Kittanning, PA native Mickey Morandini is a hero for an entire generation of Philadelphia Phillies fans.
After his college career, the sure handed Indiana University second baseman decided not to enter the 1987 MLB Draft. Instead, he chose to fulfill a lifelong dream of representing his country as a member of the United States National Team in the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea. Team USA captured the gold medal and returned home as national heroes.
The Phils selected Morandini in the fifth round of the 1988 MLB Draft. He went on to anchor the middle infield there for nearly a decade, being selected a National League All Star in 1995 and playing a key role at the top of the lineup in the teams victory in the 1993 National League Championship Series and an appearance in the World Series.
We caught up for a Card Back Q&A last month. In this segment, he recalls seeing his 1988 Topps Traded rookie card for the first time, his massive collection of signed baseball and game used bats, his affinity for the Los Angeles Lakers and so much more.
Tony Reid– Do you remember the first time you were asked for your autograph?
Mickey Morandini– It would had to have been right after the Olympics. I did a card show. I had been drafted by the Phillies and I was already signed and getting ready to start my minor league career. I’m from the Pittsburgh area, I think it was at a local card shop. I was pretty good friends with a guy named Kenny. He owned a little card shop called Kenny’s Card Shop. That was the start to what has become signing a lot of autographs over the years, that’s for sure.
TR–Fans in Philadelphia are some of the most passionate in all of sports. Do you have a most memorable fan interaction from your time spent playing in Philly?
MM-Hopefully I can say this in an interview. It was my first or second year with the Phillies. It was at old Veterans Stadium. We used to have to come up through a tunnel that led to our outside parking area. It’s a lot different than athletes have today. It’s all indoor parking. We had to go through the fans to get to our car. I remember one fan asking me to sign her boob. That is the most memorable. I think I declined. I never liked to sign any skin, no matter where it was. I declined and opted for the top of her shirt or something. That was the most outrageous one I’ve had. I’m sure I’m not the only one to have been asked that.
TR– Your Rookie Card appeared in the 1988 Topps Traded set on the classic Team USA card. Do you remember the first time you saw yourself on a trading card?
MM– Yeah it was that one, absolutely. There were two Olympic cards that came out. I remember the Topps Traded card. It was a close up, face shot. There were twenty players on that team. I think they had a card set of 20-25 cards. When they came out with the set the team had not been determined yet. There were still a few cuts they had to make. Pat Combs and a few other guys are in that set that didn’t make the team.
It was pretty cool, that’s for sure. I actually have a memorabilia piece where I have all of those cards in a frame. I have it up on the wall and every once in a while I look at it and laugh and think how young I was back then. I was probably 22 at the time. It was a pretty special card. We went on to win a gold medal in Seoul, Korea that year. That was a special card for all of us.
TR–Do you have an office or room where you have memorabilia displayed?
MM– I do. I became a big memorabilia fan when I made it to the big leagues. I was meeting all of these great athletes and I’m doing all of these card shows with athletes from other sports. I thought I need to take advantage of this, so I did. I collected when I played. I have over 500 baseballs signed. I have bats signed from only guys I played with, so I have a collection of 50-75 bats that I really wanted from guys I played with that were on my team over the years. I have memorabilia.
I have signed helmets and footballs. I am a big Laker fan, so I have a lot of Lakers stuff. I’m sure you have seen the Lakers Greats photo. It’s a photo of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor. It’s a picture that I have signed. That is one of my most favorite prices. I don’t collect much anymore but I sure did when I played.
TR–Did you manage to hold on to any cards over the years?
MM-I was more of a set guy than an individual card guy. My favorite card of all time is the 1980-81 Topps Magic Johnson and Larry Bird rookie. It’s the three tri fold card. I have that card. That is my all-time favorite card.
I think the sets go back to the mid-seventies. Most of them are Topps. There were so many card companies that were out when I played. I do have some sets from the other companies that came out in the 1990s and early 2000s. I do have all the Topps set back to the mid-seventies. That is something I am going to hang on to and pass down to my kids.
TR–The Magic/Bird RC is one of those cards that seems to increase in value by the day.
MM– Yeah I don’t have it graded. I probably should. It’s not a 10. It’s a little off center but it’s still a really nice card to have.
TR–As a kid, did you collect sports cards or memorabilia?
MM-I did collect cards as a kid. The sad part about it is that I didn’t keep them. I put them in a shoebox and I would sort through them here and there. I collected a little bit of football and a little bit of basketball but mainly baseball. I am really kicking myself now because I am sure I had some really nice, solid baseball cards. I was born in 1966, so I probably started collecting cards in the early to mid 1970’s. That is when the cards really started to take off. I am really kicking myself but there is nothing I can do about it now. I was into baseball and basketball as a kid, for sure. I collected all of that stuff when I was young.