Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Won't You Come Home, Bill Butler?

I spent pretty much every uncommitted three- to 90-minute pocket of my weekend searching for that 1975 Topps baseball card. Found it early Sunday morning shortly before stirred the wife and daughter and commenced the mad dash to get out the door and to church on time. I was so thrilled. The discovery made better everything good about a very great Memorial Day weekend.

Bill Butler's is the first baseball card I ever loved. It was one from three magical packs that my Mom purchased for me on a trip back across Paducah from our new house on Cairo Road (in the Heath High School-feeding Concord Elementary district) to our old place on Kennedy Road (in the Tilghman High School-feeding Clark Elementary district).

We had been in the Kennedy Road house only about a year after moving from Chicago and, just a few years before that, Evansville, Ind. These were for my dad, who would turn 50 in October of 1975, the choppy waters of what would turn out to be a giant career and life change--from late nights in offices, estimating what it would cost the company for which he worked to build various commercial and public structures (other office buildings, pump stations along the Alaskan pipeline, the Vehicle Assembly Building at Cape Canaveral, etc.), to early mornings in his own pottery shop, throwing stoneware crocks and vases. There was little room on our Kennedy Road property for a shop, as well as zoning restrictions against opening a retail storefront. And so off we moved to Paducah's western outskirts to give more flexibility for accommodating whatever Dad's (and our) future might hold.

I think we must've had two cars at the time--a white, Ford Pinto station wagon that was the family vehicle and a brown and yellow Nash Metropolitan that was primarily driven by the last of my three siblings to be living at home. I'll bet my brother was transporting little, delicate things that would fit in his tiny Metro and that my dad was loading and driving a U-Haul truck. In any event, I do know that it was just Mom and me in the Pinto, that we had just dropped our first load of boxes at the Cairo Road house and that we were headed back empty across Paducah to retrieve more. We stopped at a little grocery--at this time, it was either Holland's or Clement's--not far from the new place. I imagine we got little-bottle Cokes, probably for everyone, and I know Mom bought for me three packs of new, 1975-issue Topps baseball cards.

As Mom drove, I sat in the back end of the car, opening and thumbing through the cards from those first three of hundreds of packs that I would go through in the next 10, 15 years. The Pinto's back seat had been lowered flat to create an open bed for boxes. On the expanse of Navy-blue upholstery and in the 15 minutes or so it took to get back across town, I created some sort of baseballish game with the cards. I seem to remember Bob Collucio, Pat Bourque and maybe even All-Star Larry Bowa being among those first cards Mom bought for me. Bill Butler? No question. The 36-year-old memory of playing with his card in the hot back end of the windows-down Pinto ambling across Paducah glows like burning coal.

Paul Splittorff died last week, and that news sent me on a 1975 Topps baseball card jag. By some point Friday late night, I realized that Bill Butler was not to be found among the 400 or so cards that I have from the 660-card set. This would absolutely not do.

I started a search-and-rescue mission in earnest early Saturday, but efforts had to be more or less suspended once the ladies awoke Saturday. There was house-cleaning for a round of company this week. There was evening buffeting and playgrounding at Pennryrile State Park with extended family. There was getting the daughter to sleep that night. There were some short snippets of searching amid these activities, but things didn't ramp back up in earnest until early Sunday morning. After about 90 minutes of rifling through various boxes and stacks of cards, Bill Butler's misplaced face happily appeared. I spent a lot of the Sunday and holiday since reading about all-things 1974, the year documented on the back of the 1975 cards. (Turns out that Bill Buckner had a pretty storied World Series career even before Mookie Wilson's hit and that Julian Carroll's governorship had an interesting start, too.)

A couple of days later, I'm off to a slow start back to biz from the Memorial Day weekend. Still tangled up in this whole Bill Butler deal ... in the uniqueness of the whats that we treasure and the universalness of the how, in the woman and the coin, in the unequivocal "command" and "must" of loving, in "ways of childhood" vs. "childish things," in holidays and business and holy days and busyness, in vocation and occupation ... tick, tick, tick ... now 1 hours, 48 minutes late getting to work ...


  1. Great stuff. This entry matches up very well with what you wrote about your dad at the beginning of the weekend.

  2. Thanks! Yeah, it was a huge Dad weekend.

    Meanwhile, I've been on Yahoo! Music's 1974 station today, and I'm disappointed to see that I missed George McCrae's "Rock Your Baby" and Helen Reddy's "Leave Me Alone" while away from my desk for a coffee fillup. I had sat through two Ringo Starr numbers just before getting up.

  3. "Dancing Machine," Jackson 5 ...

  4. "The Love I Lost," Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes ... what a voice, Teddy Pendergrass ...

  5. Never heard of Zardoz. My favorite part of the trailer is the near-but-not-totally-silent MPAA rating screen that shows for the final 10 seconds--puts me right back at the Arcade or Columbia.