Poor Minnie Miñoso, 1960 Topps

 

1960 Topps #365 Minnie Miñoso

Decay. Witness the passage of time in card stock’s weather and wear, how the years streak in creases across his weary face. Hard lines demarcate quadrants wrought by some child’s bicycle spokes or an adolescent’s Velcro wallet—reckless vestiges that make it all the easier to abandon a poor memento.

Exploit. Having traversed the smaller ballparks to eke out a living as a player in the Negro leagues, along with winter stints in Cuba, Miñoso had seen a lot by this point in life. Doubtlessly, this artifact also experienced some long, exacting seasons; unlike a bottle of wine, it gained few improvements with age. A splintered wreck, it’s a far cry away from shore—and at remove from earlier, more intimate Topps or Bowman issues. And the frame is horizontal. (Diamond kings prefer vertical portraits.) Truth or Capitalism: the body outlives its use. And after a career-high 184 hits in 1960, the next year brings a slump; then Chicago trades Miñoso to St. Louis in ’62. Subsequently, he fractures his skull and breaks his wrist in an outfield wall collision. Next he’s sold in ’63 to the Washington Senators, who let him go in October. Back to Chicago the following year for only 30 games, then the Show is done. . . . Perhaps poor 1960 Topps Miñoso could have gone unnoticed for another few decades whilst moldering away in the corrugated recesses and narrow rows of storage box obscurity with the likewise huddled undesirables of his era. Just one among many cardboard souls coffined away indefinitely. The inevitable crumbs of history.

Refuse. As with the startling longevity of Miñoso’s own career—which later included extended playing days for the Charros de Jalisco of the Mexican League as well as for Chicago with some notable but brief tribute appearances at the plate—this inglorious piece o’ cardboard seems to have an uncanny, almost preternatural desire to stay in the game. It keeps hanging tough in the batter’s box, fighting off the fouls, bruises, and dings of time until the bitter end.

Calling Dr. Spengler

1990 Topps Vance Law

Who knew that Dr. Spengler, or Egon to his pals, was a bespectacled ballplayer before he was a ghostbuster? Or that he played under the pseudonym of Vance Law? Did you know he was also an All-Star and played for the Cubbies? (Usually he batted late in the order, in the 5th, 6th, or 7th slots.) Later on his fatiguing career, he even joined the same team that Tom Selleck played for in Mr. Baseball, the Chunichi Dragons. Oh, Japan—the place where American ballplayers go to learn to let go, or die. But this is a world apart from all that. Here on his Topps trading card he has thrown off the lab coat’s cold sterility. Gone is the science of paranormal rubrics and metrics. Look how he leans along the brick, elbow-high wall as the sun’s reflective glare gilds a sea of green seats in a rising hot flare. He stirs laughter yet confounds in a perfect portrait of hopeful nonchalance. He’s straight man to the funny man but funny man to most men. Try not to chortle at that chewing gum grin, the thin-rimmed frames and broad lenses like twin pools of lucid, or transparent, dreams. While not quite a star, he’s a king among “commons”—full with wool-longing, love of flannel, pinstripe aspirations. Underneath the nerd’s goofy exterior, his heart quickens to sounds of vicarious crowds. Ballpark dreams. Dreams of ghosts.

1952 Topps #195 Minnie Miñoso

1952 Topps 195 Minnie Minoso

Ever since Minnie Miñoso passed away earlier this year, I’ve been reading more and more about his remarkable career.

Of course, that inevitably leads to a casual scroll through the internets and some (digital) cardboard gazing. And who says you can’t get plenty o’ laughs & learning for free by simply browsing MichaelEbay in the wee hours of night? Check out this one seller’s fantastic auction posting details:

Orestes Minnie Minoso. Chicago White Sox. 1952 Topps 195. Barely acceptable.

Sure it’s a bit dashed off. Still, it’s one of the most colorful, earnest auction descriptions that I’ve ever read for a poor baseball card. Honestly, I think this fellow over undersold the condition of this one—re. the humility and hilarity in designating it as “a mess” and, elsewhere in the posting, “Barely Acceptable.” I’ve seen poor old baseball cards in much worse shape than this.

1952 Topps 195 Minnie Minoso, card back

Poor Sick’s Stadium Baseball Card Haiku

1970 Topps, Seattle Pilots TeamPictured back row/background: Sick’s Stadium.

Sick’s Stadium, after 1969

the ballpark yawns rain
soaked lawns glazed with minor love-
sick woes at major costs

*Visit the Sick’s Stadium Wikipedia entry here. For more photos of Sick’s Stadium, go to its final resting place amidst the stadium graveyard.

Poor Tug McGraw

1965 TOPPS BASEBALL TUG McGRAW

Many thanks to NPR’s weekend morning trivia programming for (re)introducing me to Tug McGraw. And there’s plenty of intriguing trivia indeed for poor Tug: closing out the first World Series win for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1980; father of country music singer, Tim McGraw; and then there’s that legend behind his curious moniker, reportedly due to his voracious appetite for breast milk as an infant.

Tug lived out a rather colorful playing career.  He inspired a modest if not devoted following throughout his roughly equal time spent with first the Mets (1965-1974) and then the Phillies (1975-1984). His pitching skills also earned him a couple of trips to the All-Star game. Almost as notably, however, Tug briefly met Betty D’Agostino while playing with Triple-A Jacksonville and fathered Tim. It was not until well after his retirement following the 1984 season that Tug and Tim finally developed a sustained, even close, relationship.

Sadly, tragically, Tug died from a malignant brain tumor before reaching the age of 60–but not before the bond between father & son was strengthened all the more. Earlier, Tug had reportedly  helped Tim sign his first major record contract. Now Tim helped pay for Tug’s hospital treatments. The dutiful, loving son was there to support his dying father until the end.

And the end came for Tug–late one winter afternoon in Tim’s cabin in Brentwood, Tennessee on January 4, 2004.

*SABR entry for Tug McGraw.