I’m in the midst of a stretch where both the Pirates and Indians are away for awhile, so I won’t be attending any more games any time soon. (Possibly one this weekend, but its a small chance). Since there is this lull, I’ve decided to blog a bit about baseball cards.
My obsession with baseball cards began in the spring of 1989. I had started to get into baseball in 1988, but baseball cards hadn’t taken ahold of me yet, until that fateful day at K-Mart. I was with a childhood friend, Nick Yakabishin. He was already a seasoned collector of cards. I remember Nick and I both getting a jumbo pack of 1989 Topps Cards.
Nick said that the goal was to find Pittsburgh Pirates cards, but that if I got an Andy Van Slyke, he “would die.” Andy Van Slyke was the most popular Pirate in the late 1980’s, and his cards were like gold to children. I watched Nick tear into his pack. He got a couple crappy Pirates like Dave LaPoint and Mike Dunne, but no Andy Van Slyke.
I then opened mine. I remember sniffing the gum and then chewing on it while I shuffled through the deck. Somewhere mid way through, there he was. A fresh, crisp 1989 Topps Andy Van Slyke card.
I started going crazy. My friend was happy for me, but jealous. He was shocked that I had found a Van Slyke card. I was hooked.
My obsession grew. I was most active in collecting cards up until about 1995. I continued to collect until college in 1999, when my interest waned.
Any time my parents would take my brother and I anywhere, picking up a pack of cards was a necessity. My brother was also obsessed with cards. We used to look forward to our trips to see our grandma in Connecticut because of a card shop that we considered the Mecca of all sporting good stores, Rock’s Sports Cards. I’m not sure if its still around anymore, but the place was great. My dad used to get annoyed because my brother and I would spend upwards of an hour there browsing and looking through all of the bargain bins.
At Christmas time, half of our gifts involved baseball or baseball cards. The first complete set I received was the 1989 Score set, during the Christmas of ’89. I would go on to put my first set together from cards pulled from packs in 1993 (Topps).
In late 1992 or thereabouts, the unthinkable happened. A man by the name of Dick Brown had purchased an old candy store and turned it into a Sports Cards store. He named it Discount Sports Cards. It became a daily destination for my brother, Joe, and I. We were his best customers and fondly called the store “Discount” amongst ourselves. The shop was located roughly about a mile away, and we would ride there on our bikes, buy grab bags (which he would put a few good singles and the rest filler cards), and look through the latest singles.
We would hold “card shows” in the back yard or in the living room, where we would all set up our cards to display for everyone to see. Usually, we ended up just buying each other cards, so it was basically trading.
I used to spend almost all of my disposable money on baseball cards. As a child, I never had much money, but when I could scrape together a buck or two, I was buying cards. How many cards do I have? I would estimate about 80,000. There’s boxes everywhere.
My most valuable card? I don’t have any super valuable ones. Possibly a 1962 Topps Stan Musial. It might be worth $100, maybe. I have a 1972 Hank Aaron. A 1992 Mariano Rivera Bowman Rookie Card. I don’t think any of them could sell much these days. The value of baseball cards plummeted.
My entire collection? Its probably not even worth that much. My cards mostly range from 1987-1995.
I remember being a Beckett Baseball Monthly subscriber and looking up my top cards each month to see if they’d “gone up” or “gone down.” The magazines are probably worth more than most of the cards now.
I remember my dad bought a 1990 Donruss set in 1990. Its still sealed and in the cellophane. “One day, this will be worth a lot of money,” he told us and my brother. Unfortunately, the baseball card bubble burst, and its worth less now than what he paid.
I remember my mom telling me about how she used to buy packs of cards in the late 50’s, early 60’s, just for the gum. I recall listening in horror as she described how one day my grandma threw all of her cards in the trash.
Baseball cards dominated my life in the late 1980’s, early 1990’s, as did my interest in baseball. I’m still interested in baseball, but no longer cards. Most companies have folded, like Fleer, Donruss, and Score. I believe only Topps and Upper Deck are still around.
My wife thinks I’m a weirdo because every time we go to Wal Mart, I have to walk past the Baseball card aisle to stop and stare. Some habits never die.
Did you collect cards? How many did you have? What got you hooked? What’s your best card?
Happy Easter everyone!
My friend Joe and I went to Great American Ball Park today.
It was an afternoon game, so I was worried that batting practice would be canceled. We waited in line for about 10 minutes to get in. At 11:40, when the gates opened, I rushed to left field. The Pirates were taking batting practice!
I was the first one there, but the stadium ushers must have picked up all of the Easter Eggs, because there were none to be found. Yesterday’s starter Paul Maholm was alone in left field. I shouted to him to congratulate him on his great start yesterday. I then asked for a ball. He looked up and threw me a ball. His aim was off and it was wide and to my left. It tipped off my glove and landed a row behind me. Luckily, there was still no one around, so I turned around and picked it up. It was ball #1. I asked Matt Capps, John Grabow, and Tyler Yates for balls in left center field, but was ignored. I didn’t feel like pestering them, so I found an open aisle about 6 rows back that wasn’t being blocked by those long railings I mentioned in Friday’s entry.
Freddy Sanchez soon launched a deep fly ball to left. It was right at me, in the center of the section. However, it was sailing over my head. I hate it when this happens. I don’t have latitudinal range, and get stuck. It happens often at PNC Park. The ball landed about 5 rows back, so I had to climb over the chairs to beat some Reds fan there by a split second. It was ball #2.
Game: 5 balls (3 hit, 2 thrown)
Season: 8 balls (5 hit, 3 thrown)
Average: 4.0 balls/game (8 balls/2 games)
Career: 174 balls
I attended today’s game with my best friend from my childhood days, Joe Filipowski. We got to the gates about 10 minutes before they were to open. I hate how the gates don’t open until 90 minutes before the first pitch. At 11:40, we were finally let inside. The Pirates were already in mid batting practice.
I checked for Easter eggs in left field, but there was nothing there. With some of the Pirates better hitters coming up and being left handed, we headed over to right field. I was shocked at how amazingly rude the Pirates were towards their own fans. I got totally ignored by Zach Duke, Jesse Chavez, Craig Monroe, Eric Hinske, Brandon Moss, and Donnie Veal in right field. I asked each of them for a ball on more than one occasion, but was ignored. The irritating part was that they were giving balls to little kids with Reds gear on, even though I was completely decked out in Pirates gear, including their new alternate batting practice jersey. It looked like it was going to be one of those days.
I decided to try and get a batted ball from one of the left handed power hitters. Nate McLouth hit one, but it was over my head and some guy just barely beat me to it. My friend Joe got the first ball of the day, but gave it away to a little kid. Jesse Chavez pointed the kid out and tossed it to him several rows up, but the kid missed it. Joe ended up catching up, but out of kindness gave it to the kid. He later said he regretted giving it away, it being the first ball that he’d snagged since the 1994 Home Run Derby at Three Rivers Stadium.
Moments later, Brandon Moss launched a deep fly ball to right field. I drifted over about 5 seats and camped out underneath it. The ball landed squarely in my glove. It was ball #1 of the day for me, and my first ball of 2009. It’d been over 6 months since I last snagged a ball, so it was good to finally get one. If you can find the #1 below, that’s the exact spot I snagged Moss’ Home Run.
I didn’t take any pictures during batting practice because I felt like having my camera around my neck would be a distraction for me and make moving around a little tougher. After Adam LaRoche and Brandon Moss’s group hit, I decided to move to left field. It would prove to be a little late because Andy LaRoche was absolutely raking balls into left field while we were in right.
I made my way over to where Matt Capps, Tyler Yates, and John Grabow were standing in left center field. I asked several times for some balls, but was ignored by Yates. At least Grabow looked at me, but decided to throw the ball into the bleachers instead. I made eye contact with Capps. He got a ball and pointed at me and tossed it. Out of no where, a Reds fan dives in front of me and steals the ball before it reached me. (I was in the second row, he was in the first). Luckily, another ball was hit to Capps. He turned around and made sure I caught this one, arching it perfectly. It was ball #2 of the day.
I then decided to move to the left field line where Ian Snell and Craig Hansen were hanging out. Since catching a HR ball would prove tricky here, I decided to try and ask every Pirate I could for a ball. I settled into the second row in one of the sections near the line. I chose an empty row so I could somewhat move. Moments later, Craig Monroe lauched a line drive in my direction. I barely had to move. There was some competition for the ball from some people in the front row, but since I am 6’5″, I was able to outreach them and made the snag for ball #3 on the day. The below picture shows the exact locations of balls #2 and #3: