Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Of '54 Bowman, Roger Kahn, Tina Turner and German terrorists

This was meant to be a simple trade post featuring some fantastic cards sent to me by Wicked Ortega. But as Tina Turner once said, "we nevah, evah do nothing nice and easy."

So get ready for a "nice and rough" post through my scatter-brained, rolling on the river mind.

I opened the package from Wicked about a week or so ago. As usual it contained plenty of fantastic cards from that bottomless well in southern Florida. There were want list needs, Upper Deck disasters from 2010, relics, and this card:

That is a 1954 Bowman of Billy Cox, the third baseman of "The Boys of Summer," Brooklyn Dodgers. It's terrific. I've owned only one '54 Bowman in my entire life, although I once had a chance to buy a handful and stupidly turned down the guy flat. So the awesomeness of finally holding a Dodger '54 Bowman in my hand did go through my head.

But the first thing I thought of was the first thing I always think of when I think of Billy Cox. I think of him extending his index finger and saying "FuckIt." I read Roger Kahn's book for the first time as a teenager and that's the kind of thing that will leave an impression on a teenager. That was Cox's signature reaction when teammates razzed him. It resonated with my teenage self.

Kahn portrayed Cox as a sad-eyed, horse-faced ballplayer from the South, a person who had problems talking to and dealing with people, but could field a liner at third base better than anyone.

When Kahn revisits the Boys of Summer in the second half of his book, he saves Cox's visit for last. It's a melancholy portrayal of a loner, a guy who both his teammates and barmates couldn't figure out. Yet, Cox was one of my favorite characters in the book. And I am thrilled to finally have a card of Cox from his playing career.

Not more than three or four days after I received the Cox Bowman card, I was reading the blogs and I came across this. Jim was featuring his own '54 Bowman Cox card. "How funny," I thought. "I just received this card and here it is again, featured by another Dodgers fan."

It was a bit like that phenomenon in which a ballplayer makes a great play in the field and then he is the first player up to bat the next inning. Synchronicity.

Yes, I have this album. Anyone who was in high school in the early '80s has this album.

But that wasn't quite the phenomenon that I was thinking of when I saw the Cox card on gcrl. It was more the phenomenon in which you hear a word or a saying or an idea for the first time and then that word, saying or idea starts popping up everywhere you turn.

Was there a name for that phenomenon?

There was. I think.

It's called the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, at least according to a couple of mentions online. But I could only find a couple and it's more a pop-culture term than a scientific/psychological term. The majority of references to Baader-Meinhof cite the German leftist terrorist group born out of the late 1960s counterculture movement. Apparently, that is where the "hey, I just learned that the other day" phenomenon got its name. Someone read about the defunct Baader-Meinhof group and then heard another mention and another mention in completely random situations. An expression was born.

Although the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon seems to be more of a reflection of the brain's tendency to recognize patterns than an actual otherwordly act, the name fits when you think about it.

First a little background: Baader-Meinhof, known as the Red Army Faction to its members, was a precursor to present-day terrorism. They set off bombs, they assassinated leaders and police officers, they robbed banks. They began as a reaction against the former Nazis who still held positions of authority in everyday German life, but the group then became increasing violent and radical. It was led by a charismatic male (Baader) and many of the members were female, including a talented journalist (Meinhof).

If you're thinking all of this has the makings of a movie, you're right. It's been the subject of movies many times, including as recently as 2008 with "The Baader-Meinhof Complex."

The ingredients also create the perfect example for the "hey, I just learned that the other day" phenomenon, especially for self-absorbed American types like me. A German terrorist group that no longer exists and operated mostly within the confines of its borders isn't going to make an impression on the average American.

But add the fact that terrorism is a greater concern in today's U.S., the interesting backstory of the group, the group's intriguing dynamics (girls with guns) and the fateful ending (most of the original members were killed or committed suicide), and the elements are sexy enough when tied together to draw your attention for the first time, and then pop up again and again and again in seemingly random situations. A phenomenon in action.

So, if you're still following along -- and, my goodness, why are you -- I have come up with a name for the phenomenon myself, as it relates to card collecting. Something a little less violent.

From now on, when you receive a card in the mail that you have never seen before, and then stumble across it on a blog less than a week later, it will be known as "The '54 Bowman Billy Cox Phenomenon."

Well, you can call it whatever you want. Name it after terrorists if you like. But I'm naming it after Billy Cox.

Oh, and here some other cards Wicked sent:

I suppose that's a long, meandering way to go to come up with a new phrase for a phenomenon and show some cards. But that's how my brain works.

Big wheel keep on turning.


  1. I'll let you know when I experience my first "The '54 Bowman Billy Cox Phenomenon."

  2. Haha...I love how you go through this whole long twisted mind journey that has barely anything to do with cards and then *BAM*, here are a bunch of cards I received, too.

    Also, no mention of CCR? If CCR doesn't write Proud Mary (and therefore Tina Turner cannot cover it), is Ms. Turner ever as popular as she became?

    I guess having long legs helps...