Page 2

EDITOR'S NOTE: We asked you to send us your favorite baseball card memories. Here are some of our favorite responses.

My brothers and I have a very substantial card collection from the mid-'70s to early '80s. We've had them boxed and put away without even peeking at them for years. They're stored at my brother's house in Delaware tucked safely away. We all gathered at his house one Thanksgiving about five years ago. We had a price catalog and we went through the cards to estimate their values as we relived those times with anecdotal stories and laughter. Going through the stacks of cards randomly, I picked up a Nolan Ryan rookie card with the stats facing forward and announced the card and year. My brother quoted a very significant estimated value from the guide. We were whooping it up and high-fiving when finally we turned the card over and viewed the picture. Wouldn't you know it that someone had doodled a goatee and scribbled the word "beautiful" in pen on the front of the card. We supposed the card wasn't very valuable after that discovery. We felt deflated, but it's given us another story to tell and the laughter that inevitably follows.
Joe (Orange, N.J.)

Page 2's Baseball Card Days
Topps takeover?
Inside Topps headquarters
Page 2's card memories
Readers' card memories
The unofficial history of cards

As long as I could remember, I always coveted my dad's 1964 Topps Sandy Koufax. The constant stories recounted by my father about the lefty flame-thrower only served to deepen my desire. Every Christmas and birthday I could be sure of two things: that my dad would give me one of his cherished baseball cards, from Jim Gilliam to Hank Aaron to Don Drysdale, but that it would never be the Koufax that I wanted so much. One year, when I was 10 years old (in 1992) and he was coaching my Little League team, he told me that I could have the card if I struck out 18 batters in a game. Although I was probably the best player on the team, this was no small feat in a six inning game. I had to strike out every batter. I was determined, but never reached my goal. I struck out 17 twice, and somehow was terribly disappointed both times. That team went on to win the championship. Being the great father that he was (and is), he gave me the card anyway and told me how proud of me he was. It's sort of like how proud I am to this day of my 1964 Topps Sandy Koufax.
Kevin (San Diego)

My memory is not of one card, but of two that are linked in a unique way. I starting collecting baseball cards as a child in the mid-1970s. Many kids would simply place their cards in a box in their room. But not me. I came up with what I thought was the greatest way to display trading cards in the world. I punched a hole near the top of each card and placed them on a string that ran along the ceiling of my bedroom. At some point, I took the cards down and put them in a box. By the mid-1980s, I learned that baseball cards could actually be worth money. While thumbing through a pricing guide, I noticed that the older cards were more valuable. Immediately, I dug through my closet knowing that I had quite a few cards from the 1970s. Most of the cards were only worth a few cents, but I did find two that had a significant dollar value listed next to their name. These two cards were a second-year Mike Schmidt and a rookie George Brett -- both with holes punched through their heads. Crushing.
Brent Riha (Baltimore)

I was about 12 years old, standing at the end of a friend's driveway with a basketball in my hands. It was 1972 or around there, back in the time when we'd almost always preface something with, "How much will you give me if I … " Well, my "How much will you give me if I throw this into the basket from here?" was taken up by a friend who replied, "All my baseball cards." I recall standing about 30-40 feet from the basket when I launched my one-handed throw. Swoosh! Nothing but net. My friend proceeded to go into his house and hand me a box with about 3,000 cards from the late 1960s. I insisted several times that he keep the cards, but each time he kept repeating, "A bet is a bet." I sorted through the box several weeks later, and to this day I still have my Roberto Clemente, Nolan Ryan, Carl Yastrzemski, Frank Robinson, etc. cards, neatly tucked away.
Edward DiRocco (Boston)

It was 1964 and I was 12 years old. My mother told me to clean out my closet or she would start ripping my baseball cards. I watched as she ripped one card after another; I didn't budge. But then she pulled out my 1962 Al Kaline and, before I could say, "Stop, I'll do it," she managed to make a 2-inch rip in the card. I still have that card, and still hold it against my deceased mother.
Abe Krieger

In 1979, I began the task of piecing together my first Topps set. Other 10-year-olds wanted Rose or Ryan. To me, every card was the same. This was about completion, perseverance, and finality. It was about 726, not one. If summer ended with 685, or 723, or even 725? It would be a failure. The drug store, the Stop-N-Go, and a few friends would have to provide me with those cards that remained. Eventually, it came down to one. My favorite card of all time. Yastrzemski? Carew? Brock? Nope. The last card I needed was #163, of Oakland A's outfielder Glenn Burke. "Who?" you ask. It didn't matter. Only Glenn Burke mattered. One afternoon the phone rang and it was a buddy, David. The local drug store had delivered. Euphoria. Relief. I have never peddled a bicycle as fast as I did that day to David's house. I gleefully traded 50 cards for that one. Then, in stark contrast, I slowly rode my bike home one-handed while gently clutching card #163 in the other. Summer could end now. The pride of the accomplishment would sustain me. Well, at least until I saw a 1980 Topps pack at Stop-N-Go the next spring.
Greg Miller (Nacogdoches, Tex.)

In 1980 I was 10, my brother 12. There we were, in utter disbelief, kneeling on the green shag throw rug where the dog slept. In front of us lay the tattered, soggy remains of an entire shoebox full of baseball cards. It was cool in the basement, but at that moment our blood was boiling. Barney had found our stash, dragged it onto that stinky rug and eaten his way through it. As I anxiously rifled through the debris I looked for "my" card, the one with the player that (almost) shared my first name -- Pete Rose. Did I care about that card because of its value or collectibility? No, I didn't know what it was worth, and "Charlie Hustle" was already a Phillie by that time. I cared because when I wore my Pete Rose signature model mitt I could create my first name by covering the "ose" with my right thumb. For some reason that simple act made me take the game more seriously. Now the entire bottom-third of the card was gone. It was the first time I ever considered murdering anything, animal or otherwise. But eventually the anger turned to despair, and I just cried.
Peter Sennhauser (Seattle)

My somewhat unhealthy obsession with baseball cards began in 1987. After purchasing my first card -- a 1986 Sportflics Pete Rose -- from my neighbor, I was hooked. Spring came, and the green and yellow boxes of cardboard gold arrived in our town. Don Mattingly, in my eyes less a baseball player and more a deity, was on the box. It was fate. Sure, those wood borders were ugly as sin, but I couldn't have cared less. How does an eight-year-old kid scrounge up enough money to attempt to build a 792-card set, you ask? He runs to his mother and begs, that's how. I did my share of chores that summer. Dusting. Vacuuming. Sweeping. But my mom's weakness was breakfast. She loved going out and enjoying her morning coffee, eggs and toast. I knew that if I went with her, she'd always surprise me with a few packs. I know now she just wanted to spend time with me, and if she had to bribe me a little, so be it. After my mom passed in 2004, I found a box of 1987 Topps neatly hidden in our basement where countless Christmas presents had undoubtedly been nestled over the years. One more reminder of those fun summers with my mom, Don Mattingly, and a whole lot of stale bubble gum.
Chris Battaglino (Raleigh)

When I was younger, I always collected baseball cards. And my dad always helped me buy, sort, and take care of them. One summer, the hottest two cards out there were the Ken Griffey Jr. Hot Glove and the Alex Rodriguez Wave of the Future cards by Fleer Flair. My dad always told me I was the luckiest person he knew, and he was right. I was a very lucky kid. So, the first day the Flair cards were available at my local card shop, I went and bought two packs. Sure enough, the first pack had the Griffey (who happened to be my favorite player) Hot Glove. Just when it seemed like it couldn't get any better, I opened the second pack, and on top of it was the A-Rod card. What a day! It seemed like, as I grew up and stopped collecting cards, my luck slowed down. However, on my 21st birthday, my family took me to the casino. I lost about $60 at the blackjack table before my dad bankrolled me. He reminded me of how lucky I used to be (and still am on occasion). Sure enough, once he bankrolled me, I started winning, leaving the table with well over $100. It seemed like I had the best luck when he was by my side. Maybe the thing I was most lucky about was having a dad who cared enough to take interest in anything I did, even collecting pieces of cardboard.
Trent Strong (Pekin, Ill.)

My Dad and I spent a lot of time hunting for cards back in the late-1980s, and we hit the mother lode when he bought a stack of late-1950s Topps cards -- plus a warped 1955 Bowman Willie Mays -- from a co-worker. It was thrilling to fan through the cards of yesterday's stars mixed in with the average and below-average players. But the most striking card in the stack was the only one depicting a man no longer playing: 1959 Topps # 550, with Dodgers catcher Roy Campanella in his wheechair and "Symbol of Courage" written across the top. It marked the company's first chance to honor Campanella, who was paralyzed prior to the 1958 season. The striking image never fades: in a set filled with batting stances and pitchers poised to wind up, there sat Campanella, unable to move. Here was a three-time MVP who lost control of his car on the ice and suffered a grievous injury. Baseball cards don't usually offer lessons, but that one did. That card sits on my dresser to this day. The lesson goes on.
Bill Melville (Columbus, Ohio)

I am 39. And as I dance along the border of middle age into old age I find myself reaching back … way back … for one thing that brought pure joy as a child: that moment of opening a pack of cards. As a six-year-old, my focus wasn't on the finer points of the game, as much as a name. I hated mine. No one was named Carlton. But the day I opened a pack to reveal my first 1973 Carlton Fisk, I knew I had found a brother. He seemed to be doing great with his name. The action shot on the card gave me newfound confidence in "our" name. A couple of years later he waved that home run over the Green Monster in Game 6 of the best World Series ever. I've basked in the name that we share ever since. Just a few years ago, a good friend was golfing with that "other Carlton" and got him to sign his scorecard. Now, sitting on my desk next to his 1973 baseball card is another card that reads "To Carlton, best wishes, Carlton Fisk."
Carlton (North Little Rock, Ark.)

My favorite or most memorable baseball card would have to be the 1989 Devon White card when he played for the Angels. About the same year, for my dad's birthday, I was looking for something to give to my Dad. I was eight-years-old -- I did not have a career or bank account at the time. I went through my collection of cards, and I was trying to find a card that wasn't the best card out of my collection but was still decent. The card was probably worth 10-15 cents at the time, but for a kid that seemed reasonable. I gave it to him, and he said to hold onto it and take care of it for him. In my collection of cards that was always "his card." My Dad passed away about two years ago and I have a very vivid memory of that card. Around the same time my dad passed away, Devon White would come into the bank I worked at, almost to serve as a reminder of the gift given some 17 years ago.
Scott (Scottsdale, Ariz.)

My son started his collection when he was eight years old. I took him to card shows almost every week. He traded and got quite good at getting what he wanted for the price. For his 16th birthday I got him the rookie card of his idol, Nolan Ryan. He put it in a four-inch plastic cover. Just to protect and admire it. Later that year he totaled my car. I had him sell his card collection to help pay for me to get another car. I cried. What a lesson to learn. Now he is 28 and we still talk about how much his cards would be worth today.
Anonymous (Overland Park, Kan.)

The 1987 Topps cards were distinctive. The wood trim gave the card a classic and comfortable feeling that no earlier card possessed. There was one card in particular that caught my attention: a Cleveland Indians catcher named Chris Bando. Sharing a first name was great. But after flipping it over, it wasn't his two home runs in 92 games in 1986 that drew my attention; it was his birthdate. We happened to share a February 4th birthday (granted, 25 years apart). A guy named Chris with my same birthday … it was a statistical anomaly! Or at least it was to a six-year-old. Pretty soon I became a catcher, and it was my full-time position through high school. Somehow, throughout the thousand more cards I bought, I never got another Chris Bando. He would probably be disappointed to hear that I now play center field for my beer-league softball team.

Chris (Bethesda, Md.)

Like a lot of the Page 2 folks, my collecting happened mostly in the '70s. About two years in, my Dad shared with me his old square cards from the late-'40s and '50s. Ted Williams was the prize, as we were Red Sox fans. At a fifth grade hobby exhibit, I was excited to show off these gems. When the show was over, I removed the tape that was placed across the FACE of the Ted Williams card, and watched in horror as I destroyed the picture. The restraint from my dad that day was maybe his greatest parental moment.
David (Harpers Ferry, W.Va.)

Baseball cards made me a stat nerd before "SportsCenter," fantasy sports, or Bill James. As much as I enjoyed the photos of the players, getting that hot rookie card (or Felix Fermin in every other pack), and the "investment" value, the back of the card was my first love. Our car rides on family vacations sounded something like this: "Who led the league in strikeouts in 1988? Clemens, 291. Who led the AL in doubles in 1986? Don Mattingly, 53." And how would we know this? The sacred italicized number. It stood out so clearly, and it meant so much more than "league leader." It brought players like George Bell and Dale Murphy to life. This was a time before DirecTV and the baseball package. When the Phillies and their opponent were my only option. If it weren't for baseball cards, how would we know that Timmy Wallach was an All-Star? How would we know that Will Clark was an absolute hit machine? We didn't get any Montreal or San Francisco games. They were much more than baseball cards. They were Trivial Pursuit, they were family reading, they were box scores, they were West Coast coverage. Ah, those italicized numbers.
Matt Wagner (Allentown, Penn.)

Sound off to Page 2 here.


SPONSORED HEADLINES