Mar 292011

Following are our DUGOUT CHATTER questions. Remember,  there are no “right” or “wrong” answers; your gut answers are all that are required:

RTH: What’s your favorite pose on a baseball card, either a specific player’s pose or a standard posed shot?

JW: I like the “holding a bat out” pose. The barrel of the bat is often out of the frame, so it seems as if the stiff, awkwardly smiling player is engaging in a tug of war with someone off camera who wants to take the subject’s bat.

RTH: Which series of Topps card is more rocking, 1971’s Let It Be design or 1972’s Magical Mystery Tour collection?

JW: My head says 1971 but my heart says 1972. If we’re talking albums, both my head and heart say Let It Be, which has at times been my favorite Beatles album, a beautiful mess.

SHOWDOWN (choose one): Topps' 1971 "Let It Be"-style baseball cards or their 1972 "Magical Mystery Tour"-style collection?

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RTH: One of our regulars wants to know what is the Beatles’ “Butcher Cover” of baseball cards: the Honus Wagner T206, the 1989 Fleer Billy Ripken (in which he’s giving the finger), or something else?

JW: How about a combination of sorts of the two? Specifically, there’s an Old Hoss Radbourn card out there in which the 1880s pitching legend has his middle finger sneakily extended. In case anyone might think this was an accident, it appears that Radbourn did this on more than one occasion. (See Ed Achorn’s great recent book on Radbourn, 59 in ’84).

RTH: If you were to construct a 4-piece rock band using only players from your baseball cards, who’s in the band and who plays what?

JW: Shit, if only I’d written a book about basketball, I could make use of my many idiotic hours wondering which members of the 1973 championship Knicks corresponded with which members of The Band. (Both units were renowned for their cohesion and teamwork, of course; at long last I finally went with Helm = Willis Reed; Manual = Walt Frazier; Danko = Dave Debusschere; Robertson = Bill Bradley; Hudson = Earl Monroe.) But I’ll take a stab at a baseball outfit:

  • Johnny Wockenfuss (got to have a backstop manning the backbeat, and something about this one’s name makes me think he’d be able to stomp and swing)
  • J.R. Richard: bass (big man bringing the blaring rainbow heat on the thud stick)
  • Mark Fidrych: singer/front man (antic and energetic as Iggy but with Jonathan Richman innocence and oddity and Peter Frampton curls)
  • Dock Ellis: electric guitar (after listening to Jimi Hendrix and tripping on acid all night, Ellis went out the next day, still tripping, and channeled Hendrix, throwing a wild, eight-walk no-hitter)

I just remembered one of the more enjoyable experiments I did on the blog, an homage to Please Kill Me that built on a 1979 “prospects” card, here.

RTH: How do women manage to share their deepest childhood experiences without the aid of baseball cards?

JW: I don’t know, but I have a feeling it’s all much more healthy and direct. Talk to one another, maybe?

RTH: After baseball cards, maybe comics, and records, where can a middle aged guy next turn to tap into life’s superpowers? Please don’t answer “wine collecting.”

JW: I’m not sure, but my friend Ramblin’ Pete, who also loves baseball cards, comics, and records, has a similar love for maps. I’ve always been too interior and prone to daydreams to pay enough attention to maps, but I can see that they might make a good for a jumping off point for the imagination.

RTH: Another Rock Town Hall regular who also read and dug your book asks, “No Biff Pocaroba? What’s up with that?” On a similar note, where’s the stick of bubble gum that was promised on the cover of my hardback copy of Cardboard Gods?

JW: Well, when I rescued the cards from storage as an adult, my collection was mysteriously absent most of my Atlanta Braves cards, so until recently I was Pocoroba-less, one of the more painful gaps in the shoebox, since his name grabbed hold of me as a kid. I have mentioned him on my site over the years, especially when writing about Bob Apodaca. Recently I finally got to feature one of his cards in a post, thanks to a kind gift of some Braves cards.

As for the gum: we did consider including an actual piece of gum, but when we ran this idea by some booksellers at a conference a few months before publication, it didn’t go over too well. Our fun little gimmick would have been to them a pain in the ass (and it would have been a pain in the ass during the production of the book, too). So we went instead with a photo of the gum, plus hoped that, you know, the sweetest gum of all is the gum you imagine, plus I brought a sack of Double Bubble to my readings and signings in hopes of mollifying any angered literal-minded book cover readers.

RTH: The Stooges with Ron Asheton on lead guitar (ie, first two albums) or James Williamson (Raw Power)?

JW: That is a tough one. Fun House is my favorite Stooges album, but I love them all, including the majestic strung-out work after Raw Power (“Johanna,” “Open Up and Bleed,” etc.). The music opened up more with Williamson, I guess, but the core of the Stooges is located in those first two albums, so I’ll go with the Ron Asheton on guitar lineup. (I also like Dave Alexander on bass, especially on Fun House.)

RTH: Thanks, Josh. If there’s anything you want to add, any specific plugs for your book and coming appearances, be our guest. Best of luck and thanks again for all the joy your writing brings me.

JW: Thank you for the interview! Let’s see, the book is now out in paperback, and later this year I’ll have another book out, about the 1977 film The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training. I’ll be doing some readings in May and June featuring other Algonquin Books authors and free beer (!) in Chicago, Milwaukee, Boston, Oakland, and Austin (all still tentative; please see my site for more details).


  8 Responses to “Cardboard Gods‘ Josh Wilker, Paperback Writer: The Rock Town Hall Interview”

  1. BigSteve

    I don’t share the interest in cards, but that was an interesting interview. Wilker definitely deserves RTH Good Egg status.

  2. ladymisskirroyale

    Very interesting interview, and Mr. Royale and I looking forward to checking out the blog. I never collected baseball cards but I do admit to avidly following the 70’s Dodgers (The Penguin!).

    As for the question about how do women share their closest childhood experiences without the aid of baseball cards, I would suggest that they 1. talk, talk, and talk, or 2. use clothes as a reference point. There is a lovely memoir, “Love, Loss and What I Wore” by Ilene Beckerman that I really liked, and although I don’t own a whole lot of (any?) designer labels, I can distinctly recall what I was wearing on certain big events (and conversely, a particular item of clothing brings me back to a moment sort of like how certain songs do). Also, for many women I know, clothing is a shorthand of a relationship’s importance, feelings of self-worth, particular emotions, etc.

    And I would LOVE to have a mp3 player in the shape of a Close N’ Play!

  3. misterioso

    That was great, and I am delighted to see that he has given Biff Pocaroba his due on the blog.

    Still, Mod, you needed to whip out the pince-nez when he referred to the “first album by the Band” when he plainly has in mind the second album.

  4. Yeah, I went back and forth on whether he was deserving of the pince-nez. At first I gave him the benefit of the doubt, thinking he meant the gatefold shot of the extended Band clan on Big Pink, then I questioned whether that’s what he meant, because he did say “on the front.” Shoot, now I’ve got to reevaluate whether I ever liked the guy, his book, and his blog in the first place…

  5. alexmagic

    You have to give Wilker a pass, Mod. He could have easily dropped the pince-nez on you during the Dugout Chatter portion where you claimed that the infamous Billy Ripken card featured him giving the finger, when it was something far more hilarious, but he let you slide.

    His answer to the four-man baseball band rotation was high quality and very hard to argue against.

  6. You’re right, alexmagic. What’s right is right. For the record, I did let the man slide as he let me slide. That’s what being a good egg is all about, isn’t it?

  7. Another contender for the “butcher cover'” is the 1969 Aurelio Rodriguez card, which actually features a shot of the hispanic bat boy “standing in” for Rodriguez.

    Sorry I missed this post the first time around. The recent prince-nez brought me back here.

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