But that didn’t stop him from sending me a letter. Earlier this year, I initiated the Cribbageland Open Letter Campaign, in which I mailed several letters to several athletes, all wondering if they’d be interested in speaking with me about a little 15-2. There are 52 cards in a deck, 52 weeks in a year. You see the strategy. Unfortunately, as my time spent working grew and my time spent sleeping shrank, I abandoned the campaign for some undisclosed future date. Maybe it’s time to fire it up again. After all, Mauer isn’t the first to respond–just the first without a form letter.
A few of the recipients included Terry Francona and Dustin Pedroia of the Boston Red Sox, Johnny Boychuk of the Boston Bruins, Aaron Rodgers (ACC member!) of the Green Bay Packers, and more. In newspaper articles and clips, it had already been documented they play the game. I figured that with so many tired reporters asking the same tired questions, and so many athletes dictating the same tired answers, there was a chance they’d open up about a completely un-sports related question. What are the cribbage stories of a team on the road? In the locker room? What are the traditions that inevitably form when a group of people share a common interest? And can the Red Sox record be attributed to Pedroia’s cribbage games against Tito? I want to find out.
The Red Sox were the first to respond. In early May, I received a manila envelope from 4 Yawkey Way, Boston Mass., 02215, better known as Fenway Park. The back was stamped with a huge, ghosted-out, circular Red Sox logo reading “Red Sox Fan Package” around the border. Was that I was? A fan? Though my allegiance lies with Minnesota, I couldn’t help but wonder what answers lay within. I put the envelope on the mantle and waited hours to open it, savoring a future of easy conversations with some of the biggest names in sports. Finally, I grabbed the envelope. It was bulky. Things moved. I held it to my ear and shook it like a curious kid with a Christmas gift. I took a breath, undid the clasp, ripped open the flap, and dumped the contents on the coffee table. Here’s what I found:
- A Red Sox Nation rubber wristband
- 2 Red Sox window decals
- A pocket Red Sox game calendar
- A folded letter
The letter listed the years the Sox won the pennant (1903, 1912, 1915, 1916, 1918, 2004, 2007), with “The Boston Red Sox Baseball Club” along the bottom. Inside, in girly, easy-to-read handwriting, it read,
Dear Jordan Wiklund,
Thank you so much for contacting us here at the Boston Red Sox. It is fans like you that keep Red Sox Nation alive. We hope to see you at a game in the future. Good luck with your fantasy team!
Fenway Ambassador Lauren
Pocket calendar? Fantasy team? Not what I had hoped for. Nonetheless, it made for a fun evening. Next week, however, I grew more excited, when a common mailing envelope from the Red Sox arrived, thick with pages. Here we go, I thought, Tito! Pedroia! The Boston f’n Red Sox! I tore the letter open. It contained my initial letter, my business card, the five of clubs, and the official team photo of Dustin Pedroia, swingin’ a bat at home as the Tampa Bay Rays catcher looks on. A brief form letter followed. I have since received five other letters from the Red Sox, all the same save for a photo of either Pedroia or Francona.
When I checked the mail yesterday, however, I found something else. Another innocuous letter waited for me, this one post-card sized, care of one J Mauer, 1 Twins Way, Minneapolis, MN, 55403. It was difficult to keep expectations in check, despite my previous experience with their AL rivals. Once again, I tore open the letter. One side of the postcard is a signed photo of Joe, reared back behind the mound, ready to throw out whomever is stealing 2nd. The other side reads:
I received your letters written earlier this spring requesting an interview for your book on cribbage. I apologize for the delay in responding, but since I don’t live in MN during the off season, my mail is held until the start of our season.
I’m sorry but I don’t play cribbage and would not be interested in being interviewed.
I am not discouraged. During a forgettable year, the loss of two much-loved power hitters, and the ennui that sets in between a favorite team’s demise and the start of the post-season, the fact that Mauer (or at least a Mauer facsimile a la Fenway Ambassador Lauren) actually read the letters and formulated a decent response is entirely inspiring and wonderful, and further proof that everything I hope, expect, and dream of the Twins organization may, in fact, be true: that they are a gracious and talented bunch (even when riddled with injuries), who actually stress some sort of outreach to their community and fans. I’ve received six considerate but mindless letters from the Red Sox. I’ve received one personalized letter from the Twins. So thank you Joe, and thank you Twins, and we’ll just have to see what happens next year.
And if anybody knows how to get in touch with Tito, Pedroia, Boychuk, or other crib-slinging athletes, please let me know.