Sunday, January 06, 2008

The SBs And The HBPs--One To Effin' Grow On

Great line by he who Wilks, Josh Wilker, of Cardboard Gods:

"[...] I’m the kind of guy who lets things slide, who daydreams through pitches and at-bats and games. Let’s face it, entire seasons have gone by without me ever really leaving the fetid cycle of impossible thoughts inside my skull."

The ellipses above replace the word "But." I just thought it odd to take a quote out of context and have it start with the word "but." See, this is the stuff a "real" writer would never tell you.

Anyway, I think that's the perfect quote for two AM on a cold winter's night, so far from baseball season, yet much like the way summer would be willed by a young Jere to arrive as fast as possible in the middle of a crawling school year, right around the corner from it. (I also would use my sister's technique of "sitting and staring at the wall" on the last day of summer, to slow down time, hoping that day would never end and the dreaded school year would never start.)

Wilker's post centers on Rickey Henderson's 1980 rookie baseball card, which I have my own memories of. In middle school, we were forced into after-school "clubs." You'd go once a week for half the year, then you'd sign up for a different club for the second half. The first time we had to do this, I saw "Baseball Cards" on the list, and signed my name. I guess I just assumed the few friends I had would do the same. Instead, I found myself in a room with a bunch of strangers from the grade above mine. So I'd just sit there with my cards and my lists, waiting for someone to come up and talk to me--but mainly waiting for the session to end. This was 1986, so I was still big on collecting, but I hadn't yet realized the monetary value of some of my older cards, which dated back to 1979/1980. So those were mixed in with my commons. One day, some kid came up to me, flipped through my cards, and took out the 1980 Henderson. He proposed a trade. Up for a swap, as Bobby Brady would say, was a 1978 Don Baylor.

1978! Remember, when you're eleven years old, a year or two is a huge percentage of your life. Three times as big as when you're 33, anyway, which is the age I'll reach this year. So just the fact that the Baylor card was from two years before the Henderson made me want it more. Add to that the fact that I had no 1978 cards, so it was that much more exotic, and the very key detail that Don Baylor was on the Red Sox at the time, whereas Rickey Henderson was a Yankee (though neither team was represented on either of the cards in question), and I made the deal like that.

I have no other memories from that club. I have to believe I either faked illness on the days it took place, or I just bailed on it. I also remember choosing "fly fishing" one semester--although, again, that's where the memory ends. I know for a fact I never did any actual fly fishing, though. We must have just sat indoors talking about it. Eventually I found "Trivial Pursuit & Pictionary," the first club that gave me any enjoyment, and that had anyone I knew in it.

Within a few years, I started to realize that baseball cards were worth money, provided you kept them in good shape. I'll never forget opening a price guide, and checking out my antique Baylor card: A few cents? Hmmmm.... I checked the Rickey rookie. Its price, surrounded by meager two-digit amounts, jumped right off the page: 9.00.

As with years, a few bucks are gigantic when you're not old enough to drive. NINE dollars. For a baseball card. That I'd had. And was *robbed* of by an older boy who surely knew what he was doing. It's like when I sold my entire matchbox car collection to a grown man at a tag sale for three dollars. I'd say "I hope he can sleep at night," but it's probably pretty hard anyway when your butt hurts that much.

I was pretty pissed, but the Henderson price leveled off over the years. It's not like I could've improved my life had I kept it. (I just checked ebay, and some people are trying to get 50 bucks for it, while others can't get any bids at a starting price of &7.99. The Baylor can be picked up for a cool forty. Cents.)

But I learned my lesson. Some people will try to get anything out of someone else as long as that person is willing to give it up, without thinking about morals or ethics or anything like that. It's like how today people will make fun of sports or concert venues, whining, "They charge five bucks for water because they know they can get it from us!" Then I look on ebay, craigslist, and the slimeball ticket agencies, and those same people are selling their 25-dollar seats to events at those venues for 250 bucks. Why? Because they know people will give it up. Just because you can do something doesn't make it right.

I'm just now seeing, over two decades later, the symbolism in this story. In the world, there are Rickey Hendersons, and there are Don Baylors. The Hendersons will steal from you over and over again, flaunting your former possessions from behind dark sunglasses. The Baylors will stand there, take one in the thigh, and walk away--in a little pain, maybe, but okay with the fact that they've escaped the confrontation.

Find a middle ground. Don't let people walk all over you, but don't be a prick, either.

Words to live by, Jere. And as Billy Joel used to say at the very end of his live shows, "Don't take any sh*t from anyone!"
Thanks, Jere. I hope your weekend so far has been great.
I wish I was in a "Trivial Pursuit & Pictionary" club. I say we start one- monthly meeting at rotating houses. : )
Sounds good to me. cards......
I think I need to go to a meeting.
Where's my sponsors phone number?

Some people replaced their drugs with religion. I replaced mine with baseball cards.

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Location: Rhode Island, United States