"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Tag: cardboard gods

Got it, Got it, Need it, Got it…

Our good pal Josh Wilker is interviewed in the New Yorker’s book blog:

At one point in the book, you write, “I have spent most of my adult life imagining and reimagining the past and now I never know beyond a shadow of a doubt what actually happened.” Could you elaborate a little on that? Did that make it easier or harder to write “Cardboard Gods”?

I’ve written incessantly about the past for over two decades in any form I could manage—in notebook rantings, in poems, in letters, in essays, most recently in blog posts, and most extensively in fictional form. I am trying to get at certain emotional truths, I guess, and after a while any certainty I once had about how things actually occurred eroded. One thing I do remember for sure is that when I was a kid, I made a vow to myself to remember everything. But in trying to keep this vow I actually broke it, going over the same ground again and again until the ground had changed. It didn’t make it any easier or harder to write “Cardboard Gods.” The challenge of the writing of the book was the same challenge I’d always faced, which was to try to get the thing to feel true. I wanted the details to be honest, as honest as I could manage, and I certainly didn’t fabricate anything that I know didn’t happen, if that makes any sense, but I know my memory is faulty and that it long ago became subservient to my ruinous and sustaining need to narrate.

Hot dog.

If you haven’t read Josh’s book, Cardboard Gods, well, it is now available in paperback. Get goin’, now, git.

Lou Lou

Over at Cardboard Gods, our pal Josh Wilker previews the 2011 Yanks by harkening back to the good ol’ days:

In the Yankees’ 1970s dynasty, the most visible figure and self-appointed leader was Reggie Jackson, and the actual team leader was Thurman Munson, but Lou Piniella was, at least to me, the definitive Yankee. Consider his game-saving play in the bottom of the ninth of the one-game playoff in 1978. After a one-out single by Rick Burleson, Jerry Remy hit a fly to right that Piniella lost in the sun. Instead of panicking, he pretended that he was preparing to make a routine, nonchalant catch, then when the ball came down in front of him, he happened to be close enough to it to stick out his glove and snare it on one bounce. Burleson, fooled along with everyone into thinking that Piniella would make easy work of Remy’s fly ball, had stayed close to first and was only able to make it to second base, unable to score on the long fly out produced by the following batter, Jim Rice. The Bucky Dent home run from earlier in the game has always gotten far more attention as the pivotal moment in the game, but Piniella’s play was vital, too, and was more representative of the Yankees for its infuriating combination of smarts, skill, guts, and good luck (Dent’s improbable gust-lifted pop-up leaning much more heavily on the last of those elements).

How, sweet it was.

Mick the Quick and Pass-the-Pasta-Tommy

Josh Wilker on Tommy Lasorda and Mickey Rivers.

On Rivers…

The other night ESPN Classic replayed the game that got Rivers and the Yankees to the first of the three straight World Series: the fifth game of the 1976 American League championship series with the Royals. Before the famed riot-sparking home run by Chris Chambliss in the bottom of the ninth, Rivers keyed an early rally by slapping a base hit into centerfield. I’d forgotten how unusual Rivers looked and moved.

“What’s wrong with him?” my wife asked.

We were watching him strut-limp back to first after rounding the bag. He seemed like he’d been assembled in a rush from spare parts, long bow legs springing from a tiny torso, a weird jaunty lean to his body, as if he was suffering from a running cramp. His mouth was motoring.

“He’s a character,” was all I could say to my wife by way of explanation.

The Spaceman and Me

Even by his own high standards, Josh Wilker’s piece on meeting Bill Lee stands out. He kilt it, as they like to say.

I’ve been having trouble writing since I got back from my book tour through the Northeast, possibly because the foundation of my writing has always been whining and complaining, and what’s left to whine and complain about if you get to meet Bill Lee at the Red Sox Team Store right outside Fenway on Yawkey Way?

…I could have talked baseball with him all night, but he was of course besieged by fans. I noticed that he always asked each person where they were from, and wherever it was, he had been there and had a story to tell about it, a way of connecting. Everyone walked away smiling.

When the signing was over, we watched an inning of the game on a television in the store. Bill didn’t want to go across the street to the game because he’d be mobbed.

“When I go I make sure to always have a cup of beer in both hands so people can’t ask me to sign stuff,” he said, “but then people just buy me more and more beer and I end up getting hammered.”


Bronx Banter Interview: Josh Wilker

Every so often, you run into a kindred spirit, a guy you aren’t envious of, just proud to know. Todd Drew was like that, and so is Josh Wilker (pictured above on the left with his brother Ian). When I first read Josh’s work at Cardboard Gods, I was thrilled. He had a strong voice, wonderful sensitivity, an unassuming sense of humor, and the courage to dig deep, way below the surface. I’d want to belong to the kind of club that would have a misfit like that as a member. And I’m not alone. Josh’s long-awaited memoir, The Cardboard Gods: An All-American Tale Told Through Baseball Cards, has generated some great buzz and strong reviews. Josh hits the Big Apple tonight–he’ll be at the Nike Store in Soho from 7:30 to 9:30. He’s here through early next week and we’re happy to have him.

I got a chance to chat with Josh recently and here is our conversation. Enjoy.

Bronx Banter: Dude, first thing, what were your favorite kinds of packs to get when you were a kid? The single pack? Remember those triple packs that would be clear packaging with three little sets side-by-side?

Josh Wilker: I’m a single wax pack guy. The clear packaging ruined some essential part of the fun for me, since you could see the top and the bottom card in the stack. It was better that it was a total mystery.

BB: Bro, how deep does your nerdiness run? Do you carry a card around with you in your wallet?

JW: I don’t, but I usually have a card that I’m working up an essay on in the pocket of the nap sack that I lug to and from work. And a couple summers ago when I came to New York to–among other things–go to Shea Stadium for the last time, I made a point of carrying an Ed Kranepool in my pocket every day of the trip.

BB: Nice. Do you ever feel any attraction to modern baseball cards?

JW: I just wrote a piece for GQ.com, of all places, considering my unstudliness, on the 2010 Topps cards. I bought a couple packs for the piece, and got a charge out of it, and though the cards mostly left me cold for being too slick, I admired the high quality of them. The photos and the back of the card text is light years advanced beyond the rudimentary nature of the 1970s cards, which may be why the new cards leave me cold. There’s no homely humanity in them.

BB: Can you at all relate to the generation of kids who bought cards for what they might be worth one day, instead of being important for more personal reasons, or just cause they were the things to have, trade and flip?

JW: I can relate, I guess. I mean, when I was a kid, I fantasized that one day my Butch Hobson and Frank Tanana cards would be worth millions, so it’s not like the idea of the cards being “investments” was completely foreign to me. I was just too lazy to actually pursue that angle. I did feel like things were taking a wrong turn when I noticed, in the late 1980s, that the cards my younger cousin was collecting were going immediately into protective plastic. You have to be able to touch the cards, otherwise what’s the point?

BB: When you started the Cardboard Gods blog did you have it in your mind to write a book? Or did that develop later?

JW: My first intention was to play around and to keep writing and to maybe connect with some readers. I’d been working on a novel for several years previous to starting the blog, and I wasn’t able to sell it, and I was wary of signing on for another several years of solitary toil only to have the end product of the work end up at the bottom of a drawer. But I also thought it could be a book, too, from very early on. It was not unlike the first time I saw my future wife: a feeling like, “Hm, I think there might be something here.” I held off for quite awhile on trying to start shaping the material into a book, a tendency that has in the past had a way of crushing the life out things before they have a chance to grow. Instead I just tried to keep having fun and churning out material. After a while, I knew I had enough stuff for a book, if I could ever pull it all together into something coherent.


The God of Hellfire (Bubbalicious, Baby)

Our old pal Josh Wilker will be in town later this week (and into early next week) to promote his critically-praised memoir Cardboard Gods. First up, Thursday night. Josh will be featured at a No Mas event at the Nike Store in Soho from 7:30-9:30. He’ll be reading from the book and signing copies too. Oh, and there’ll be a bubble-blowing contest as well.

I’m so there.

feed Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via email
"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver