Much like in The Wax Pack: On the Open Road In Search of Baseball’s Afterlife, The Great American Baseball Card Flipping, Trading and Bubble Gum Book is a waxing melodramatic about the good old days of the authors’ childhoods, wrapped up within an entirely too long title.
But in this case, while Brad Balukjian went in search of a dozen-odd players long after their careers had ended, Brendan C. Boyd and Fred C. Harris spend their pages just absolutely roasting the players and artists of a bunch of 1950s baseball cards.
Take Aurelio Rodriguez. Rodriguez, a modest-hitting infielder spent parts of 17 seasons in the majors, accruing 1,570 base hits and 15.1 WAR.
Or, as Boyd and Harris do, you could describe him thusly:
Or, Dave DeBusschere, who had considerably less success than Rodriuguez.
In the authors’ words:
Perhaps my favorite of these belongs to Wayne Terwilliger.
I love it.
That’s not all there is to this book, of course. The authors do spend pages reminiscing—read, describing in colorful language—on their childhood collection of baseball cards, and the subsequent things they might have done to make modern day collectors faint.
And, somberly, how we all grow out of childhood, and some of us aren’t lucky enough to keep our childhood collections.
But the cards are the best part. And there’s no shortage of them—no shortage of Phillies, either.
Bo Belinsky: “...the originator of the poolside spring training press conference for non-roster relief pitchers.”
Ryne Duren: “He also annually led the league in bad eyesight.”
WIllie Jones: “Willie Jones was nicknamed Puddin Head after a song popular in his youth, and the name was somehow appropriate as a description of this slow-moving third baseman from South Carolina.”
Earl Torgesen: “Earl Torgesen’s favorite activities were fist-fighting and breaking his shoulder, both of which he did whenever he got the chance.”
Elmer Valo: “What I will always remember ELmer Valo for will be his spectacular catches in deep left field in Connie Mack Stadium, catches that inevitably had him crashing into the wall and crumpling dazed to the ground, with his glove in the air and the ball still in it.”
Cal McLish: “Cal McLish’s full name was Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar Tuskahoma McLish. If you can pick out a thread running through all that, then you are definitely a better man than I.”
Emory Church: “Bubba bubba bubba bubba bubba bubba bubba bubba bubba bubba bubba...” (Ed note, it’s literally a whole page of bubbas).
Not every entry is a dig, either. Richie Ashburn: “You could always count on Richie Ashburn. He deserved more than the one championship season he got.”
The book is well worth the read. It’s long out of print, so grab one wherever you can. As of this writing, it appears to be in-stock at Amazon, though that wasn’t the case as recently as last month.
Editor’s note: I was provided a free copy of this book by my Dad. He loved it so much that he actually sought out cards of a few of the players featured, notably Terwilliger and the unmistakable Don Mossi, both of which are sitting on my desk as I type this.