed in among the doubles and the checklists and the nobodies is one of the Future Stars card, for the Blue Jays. The Blue Jays are still brand new and still lose all the time.

“Butch Edge,” I say out loud.


2012, Chicago

I have a few small notebooks scattered around, each about the size of a pack of baseball cards. One on a table near some bills, one in a bureau near the bed, one in a drawer with my wallet and keys, one on a file cabinet next to a Future Stars card from 1980 featuring Butch Edge. I used to carry the notebooks around and jot down observations. I planned to channel all the notes at some point into Chekhovian masterworks. For a long time I lived for some vague life to come.I would be a Man of Letters, tirelessly churning the concrete details of everyday life into literature. This future hasn’t arrived. Now there’s the job, chores, a baby. The baby doesn’t sleep. At night my wife and I take turns trying to rock him into letting go of the waking world, but he keeps clinging to it fiercely, the misery of exhaustion amassing on his tiny shoulders but never completely overtaking his insatiable curiosity. Tonight after one of my failed attempts, I gather up all my little notebooks and rip out all the scribbled-on pages so as to salvage the notebooks for making grocery lists. The baby begins to cry. It’s late. I stand there in the kitchen with my hands full of disconnected observations. I feel a little tingly, disintegrating, like a Star Trek redshirt on a malfunctioning transporter pad.

1980, Vermont

Tom gets home from work first and meditates, and then he practices walking across the tightrope he strung across the inside of the garage. On my way out to the backyard, I catch a glimpse of him up there, teetering. I know he’s going to fall off because that’s what always happens, but I look away quick so the last thing I see is him still balanced a few feet above the ground, wavering, his arms straight out.

In the backyard, the sheep, Virginia, is munching grass on her side of the electric fence. Near one of the wooden fence posts, there are some of the long-stemmed wheat-looking weeds I like to pluck and chew on like a toothpick. I yank one up out of the ground. If you touch one of these stems to the electric fence you will get a jolt.

I take a deep breath, tense myself, and touch the stem to the fence.


The fence must be shorted out again. Everything’s half-broken nowadays.

I break off a toothpick-sized stem and stick it in my mouth and pretend I’m U.L. Washington, the toothpick-gnawing shortstop for the Royals. All their guys are fast. That’s who they are. Fast and fierce and great. Who are the Blue Jays? Nada, light blue. brand new nada.

2012, Chicago

I stand at the kitchen counter, disintegrating. My baby’s crying. I look down at the little scribbled pages in my hands. What am I holding onto? As I flip them into the trash I catch glimpses. Fragments of dreams. Overheard conversations on the train. One page has some notes that I must have made while talking on the phone to Tom. The notes are about Tom’s tightrope walking. He learned to tightrope walk in 1980 as part of the skills he needed to play the lead role in the town’s production of Barnum, which climaxed with a walk across a tightrope suspended a few feet above the stage. He told me that while preparing for the role, the turning point was when he learned how he could incorporate a fall into the performance. I was going to make a big deal of this provision in my writing somehow, build a whole metaphor around it, but I never did.

He’s not with my mom anymore, and when they were together they weren’t married, but I call him my stepfather. He was there every day. I used to have night terrors as a kid. Books that cover the subject often say that these episodes featuring screaming on the part of the child are not remembered by the child, but I always remembered them. One of the ones I remember most was a later one, when they weren’t happening quite as often. Edging into the mid-’80s. The house was empty except for me and Tom. My brother must have been away at school by then, and my mom must have been on some trip. Usually, no one knew what to do with my screaming. No one could help. But Tom held my hand. It helped.

1980, Vermont

I hold out my cupped hand to Virginia across the top of the shorted-out electric fence, pretending I have a handful of grain. It’s a bad trick, but I want Virginia to come over. She does. She doesn’t complain when my palm turns out to be full of nada. She lets me scratch her forehead. She likes it. She can’t purr like a cat or lick you like a dog and her eyes are just dim black nada but she likes it and I love her.

My mom will be home soon. Lately the backseat of the Toyota Corolla is full of the bulbs of white flowers. That’s what it looks like for a second, like the car is slowly filling up with flowers, especially if I blur things by taking off my glasses. But put the glasses back on and they’re the tissues my mom cries into all the way home from her job.

2012, Chicago

My mom told me the other day over the phone that I’m a good father. But I don’t know what I’m doing. I guess she sees me being affectionate to the boy. I must have picked that up somewhere, from her, from my father, from my brother, from Tom, how it’s good to be cared for. But in general I feel like most decisions I make are mistakes. Also, my mind wanders. Earlier today, I was watching him at a playground and my mind wandered and the next thing I knew he was holding a bubonically ashen rodent carcass in his hands. I batted it away and carried him to my wife, who scoured his hands and arms with Purell. Even so, she stayed nervous the rest of the day. I was nervous too. How can you have a kid and not be ruined with anxiety every second? On the way out of the park we saw a lividly decaying bird corpse in the grass.

“That’s not a good sign, is it?” my wife said. “Things dying all over the place?”

“It’s fine, it’s fine,” I said, but my mind was reeling with visions of a mean, imminent future. The future used to be new blue nada, but now? Dead mice, dead birds, poverty, scarcity, epidemic disease. The world on a tightrope, wavering.

And tonight, my son can’t fall asleep. Midnight has come and gone, 1 a.m. has come and gone, 2 a.m. has come and gone. This happens all the time. I’ve started falling asleep on my feet, leaving this world for some other for seconds at a time before partially returning, bits and pieces left behind. Waking is now a new way of disintegrating, the present a provisional intersection of fictions.

Vermont, 1980

I stop scratching Virginia on the forehead and turn to go back to the house. A man is standing there on the lawn. He looks very tired. There’s the sound, somewhere nearby, of a baby crying.

“Butch Edge sent me,” he says to me. This man has glasses. He looks a little like my father, a little like my mother.

“Butch Edge?” I say.

“Butch Edge has glasses that look like your glasses,” he says. This is true.

“Your glasses!” he says, looking just above my head and speaking louder, like Tom up on stage booming out lines from a script. “The arm of them will break off during a fight for a rebound in an eighth grade basketball game!”

“Eighth grade?” I say. That’s in the future.

“You will get other pairs of glasses,” the man says,his voice back down to a mutter like my muttering dad. Now he’s looking down at the grass like he dropped something.

“I always come back here,” he mutters, like he’s talking to himself. “I always come back to this place.”

“I’ve never seen you,” I say. He looks back up at me. The baby is still crying somewhere.

“What I can tell you about the future is that all your glasses will break, actually, one after the other, or else will just not work after a while because your eyes will keep getting worse. Your glasses will get thicker and thicker.” He looks past me. His eyes widen. “Oh. Virginia,” he says. The way he says it, softly but with his voice going squiggly, wavering, it’s like my mom.

That crying baby. I want to do something about it, but I don’t know anything about babies. I try to think about something that I know about.

“I have to go sort my cards,” I say.

I can hear the Toyota Corolla pulling into the drive. There’s a little mist of sadness over everything.

“Butch Edge,” the man says,fading into the nada, the crying.

Chicago, 2012

And the crying gets louder and I’m back at the kitchen counter in front of several small narrowed notebooks with blank pages.

“Butch Edge,” I say.

In 1979, his only major league year, Butch Edge notched three wins. The last was a complete game 3–2 victory over Hall of Famer Jim Palmer and the eventual American League champ Baltimore Orioles. For a moment, the future through thick glasses: not bad. Butch Edge.

I go into the bedroom and take the baby from my wife. I can’t get him to sleep but after a while, through nothing I’m doing or not doing, he stops crying. He loves life, hates to sleep. He reaches for my glasses and pulls them from my face and goes blurry. One of his favorite comedy routines: He takes my glasses, I call him a bully, he laughs. In my arms this being of pure laughing light, free of the future and the past, nada light blue brand new nada. I’ll never know what I’m doing. Blind I hold on.


Alvis Woods

November 9, 2011

The Cardboard Gods Ass Backwards ABCs of Parenting

W Is for Woods

In 1979, the year this card came out, the Iran Hostage Crisis began. I came to this thought recently, when realizing that the era of parenting in my home had passed Day 100, and realizing that I had thought of it that way, as if it were being reported on the nightly news, e.g., “Day 100: Still No Sleep.”

The Iran Hostage Crisis went on through the end of 1979 and through 1980 and into 1981. It was one of my first experiences in following a news story for an extended period of time, though earlier in 1979 I had also been aware that Skylab was plummeting to the earth in chunks and that the Three Mile Island nuclear plant was oozing deadly radiation.

The best moment of Alvis Woods’ professional career had already come and gone in a flash by 1979. You can sense this in his 1979 card. He is being surrendered back into the gray from which he came.

He’d been a minor leaguer for some years when he was selected with other odds and ends in the November 1976 expansion draft that breathed mediocre life into the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays. He was the eighth player taken by the Blue Jays, who had already nabbed another outfielder named Woods (Gary) with their fourth pick. Alvis Woods didn’t get a start in the team’s first game, but he entered as a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning and homered. This first big league at-bat for Alvis Woods, in the first game of a brand new team, must have passed by like lightning. I wonder what is left of the moment. Woods played for a few more seasons for Toronto, toiled back in the minors for a few more, then resurfaced for a brief stint with the Twins in 1986. He was a decent hitter, but he didn’t seem to have had any moments that would have topped that first one. What does he remember of it?

I don’t know what I’ll remember of these first months as a father. A few nights ago at dinner we set the baby down in a high chair. It was a first. To this point we have had to eat in shifts designed so that the parent who isn’t shoveling down food can hold the baby and attempt to keep him from becoming loudly and heart-breakingly unhappy, but last night we realized he was okay with sitting in his little chair even though he’s too young to really sit up on his own but okay with the slanted back of the chair propping him, so we sat at the table like humans and ate and he looked at a book made of soft cloth about bears. It was a peaceful moment. It made me want to aim my gratitude somewhere. I’ll aim it now, while thinking again of the moment, at Alvis Woods. These are the only gods I’ll ever worship, I guess. It’s been this way since I was a kid. So thank you, Alvis Woods.

A couple weeks earlier, I took the boy on a walk in his stroller to a park by the lake. Sometimes he falls into one of his exceedingly rare naps in the stroller, but this time he cried the whole way there, louder and louder. I walked faster and faster until I was trotting, then jogging, then running maniacally, because sometimes the extra jiggling calms him down, but on this day it wasn’t working. By the time we got to the park he was wailing and I wanted to tie a cinder block to my ankle and dive off the pier that extends out into where the lake gets deep. Instead, I took the baby out of the stroller and walked him around on some grass below some trees. He started to calm down and look around at the branches of the trees and some little birds hopping around from branch to branch. I sat down on a bench and got a bottle and fed it to him. It was a nice day, blue sky, mild. I was feeding my son on a bench below some trees.

I grew up surrounded by woods, but I never thought about them. Hallucinogens ingested in my late teens finally made me aware of the woods in a worshipful way. You know, like, “Wow, dude, check out those trees.” Now I stand by the window in my apartment in a city and hold my son and point at the trees on our street and say, “tree.” He stares out at them and at everything. His eyes are pure. Sometimes I feel like a hostage or like a flaming chunk of Skylab is about to fall on my head. Sometimes I want to tie a cinder block to my leg and leap into Lake Michigan. Sometimes I hold my baby and feel like it is the best moment of my life, my first at-bat, my first moment in the majors, my first game with a brand new team, my hands feeling some kind of perfect connection that will haunt me the rest of my lucky fucking days.


Jose Canseco

April 18, 2011

Maybe it’s okay when things stop coming together. Who knows? Either way, here are some of my disappointing attempts over the last several days to write about this loaded Jose Canseco card. Nothing has really felt like it was coming together, but I have to put something down and try to move on. 

From 4/17:
Eras personified
1900-1919: Ty Cobb
1920-1945: Babe Ruth
1946-1968: Jackie Robinson
1969-1985: Reggie Jackson
1986-200?: Barry Bonds or Jose Canseco?

From 4/16:
Everything is provisional, faulty, impure. Every day I try to find a true sentence. Every day I feel conquered. I wish I knew what to do with this feeling. Sisyphus at least knew the particulars of his punishment. A rock, a hill. I can’t put my back into anything. No true sentences exist (not even this one). 

From 4/15:
I thought this morning I might start keeping track of my mistakes. This would only be fair for someone who spends so much time scrutinizing and exploiting the stats on the backs of baseball cards, those merciless numerical narratives of how far each player falls short of perfection. I made my first mistake today when I failed to spring out of bed when my alarm clock rang. I always set my alarm for very early in the morning so that I can write before I have to go to work. If I don’t write every day my days lose color and meaning, and I begin to feel like a prisoner in a pointless, exhausting life, so I try to fight it by getting up very early, thus my first mistake today, the first of my intentional or accidental diversions from my intentions, when instead of springing out of bed early I just lay there in the dark. Days begin in the cold dark and with dread, and it seems while lying in bed that the only escape from the dread is back into the warmth and oblivion of sleep. I made my second mistake when I finally did get out of bed and, while reaching for my glasses, knocked a thick biography of Charles Schulz onto the floor. This was not my intention, and it caused my wife to stir. She didn’t wake up, I don’t think, but still I didn’t intend to knock the book over, so you’d have to say it was a mistake to have done so. I don’t know if I made any mistakes with my breakfast. Probably I spilled crumbs and ate too much butter on my bread and even now cockroaches are on their way to a takeover of the kitchen and arteries are clogging in my heart, but these mistakes will have to remain unofficial for I didn’t specifically notice them. But I did notice another mistake as it was happening while I spent a long time after eating breakfast reading the Charles Schulz biography. This again came at the cost of what little writing time I have every day. But I was near the end of the book, which is 566 pages long, and so I kept reading until Charles Schulz died. I didn’t have much time left to write.    

From 4/14:
The Jose Canseco baseball card pictured here seems ludicrous now, the subject looking less like a human being than a misshapen and overinflated Macy’s Day parade balloon, but at the time it came out, 1998, baseball was luring droves of disenchanted fans back to the game with record-smashing barrages of the long ball, at the center of the cyclone of power several unnaturally massive bat-wielding hulks, all following in the footsteps of the Johnny Appleseed of steroids pictured here in smug repose, and few among us so much as blinked. Baseball, that pure land at the center of America, was back.

From 4/13:
We the people, weak, conniving, greedy, diseased in body and mind, in order to force a pure land into being will use force to trample anything in our path. We the people, addicted to purity, forever scour the land of apparent impurities, the godless and savage and monstrous, and we the people expand and enslave, never satisfied, purity forever elusive. Splits and fissures everywhere, we the people are fractured, atomized. We the people dream of the pastoral idyll of green fields and inalienable truths and baseball, every new transgression seen not as evidence of an imperfect world but as a sin against the pure ideal that, in reality, never was and never will be.