Cardboard gods, Beniquez & the '11 Sox

March, 30, 2011
HOUSTON -- Amidst all the predictions, something completely different: Josh Wilker muses on the 2011 season through the selection of random baseball cards from his childhood collection. You may be familiar with Wilker, the author of 11 books, and his book, "Cardboard Gods,'' the term he uses to describe the ballplayers pictured on the pieces of his precious collection. It is through his cards that Wilker launches a narrative of his life, and musings on a wide range of topics. I have yet to read the book, but intend to do so, after discovering his Web site.

His riff on the Red Sox begins with a 1975 Juan Beniquez card. Here's a snippet of what he writes:

"The year this card came out was my first full year of collecting cards, and following my big brother’s lead I sorted the cards into teams, my little collection of Red Sox by far my most valued rubber-band wrapped stack, and within that stack I sorted by that most fundamental of sorting systems, still relatively new to me, the alphabet, and so Juan Beniquez was on the top of my stack of Red Sox the year I fell in love for good with that team and with cards and with baseball. Below him was Burleson and Carbo and Cleveland and all the others, but he was on top, the first of the Red Sox.

"I have always thought of him this way, though I hadn’t realized it until now. It’s the reason why—even though he left the team the next season and played for many years and for many other teams after leaving—I still think of him as a definitive Red Sox player from my childhood. I still think of him not as a Texas Ranger or California Angel or Seattle Mariner but instead exactly as he is here, a young, whip-thin guy with a sly grin on his face, holding his bat straight out in front of him like he’s mocking a dowser or making fun of a teammate by pretending his bat is that proverbial barrier from disgustingness, the ten-foot pole. Or like he’s holding the bat out playfully for someone to try pulling it out of his hands, an offer to take him up in a tug of war.''

Gordon Edes

ESPN Staff Writer



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