Baseball Card Time Warps ― and Other Marvels of the Mind
June 4, 2009
by William Szczepanek
Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Golden Age. Its mission: to explore strange, new, baseball card sites, to seek out new life and new civilizations; to boldly go where no man has gone before.
“Sulu, ahead warp 10”
Do baseball cards generate time warps for you? You definitely know what a baseball card is. You probably know what a time warp is. A time warp is a mental journey, which occurs when your mind travels to a time and place that is different from where you are now. Various things in our lives enable us to do this. They are called time triggers, and amazingly enough they work differently for every single person.
Time triggers can be anything. They can be magazine articles. They can be pictures of people. They can be music. They can even be smells or sounds. Yes, and they can be baseball cards, or even something that smells like baseball cards used to smell ― like bubble gum. The most amazing thing is that they can transport you to a time and place that you hadn’t even thought of or been to for 50 years or more. Therefore, if you are young, say under 30 years old, it’s hard to get you back very far, so you look at many of these warps as mere remembrances of past events. Sometimes they are strong and evoke bad feelings such as those embarrassing moments we will not mention. Some of these triggers evoke strong reactions, such as the sound of a truck backfiring causing a Vietnam Vet to dive to the ground in fear on a crowded city street, only to be laughed at by passers by. This doesn’t happen as frequently as it used to because cars and trucks don’t backfire as much. However, over time the bad experiences tend to be less traumatic.
What is even more amazing is that sometimes a time warp can take you back further than you are old. This most often happens through association triggers, where one item or thing applies a trigger, but the item is older than you are and its association with a prior time brings that time into focus.
This site has been time warp trigger for many people. The Internet itself has made it possible have this experience more frequently than ever before. However, you must be careful, because experiencing too many time warps in too short a period can cause irreversible brain damage, and you will no longer be able to deal rationally with your life on a daily basis. This often happens to those baseball card bloggers who make multiple posts in a day.
Some people who dwell on negatives have strong negative reactions to triggers, whereas positive-thinking people can have pleasant reactions to some prior bad happenings. We forget the strikeouts, but the home runs live on forever and grow in exaggerated clarity.
For me, certain old baseball cards can consistently warp me to a different time and place. Not all of them work, but some work amazingly well, like the following:
The 1954 card of Roy Face warps me to an A&P grocery store where my first pack of baseball cards was purchased. My mother gave me the choice of a package of Hostess Twinkies or a box of Animal Crackers. I asked for the package of baseball cards and never regretted it. Roy Face looked just like a 5-year old kid that lived two houses away from me.
The Topps 1957 Willie Mays card will forever put me in a cool, dark, narrow gangway, in the middle of Chicago on a damp April morning as I open the pack that contained the card.
The card of Walt Moryn from 1958 year takes me to a summer day in the grandstands at Wrigley field, seeing Moryn stumble into the left field wall in Wrigley field, emerge from the vines after hitting the bricks with the ball still in his glove and blood dripping from his forehead onto his uniform.
The 1956 card of Ernie Banks takes me immediately to the damp, soapy-smelling, laundry room in a basement apartment where I made the deal with a 4-year old to obtain the card.
The 1958 Sammy Taylor card puts me on a walk back to school at lunchtime on a tree-lined street, on a warm day in early June. I won the card playing a batting average game, where each person played with a stack of cards and called a position and statistic with the winner getting the card.
The 1964 card of Lou Brock puts me in a front-row grandstand seat in Wrigley field on a cold rainy day with 2,747 in attendance. The Cubs lost to the Giants and Juan Marichal, 4-0. Willie Mays went 3 for 5 with 2 RBIs. However, what I remember most was staying for a few minutes AFTER the game and seeing a coach hit fly balls to the Cubs’ Lou Brock in right field. Brock had trouble with the wind that day and consistently charged the ball and had to leap to make catches. A few days after this game, the Cubs traded Brock to the Cardinals.
A 1956 card of Hank Sauer places me at my older cousin’s house, more specifically, his bedroom where he gave me many of his cards from that year. That was something that 14-year olds often did, parting from their cards for more mature endeavors. I am sure he regretted his actions, but I have never felt guilty about accepting them. Besides, he’s dead now.
The 1959 card of Vic Power warps me to September 22 of that year, a warm, summer evening when I watched TV and saw Power hit a ground ball to Luis Aparicio, who stepped on second and threw to Ted Kluszewski at first base to clinch the pennant for the White Sox. Being a Cubs fan, it was pure torture. It was the year of Khrushchev, Kennedy, Eisenhower and air raid sirens. I was asleep in bed a short time later when the air raid sirens went off throughout the City of Chicago to celebrate the White Sox victory. People gathered in the streets and children were sent to basements for protection in fear of nuclear annihilation. The warp is humorous now, but the actual incident was not, for a young kid who regularly hid beneath school desks during weekly air raid drills.
The 1957 card of Larry Doby of the White Sox places me on a linoleum, kitchen floor where I first attempted to perfect a baseball card game. Carpet turned out to be a much better playing field.
A recent example of time warps is exemplified in the new motion picture, Star Trek. Here, new actors play the characters of the original TV series. These new actors not only resemble the earlier characters, but also have the look and feel of the original actors. This provides multiple time warps in that the new motion picture takes certain people back to a time in 1966 when the series began. For others it will be when they saw the reruns for the first time. So, everyone will have a different association and a different emotional response. Cinematography today creates a time and place for the Starship Enterprise that realistically generates the imaginative qualities of the past. Back in 1966 the starship looked cool. Today, the old Enterprise from 1966 looks like a toy model. The new starship recaptures the feeling of the old Enterprise, which may someday in the future be viewed as a clumsy use of technology. Since the original Star trek is of a future time, the new movie warps us to a date in the past, where we are looking at the future.
An example of a time trigger that takes me to a time before I can remember, is the autographed ball of the 1948 Chicago Cubs that my father gave me. This ball first warps me back to around 1953 and a slanted garage roof in our backyard. I had a great arm for a five year old and really enjoyed throwing that ball onto the roof and watching it roll down. I can still remember my father yelling at me when he had found out what I had done. So, the scuffmarks have taken off some of the signatures, and many others have faded, except for my autograph, which I applied when I was old enough to write and thought that it would be great to be a part of that elite group. Actually, it wasn’t a very elite group. The Cubs finished last in 1948 and began their annual attempts at mediocrity around that time. Some names still visible on the ball, besides mine, are Phil Cavarretta, Andy Pafko, Peanuts Lowery and a name that became recognizable to me many years later, Eddie Waitkus. So, the ball has double warps --- of my backyard, and of my father buying the ball at a smoke-filled Wrigley Field in the year I was born. I know I wasn’t there, because my mother would never have let that happen, but I can see it all happening.
How will current collectors look at their cards 50 years from now? What time warps will they experience? I try to determine answers to these questions by reading other baseball card sites, particularly those that let us look vicariously into their daily lives. Fifty years from now what will Sooz, from A Cardboard Problem, think of when she looks at a Derek Jeter card, or Marie when she looks at an Albert Pujols card? Will Wax Heaven wax poetic? Will the Ugly Baseball Card Blog find that the old, cards don’t look so bad after all? Will Wait Til Next Year still be waiting? Probably not, because he will likely be dead too. Sorry.
Will certain cards remind people of the Challenger explosion, or of 911, or of the economic recession, or the day that the Yankees moved to Beijing.
The power of baseball cards is infinite!
Do you have baseball card time warps? Does your head hurt?
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