Cardboard Gods by Josh Wilker refers to the author's baseball heroes found on trading cards in plastic packs with a stick of gum, but it's really about growing up in the 1970's and beyond. The baseball cards themselves, although extremely important to the author, are a device. Something to pull the narrative along. And it's a fascinating tale, told by someone growing up around the same time as yours truly.
The book grew out of the Cardboard Gods website that Mr. Wilker has been running for a while now. I believe most of the chapters were blog entries at some point and the book was arranged in chronological order afterward, but I can't be entirely sure. There is definitely some new stuff in there.
I didn't collect baseball cards when I was a kid. I was familiar with them through friends and some cousins, but I was more into comic-books. But I didn't really collect those either. I didn't bag them with cardboard backing, no sir. I read them. Sometimes I rolled them up and stuck them in my back pocket before riding my bike to a friend's house. The comic-books from my childhood were dog-eared, tattered, wonderful things.
I didn't keep any of them. When I grew to an age when superheroes were no longer part of my life, I threw them away. Or gave them away. It wasn't until many years later that I regretted both the handling of those treasures and the eventual disposal of them. I used to go to comic-book conventions or stores, looking through back issue bins and I would get so angry when I ran across something that I owned and mistreated as a child. Maybe a Giant-Size X-Men #1 or the incredible Marvel/DC crossover Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man (the Battle of the Century!).
But now that I look back, I think I enjoyed them as a child should enjoy comic-books. I remember nights when I would grab an old issue of The Fantastic Four or Iron Man or Marvel Team-Up, and I would fall asleep while re-living the heroic acts contained within. Sometimes I fell asleep clutching the fragile issue in my hands, awaking the next day to see it a little worse for wear with no regrets. To me, that's what comic-books were all about as a child.
Josh Wilker knew that same magic. Instead of superheroes in comic-books, his gods were real. Captured for a brief moment in a goofy pose on a trading card.
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