Baseball is a microcosm of the things that really matter to people. This book is a reminder.Buy on Amazon
The Wax Pack chronicles Brad Balukjian’s journey across the United States in search of a smattering of former big leaguers drawn from a dusty pack of baseball cards.
This isn’t Bob Costas, Tom Verducci or Ken Rosenthal pulling together tell-alls with legendary stories from some the game’s greatest players. The Wax Pack follows the quest of a freelance journalist making it up as he goes scrapping together chance meetings with journeymen and forgettable fringe players you might only recall from an old pack of baseball cards.
There are a few big names on the list. Carlton Fisk, Doc Gooden and Rick Sutcliffe top it.
But things don’t always go smoothly. This story isn’t polished. And that’s what makes it interesting. These guys aren’t polished.
"Baseball is a game like no other. It’s my favorite for the same reason that it’s many others’ least favorite: it’s long and ponderous. For those prone to boredom, baseball is excruciating; but for those who relish stillness, it is exquisite. Those long lulls, anathema to the always stimulated, provide the ideal setting for building relationships. Baseball is the backdrop for self-discovery."
Baseball winds itself into the fabric of American life. Winning and losing? Who wins the World Series? Who leads the league in RBIs? Secondary. Rarely do I sit through an entire baseball game from start to finish. Rarely can I rattle off more than a half dozen players on every team at any given time. But the game is always there and that’s what I love about it.
That’s what this book captures. The timelessness of baseball. Its staggering diversity—from the endearing boisterous charm of Randy Ready to the fiery Don Carman who’s since evolved into a sober intellectual; to the passionate fanatic gallivanting his way all over the country to grab a few quotes and enjoy a moment or two with some of his fringe heroes.
I must confess I did the “nailed it” fist pump every time Balukjian waxed poetic about the beauty of baseball’s deliberate pace. I wrote a whole thing about how people think baseball is dying largely because it’s getting too slow. To me it’s a defining characteristic of the game and this idea is interwoven throughout the book. And I think it’s key to his overarching message.
This is very digestible. I read this one front to back in just a few days. And I don’t think I’m a very fast reader.
Easily triggered by millennials? You might get annoyed from time to time. The author’s own story is a significant part of this book. If you’re only interested in hearing about the backstories of former major leaguers or recollections of great personal moments on the field, this isn’t really for you. Balukjian is after the character of these ballplayers within a broader context. I wouldn’t even characterize this as a specifically “baseball” book.
In many ways this book is right in my wheelhouse as a slightly-beyond-casual reader who loves baseball. A smooth narrative, chapters you can bounce through, and charming enthusiasm with a tasteful dose of romanticism. Pick it up.