To understand how and why the Guys that have lodged in my mind are where they are, you must remember that this was the 1980s and 1990s, and that I lived in the suburbs, and that I am an idiot. There were things to do there, and various places within a moderate bike’s ride at which to do them; I had a little crew of fellow lil’ doofuses, many of them still among my closest friends, with which to do those things. But the environment and the circumstances and the period itself, plus the fact that my friends were also into compiling instantly worthless baseball card collections, conspired to leave me no choice. It was always going to be about Remembering Some Guys, for me, although I didn’t know it at the time. I thought I was putting together a portfolio for my future. I thought all those Upper Deck cards in decent-to-good shape would someday be more than serviceable bookmarks.
It took a long time, and the return on that investment didn’t arrive how or when or as I expected it to, but this has somehow turned out to be right. When Lauren opened the Treasure Trove Box on this most recent installment of Let’s Remember Some Guys, all I knew was that the Guys I’d see had been pre-selected because they were making weird ballplayer-on-baseball-card faces. And while the cards and the Guys did not disappoint in that regard—whether their subjects were squinting, grimacing, weirdly louche, or confoundingly upset, they all delivered—they also served a purpose I couldn’t have imagined back when I thought all those Kevin Maas cards would somehow cover my college tuition.
They opened the door to some truly useless memories, and while they often do that, I was happy to have an excuse to think about flip-up sunglasses for the first time since I tried to pull them off as a stringbeany nine-year-old. But they also revealed a different and more ambiguous kind of value. The Willie Fraser cards I owned are not worth anything, because they made too many cards and because Willie Fraser didn’t get enough outs, but while I don’t remember him—it was the ’80s and ’90s, so I would have had few chances to see him even if he’d been more notable than Willie Fraser was—I do remember his cards. Willie Fraser the baseball player never dented my consciousness, but Willie Fraser, Guy On A Baseball Card, is apparently there to stay.