Reading books is one of the few things that calms my mind for any given length of time as concentrating on a trivial concern for long moments poses some serious headaches and bones of contention. Losing yourself in a novel is a fantastic escape from everyday tedium, and I find myself getting lost in the wordplay and saucy turn of phrase by any writer with significant skills.
Despite my love of books, I had to get rid of some of the collected, messy congestion–artifacts of my bohemian demimonde past. I was sorting through some ancient boxes in a futile attempt to pare down this overflowing library when I found a dusty, dog-eared, second-hand paperback copy of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five with a coffee stain emblazoned on the cover. This copy also had (amongst the scribbled notes and penciled marginalia) a baseball card tucked inside and I had to take a blindsided pause.
I had dragged this “bookmark” around from mezcal-soaked Tijuana watering holes where the prostitutes would whisper “primo” in my ear in an attempt at extracting a few gringo dollars for an escort, extravagant Palm Springs hotels where I once kissed a model with a zit on her chin in a wooden jacuzzi, and a hash-smoke saturated Barcelona beach where a Muslim kid tried to steal my passport hidden away in a notebook while I was sleeping. It has ceased to be a simple piece of cardboard to be merely used, thrown away, or disregarded; now it is a dear friend full of memories with untold esoteric, rather dodgy, and borderline dangerous anecdotes to share in an era lovingly thought of as my “roaring 30’s.”
I know very little about the player on the card and have certainly never seen him play. Tommy Harper was born in Oak Grove, Louisiana, and was a central figure in the troubled and recently recognized (by the powers that be) racial history of the Red Sox. He had a dignified, but a rather unremarkable career with 8 teams. (not to be shortchanged–he did hit 31 home runs for Milwaukee in 1970, fashioning a trip to the All-Star game.) I find it rather odd that his career was plagued with a lack of playing time by reason that he was a defensive enigma: his career being metaphorically interchangeable with my own life at the time as I bounced around from place to place with no discernible or long term position in this murky, three-ring psychosis-like memoir of continued existence.
Tommy Harper was the best player in Seattle Pilots history. Led the league in steals in the only year of their existence in Seattle.
Sort of a dubious honor as that team was hot garbage but thanks for the information….I never bothered to look up their stats even after reading “Ball Four.” It seems Don Mincher had a pretty decent season as well,
The player they had who turned out to be the best- they traded during spring training- Lou Piniella.
Looking at the stats I am wrong- Don Mincher- Wayne Comer and Tommy Davis had better seasons than Harper.
I have an early ’70’s Mets Danny Frisella baseball card which I have kept in the glove box of every car I’ve owned since the late-’80’s. He is my de facto St. Christopher medal. I’ve never been in a serious card accident in all that time.
That is so cool! I read somewhere that Bob Costas keeps a Mickey Mantle in his wallet. Not sure if it brings him luck, but I thought that was quite interesting.
In so many ways this post is wonderful – the writing, the travel tales, and all of it from the perspective of a baseball card…..perhaps an idea for a longer piece? Great job Gary.
Thanks Steve. That means a lot coming from you.