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So this week’s column for The Athletic concerns Steve Macko, the former Chicago Cubs infielder who died on cancer in 1981, when he was just 27.

The idea for the piece came from a recent evening with my son Emmett. He has all my old baseball cards in a shopping bag beneath his bed, and on occasion he’ll grab a stack, cover the names with a finger and quiz me on one guy after another. It’s more fun than it sounds.

Anyhow, Macko was someone I couldn’t name, and when I dug deeper into his background I discovered the tragedy.

But wait …

What I wanted to write about here is the image heading the article. I basically laid the Macko card atop a whole bunch of others from the collection. If you look closely, you’ll see Pirates outfielder Lee Lacy is in there. So is Carmelo Martinez of the Padres and Doug Sisk during his brief stay with Baltimore.

The main background card, however, is that of a Braves outfielder named Dennis Gargano—and it was deliberately placed. If you do a baseball-reference search, or a retrosheet search, you’ll find absolutely nothing on him. Why? Because Dennis Gargano, Braves outfielder, was my childhood pal and next-door neighbor. That card was issued by the Mahopac Sports Association, and handed to me on the school bus.

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