Monday, May 25, 2015

When Baseball Cards Were King

St. Louis Cardinal Albert Pujols has hit over 400 home runs, but has never hit more than 49 in one season. Alex Rodriguez, who is in sixth place on the all-time home run list, was traded by the Texas Rangers to the New York Yankees in 2004. In 2010, Roy Halladay pitched a perfect game and a playoff no-hitter for the Philadelphia Phillies.

All of the information shown above is easy to access through any baseball website, could be shown on a number of cable television sports programs, or heard on a variety of sports talk shows. But, back in the day, baseball fans learned that type of information through newspaper box scores, magazines and on the backs of baseball cards.

Finding your favorite players
My elementary school friends introduced me to baseball cards in the 1970s. During that pre-internet, pre-video game era, those thin, rectangular encyclopedias were our passion.
While complete sets could be ordered through Topps, it was so much more fun to buy packs at local convenience stores. Opening the wrapper, smelling those pink gum-scented cards and earnestly looking for our favorite players was thrilling.
Local card shows, which were similar to farmer's markets, offered another collection building option. A kid convention filled with a buffet of bubble gum cards. Instead of testing the tomatoes, you looked for that Tom Seaver who was sorely needed to complete the Cincinnati Reds team set.
Those events were nothing short of paradise.
The free market is a wonderful thing and we had no summer trade deadlines. Duplicates of a Ron Guidry, Catfish Hunter and Thurman Munson could be just the incentive that was needed to obtain the Oakland Athletics' Reggie Jackson card my buddy finally was willing to deal in September.
If there were any disputes about the balance of a deal, Becket's Baseball Card Price Guide was used as a silent arbitrator. We didn't know who Beckett was, or how he determined the card values, but using his book made us feel like we were operating on the up and up.
Proper Storage
Like fine wine, all cards needed to be properly stored. Plastic cases, with individual slots for each team, had to be obtained through the use of accumulated allowance money. Price was no object, as $8 was well worth the investment.
From there, the bedroom closet served as the primary storage vault. As part of a mental fire drill, if the house ever went up in flames, I would grab the dog along with my baseball card boxes and head out the side door to safety. Let the homework burn.
Bygone days
Baseball cards are still available today in larger chain stores, in specialty hobby shops and at card shows. They also continue to hold a spot in the hearts of all who learned to love the game through them.

(I hold all copyrights to this article which originally appeared on Yahoo's Voices platform in 2011.)
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