It is not an accident that Let’s Remember Some Guys, as it exists in its current form, is built around trading cards. The iterations of this broader project that have existed in the past were necessarily different—there are the true analog versions that Tom Ley originated, and there is also the avant-garde anti-cinema of the Facebook Live sessions that Tom and Samer did in which they both just like said “Troy Hambrick” and kind of nodded and chortled softly. Once we started ripping packs for the videos, the conceit became clearer: there was a Guy, and that Guy got a card, and oh did you remember that Guy. It worked and still works, at least in the sense that we’re still allowed to do it.
But when you consider how long people have been making trading cards—which is not quite as long as they’ve been making Guys, but is also honestly pretty close—the work becomes more daunting. There are just too many cards and too many Guys to remember all of either, because there have been so many years and so many card companies and just so much in general. No one would blame you if you had forgotten Barney “The Yiddish Curver” Pelty, or had never known he existed in the first place. Before discussing him with the baseball card collector and Friendly Jewish Baseball History Maven Dr. Seymour Stoll, I was in the latter group. Dr. Stoll, to his great credit, has never forgotten Pelty, who was a star-crossed ace with the St. Louis Browns decades before the Polio vaccine was a thing. He has his reasons.
Those reasons might not be immediately clear to a normal fan, admittedly. The Browns teams on which Pelty played were very bad, and his near-decade of excellence with those teams between 1903 and 1912 amounted to nothing much, really. No pitcher in the history of that franchise, which ultimately became the Baltimore Orioles, has hit more batters than Pelty did; only five have a better career ERA with the club. How much this matters to you is a question only you can answer, but only a few people have ever known any of this in the first place; it is hard to imagine how many of those remembered it, and for how long. We must presume they had their reasons, too.
For Dr. Stoll, as for anyone in the Guy Remembering Community, the specific reasons why are secondary to the practice and ritual of remembering itself. In his case, he has a number of highly collectible memory aids in his collection—Pelty cards from some of the most storied sets in trading card history, but also a tiny and vividly colorful Barney Pelty stamp, and a Barney Pelty card made out of silk for some reason. He has these because he is a collector of baseball cards with Jewish people on them, and because Barney Pelty, who was great for a few years and forgotten for several decades, was such a player. The cards, like his memories and like his reasons for caring, are his. He is, to his credit, very generous about sharing them.