Last week, we did a call out for your best baseball card collecting memories from childhood. It didn’t matter if you grew up in the 1950s or 1990s, everyone who collects has great memories of those days. In less than 72 hours, the response was phenomenal.
Some of the stories are funny. Some are poignant. Many are a little wistful. Others had a unique twist. It tells you a lot about the impact cards have on us when so many people have such vivid recollections of events that took place 20, 30, 40…even 50 years ago.
Over 40 of you have responded so far–and others chimed in on Facebook just for the heck of it. All entries submitted by email will be entered into the drawing for the 2013 Topps Heritage box that will take place tomorrow. We’ll announce with winner on Facebook and Twitter Tuesday. Entries for the contest do close at 11:59 p.m. tonight (Monday).
Here are some of those memories you shared and we’ll be publishing the best of your submissions all week. Enjoy!
In 1960, I was 8 years old and in third grade. My class was going to be rewarded for having the best school attendance for a class that year. On Friday, we were to be treated to an ice cream festival in our classroom. By midweek, I was having difficulties coughing, catching my breath, and everything seemed to ache, especially my chest. I tried to hide my distress, but my mother knew that something was amiss, and I was off to the pediatrician. The diagnosis was Bronchial Pneumonia and the Mumps and the long and short of this disaster was that my class had a great time enjoying ice cream sundaes that Friday and I was stuck at home in bed for the rest of the week and all of the following week
So what does all of this have to do with card collecting, you ask? Card collecting for me, up to this point, was receiving hand me down cards from my cousin. A few times, I had secured a nickel or two from my father after giving him my precious dollar or two earned from mowing lawns.
So now, I’m in my bed, no ice cream party and feeling terrible, when my father, now home from work, enters my room. My mother is right behind him, smiling. I remember thinking; “What’s there to smile about?” I began to cry. My father handed me a crumpled brown paper bag. I dumped out the contents of the bag – four packs of TOPPS Baseball cards, a treasure trove!!! I don’t remember all the cards, but in the end, I was given 24 packs of 1960 Topps and YES, one was Mickey Mantle. I still have all those cards and went on to complete that set as an adult.
You Traded Who for a What?!?….
It was the mid-70’s and the Big Red Machine was in full swing in south west Ohio. As the norm, my friends and I waited till it was baseball season to start collecting baseball cards with everything we had for loose change and pop bottle returns and weekly allowance. It was the summer and Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan were all over the sports news and in the papers.
Our routine was to round up spare change, trade our toys with friends with cash, search for pop bottles and total up what we had before setting out together to the carry out to buy packs of cards. We bought our packs and on are way back through the alley none of us had yet acquired a Johnny Bench or Pete Rose but had the other popular Reds players.
We were getting desperate to open up packs and obtain a Pete or Johnny when my friend blurted out he would trade his bike for a Pete Rose card and this outburst got all of our attention as we all stopped in unison dead in our tracks!
There were yells of denial from us that he wouldn’t do that and he swore he would nonetheless as most of us highly coveted his all chromed out, glitter laced padded banana seat extending to a rear end wide slick tire in the rear leading to an upfront chopper like fork extension rounding out stocked with floor shifter on the main frame accessorized with a baby tire in the front. I still has some unopened packs to go through and next to the last pack I opened and rifled through it so fast that I didn’t recognize “him” at first…..my heart raced, I doubled back and there he was….I was silent with thoughts racing through my mind – Pete Rose vs. my friends killer bike.
The silence was so noticeable that my friends knew right away and asked to show them what I had for cards. I hesitated but as friends are the peer pressure was weighing heavy to reveal. I did show…..nice and slow and the unveiling was brought by an eruption of Oooohs and Aaaahs and demands of “Let me see, let me see!”. It was time to put up or shut up and my friends rallied to my cause and doubly envied me for having Pete Rose card but with hidden designs in hopes that I would let them ride it that summer too.
The trade was made and I couldn’t believe my eyes let alone couldn’t wait to hop on and ride the summer away! It wasn’t long that my friend began ‘missing’ his bike and hinting that he would like to ride it again just to see what it was like again. Within a few days, my parents has noticed the new addition in the garage and in our backyard which brought questions of, “Where’d you get that bike?” and “You didn’t steal that did you?” I defiantly stood up and said I traded for it and wasn’t giving it back. My mom said, “You traded what for it?
I replied “For a Pete Rose card”. She exclaimed loudly “You what?” followed by “Go give that back to him now!” No I said! I dragged my feet about going back and exchanging it but it wasn’t long after that I started feeling the heat from both sides as then my friend’s parents had noticed his bike was gone and he was whining about it to his mom that I had taken his bike unfairly away from him. Then next day, there was his mom and my mom talking on the front porch of our house with my friend on the sidewalk with tears in his eyes. Neighborhood drama was about to explode as my other friends began to hear about the big confrontation stirring on the front porch but all was put to rest and my friend got his bike back and Pete Rose returned to me with a stern warning that I wasn’t allowed to trade cards anymore for anything! “All that over a baseball card” I thought.
The Pete Rose trade for a bike was in my estimate well worth it in even trade. I guess no one saw it my way. I missed not having his tricked out bike for the summer but was glad to have my Pete Rose back!
Mom Loves The Bird
It was the summer of ’77, and a little 7 yr old from Detroit was opening his first few packs of Topps baseball cards. Much to my amazement I was able to pull the card that almost every kid in Motown wanted that year – the debut card of the curly-haired rookie phenom, Mark “The Bird” Fidrych. Many cards from the ’77 Topps set have great photography, with The Bird’s card being no exception. With his red, curly hair tucked under his Tigers ballcap, a Topps All-Star rookie Trophy in the bottom right corner, and a facsimile signature that looked like it was done by a 3rd grader, The Bird’s rookie card was quite charming to this 7 yr old. I cherished that card as I continued to collect cards during my childhood. I stopped buying packs of cards, however, as I moved onto high school and other interests.
Fast forward to 2001, and with my hobby interests renewed, I began to collect cards once again. Although I began to pick up cards of great hall of famers like Ruth, Cobb, and Ted Williams, I always knew that Fidrych rookie card from my younger years was tucked away somewhere with my childhood collection. Unlike most kids, thankfully my dear Mom, a Tigers fan herself, did not throw my old cardboard away.
Fast forward once again to the spring of 2010. I was visiting my Mom, in her early 80s at the time. We were sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee and catching up, when the conversation turned to the Detroit Tigers. My Mom asked if I wanted to see some of her baseball cards. I obliged, and she went to her bedroom to get them.
She came back with a small stack of about 40 cards, and asked if I wanted them. These were all Tigers cards, some ‘73 Topps, a couple ‘74’s, but mainly ‘77’s. “Ah, Aurelio Rodriguez,” I said as I flipped through the stack, “he had a rocket arm. Sure, I’ll add them to the collection, thanks!”
“You can have all those, but this one I’m saving,” my Mom said, “… he’s my guy!”
I looked up, and there she held in her hand The Card… the Mark Fidrych rookie. The exact card I pulled from that pack in ’77. It was beat up and creased much more than all the others, but it was also the only card my Mom kept in a plastic holder.
“That’s my Bird card!” I thought to myself, and there my Mom held it, cherishing it all these years. All this time, I thought it was tucked among my old cards in my closet at home. Little did I know that she kept it for her collection, prized enough to keep it in that protective case. I obviously didn’t say anything, as it was best to just let her keep it as she wished. She probably bought me that pack of cards back in ’77 anyway.
I have to admit I got a warm feeling during that moment, sharing a close bond with my Mom through, of all things, a Mark Fidrych baseball card. She raised eight kids and cooked some of the best meals on a tight budget. While our Dad taught us all about discipline, respect, and determination, our Mom instilled in us the qualities of understanding, compassion, and kindness… and how to spot a cool looking baseball card.
Any Angels for This Angel?
It was the spring of 1972 and I was nearly 7 years old. Minot, North Dakota, wasn’t the bustling city where baseball cards were available on every corner, but there were two places in my neighborhood to buy cards – Ben Franklin and The Oak Park News Arcade. It was from those two stores that I had amassed over 300 cards from the prior season. Every time I had an extra dime, I bought a pack of cards. I can’t recall how many times I read the backs and organized them over and over by number (which I never understood) or alphabetically by team, but it was hours and hours worth of fun for a 6 year old.
I’d fallen in love with baseball, and specifically the Minnesota Twins, as some of my earliest memories were of my mom “shush”ing me when she was listening to Herb Carneal and Halsey Hall call games on the radio. We had driven to Minneapolis to see the Twins play in both 1970 and 1971 and the planning for our trip in ’72 was well under way.
Every Sunday after church, my mom and dad and I would head to the Oak Park News Arcade to pick up that day’s copy of the Fargo Forum – the “big city” newspaper. It was an older store that carried what seemed like hundreds of magazines and books and an awesome selection of candy. We gotten into the routine that if I had been good in church, I got to pick out a couple of comic books in the winter or packs of baseball cards during the season.
This particular cold Sunday morning, I remember walking into the old store with strange anticipation. It seemed like it was going to be a different day for some reason. I darted in, hoping there would be a new Superman or Batman comic but in looking behind the glass of the display case, I saw the fresh colorful wrappers of the new baseball card packs. The word BASEBALL adorned the top of the packs and my heart started pounding when I saw them. I remember asking my mom and dad if I could get a couple of packs. Apparently I’d been really good in church that day or they could sense my excitement because I walked out of the store with THREE packs rather than the accustomed two.
My Mom Traded My Mantles
in 1983, we would routinely flip cards during recess. In order to perpetuate this, our daily after school routine would be riding out bikes to a local mini Mart about a mile away. So one day with no cards left, I traded my brothers prized 1978 Thurman Munson card for a stack of 83 commons. In dealing with my brothers wrath, my mother consoled me with the fact that she had 7 Mickey mantle rookies as a kid and she gave them all away to her various boyfriends back in the day. It made me feel better at the time 🙂 Just wish she kept one for me.
Young Negotiator Scores a Well Loved Icon
When I was a kid my card collections started out with 50 cent variety packs at a Genovese drug store my mother would buy, but at around ten I discovered the baseball card show. The best one happened every few months or so at an arcade type place off the highway, I needed to bum a ride to from my parents (a very careful negotiation since neither of them understood how I could spend money on cardboard).
My favorite memory stared watching an older man sell two 1951 Bowman cards in terrible condition to a dealer there for around $80, a Mantle and Mays rookie card. Looking back on it the dealer probably ripped the older gentleman off, but it’s hard to tell as when I say these cards were beat up, they looked like they were crumpled in a ball and then spread out again, and had paper loss. At the time I had no idea the value of either card, I just knew who Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays were.
After the transaction had completed, I asked the dealer what the plans for the cards were, and he said he would probably keep the Mickey Mantle and could let the Mays go for some price I don’t remember. I then offered him $60 for the Mays, which he immediately said “no way” to. The hobby was entering its strange phase then in the middle eighties, were half of these guys dealing cards didn’t really even want to deal with a kid, in what was traditionally a kids hobby. I responded that $60 would cover most of what he laid out for the two cards, that it was a good deal based on what he just paid for them.
Thinking for a minute, he changed his mind, said “all right kid, sixty bucks”. So that was the first of thousands of successful, tense, negotiations for a baseball card.I still have the card today, beat to hell, one PSA would have to think long and hard before probably acceding to an “A-Authentic” rating. It’s not for sale though, not even for sixty bucks.