as the baseball playoffs get interesting, i think about what's left of what i love about the game. of course, the players are outstanding -- watching a team of smooth-fielding defensive players such as the cardinals is a beautiful thing. still, most of what i love about playing the game is sensual or verbal. many love the sensual stuff -- wooden bats, leather gloves, soft outfield grass under your cleats, particles of infield dust dancing hazily before a setting sun. but i love the verbal stuff too -- everything under the broad heading of "pranks, chatter, and characters." watching a babe ruth league team this summer, i was glad to hear the same goofball conversations and affectionate ribbing that i enjoyed at 14. for example, i overheard a heated bench conversation this year on the nature of intelligence. the team's scrappy catcher adopted a learning perspective that opposed the innate differences approach of other players. how, he asked, could picasso have been the same genius at 2 that he was while painting the famous...err...you know, picasso paintings? i thought i was the only kid who argued about that sort of stuff between innings.
i don't advocate a return to the days when everyday players earned $15,000 per year and worked in warehouses over the winter, but the money seems to have squeezed a little joy from the game in recent years. so here's to jean claude marc raymond, predictably nicknamed "frenchy" by his teammates. claude raymond was a fine relief pitcher with several teams before becoming the french-language voice of the montreal expos for many years. mr. raymond's 1966 topps baseball card is shown below.
i obtained a copy of this card when i was about 10 from a neighbor's older brother (i probably traded mickey mantle for it). notice anything unusual? me neither. then, a year or two later, i came across mr. raymond's 1967 topps card. hmmm. this one is a bit tougher to see, but a barn door issue is clearly visible.
by 1968, he seems to have gotten things squared away. i don't know whether these photos represent innocent goofing or innocent mistakes, but i can't imagine such goofing and/or mistakes being repeated in consecutive years in these less-than-innocent days (see, e.g., the '89 billy ripken card). another photo from the era that brings a smile is aurelio rodriguez's 1969 card. topps actually photographed batboy leonard garcia rather than the gold-glove third baseman. in an ending that only w.p. kinsella could have dreamed up, mr. garcia now spends his days working for the baseball card company.