My Dad grew up fatherless during the Depression. By the time he was nine, he was plotting with a friend how to get home from downtown with most of the money they made that day shining shoes. They had a couple of tough neighborhoods to negotiate, and he explained how they would hide money in their shorts, their cap, and leave a couple coins in an obvious place so the kids who would inevitably stop them would be satisfied with their 45-cent haul.
When I was nine, I would sit on the floor of my bedroom, and make up a sort of Strat-o-Matic baseball game with a deck of cards. Each card was a different result, groundout, strikeout, triple, then I’d shuffle them, make up lineups out of my baseball cards, and place all of the cards on the floor, basically where their position was. I’m sure this drove my dad nuts, as I had no ambition in life beyond laughing myself breathless to classic Tom & Jerry cartoons. When my concerned parents asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, of course it was a baseball player! He would shake his head in disgust and tell me I had to actually get outside and play and practice to be a good player, not sit in my room and play kids’ games.
That would hurt, but I never remember taking that advice to heart. We played 16´´ softball every night in the bank parking lot, played as much fast pitch as the parked cars allowed. I played in Little League — two innings a game, actually. I never got along with the coaches’ kids, and would do the exact opposite of what one of the other dads suggested. My brother reminded me once that I was in right field, and a fly ball was hit to me: I got under it, called everybody else off, then caught the ball at my waist, a perfect basket catch. He said the coaches were looking at me and just mumbling, “What is he doing? Why won’t he put his glove up?” I don’t think I played a full two innings that game.
Anyway, I could curry favor with my dad by telling him tales of putting one over on somebody else, which I’m led to believe was one of his deepest convictions. While shoplifting would get a round scolding, simpler ruses would get a chuckle out of my Dad with an apple/tree analogy.
Enzo Hernandez was the all-glove, no-bat starting shortstop for the Padres on some pretty bad teams in the first half of the 70s. He was replacement to slightly-above replacement level through his eight-season major league career. I got a version of the 1972 Enzo Hernandez card without stats on the back. We called the error a blank-back. The rumor was that if you showed that card to the bored teenage kid behind the counter, he’d let you take another pack. I used that one a few times over. Ironic that it was Enzo Hernandez, because he was the the type of common player where you could buy three packs of cards, and you might get two of his.