Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Library books

In high school, and then later when I moved away for college, the library was a place of transition, somewhere to go while I adjusted to my new surroundings.

I didn't build relationships easily then -- never have, in fact -- and it took time. By the end of high school, and the end of college, I had formed relationships that have lasted a lifetime. But the early years were a little tough, and I'm glad the library was there.

During my freshman and sophomore years in high school, if I had a free period, I'd head to the library, even if there was no homework to do. I'd walk to the back, the small "lounge area" where the magazine racks were, and pull out a Sports Illustrated or Time or Life (yes, Life, that's how old I am). Then I'd proceed to spend the next 45 minutes or so absorbing the contents. A lot of times, it was the happiest part of my day.

In college, out of habit, I'd do the same thing. The library was much larger and filled with fascinating publications. I'd track down the magazines again, but this time there were bindered magazines from the past. You wanted to see what life was like in April, 1973? There was a Newsweek for every week of that month and every week of that year, too. This is where I developed my appreciation for 20th century history. Later I discovered the same arrangement for past Billboard magazines, and I'd soak in the music charts from 1975.

This all seems pointless to people who grew up on the internet, but there is still something about holding a publication in your hand that a computer can't duplicate. I live in a city without a book store and that makes me sad. I hope I don't end up being the last one to appreciate the physical sensation of touching an actual book and leafing through pages.

One person, who I'm reasonably sure shares that appreciation is Duff from the blog Bleedin' Brown and Gold. A couple of years ago, he tracked down some Topps Baseball Card books from 1989 from a nearby library and offered them up for those who wanted them.

Since I had already written about the wonders of Surf books and already owned a couple, I said I'd take whatever was left over. Well, Duff sent the books, but they never arrived. The package was torn open in transport and the US Postal Service lost the books.

This did not deter Duff, though. Almost two years later, another package from him arrived with two Topps Baseball Card books.

Duff went back to the library!

Both of these books feature every Topps baseball card for the Mariners and the Expos from the time of their first year of existence through 1988.

The books are from 1989. They weren't sponsored by Surf anymore (the Surf books date from 1987 or 1988). They are merely known as Topps Baseball Card books at this point, and there was apparently one for each of the 26 teams in major league baseball at the time.

I like these books because I've never been able to land one of those giant Topps Every Baseball Card From 1952 To 1991 books. And these paperback team books are a lot handier.

Each book presents the year's cards for that team with an introduction covering the team's season. Even though I know of more than 300 card blogs and plenty of other baseball card sites and internet stores, it's still fascinating to see cards that you don't have -- in publication form.

It's page after page of cards, alphabetized for your convenience.

For me, the Expos book is a lot more interesting than the Mariners book, because of my local connection to Montreal, but also because I have just about all of the Mariners cards that are featured in the book. That's what happens when your team starts in 1977.

Believe it or not, the 1987 Mariners is the only portion of the book that displays cards that I don't own.

Each book features batting leaders and other interesting stats (want to know every Expo to have hit a grand slam in franchise history up through 1987? It's in the book). In the back is a complete list of batter or pitcher to have played for the franchise with corresponding stats.

And there are little nuggets in the yearly write-ups that make picking up a book still worthwhile. Did you know Rich Coggins was hospitalized for a thyroid condition? Did you know Bob Stinson reached first base on catcher's interference six times in 1978? It's all in the books.

I'm not at the library much anymore and I don't read as much as I should -- I'm on the internet a whole lot more often -- but I still love books and magazines.

I'll add these two books to my modest collection. In fact, I wouldn't mind having a whole library of them.


  1. I love my Phillies Surf book, I keep it handy and refer to it pretty frequently. I've had an idea regarding these books floating around for a bit. hope to bring it up over the offseason.

    There is a local used book store that has that gihugic every card book, but they want way more than I am willing to spend for it.

  2. "This all seems pointless to people who grew up on the internet, but there is still something about holding a publication in your hand that a computer can't duplicate."

    Believe it or not, there are still people my age who still value the actual feel and look of a book/publication/magazine/other (myself included).

    1. Unfortunately, I am in the vast minority with most of my interests. About 90 percent of readers I see (my age or not) are on Kindles.

    2. Yup, you're a rare breed, Nick. It will serve you well.

    3. I gotta look for the Phillies one. I never heard of these before.

  3. I visit our local library book sales often. I'll keep my eyes open for these. Most of the sports selection is pretty lackluster though.

  4. Anybody ever see that ("new") Outer Limits where everyone's implanted to connect directly to the Internet at birth? One kid, though, he has a rare condition and he can never do that. So he reads books. Of course, everybody else makes fun of him, looks down on him. They all have instant access to every bit of information in the history of the world and, HA, this stupid kid reads books. Then there's a computer virus (which kills people). Suddenly, the only one with a skill worth having is the kid who read books. Best scene in the episode comes at the end--funny and sad at the same time--as the kid tries to teach some middle aged woman to sound out "cat".

    The moral of the story, kids, is reading is fundamental. Or something like that.

  5. These are really cool. I have the Brewers Surf book, but not this non-branded one. Have to find one of these.

  6. Topps put out a set of team posters in 1969...the Expos poster has a player that they didn't put in the card set, and never played for the Expos in the majors, Jimy Williams.

  7. My latest hobby is reading books... something I haven't enjoyed since probably elementary school. Luckily... I've slowly been acquiring sports and sports card related books over the past thirty-something years, so I won't need to go to my local library anytime soon. Although if I knew they were handing these books out, I'd be over there in a heartbeat.

  8. Price Stern Sloan who made the Expos book is best known for Mad Libs. Roger Price and Leonard Stern were well known for great TV comedies like Get Smart.

  9. I make It a point to take my 8 year old daughter to the library as much as possible.Sadly I'm only there for the "junk food" portion of the building ,mostly comics and books on collectibles.My daughter snags up the chapter books.They will,from time to time,offer great sales on used books?magazines starting at 25 cents,which Is a small price to pay for a good read!

  10. I spent a lot of time in the library when I was little. I didn't have much choice though, my mom was the town librarian.

  11. Nice. I had one of the Surf books years ago, but for the life of me can't remember which team (not the Expos). I feel like it was an expansion team and didn't go all the way back to '52.