Friday, January 18, 2008

Busted: The Kid

Ah, the Hall of Fame. There is no more magical place on this good Earth for a baseball fan. I myself first knew Cooperstown's charms when, for my 13th birthday, my parents surprised me with a trip there. It was a week after induction weekend - Johnny Bench and Yaz! - and the nearest motel room was at the Howard Johnson's in Utica. In the HoJo restaurant, our waitress was named Tootsie. No joke!

I have since grown up, married, and produced offspring. Last year, I took my infant daughter there (she slept through the whole thing), and I was again touched by the beauty and pixie-dust wonderfulness of the place, but a niggling thought settled onto my brain, one that had first occured to the 13 year old me (as awkward-looking a child as has ever breathed; all knees and elbows). The thought was this: aren't a lot of these busts, these permanent testaments to the greatness of these ballplayers, just a bit, I don't know... creepy? As though these poor players, having earned the wrath of the Empire, had been preserved against their will in carbonite?

As an example, I give you Gary Carter. Close to our hearts because he is the only player in Cooperstown depicted in the Expos' Aquafresh swirl cap, the Kid's bust nevertheless looks terribly, terribly freaky. He wasn't an unattractive man, but that plaque makes him look like an octogenarian with a wig. He steals hair! He smells like a diaper!

I don't doubt that the bust-maker's art is a tricky one, and I don't mean to disparage these craftsmen. Rendering a living face in compressed space is a task I wouldn't wish to attempt, and I'm sure the examples in the Hall are among the very best there are. But sometimes, you know, eek.

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