Orioles Card "O" the Day

An intersection of two of my passions: baseball cards and the Baltimore Orioles. Updated daily?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Vintage Fridays: Billy Smith, 1979 Topps #237

Billy Smith was a serviceable backup second baseman for the Orioles in the late Seventies, but in looking at this picture, I imagine that he could portray Jesus rather convincingly. You won't find anyone on the 2008 team that can claim the same, for several reasons. First, long hair and big mustaches are considered passe now. But even if an O's player wanted to let his hair down, so to speak, team policy forbids it. Kevin Millar and I both think that's ridiculous, but we don't make the rules.

When I was a junior in high school, I played Jesus in the school's live Stations of the Cross. It was simple enough; my religion teacher had picked me for the part, and there were a couple of rehearsals to get the movements down pat. We'd set up at each station and freeze in a dramatic pose, the spotlight would focus on the scene, and another student would read a description of the station and a short prayer from a sheet of paper. This all took place in a schoolwide assembly on the final afternoon before our week-and-a-half break from classes. Our audience was five hundred bored teenage boys, all of whom were just disinterestedly marking time until they could be loosed upon Baltimore for eleven days or so.

Most of my friends and acquaintances had just one piece of advice for me: avoid any spontaneous erections. The crucifixion tableau called for the young man portraying Jesus to be stripped to his underwear. Believe it or not, the promise of facing my entire all-boys high school in nothing but my white boxer shorts did not arouse me. My classmates felt the need to forewarn be because the guy who had been Jesus the previous year had not been so lucky. I'd like to think that I hadn't noticed his unfortunate situation myself because I was mature. Maybe I was just oblivious, though.

I got through my performance without any mistakes. The thing that made the biggest impression on me was the weight of the wooden cross. As I stood frozen in place, my shoulder ached under the cumbersome prop. It took all of my concentration and strength to stand still. I suppose that's my understatement of the week: being crucified is uncomfortable.

Of course the dramatic masterstroke was the resurrection scene. I lay on a platform under a shroud as a schmaltzy modern Christian song played. When the music swelled, the lights began to flicker and I stirred about. Finally, I rose and stood on stage, looking out on the student body. This was where I finally grabbed the attention of my contemporaries. As my friend Tim later told me, "I was sitting out in the auditorium, falling asleep." Like any good friend, he was honest to a fault. He went on to inform me that he had been sitting next to Cory, an African-American kid in his homeroom. "All of a sudden I heard Cory gasp. Then I looked up and you were standing there in a hooded white robe."

In hindsight, the costume probably could have used a couple tweaks.

Happy Easter weekend, folks.

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