By Brendan Boyd and Fred Harris
Published by Tickor and Fields
I first found this book in the bookstore at college, back in the 70s. Being a baseball fan and card collector, I read it. And read it. And read it. And read it. I wore it out. I found it again at a used book store in Indiana, sometime in the 90s. That copy has been opened every year.
What’s the attraction? For ordinary guys like me, the authors have spun the truth about baseball cards and what they meant to kids like me, who grew up in the 1960s. We spend a few chapters reminded about pop culture of the day – the TV shows, our news heroes, and how horrible it was to find out that mom had thrown out our baseball cards. We spend a chapter in the offices of the TOPPS baseball card company, learning how they produce cards, learning how certain players were tough to deal with and how some could hardly wait to see their cards. We also got the inside info on some of their other products like Bazooka bubble gum and that gum that came in a big plastic tooth.
But most the book considers individual baseball cards as they feature certain players – and don’t expect the list to center on all-stars or Hall of Famers. Here you will find the workaday ballplayer; the scrubs, the benchwarmers, the goats, the ones with funny names, and even an entire page dedicated to ballplayers named BUBBA… and that even included an umpire.
The team of Boyd and Harris is clever – we don’t just learn about Ryne Duren, a pitcher for the Yankees, leading the league in how thick his glasses were. And there’s Herbie Plews, who played second base for the Senators – our authors’ take on him? “Suffice it to say that if Richard Nixon played baseball, he’d play it like Herbie Plews”. Then there’s Don Mossi, who led the league in five o’clock shadow. I think you get the idea…. The authors poke fun at some of the lesser known players out there, but they do it with love, and also with the recognition right up front in the introduction that they know full well that the authors’ own baseball skills pale against even the least of those in the book. But there are the reverent nods to the greats of baseball – what they decided to say about the great Ted Williams touches the heart of the child that lives in sixty three year old guys like me.
And as if that isn’t enough, there are mention of specialty cards like team cards, world series cards, and the dreaded checklist cards.
I enjoy the gentle humor of the book. That’s why I read it almost every year. The illustrations are mostly color pictures of single baseball cards, many that I had in my collection as a kid. What a fine, fun book for the baseball card aficionado. I close this in the same way they close their book . . .
GOOD NIGHT, SIBBY SISTI, WHEREVER YOU ARE.