Ex-Oakland Athletic Brian Kingman Talks About Books, Baseball Cards, and Mortality

(Author: Brian Kingman)

Ok, so what the hell does Don Mossi have to do with Billy Martin, Cal Ripken Jr. Durwood Merrill, Rickey Henderson? (editors note: the Cal Ripken incident will be discussed in a future post.) I want to say absolutely NOTHING, but I would have been wrong. As it turns out, Mossi was traded to the Tigers, along with his good friend and roommate, Ray Narleski, in a November 1958 deal that sent Billy Martin to Cleveland. No that’s not the reason for Mossi’s appearance here either. 

The reason I posted Don Mossi’s baseball card is all about the book someone mentioned, The Wax Pack. After reading their description of the book I was intrigued and checked out a couple of reviews. I then ordered a copy that should arrive next week.

It appears that The Wax Pack covers several of my favorite subjects: The afterlife, the loss of innocence, and of course, baseball. Impermanence is just a more sophisticated way of saying  “Nothing lasts forever” or ‘A constant state of change”. Impermanence only becomes a “gift” when we learn to understand and accept the constantly changing, fleeting nature of life and appreciate what we have. All things good and bad eventually come to an end.

The Afterlife

Is there life after baseball? I am going to say yes, mainly because I am currently living it. It has been said that athletes die twice so I presume I’ll be dying at least one more time. Athletic careers imitate our life span. The life span of an athlete’s career is an accelerated version of our real lives. It mimics the process of development and decay we experience throughout our lives at a faster pace. As we age our performance declines  It’s the curse of mortality, a symptom of impermanence. You spend the first portion of your life learning, growing stronger, polishing your skills, then your body begins to fail. You remember yourself in your prime and wonder where that person went. The wear and tear of training and competing, combined with the physiological changes that naturally occur as we age, conspire to slowly diminish our physical skills…..nothing lasts forever and careers come to an end.

Then in “real” life, you repeat the process only at a slower pace. If you have come to terms with the inevitability of impermanence then you will be better prepared to cope with it. I guess you could call it a gift as the L.A. Times review did, but I think if you have managed to come to terms with the inevitability of impermanence, you likely earned it the hard way.

The Loss of Innocence

As it pertains to baseball the loss of innocence for many of us the transition from the joyful innocence of playing the game as a youngster to professional baseball where it was much more of a business than it was a game. Then there comes another transition from doing something that you had worked hard at and has been a major part of your life since childhood quickly deteriorate and leave you facing a fate that apparently can be the equivalent of death! This is why they say athletes die twice because for some, getting a job in the real world after living in a fantasy world can be very traumatic.

Back to Don Mossi

About 10 years ago my friend Steve Ashman (High school & Senior league baseball teammate) was staring at Don Mossi’s baseball card commenting about the size of his ears and said “You know we should go visit him, he only lives a couple of hours away” It sounded like a good idea to me. We made a list of players we wanted to meet in addition to Mossi. I added a pair of 20 game losers, Don Larsen, Roger Craig, and Vida Blue even though he only lost 19–never mind being an MVP, and Cy Young award winner! Steve added Alex Johnson and Willie McCovey to the list along with Rusty Kuntz. Rusty Kuntz? I asked Steve ‘Why Rusty Kuntz?” He replied “I always wanted to ask him what his parents were thinking when they named him Rusty”

So we planned a trip for “sometime in the future” and as you might imagine we never got around to making that trip. Life got in the way. Alex Johnson passed away in 2015, McCovey in 2018, Mossi in 2019, and Larsen in 2020. They were victims of impermanence as we all will eventually be. 

 

9 thoughts on “Ex-Oakland Athletic Brian Kingman Talks About Books, Baseball Cards, and Mortality

  1. retrosimba

    You write with wisdom and a caring spirit. Well done. Your blog posts always make me think and ruminate. I’m thinking now of so many trips and visits I had intended to do, but never did. I’m kind of hoping your post will help inspire me to act, as well as think, more often.

    Reply
  2. swabby429

    Rusty’s given name was Russell. My grandpa’s name was Russell and his nickname was Rusty, too. Checking Wikipedia, I see that Kunzt’s mother was named “Willie”. Willie Kuntz is certainly another unfortunate name combination.

    Reply
  3. Double K

    Man, I never even heard of this book until I saw it on here but knew I had to read it since those mid to late 80’s baseball cards was right in my wheelhouse growing up. I have boxes and boxes of baseball cards in my attic, so I bought “The Wax Pack” on Kindle and just finished it last night. I really enjoyed it. I think Brad is a really good writer. You’ll have to let us know what you think when you finish it, but I had a couple of those “wow what a small world moments” reading the chapters on Jaime Cocanower and Don Carman.

    Reply

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