LOST OBJECTS (42)

By: Nathaniel Rich
November 20, 2019

One in an ongoing series of nonfiction stories about lost objects. In 2017, Project:Object’s Josh Glenn and Rob Walker asked 25 writers to tell us about a significant object they’d lost (or thrown away, or destroyed), then assigned these stories to 25 illustrators. The first Lost Objects series was such a hit with readers, and so fun for us to publish, that we’ve decided it deserves a sequel.

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Illustration for PROJECT:OBJECT by Ellen Rose

My annual vacation to visit my semi-retired grandparents (a placid community college professor and a brassy dental hygienist) coincided with spring training, the month each year when professional ballplayers conceded to speak with children in the stands. The closest ballpark, 45 away, was West Palm Beach Municipal Stadium, the shared home of the Atlanta Braves and the Montreal Expos. Both teams lacked much vigor those years: the Expos were perpetually on the verge of being competitive, the Braves were a perennial lock for last place. The best players often declined to play in the games, yielding to rookies, benchwarmers, and washouts. Still I remember their names the way Catholic schoolchildren remember scripture: Oil Can Boyd, Zane Smith, Alejandro Pena, Oddibe McDowell. I can even visualize their signatures, because I collected them on baseballs purchased at the stadium store.

Some of the baseballs were emblazoned with the Expos’ logo, some with the Braves’; it didn’t matter to me if a Brave, or a player from some visiting team, signed an Expo ball, nor if the player was a starter or a teenager in the low minors (nor did it matter that, as a Mets fan, I reviled both teams once the season began). The point was simply to get to the ballpark early enough to approach — in the most tentative fashion‚ with nudging from my grandfather — as many ballplayers as possible. This meant my grandfather and I had to leave for the stadium before breakfast and spend the entire day together.

Much of that time we were surrounded by professional memorabilia hawkers — invariably fat, middle-aged, smelling of cigarettes — who seemed to possess knowledge of the star players’ daily schedules, pregame rituals, and license plates. They lugged duffel bags of Sharpies and certified game-used bats and UV-resistant glass cubes. I had whatever biro my grandfather grabbed from the kitchen counter and a cellophane-thin plastic globe from the team store.

After spring break ended, I lined the balls covered with blue and black signatures, most of them illegible, along an eye-level bookshelf in my bedroom, where I could admire them all year long. Later, after I stopped attending spring training games or caring about autographs, when the cheap ink began to fade, they seemed only to grow in value: the final pale flashes of a setting sun. But I love them more today, long after my grandparents have died, and the signatures have vanished altogether, leaving only a row of baseballs that my son, who is still learning the difference between strikes and outs, mistook for being new.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: See sidebar.

ABOUT THE ARTIST: Ellen Rose is a Designer at SYPartners in NYC and a painter, illustrator & maker otherwise. Follow her on Instagram: @ellenhrose.

LOST OBJECTS 2: INTRODUCTION | Geoff Manaugh on MOROCCAN TRINKET (ill. Mariana Pita) | Joe Yonan on MACRAMÉ ART (ill. Theo Ellsworth) | Laura Lippman on LABYRINTH GAME (ill. Laura Didyk) | Ben Katchor on LUCITE CARRYING CASE | Neil LaBute on PICKLED OCTOPUS (ill. Disa Wallander) | Miranda Mellis on SEQUINED SCARF (ill. Adam Goldberg) | Chris Piascik on GENERAL HUSTLER BMX | Jenny Kroik on MISSING TOY PIECES | Anita Kunz on FLOWER NECKLACE | Debbie Millman on GLASS POODLE | Heather Kapplow on CERAMIC ARTWORK (ill. Matt Wuerker) | Lydia Millet on ROCKY HORROR NOVEL (ill. Berta Valló) | Ben Greenman on WARHOL CAN (ill. Clara Selina Bach) | Leah Hennessey on BATMAN RING (ill. Dean Haspiel) | Kathryn Davis on PRAYER CARD (ill. Dina Noto) | Mikita Brottman on PINK ELEPHANTS (ill. Sarah Williamson) | Nathaniel Rich on AUTOGRAPHED BASEBALL (ill. Ellen Rose) | Charles Glaubitz on TRACK SHOES | Seth on ENTERPRISE MODEL | Becky Stern on SKELETON SWEATER (ill. Monica Garwood) | Mark Dery on GRANDFATHER PHOTO (ill. Kelli Anderson) | Paola Antonelli on VINYL SKIRT (ill. Guillermo Meraz) | Sara Ryan on FINGER PUPPET (ill. Steve Lieber) | Alex Gerasev on KARMA PARKA | Margaret Wertheim on ECCENTRIC BOOK (ill. Armando Veve).

FETISHES: INTRODUCTION | Josh Foer on DEATH MASK | Beth Lisick on MURDERED-OUT KFC BUCKET | Christina Couch on LEECH ACTION FIGURE | Kenneth Goldsmith on THEWLIS SOCK | Abby Rapoport on MAGNATILES | & 20 MORE.

FOSSILS: INTRODUCTION | Allegra Huston on SKATAWAY JACKET | Kevin Obsatz on HOMEMADE NUNCHUKS | Ian Bogost on DESKTOP TELEPHONE | Jeff Lewonczyk on CHA-CHA JACKET SCRAP | Kelly Horan on VOLVO KEY | & 20 MORE.

FLAIR: INTRODUCTION | Cliff Kuang on ROLEX DATEJUST | Ethan Zuckerman on LAPTOP STICKERS | Ann Shoket on LEATHER JACKET | Kembrew McLeod on KEMBREW MERCH | Paola Antonelli on MERMAID TEARS | & 20 MORE.

LOST OBJECTS (vol. 1): INTRODUCTION | Kate Bernheimer on MULLET WIG (ill. Amy Evans) | Dan Piepenbring on COLOGNE (ill. Josh Neufeld) | Doug Dorst on STRATOCASTER (ill. John Holbo) | Paul Lukas on VANILLA BEAN (ill. Alison Bamcat) | Mimi Lipson on DODGE DART (ill. Mister Reusch) | & 20 MORE.

ILLICIT OBJECTS: INTRODUCTION | Kio Stark on PEEPSHOW TOKEN | Sari Wilson on TOMBSTONE PARTS | Annalee Newitz on CAR-BOMB REMNANT | Tito Bottitta on MOONINITE DEVICE | Eric Bennett on DIRTY MAGAZINE | & 20 MORE.

TALISMANIC OBJECTS: INTRODUCTION | Veda Hille on CROCHET SHEEP | Gary Panter on DINOSAUR BONES | Jami Attenberg on SELENITE CRYSTAL | Annie Nocenti on MINIATURE DICE | Wayne Curtis on CLOCK WINDING KEY | & 20 MORE.

POLITICAL OBJECTS: INTRODUCTION | Luc Sante on CAMPAIGN PAMPHLETS | Lydia Millet on PVC POLAR BEAR | Ben Greenman on MATCHBOX CAR | Rob Baedeker on PRESIDENTS PLACEMAT | L.A. Kauffman on WHEATPASTE POSTER | & 20 MORE.

SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS at HILOBROW: PROJECT:OBJECT homepage | PROJECT:OBJECT newsletter | PROJECT:OBJECT objects (Threadless shop — all profits donated to the ACLU) | POLITICAL OBJECTS series (1Q2017) | TALISMANIC OBJECTS series (2Q2017) | ILLICIT OBJECTS series (3Q2017) | LOST OBJECTS vol. 1 series (4Q2017) | FLAIR series (2Q2018) | FOSSIL series (4Q2018) | FETISHES series (2Q2019) | LOST OBJECTS vol. 2 series (4Q2019) | MOVIE OBJECTS series (2Q2020). ALSO SEE: SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS website | SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS collection, ed. Rob Walker and Josh Glenn (Fantagraphics, 2012) | TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY, ed. Josh Glenn (Princeton Architectural Press, 2007) | TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY excerpts.

Categories

Codebreaking, Read-outs

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