Last week one of my co-workers was waiting for an assignment so he was checking CNN to keep up on the latest news. So when I went over to his cubicle and asked him what was new he mentioned Casey Kasem was in critical condition. I, like countless other young and not so young people, would listen faithfully each weekend to American Top 40 to hear where our favorite songs were on the Billboard charts, to hear Casey’s stories about these artists, listen to the long-distance dedications (yes even about dead dogs) and feel everything was going to be all right based on his mellifluous voice.
Mike Berkus, who was one of the promoters of the very first National and is still involved to this day, gave a heartfelt tribute to Don Zimmer on my Facebook page. He was actually reading about the recently installed National Case Breaking Pavilion when he was diverted to an article I had done on Zim’s 1957 Topps card. His message delved deeply into how much he enjoyed seeing Zim play as a young man.
“Don played for the St Paul Saints, my childhood team, and it was there that he was beaned,” Mike wrote. “Growing up and playing shortstop for the WMCA, he became my hero. I was able to spend a half an hour with him at the National. It was a thrill for me and the only person I asked for an autograph, in 34 Nationals. I felt like a 10 year old, in his presence. My childhood is gone. Very touched and sad.”
He is not the only one who feels this way. My good friend Mel Solomon will occasionally send me trivia questions about how many players are still living who played for the 1953 Yankees or was a position player for the Brooklyn Dodgers (hint: there are more Dodgers than you might think).
And if you think about this, one of the reasons we collect the old baseball cards is because of similar memories. Anytime I see cards from 1958 through 1972 or so in almost any sport I can remember if I have owned the card or had a duplicate. Knowing those cards with an almost perfect memory on sight always helps if you want to figure out what cards were scarce from that era. And I was thrilled to see such feedback on the Sports Collectors Daily Facebook page to my column about what elements of our hobby that I miss. But what I really miss, is that we’re never going to be 10 years old again, trading or playing these card games with our friends or even putting them in the bicycle spokes.
We all miss different things about cards, the athletes and everything else but one of the most important aspects of these cards how they bring us together as hobbyists. We buy, sell and trade in many cases to experience those old memories and what came before us as collectors. And frankly, isn’t that what this hobby is all about, coming together?
Sharing those types of experiences is why the first series of Topps Baseball each year is what the hobby is looking for. So many of us want to see the new design and have the fun of opening the first pack of the year, just like we did ten, 20, 30, 40, 50 or even 60 years ago. Topps Series One is always the biggest seller in the hobby. And then within a month we know we’re going back 49 years and seeing today’s players on old Topps designs we loved when Heritage comes out. I can’t wait to see a 2015 Topps Sandy Koufax autograph card since Topps habit is having players sign their cards in what was their final regular issue card. And heck, wasn’t it nice to have one last Don Zimmer autograph card this year courtesy of Heritage?
But this is still 2014, and at work I enjoy bantering with one of my work mates about the Angels versus the Rangers or listening to the discussion about Sergio Martinez versus Miguel Cotto or even about FC Dallas and how they work on drawing fans from the city of Dallas to the suburbs. Knowing and appreciating the past while being in the present is a special gift in itself.