Dennis Gargano

emerald

I am not really a keeper of things.

The wife would probably disagree with this take and—based upon the binders upon binders of yellowed clips up in the attic—it’d be a hard fight for me to win. Really, though, I’m OK with throwing stuff out over time. Life, after all, moves on.

One thing I’ve never discarded—and never will discard—is Dennis Gargano’s 1980 Mahopac Sports Association baseball card.

Back on the mean streets of Mahopac, Dennis lived two houses up Emerald Lane, and was one of my best friends. I vividly recall him handing me the card, and thinking, “Daaaang, that’s friggin’ cool.” At the time, Dennis was an outfielder for the Braves, which probably meant little in reality (I think, looking back, Dennis would admit he was just a so-so athlete—as was I), but struck me (a non-Little Leaguer) as the ultimate in ultimate highs. I imagined him patrolling Shea Stadium, standing alongside Roland Office or Dale Murphy or Claudell Washington or whoever the hell was playing outfield for Atlanta. I didn’t merely envy Dennis Gargano; hell, I wanted to be Dennis Gargano. I wanted my own baseball card.

Well, the next year I signed up to play. They held a draft, and I was assigned to the team sponsored by a gas station, Jenny Oil. That was our name–Jenny Oil. No Braves or Mets or Reds or Tigers. Jenny Oil. Other teams had cool uniforms with bright, snazzy colors. Our uniforms were gray, with black writing that said, uh, JENNY OIL across the chest. I wore No. 11 and played catcher.

I probably hit, oh, .220, with no home runs and maybe a handful of RBIs. I remember once being on first, and Gary Miller, my friend/teammate, hit a ball into the right-side gap. I was running, and the baseball hit my foot. I was called out, and immediately began crying. I don’t recall why—embarrassment, I guess.

Everything, of course, pointed toward picture day. All I wanted was my photograph affixed to a cardboard rectangle, atop the words JEFF PEARLMAN and CATCHER. I couldn’t wait to read the back—righty, No. 11, born April 22, favorite player Ken Griffey (senior, before he was known as senior).

I waited and waited and waited and waited and … my family went away on picture day. No card. No sniff of a card.

I’m still pissed.

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