I'm often guilty of failing to really focus on the mundane details that lurk in the background of a baseball card photo. One of the things I admire about fellow bloggers like Josh Wilker and Andy
is their ability to latch on to those little things that you or I might gloss over due to a short attention span. They can zero in on a blurry spectator with an odd-looking outfit, or a junky old car parked behind an adjacent diamond at the Spring Training facility and riff on it for several paragraphs.
I didn't have any pre-existing ideas for today, so I flipped through my binder of vintage Topps looking for nothing more than variety. Often my selections for this blog are remarkably haphazard, and so was the case as I sat down last night. I just did two position players in a row...maybe I'll really mix it up and throw up a team card. Nah, none of these are doing it for me; I'll go with a pitcher. The past few Fridays I've gone with 1960's cards, so let's jump to the late 1970's. So it went, until I settled on a player I haven't featured in the previous 263 entries in this space, a fellow who happens to share a birthday with me. I still didn't have much to say about Nelson Briles; he's a guy who caused Baltimore fans more pain than anything. So I looked deeper.
This photo has an ethereal quality to it, even if it's just the power of suggestion talking. ("Nellie" died suddenly in 2005 after suffering a heart attack while golfing.) You may have to click on the image to study it in greater size and detail, but there's something that's a bit off about the coloring. The hue of Briles' face seems to vacillate between reds and yellows, as if he's being viewed through a prism of light. Then there's the background. The deep blue tint of the outfield wall complements the airy blue of the sky, giving the impression of mountains that reach back to the horizon. Nelson Briles isn't in a run-of-the-mill baseball park; he's one with the land. He's somewhere beyond you and me, and he's staring into eternity.