Showdown: Alan Trammell 1981 Topps Baseball Card vs. Brenda Iijima's selection from Eco Quarry Bellwether
When I was a kid I collected baseball cards. I had tons of them. Somehow I think that the same impulse that led me to store shoeboxes upon shoeboxes packed with these little pieces of cardboard now leads me to want to read the latest journals, the newest poets. It's why I have books on my shelves that I have not read.
For some reason this Alan Trammell 1981 Topps baseball card has always stuck in my memory. I had cards that I treasured more as a kid, an old Jim Rice, Wade Bogg's rookie, weird Darryl Strawberry cards from cereal boxes, yet this card is the one that pops to mind when someone says "baseball card."
It is a memorable composition. Topps really knew what they were doing at this point, simple, somewhat folksy. The following year they switched to a style that incorporated more designy elements and even by the time I stopped with baseball cards in 6th grade or so they were headed down the road of X-treme aesthetics. The purple works well against the black. The team name "Tigers" has a cute look to it on the hat. But really its charms are brutish in nature.
But I think this connection of mine for this card must have a deeper meaning. I have to look into my personal relationship with Alan Trammell as a public figure.
Alan Stuart Trammell
Bats Right, Throws Right
Height 6' 0", Weight 175 lb.
Debut September 9, 1977
Final Game September 29, 1996
Born February 21, 1958 in Garden Grove, CA
Drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 2nd round of the 1976 amateur draft
Career Batting Average: .285
On Base Percentage: .352
www.baseballlibrary.com says this:
"Trammell and Lou Whitaker formed a keystone combination that surpassed all others in consecutive years together, yet Alan emerged as the acknowledged leader of the Tigers. After a Most Valuable Player year (1977) in the Southern League, the righthander graduated to the Tigers. Slight of build, Trammell proved a complete offensive and defensive player. He led the AL in sacrifice hits in 1981 and 1983. After an off-season in 1982, he was AL Comeback Player of the Year in 1983 at age 25. His 30 steals in 1983 were the most for a Detroit shortstop since 1917 and his .319 batting average was best among all AL righthanders. The Tigers reeled off 11 straight winning seasons with Trammell at shortstop. He was voted smartest and best defensive infielder by AL managers in 1984, drove in all of Detroit's runs in Game Four of the World Series, tied a five-game Series record with nine hits, and was named Series MVP.
A persistent elbow injury, first suffered in 1983, threatened Trammell's stardom. After a subpar 1985, a more muscular Trammell helped Detroit have an all-20 home run infield in 1986. Surprisingly, Sparky Anderson moved Trammell to the cleanup spot in Detroit's 1987 offense. The once-scrawny infielder rose to the occasion with a career season, hitting .343 with 28 HR, 105 RBI, 205 hits, and 109 runs. He narrowly missed the league MVP award. Part of an era of shortstops that includes Ozzie Smith, Cal Ripken, Jr. and Robin Yount, Trammell has held his own in all-around ability. He is among Detroit's all-time leaders in doubles, runs scored, hits, and stolen bases."
That is a pretty impressive career. And yet Trammell does not come immediately to mind as a superstar. And maybe this card shows why. Cheek full of dip, somewhat dazed expression on his face, Trammell could never convey the Wizard of Oz's charisma or Ripken's stoic control. Unless he does something truly dazzling as manager I doubt he's going to end up in the hall of fame.
And yet if you flip the card over you'll see something beyond the stats.
At first I thought that marrying his highschool sweetheart on his birthday was going to be the edge that Trammell would need to nudge past Iijima. This tiny image gives him a greater depth, I begin to feel for the man. But then on second thought I begin to wonder why he would get married on his birthday. Is this an act of egotism? Is his wife just another gift for this guy? And then I wonder why Topps chose to include this piece of information. It would have been more beneficial to Trammell's image to simply state that he married his high school sweetheart. Perhaps they were actively intending to undercut him. Is stealing home a coded reference to Trammell's cavalier treatment of his personal life?
After putting a little pressure on this card I start to see it as both a public presentation, which implies glorification, and also an attempt to portray Trammell badly. The dunderheaded look, the passive aggressive dig. Perhaps this card speaks to a backstory that I can only hint toward. I begin to think about why this card, which seems so forgettable, has stuck in my head. I can't answer this question, but it does. It works.
from ECO QUARRY BELLWETHER (you can see the correct formatting on Tool A Magazine where it was originally published)
Rebellion erotic nodding
Saturation is reached: biawack; mask, posture
Inverted pyramid, ruffled water
From the well
Translucency in telling promissory—then
Mouth of words gulch dote kindle, give illusion
Slip over version gel
Childhood, flint and wedge
Formations in a subsequent hush
Anguished, blankly—earnest refugee
Anesthetized truly, Lake Shore Drive
Flock of seagulls hover in the embroidered dawn
Glows the cathedral air
Peacefulness of creamy orange
Salt splashed metamorphosis snowfield
Touch approaching festivals
This is the poem that most struck me from the latest issue of Tool A Magazine. I immediately liked the form that created not only a space between the fragments but with the use of parentheticals created a space within the airy space. It seems to me like an enclosed, private space within the parentheses. I kind of took this as a direct recognition of, if not a tongue in cheek response to the idea of hermeticism in fragmentedly lyric poetry.
To be honest the title and opening does not do much for me. Erotic rebellion might be an interesting concept, some kind of Bataille thing or it might be a joke of some kind but both of those words feel weighted down, deadened. But the poem explodes with "Saturation is reached: biawack; mask, posture/Inverted pyramid, ruffled water/From the well" These lines push me forward both through the suprise of the new images and the energy of the sounds. I almost feel my tongue slapping against my palate. Then my favorite phrase in the poem: "Translucency in telling promissory." This leads to an almost ars poetica moment with "then/ Mouth of words gulch dote kindle, give illusion." This opening sets up the physicality of the language in this poem, not only the words as material but the way language and sound push you around. It makes her fragmentation concrete, rather than airy.
I'm not going to explicate the fragments because that would be a bit boring but as a whole they pull me through both an uraban space and a childhood time. In this respect the erotic rebellion could be a kind of response to this amalgamated image pool. I love where the last short fragment leads me: "Anesthetized truly, Lake Shore Drive." This makes me giggle evey time I read the poem.
The closing stanza mirrors the weight of the opening, begging to be read as a conclusion in response to the opening. But whereas the opening sets me into language this closing sets me in representational images of a familiar and not unpleasant world. But the the last two lines, alomst like a sonnet's concluding couplet, turn me again: "Salt splashed metamorphosis snowfield/ Touch approaching festivals." These are challenging lines to read out loud, again reiterating the physicality of language. I wonder if this physicality could be a kind of eroticism, the more the tongues slithers aroudn the mouth, the more sensual a poem becomes as a language event.
This is a good poem, probably one of my favorites from the last month. I've read it a bunch of times but I'm not "in love" with it. Great batting average, team leadership, occassional home runs, soft hands in the field, but I don't know if it's hall of fame material.
So in a way this should be a tie. Iijima & Trammell 1981 Topps Baseball Card should each be awarded a blue ribbon with gliter on it.
But I'm afraid our judge is not a fair and honest judge. I've had this card for nineteen years. Somehow in that time it has been packed up with my belongings through the 20 or 30 places I've lived since leaving home. It is dogeared, yes. It is not a thing of value, yes. It is not a compelling image, yes. It is not a particularly compelling player, yes. And yet I think about it. Something that I can not quite put my finger on with this card has hooked me. I think I might be "in love" with this card. And so, today it is the winner.
Alan Trammell 1981 Topps Baseball Card narrowly defeats Brenda Iijima's selection from Eco Quarry Bellwether.
If I were Brenda Iijima's selection from Eco Quarry Bellwether i would appeal this one, I think the judge is biased.