Saturday, February 27, 2010

Book Talk: Gum (Not the Stale Kind)

One of the advantages of being a teacher is that you might be exposed to a wider variety of print materials than the average person, especially materials not necessarily aimed at your demographic. And one of the advantages of teaching in an underfunded public school is that these materials, library books, in this case, are going to be comically out of date. Let's take a look at one of these finds.

Here we have it, The Chewing Gum Book by Robert Young, ©1989.

In skimming this book, I found it to be especially informative on the process of manufacturing gum and the history of chewing gum in America. But that's not what drew me to this book. What I wanted was some content relating to gum's biological cousin, baseball cards. While I was not let down, I was a little disappointed with one glaring factual error. More on that later, but first...

This photograph captures the cultural zeitgeist of gum, a box of 1988 Topps baseball cards. One pack is opened for reference, but where's the gum? Isn't that the whole point? It actually looks like a pretty decent pack, with one Record Breaker and an Alan Trammell All Star. Hey, at least it's not Matt Nokes.

Next, the egregious mistake I hinted at earlier.

Ummmmm... wrong? I believe no further comment is needed.

Finally, the real treat from this book, some behind-the-scenes photos of the 1975 Joe Garagiola/Bazooka Bubble Gum Blowing Championship, which was documented on a 1976 Topps card of Kurt Bevacqua. I'm sure you have all seen this card, but just in case someone hasn't...

I must confess, I don't own this one yet, but someday I would like to have it.

Here we get a look at the contest in action, with the eventual winner Bevacqua taking on Johnny Oates of the Phillies in the Championship Final.

If you're interested, you can catch a video of the event here, but it's kind of a snoozer. I think preservation of this event for posterity is best left in the realm of pictures on paper, although in the video we can see some cool 1975 Topps cards behind each of the contestants. Plus, behind Garagiola you can see a big sheet of cards that looks like they're all of him. A little research found that these were examples of a promo card produced by Topps for NBC.

This last shot from the book is of a New York Met taking part in one of the preliminary bubble blowing rounds before the final. I have to admit I'm not sure exactly who it is. Any help on this one?

I'll close with this thought: Wouldn't it be great to have a set of those Topps/Bazooka calipers? Somebody out there still has one of those. I wonder if it will ever surface.

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