A Collection of Cards
This past week I stumbled onto my old baseball cards. I collected them back in the 80s and 90s when I was a kid. I had forgotten how much I loved them. Gazing over all of the collections, I realized it had been more of a passion than I had remembered.
I recalled the summertime in my young teens when my two buddies from the neighborhood and I would mow lawns in our subdivision. After finishing a job we would immediately grab the cash from the homeowners and beg my mother to drive us directly to the baseball card shop where we would blow what we had just earned all at once. Never mind that we never paid my father back for using his equipment or his gas. Those details never occurred to us. We were too occupied with the important task at hand - getting the prime cards.
The three of us friends would rush into the store, force our way to the counter, and dive into the binder that showcased all the most recent cards, feverishly searching for the best we could afford with our new earnings. The lady that owned the place must have hated us because we did not care to regulate our fervor. As middle school boys with an incredible amount of pubescent energy and fresh money, we paid little attention to decorum as we dove in through the plastic pages, flipped furiously through the sleeves, and scavenged for the premiere players hidden within. I specifically recall seeing the poor lady out of the corner of my eye biting her lip and frowning on several occasions while we gorged ourselves on cards like sharks swarming upon easy prey. It was truly the best of times. Our only cares in the world revolved around snatching the best cards and returning home to play Wiffle ball in the front driveway until mom let us come inside to play video games. Once inside, we would sort and compare our cards while taking turns playing Bases Loaded on the Nintendo. Later we would venture back outside again if it was the day of the week we got to play Pony League baseball on official youth teams at various stadiums around the metroplex. During the summer we ate, drank, slept, worked, played, and dreamed baseball.
Now as an adult well into my 40s, I once again discovered my cards. Along with a box of perfectly organized cards separated by year, team, and companies that made them (Topps, Donruss, Fleer, Upper Deck, Score), I located my cherished binder that housed the cards of players I felt most valuable. It was just a simple black binder but it was thick and inside held various treasures. Perhaps the best part about it was the smell. A beautiful combination of clean plastic pages and a whiff of paper cardboard cards filled the air as I cracked it open. I felt like an archeologist gingerly examining a long-lost artifact. On the inside of the binder on the left were small circular stickers of each major league team that I had placed with great precision. It looked like I might have used a ruler to get the distances just right. On the right was the very first clear plastic sleeve on top of a pile of sleeves and cards below it. Located securely inside that first sleeve was a ticket stub for the last game ever played at Arlington Stadium on October 3rd, 1993. It was the Texas Rangers against the Kansas City Royals. I had gone with my brother and father.
Behind that first sleeve were more incredible memories that I discovered as I gently turned the pages. Arranged in alphabetical order, one of the first of my favorite collections of player cards I came to was none other than Jose Canseco. Certainly, there was controversy surrounding him but before all that I and so many others had found excitement in his massive stature and ability to hit the long ball. I couldn’t help it. As a young American boy during the best of times of the Reagan administration, Canseco and his bash brother teammate Mark McGuire on the Oakland A’s represented the sports heroes of our country. Continuing to flip through the binder, I remembered so many others. There was star pitcher Orel Hershiser from the Dodgers and Kirk Gibson who hit the walk-off home run while nursing two busted knees in the 1988 World Series. Multi-sport athlete Bo Jackson and finesse pitcher Greg Maddux were also there along with Nolan Ryan from the Rangers and Ryan Sandberg from the Cubs. The names went on and on.
These were my heroes and the inspiration for so much of my daily activities over the summer. But they also represented icons of my plans and dreams for the future. I wanted to be a professional baseball player more than anything and I spent much of my young life focused on that goal. My summer job was mowing lawns and I used that money to purchase representations of the guys I supported and wanted to emulate. Some players I liked for no real reason other than they seemed like good guys that played hard and others I learned to enjoy watching because of various aspects of their personalities or attributes on the field.
While they don’t yet have cards of their own with their faces displaced upon them, those involved with the game of baseball right here in Calvert have also found specific reasons to be embedded in my heart.
Antonio has a cannon for an arm and wins the group over with his infectious smile. Cohan is extremely fast and never gives up as he moves across the field with nimble grace. Dai Dai is a leader who plays hard and speaks eloquently, using the experience during his first year in college to provide the team with inspiration. Taylor keeps coming back even though she had the least amount of experience at the beginning but continues to grow significantly and is getting stronger every practice. Gio is the Hollywood superstar of the team who dresses the part and brings the positive flare and energy we need. Sarai is the most focused and brings a youthful athleticism learned through her experience in multiple sports and activities. KD is quiet yet his attitude is contagious as he maintains his rhythm of excelling whether pitching or playing the field.
DJ has been the consistent brains of the bunch, offering wisdom in volumes and hitting the ball a mile when he gets into one. Billy is a leader who pushes the team to maintain focus and encourages everyone around him to give their best every single play. J’Courie is a new addition to the group but he comes with a tenacity that just never seems to stop. Israel or “Izzy” as we have been calling him is the youngest and smallest as a middle school kid but he never fails to step up to the challenge, making plays and hitting balls with guys that are twice his size. Coach JD has been a mainstay of the team and is always in position to offer advice and provide more detailed direction. Miss Bobby is the heart of what we do. She is always there with a supportive word and an encouraging directive. Just her presence alone is motivating.
Each of these amazing stars deserves a baseball card to be created with their face on the front. Sure, maybe they aren’t professionally marketable major league material just yet, but in the game of life, they just might be selected to the Hall of Fame.
I’ll prepare another binder to be ready for them.