Central among my beliefs is that the 1987 Topps set is the finest collection of baseball cards ever produced. There are no hard facts to support this claim, only my personal zealotry, and though I understand that my love is highly subjective, and the product of timing and circumstance as much as it is of accomplishment in design, I’m unshakable: this is the set, this is the year.
— “Simulacra,” for SABR’s Baseball Cards Blog
For all its prideful stubbornness, baseball has evolved, but in the virtual stream it becomes an ahistorical soup, the ’77 Yankees rubbing up against the 2001 Mariners and the ’68 Cardinals. We Are Family and the Big Red Machine and the Cardiac Kids and the Amazin’s and Nos Amours. Exhibitions, early-season snoozers, All-Star Games, World Series nail-biters. In YouTube’s chronological blender, Ken Griffey Jr. is always chugging around third on Edgar’s double to beat the Yankees, Mark Fidrych is always a goofy, charismatic rookie phenom on the rise, and Ichiro is always delivering a long-distance precision strike to nab Terrence Long at third. Picture quality careens from black-and-white abstraction to grainy videotape—but it’s all baseball, and at this moment that’s all I need it to be.
— “A Means of Coping,” for The Hardball Times
This persistent little book has just entered a new printing — its fifth — the first to feature any editorial changes. Over at the Invisiblog I wrote about that small change, and why it felt necessary to do now.
The Seattle Mariners’ history is one long tale of woe studded with infrequently dazzling displays of capability, with all of it adding up to exactly zero championships. I say this as someone who has counted several Mariners as his favorite players. There’s no logic to this, just as there’s no relief from the routine cruelties of time and money. It just is.
— “Every Fifth Day,” the last entry in the season-long The Bottom of the Order series, for Hobart
The cherry and strawberry seasons have passed; the apples are reddening. Only a few games remain. A Pit Spitter lays down a bunt, and the runner on third crashes in: a perfect suicide squeeze.
— “Snap, Go, Fling,” for Hobart
The thing I can’t wrap my head around, when it comes to the 2003 Detroit Tigers, is what it must have been like to show up to work every day. What must it have taken, as the losses mounted – up to and including the 119th, the most defeats ever amassed by an American League team, and tied with the ’62 Mets for the most losses in major league history – to rouse oneself for the excruciating daily repetition of a very public abasement?
— “Your 2003 Detroit Tigers,” for Hobart
Horace Guy Womack was in the employ of four different Major League teams across five seasons, a serviceable bullpen righty who lost as many games as he won, but managed to keep his lifetime ERA a shade below three. There’d be no reason to know his name, probably, if he didn’t have such a great one: he went by Dooley, for reasons which are less than clear at this remove.
— “Dooley Womack,” for Hobart
I think about Pedro Guerrero sometimes. More than is normal, or healthy, I’d guess.
— “Pedro Guerrero,” for Hobart
Gaylord Perry toiled for twenty-two seasons in the majors, and the look on his face suggests it was hard toil indeed. Wind worn, exasperated, he mutely submits to yet another examination of his cap, his head, his uniform, for a dab of Vaseline, a smear of K-Y. It might or might not have been there – Perry’s success rested on the twin pillars of a doctored ball’s unpredictability, and the thought, instilled in the head of each batter he faced, that the ball might be materially abetted in its tortuous journey from mound to plate.
— “A Photograph of Gaylord Perry Being Investigated for Foreign Substances,” for Hobart
The afternoon was mellow in all the right ways, and things broke in our favor: the parking was free, the rain held off, the saxophone quartet absolutely nailed “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” and a kindly usher handed one of my boys a retrieved foul ball on our way out.
— “Overrunning It,” for Hobart
The Bisons eventually fell to visiting Pawtucket, but that didn’t seem all that noteworthy as the shells exploded above our heads in red and green and blue and white splashes and my kids whooped and screamed and laughed. After the last of the smoke drifted over Swan Street we headed for the gate in no particular hurry to get anywhere, though we were suddenly on the wrong end of a three hour drive, our beds at the other. Leaving, we all intuited, meant saying a practical goodbye to what had been a very good summer indeed, though it was then not yet September.
— “Dispatch #9: I shall not pass this way again,” for Sinkhole magazine