Three days ago in this series, I talked about star birthdays and honoring #11 on the 11th day. Today is my star birthday with this series—number 14, and my birthday is 14, and 14 people are probably reading this—so I am taking today to indulge in a personal trip down memory road. I’ve talked about how I first realized Edgar was my favorite, when I assigned him my favorite stuffed animal in the child’s box score I used to keep. Eventually I moved on to making my own baseball cards for my favorite players. The only one I still have is this one I made for Edgar, that I remember writing out in my favorite peacock-blue ink and adorning his name with gold stickers, like monks gilding an illuminated manuscript:
Look at these wimpy little attempts to make fonts with handwriting! The self-important all-caps! The excessive serif-ing! To paraphrase Elizabeth Bishop, why, oh why, the dots?
It’s been a quarter-century since I made that card, but I still remember sitting at the dining room table, copying over whatever I could find about him in the newspaper, trying to get it just right. I remember slipping the card into the clear front cover of my binder and carrying that to school, and later, staring at it intently, willing myself to disappear into it. Kids teased me on the bus for reading Archie comics, but that was how Edgar learned English, so it was okay. I re-wrote that card endless times, each time trying to make it more perfect, more authoritative, more beautiful.
I probably have fifty Edgar Martinez baseball cards that I’ve collected. I have the Mothers’ Cookies cards, I have the error card that actually pictures Edwin Nunez, I have the 1991 Donruss Studio card where he looks like a lost member of Menudo. None of them are worth very much, to be honest. The most valuable cards in my Edgar Martinez baseball card collection are the ones I collected of his hero, Roberto Clemente. But for me, the most precious card I have will always be the large index card in peacock-blue ink (only one in existence, the error cards are lost to history), the one I was able to focus on to drown out the slings and arrows of a childhood spent at a tiny Catholic school, the palimpsest where I wrote and re-wrote my adoration. A baseball card can be a place to keep stats, or a portrait gallery, but it can also be a reliquary, a place we preserve the bits of the game that mean the most to us. Write down what you love, write it in sky-blue ink, and then keep it close, make it endure.