You ever have one of those days in the middle of winter where you just can’t get warmed up no matter what you do?
The temperature plummets, and the wind whips around you like a playful puppy, except instead of licking you and nipping at your heals, it steals the warmth right from your very soul?
You know, that kind of cold. The kind where you bundle up and turn the heat up and then crank up a space heater right in front of you for good measure … and yet you’re still shivering?
Yeah, it’s an awful affliction. But I have the cure.
Well, maybe not the cure, exactly, but at least a way to trick your mind into thinking warmer thoughts.
Here’s the secret …
Look at your baseball cards.
Big revelation, I know, given that you’re reading these words on a baseball card blog, but hear me out.
First off, I acknowledge that baseball stretches through most of the calendar year and that plenty of baseball games are played in the cold. Heck, I wrote a whole post on that subject yesterday.
But like I also said in that piece, baseball is a summer game at heart. I mean, would you be so interested in all the diamond happenings if we went right from Spring Training to the World Series each year, without six months of rising-then-falling temperatures, and hopes.
I sure wouldn’t.
From the early sunshine of Florida (and Arizona) to boiling All-Star Games to a Nolan Ryan fastball to blistering pennant races, baseball has always thrived on heat.
And baseball cards do a pretty good job of showing us that fire, which is why Day 6 of this 2019 Spring Training Baseball Card Challenge prevails upon us to consider a card that looks hot.
Now, there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of pasteboards that could have gotten the call here, so I pretty much just worked through some stacks until a card screamed out of the flames to me.
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And the one that did is … the 1983 Fleer Don Baylor card (#77).
I’ve always been a from-afar admirer of Don Baylor, ever since I saw his 1979 Topps card in the 1982 Topps Kmart 25th Anniversary set (yes, that set again). That’s the issue, in case you’ve forgotten, that depicts miniature versions of Topps cards from 1962 through 1981, each one showing an MVP from the given year.
So I knew early on that Baylor was the 1979 AL MVP when he played for the California Angels.
By the time I held that 1983 Fleer card in my hands for the first time, I could also see (from the stats on the back), that 1979 had been his career year — it’s tough for a mere mortal to top .296, 36 home runs, 139 RBI, and 22 stolen bases. Especially given that Baylor was moving into his mid-30s by the time I “discovered” him.
Still, he was a slugger who could do plenty of other things on the field, especially with a bat, and he looked like a nice dude, to boot. Somewhere along that time, I learned, too, that Baylor had a penchant for taking a baseball to the arm or rump to get on base and help his team out.
Gotta love that.
But my admiration remained of the “afar” variety because it was the 1980s and Baylor played not just for another team, but for American League teams. Which meant I hardly ever got to see him play.
What I knew of him, though, I loved … right down to his cardboard. And that 1983 Fleer card was no small part of the Don Baylor ethos in my mind.
Here you had a guy who had reached the pinnacle of his sport yet was there in the batting cage, batting gloves on both hands, bat tucked under his arm, either ready to or having just put in even more time honing his craft.
I’m not sure where or when this photo was taken, other than to say it was before 1983 and it was someplace hot — likely on the road, given that Baylor is wearing his dark navy blue Angels road uniform.
You know it’s a hot day because 1) the sun glares in the reflection off Baylor’s batting helmet, 2) Baylor is wearing short sleeves, and 3) dude is covered in sweat from the combination of his day’s work and the heat of the sun and/or locale.
And yet … he’s smiling
Hot, sweaty, working hard, and happy to be doing it all.
What more could you want in a baseball player or in a baseball card?
Check out the entire series of 2019 Spring Training Challenge posts here.
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