Friday, February 19, 2016

Cast of Characters

My Wednesday was bookended with two related events: one of the first things I read in the news that morning was of the death of Nathan Barksdale, the former Baltimore gangster who inspired certain characters in David Simon's HBO original series The Wire. The end of my day was spent watching the finale of the same series. Upon completion, I realized how a good story is a lot like a baseball season: it's built upon creation (or, beginning), fall and redemption. And it always leaves you wanting more.

Another thing that always leaves me wanting more is opening new cards- whether in packs, boxes or, as in the case of today's post, a trade package. One such trade package came my way recently from Brian, the proprietor of the great blog Play at the Plate. Brian and I discovered we matched up with 2016 Topps needs, so a trade was quickly agreed upon and product exchanged. 

And like a good story, every trade package includes its own interesting array of characters. Let's take a look at some of the individuals included in what I received in the trade (along with some of those characters from The Wire). 

The Wire was produced and set in the heart of the city of Baltimore, Maryland and depicts the relationship between different institutions (drug trade, the seaport system, city government and bureaucracy, the school system, and the print news media) within B'more and the city's law enforcement. There's even an episode (5:2 Unconfirmed Reports) in which Baltimore Sun general assignment reporter Scott Templeton attends the Orioles home-opener, looking for a hook to go with his color copy on the game. Frustrated that he's not getting any good quotes, Templeton fabricates a story about a handicapped 13 year-old boy who couldn't afford to get into the game. The journalist's compromising of the ethics of the trade will play an important part in the fifth and final season. 

Of course, Baltimore was the scene of an interesting game (the 'No Fans' game following the Freddie Gray riots) last season between the O's and the White Sox. It's pretty obvious that the photo for the White Sox team card included in this trade wasn't taken during the Orioles game- they're wearing their home uniforms and you can see what I believe to be fans in the background. Oh, and speaking of cheats...the ChiSox have Melky Cabrera on card number 122- also included in the trade.

I don't know if Night Owl has ever had to deal with dishonest journalists in his work as an editor, but I'm sure he would take a stand for journalistic integrity, just like City Editor Gus Haynes, who butts heads with Templeton, as well as his superiors more than once. Surely Night Owl wouldn't embellish about how good of a season Justin Turner had in 2015, would he? Well, the back of Turner's card tells us he had a 4.0 WAR. I guess numbers don't lie.

My favorite character on The Wire is an addict named Bubbles (played by Andre Royo). 'Bubs' is a compassionate man who has tried to clean himself up a number of times but always finds himself back to using. He lives in the streets and provides for himself by selling second-hand items out of a shopping cart (Bubbles Depot, as his hand-written sign reads) and also earned a few bucks here and there as an informant for detective Kima Greggs.

While my stack of cards didn't (to my knowledge) have any addicts, there is a card of one player whose nickname could be 'Bubbles'. After all, Freddie Freeman is known for his affectionate hugs. While many of the characters on The Wire are livin' the thug life, Freeman (card #241) is livin' the Hug life.

Speaking of the thug life... two of the most despicable characters, Avon Barksdale and Marlo Stanfield, are thugs to the core and become embroiled in a bitter turf war for corners in which to do their drug trafficking. Avon is a powerful veteran of the Westside drug trade and the man whose crown Marlo Stanfield is seeking. Stanfield is a 'ruthless and cunning young player' (HBO's The Wire site) and will stop at nothing to get full control of the West Baltimore drug trade.

The back of card #283 informs us that Felix Hernandez passed Johan Santana with his 1,989th strikeout last season, making "The King" the all-time strikeout champion among Venezuelan-born pitchers. He might be aging, but the King still reigns.

Season Four of The Wire takes a look at the school system of Baltimore and introduces four boys who are entering the eighth grade. Two of the young'uns (Namond and Michael) become involved in the game as runners on Bodie Broadus' corner and, though both are products of similar environments, their character arcs are vastly different.

The Houston Astros entered the 2015 season young and hungry- but not expected to compete for another two years (according to SI- remember that?). But with the help of rookie Carlos Correa and Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel, the 'Stos arrived early- earning an AL Wild Card berth after going 86-78. Card 302 featuring the boys celebrating after what appears to be a walk-off win.

Finally, we have Detective William Moreland, also known as 'Bunk.' The Bunk is a veteran in the homicide department and has a propensity for being a philanderer and a hard-drinker. Despite these shortcomings, he is a loyal cop who's good at what he does and "has a low threshold for bullshit, excepting his own, of course." (as described on his character page on HBO's The Wire site)

Brian also sent me a card (#337) of a dude who plays half of his season not far too from Baltimore. He doesn't smoke cigars- and if you ask him to go out for a drink he'll probably say, 'that's a clown question, bro.' But he is pretty good at what he does- even if the only people who like him are fans of the team.

These were just a few of the cards that I received from Play at the Plate. There were just too many others in the supporting cast and time is short.

Thanks again, Brian, for helping me get got some of the cards from my set.

 Collecting, trading and blogging really is the life of kings.


1 comment:

  1. You sir are a good man!!! The Wire and cardboard.... classic.