Friday, July 22, 2011

Memories for Sale

If you have lost track, there are 8 posts before this to read if you want the story of the whole trip from the beginning.  Start at "Round Tripper and work forward...

We had a few more things to accomplish.  First, we needed souvenirs for the family.  We couldn’t go home empty handed, and gifts would help minimize what little feelings of guilt we might have.  Second, I needed to buy some memorabilia that I had seen in the shops already that I could not resist.  Daddy needed his own souvenirs since relying on my memories of the trip will become more problematic with each passing year.  Third, we needed to eat.  It was 7:30 PM, the tent was up and ready, we were rain soaked, so it was back in the car for the 5 minute ride to Cooperstown.

We had a cheap dinner of pizza and soda downtown and watched baseball on the big screens while we ate.  Many of the other patrons in the restaurant were in full uniforms, wearing baseball cleats, covered in dirt and grass stains from diving or sliding, and talking baseball.  Here in Cooperstown, baseball wasn’t some distant historical academic study.  Baseball and the playing of baseball was a living, breathing part of everyday life.  The town didn’t just exist to honor memories of past baseball greatness; it was active in creating new memories for regular visitors every day (except maybe on Christmas – I think it’s closed on Christmas, but you get my point).

There were 3 major pieces of personal memorabilia that I had seen during the day that I was committed to getting.  The only reason that I had not purchased them sooner was that the longer I waited, the more I could justify that I had made a dispassionate decision, and not an emotional one.  This was a game that I was playing in my mind, however, and I knew that even if Thomas didn’t.  I was buying. 

From the minute I saw the framed Cleon Jones black and white photo of him about to catch the final fly ball to end the 1969 World Series odyssey of the Miracle Mets (in a twist of fate, the final out was hit by none other than Davey Johnson, new manager of the Washington Nationals and former manager of the 1986 World Champion Mets), signed by Cleon with the Certificate of Authenticity included, I knew that this would be mine.  That it was on sale was a bonus.  Certificate of Authenticity for the signature was a nice touch, although I do not know of any international body that issues Certificates of Authenticity, and I would not know a homemade certificate from an official one, but this did not matter.  I was in love with this image, and whole idea of it.  This was my youth in a frame, for $80.
The second purchase was half impulse, half premeditated.  The large framed and autographed photo of the Shot Heard ‘Round the World, taken from a centerfield camera as Bobby Thompson crossed the plate and Jackie Robinson looked on in the foreground in defeat is one I have coveted for many years (see blog post Paradoxical Unity, Nov. 1, 2010 for details).  This particular one was larger than I thought I could afford, and I was sure that the autographs of both Bobby Thompson and Ralph Branca would put this one out of reach.  Out of pure curiosity, I asked the lonely teenager working the register how much it was, since it was unmarked.  She called someone on her cell phone, described the picture, and named the price.  I hesitated for 1 or 2 seconds before I said, “Wrap it up.”  Now I was in a hurry to beat any return phone call she might receive.  I had seen this picture with signatures at a quarter of the size in other stores in town for $100.  My price was $64.

I did not buy the 3rd picture that I looked at in several stores.  The shot of Willie Mays making the over the shoulder catch in the 1954 World Series would have to wait for another day.  This was my idea of self-control on this shopping spree.  I would have to settle for looking at the Xerox copy of the catch that is pinned to the bulletin board in my office.  Maybe one of my readers will add this to my Christmas list…

Buying t-shirts as souvenirs for the girls should have been easy, especially since every store had t-shirts.  Thomas and I were committed to buying quality t-shirts that they would wear on occasion, and not just when they were painting or gardening.  The problem was that there were too many choices and too many stores.  Everything in Cooperstown had ALL SALES FINAL clearly marked, so we operated under the theory that we couldn’t buy any t-shirt until we had seen every t-shirt in town.  We put so much thought into these t-shirts that the stress started to erode the joy of giving that we should have been feeling.

It could also be that we were 2 men who have no idea how to shop for clothing.  It’s possible.

Purchases made, it was back to camp to settle in for the evening.  We brushed teeth (with our own tooth brushes), washed up, and climbed into our sleeping bags.  It was only 9:30, and we had a little energy left.  Thomas decided to use that time to organize his newly purchased baseball cards (he bought 3 packs at the Hall of Fame gift shop).  He had brought his entire collection of cards along on our trip.  He housed them in a 3” thick binder, filled with plastic page protectors that had pockets for each card.  Every team was in alphabetical order, and every player within the team was in alphabetical order.  It was a highly organized system, and Thomas took great pride in it.

He laid out the newly purchased cards, and together we were excited when good players appeared and disappointed when the no name players appeared.  I helped Thomas to group them by team, and then he was ready to add the cards to his library.  That’s when the fun began.

If the card was “Adrian Beltre”, my little OCD boy would move every card forward in sequence by one space to create room for the Beltre card in the correct alpha location.  For teams like the Nationals, where he had 5 sheets of 12 cards each, that could mean moving approximately 50 cards one at a time to make room for a Roger Bernadina card.  I let Thomas know that this was insane in kind fatherly terms (I think I said, “Thomas, that’s insane.”  I was careful not to say HE was insane.), and I availed myself to conduct a deep psychological analysis of my boy to discover what it is we did to him to create such a compulsion.  We were in the woods in a tent alone, and none one would hear us.  Tell me what is wrong, my son.

Thomas was undeterred by my negativity.  He told me that he liked keeping the cards organized, and that he did not mind moving the cards one by one to meet that goal.  He enjoyed it, he said, and he told me that I didn’t need to help, so what should I care?  He was having fun. 
This logic was hard to argue.  I was certain that during my youth, I did similar things that seemed a bit compulsive to adults, but completely normal to me.  I particular, I saved the newspaper box scores from every baseball game played in the 1973 season in a 3” 3-hole binder.  I still have the binder.  In that context, moving the baseball cards forward one by one didn’t seem any less insane than saving box scores for 38 years.  In a sort of compromise to ease my mind, he did agree that it might make sense to start saving the cards by team by player in separate binders by year.  That would at least help avoid situations where he had to move 80 cards back one space each to file a Rick Ankiel card.  I could now sleep.

We laughed about passing gas for a few minutes, and then called it a night.

Next: Oh No! Extra Innings!

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