WHAT AM I READING? LET ME SHARE A FEW WORDS
I want to share with you snippets from some of the books I have. Some are newly published. Some I’ve had for a long time. Most will have something to do with sports, but not all. Maybe some will inspire you to read on. I hope so. They’ve enriched my life.
“I have always gravitated toward the obscure, the unknown, the unsung.’’
That’s the first line of Brad Balukjian’s “The Wax Pack: On The Open Road in Search of Baseball’s Afterlife.”
The premise is wildly original. Balukjian, a college instructor and freelance writer who grew up in Rhode Island but is based on the West Coast, opened up a pack of baseball cards from 1986, the year he started collecting cards, and decided to track down all the players in the pack. Thus began a 11,341-mile journey through 30 states in 48 days, in which Balukjian unearths insights into men that go far beyond the few lines printed on the back of a piece of cardboard.
One of the players is Richie Hebner, who grew up in Norwood and played 18 years in the big leagues, 11 with the Pirates. Balukjian had a poignant encounter with Hebner’s brother, Dennis.
Growing up, Richie and Dennis were close but competitive, the way brothers close in age tend to be. Richie was older but Dennis was more outgoing; he even taught his older brother how to drive. When Richie came home in the off-season they would drink pints and play darts at a bar called the Irish Heaven for hours at a time on Saturday mornings. They both had wood-burning stoves in their homes and would order a truckload of wood and make a weekend out of chopping it together. But now, despite living only ten miles apart, they barely talk.
“How would you describe your relationship with Richie now?” I ask as Dennis pulls back onto the street to drop me off at my car.
“I don’t see him that much. It’s a long story,’’ he says.