I have a particular fondness for books involving people who feel compelled to go on arbitrary adventures. Danny Wallace specialised in this area with his books Yes Man and Join Me amongst others. Last year I really enjoyed Europe United by Matt Walker which involved a quest to visit a soccer match in every UEFA country.
The Wax Pack is Brad Balukjian account of tracking down all of the players whose baseball cards were in a particular pack of 1986 Topps baseball cards some 30 years later. Balukjian travels across the USA to track down the players who range from Hall of Fame players to 10 year journeymen to players who spent only a very short time in the Major Leagues.
Each player gets a chapter as Balukjian managed to spend time with almost all of them. Even where Balukjian doesn’t get to meet the player, he recounts his odyssey to find them One refuses to talk despite Balukjian showing up at the ballpark where he was working as third base coach. The other, Carlton Fisk the most famous player in the The Wax Pack, is in the midst of descending back into addiction.
The Wax Pack becomes a unique and fascinating insight into what happens players when they retire. The random nature of the players he follows ensures an interesting diversity. It also becomes a reflection on father-son relationships as each of the players recounts their own, often troubled, relationships with their fathers and also with their own children.
The book and trip are deeply personal for Balukjian. At times there is definitely some oversharing and unnecessary details about the minutiae of the trip. However there are a couple of very funny stories from Balukjian’s own adolescence which had me laughing out loud. As the trip progresses the book becomes more and more a soul-searching journey for the author. Along the way he meets his ex, reconnects with his father, visits his childhood hero and tries to find love. Ultimately, the book feels more authentic for how personal it is.
I really enjoyed the book which exceed all of my expectations. Balukjian is an interesting character and he has done a great job to get such fascinating insight from the players he meets.