Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

Probably the biggest problem with picking an appropriate bookmark for a book is you have to make a decision early enough to actually use the bookmark. It does no good to wait until the last fifty pages, when you’ve already needed to pause many times, to be sure you choose a card with enough relevance. An author’s name is easy.* The protagonist’s name is usually clear pretty quickly. But, if you choose a card based on some part of the story itself, well, that can present some issues.

*I actually had a Robbie Keane Major League Soccer card ready to go in case I couldn’t figure out a baseball card that worked.

So it went with Ask Again, Yes, a story that very early on seems to be about two new members of the New York Police Department, but not halfway into it, neither is with the department anymore. In the end, I feel pretty good about going with the 1991 Score Wayne Edwards card, but there were some moments where I felt like I’d missed the mark.

Wayne Edwards was a pretty solid pitcher for the Chicago White Sox from 1989 through 1991. Over five starts and 57 relief appearances, Edwards had a career 3.37 ERA and ERA+ of 116, putting him solidly above average for those years. Despite Major League success, Edwards struggled in the minors for the next four years, pitching in the Blue Jays, Tigers, and Dodgers systems. After retiring, he stayed in the LA area and became a member of the Los Angeles Police Department in 2002. When asked what he would tell young baseball fans, he said they should “watch the players who inspire them to dream! If you don’t dream, you don’t have that desire to achieve. Watching a player who gives his all on the field, is a good teammate and who is a quality role model ‘off the field’ is important too.”

Edwards has occasionally played with the LAPD baseball team. Which seems a bit unfair to me! I’ll never forget playing second base for one of the SFFD teams and seeing the 6’3″, 205 pound Jerry Goff walk to the plate. Standing in the infield and remembering watching the left-handed former Expos player at Candlestick Park, I suddenly felt like I was much too close to home plate. I decided the appropriate positioning against Goff was shallow right field, and promptly left the infield. Of course, it was slow pitch softball – he never put a ball on the ground in any of the games we played against his department.

Anthony Varvaro graduated from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey police academy, and since that’s closer to NYPD than Los Angeles, I would have rather used his card. Varvaro pitched in 166 games over six seasons for three teams, finishing his career with a 3.23 ERA and 118 ERA+. But, despite the longevity and some decent success, best I can tell Varvaro had just one major baseball card, a 2008 Bowman Chrome, a card there was no chance I owned.

After I finished the book, I came across a third former big leaguer who had joined a police department. Dan Walters was a backup catcher for the Padres in 1992 and 1993, the year I got deepest into a Strat-O-Matic season, so I remember his card. Ten years later, in November 2003, Walters was teamed up with a rookie cop just 19 days out of the training academy. They stopped to assist a fellow officer on a call investigating a suspicious individual. As the first officer on scene approached the suspect, the man opened fire, striking Walters in the neck. Walters then stumbled backwards and was struck by a passing motorist. He received the Medal of Valor and the SDPD Purple Heart, but was paralyzed from the neck down for the rest of his life. The former police officer and big league backstop passed away in April, 2020. If I had to do it all over again, I’d probably choose to use a Dan Walters card.

I don’t want to give away too much, but Ask Again, Yes does return to the police department. It’s wonderfully written, the type of book that can spread over years and years but always flow easily. The characters are generally likable, and even when less so, they can find ways to redeem themselves.

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