The Continuing Story of Harriet Baker


So the other day I went to the mall in search of a pair of sunglasses. I already have three pairs, but the two I like to wear are missing, and of course, the only pair I can find are the ones that make me look like a futuristic NASCAR fan. While at the mall, I saw they had a couple of sports memorabillia tables, card & autograph dealers, and the odd crate of Beanie Babies set up in the food court. It was a welcome diversion from the sunglasses mission, which I was failing.

Having already achieved my life’s dream of owning complete sets of Topps Nintendo Scratch Off Cards and Topps Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cards, I wasn’t too interested in the tables. Most were sports-related, and I’m not a sports collector. Behind most of the tables sat your scraggly-haired fat guys, guys who have taken the chosen profession of sport and non-sport card dealer. These guys are the bottom rung of the collectables vendors–comic book sellers are like the slacker rock stars, record & music memorabilia dealers are the asshole-chic, but card dealers? They’re just creepy, always with that 1000-yard stare.

I was breezing past the tables until I hit one table, where a man handed me a baseball card, saying, “here, have a free card.” I was both mortified and thrilled–on one hand, I had to interact with him now, and on the other hand, I had a free thing. I love free things! But ugh, now I had to say something. I thanked him and took a look at my card. Dusty Baker. Outfielder. Dodgers.

“Cool, thanks,” I said.
“Yeah, my son wrote on the back of all of them when he was a kid,” he said, smiling. He laughed. I forced a laugh too. Kids.
“My son’s dead now.”
“Oh, I’m uh, er, sorry,” I said.
“Yep, this is his collection. I don’t even know anything about any of this stuff. I just want it to go to a good home,” he said. “What do you collect?”
“I, uh, you know, a little bit of everyting.”

I stood there awkwardly, not wanting to appear heartless, now forced to feign interest in his table, holding his dead kid’s baseball card in my hand. Maybe it was meant to be–that his son drew me to this table, that I had this special card–all of it imploring me to buy something more. I would take care of it, and I would always remember that dead little boy.

I looked at an Exxon Gas Station baseball. I’m a sucker for an orange ball with tiger stripes. I wanted the Exxon Tiger ball, but not for $12. Oh well kid, I can’t afford to honor your memory. I walked away, thanking the man again, feeling like he’d given me something special, something with his own child’s handwriting.

I’d keep it in my wallet. Dusty Baker, Lucky Dusty. Outfielder, Dodgers. If anyone ever asked, (which no one ever would,) I’d tell them this wonderful story about fathers and sons, cards and baseball, life and death. Later I went to show the card to the girlfriend, and although she definitely didn’t ask, I was about to tell her the magical story of growing up and collecting, peanuts and crackerjacks, and the moment I shared with the card dealer at the mall. But as I pulled it out of my wallet, I noticed the dead boy made an odd marking on the back of the card:


He signed the card Harriet Baker. Who is Harriet Baker? Wait, that’s not a dead boy’s name. That’s the name of a little girl, pretending to sign her married name to the player on the front, Dusty Baker. I got the feeling there was no dead son, no son at all. There was just a creepy dealer with a 1000-yard stare, giving away a bunch of cards he found in the back-lot dumpster of the Fire Hall from the last card show.

So then this card has a different story, Harriet’s story. She signed her name to the back of all the cards, changing the last name with each player, just to see which one sounded best. Either that, or Harriet had a crush on the ugliest dude on the ’81 Dodgers lineup.

Either way, she’d save the gum for last. That waxy piece of gum was the best part. She’d try to blow bubbles, but it never worked with that crap gum. It would lose flavor and she’d spit it out after a minute. It never lasted long enough and that was her one regret when buying these cards.

11 thoughts on “The Continuing Story of Harriet Baker

  1. Wow. What a guilt-trip. If only most vendors knew the ol’ dead son trick, they’d get more business.

    It’s very sweet to see Harriet’s odd infatuation with marrying the ball players.

  2. FWIW – Harriet was the name of Dusty Baker’s first wife. They weren’t divorced until ’87, and this card is from ’81, so they were still married at the time.

      1. The new story is why would a little boy be obsessed with identifying the wives of the ball players? And why did he write like a girl?

      2. Yes, it does mess up your excellent story. I’m so sorry. Would you have rather not known this awkward bit of trivia?

        I do agree with Becky that the handwriting looks girlish. However, many boys that were taught how to write cursive in Zaner-Bloser Script have better handwriting than many girls who were taught in the D’Nealian method.

        So it all comes down to the odds. What are the chances that a young girl with the last name of Baker would write her name on the card? What are the chances that her first name would match the name of Dusty’s first wife? And while it does seem odd that any child would write the name of a player’s spouse on a baseball card, there’s no doubt that kids sometimes get hung up on the weirdest shit.

        Adults, too.

  3. It’s ironic that the man said that this was a card of his deceased son, because Harriet Baker, the first wife of Dusty Baker was my best friend who is now deceased. Very sad and very ironic.

  4. I knew and met Harriett when she was married to Dusty and used to sit with her and Clissy Landreau at Ddoger games…very nice lady!

  5. I worked with Harriett Baker at the prestigious international law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in the 80’s. She was one of our receptionists, and she epitomized elegance and grace. She never brought up her marriage to her famous husband. It took quite a while to make the connection. Wonderful woman. Warm and personable.

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