A very specific scene pops into my head when I try to think back to the day that I feel in love with baseball cards.
YOUNG LONNIE sits flipping through a notebook. DAD stops in the doorway. A small child can be heard screaming in the distance. YOUNG LONNIE’s eyes widen and then squint as he attempts to read something. The distant screaming subsides. MOM appears behind DAD, puts her hands around his waist, and sits her head on his shoulder.
What’s going on
Just watching Lonnie look through my old baseball cards
That’s cute. Do you think he would like having some of his own?
I was just thinking that.
DAD and MOM leave, but quickly return with a small cardboard box of baseball cards. They walk over towards YOUNG LONNIE and place the box in his hands. DAD musses his son’s hair.
What is this?
Those are your very own baseball cards.
Gee! Do you mean it?
Of course. We saw how you looked at your father’s and thought you would enjoy some of your own.
Boy oh boy!
I probably just heard some kids talking about cards around the t-ball water cooler, and bugged my parents to get me some.
No matter when or how the collecting began, by the time my age hit double digits, I was obsessed. All my spare money went to buy new packs. Aunts, uncles, and cousins were instructed to get baseball cards for Christmas and birthday presents. The greatest enabler to of my addiction was my paternal grandmother. I could sweet talk her into getting me some anytime we went to K-Mart. Well, I wouldn’t really sweet talk her. I would secretly manipulate her using very specific system.
- Ask to look at the baseball cards immediately upon entering the store
- Return to grandmother and engage in conversation as she talks
- Return to baseball cards as you wait in line
- Slowly walk back to grandmother when she is about to start loading the conveyer belt
- Avoid eye contact and conversation until she asks, “was there something over there you wanted?”
- Pause for two seconds then DENY wanting anything
- Wait for her to ask again
- Sheepishly acknowledge that a pack of baseball cards would be nice
- Avoid eye contact until she tells you to get some
- Go get baseball cards
The key to all of this is the appearance of selflessness. You can’t let her know that you want the cards. Then, once you’ve gotten permission to get them, you have to be sure to grab the cheaper packs. If you try to get one of the $7 multipacks, or a boxed set, you seem too greedy. Go with a couple $1 packs and move on. It takes longer to build up your stash with this route, but by being more conservative, you don’t risk jeopardizing that steady supply.
As I got older, I bought fewer and fewer cards. My grandmother and I made fewer trips to K-Mart. I spent more time playing video games, and then the trombone. My collecting gumption died down. The boxes filled with cards were pushed to the corner of the closet.
My mother, as one might expect, was not a fan of all of the space my collection occupied. I was encouraged to do something with them. Sell them. Organize them. Something. Anything to justify the wasted spaced.
Too attached to sell the collection, I decided to organize them. This was 2007. I was going to be leaving for college the next year, and bringing some order to the chaos of the collection seemed like a good thing to do before I left the house.
I graduated from college four years ago, and the only discernible difference between my collection then, and my collection now is its location. It moved from the closet of my childhood home, to my parents’ current storage room.
Well actually, now the collection is my house. In my office. I am finally going to begin what I promised my mother I’d do a decade ago.
I will organize my baseball cards.
Two weeks ago I ran that application on Facebook that goes over the posts you’ve made during the past year and builds a word cloud out of your most used words.
Two of my top four most used words on Facebook in 2016 were “fear” and “hate” (the other two in the top four were “Trump” and “Clinton”).
I don’t typically pay attention to the gimmicky things that pop up on Facebook, but these results were troubling. I understand that we went through a pretty toxic presidential election season. News stories from across the world seemed to get worse and worse as the year progressed. Shootings. Fires. Civil wars. Refugees. Espionage. Terrorism.
We all saw how depressing it got at times.
Which is why I was so bothered by my word cloud.
Everyone saw how nasty things were.
I didn’t need to spend so much time dwelling on the hate and the fear. No one needed me to point all of this out.
That is why this year I’m going through my baseball cards. I gave too much of my sanity to nasty thoughts and emotions in 2016. I let it harden my heart.
I want to spend more time focusing on things that bring me joy. For over twenty years few things have brought me as much joy as baseball.
I am going to inventory and organize every baseball card that I own. By the end of the process I’ll be able to know exactly how many Chipper Jones cards I have (a lot) and where they are.
As much as I do love baseball cards, that amount of detailed cataloguing would get old pretty quickly. That’s where this little corner of the internet comes in. Each week I will pull out one or two cards to highlight. It isn’t going to just be me talking about the cards specifically. That would get boring too.
The cards will just be a starting point.
I’m hoping to look at players, uniforms, teams, seasons, trends, memories, and pretty much anything else that comes to mind when I look at a particular card.
Take this 1988 Topps Tony Gwynn card.
We could go a number of different places with it. We could talk about the uniform that Gwynn is wearing. Maybe share a brief meditation on his batting stance and swing. Maybe we talk about the whole Padres team of that year, or talk about some of the players who were drafted before Gwynn’s 3rd round selection in 1981, or look into other players scouted by Cliff Ditto, or, well, you get the idea.
I don’t know how long I’ll be able to keep up sharing something one to two times per week. I’m not sure how I will find the resources that I’ll need to do all the research this will require.
I’d love it if you came along for the journey, but ultimately I’m doing this for my (and my family’s) sanity. I don’t want the most common words on my social media feed to be hate and fear next year. I don’t want the news to harden me into a cynical curmudgeon before I turn thirty. I don’t want to be too frustrated with the world to have a conversation with my wife at night.
I just want to have some fun.