Sunday, February 14, 2016

A loving tribute

Greetings from the coldest place in the United States. It seems that the weather is making some kind of comment by plunging the temperature to 37 below on Valentine's Day here in my little town. But I'm not offended. I'm a warm-blooded creature with a warm heart, especially when it comes to baseball cards.

Baseball cards are worth loving. I've known this since I was a little boy. And the best way for a little boy to show his love for baseball cards is to play with them, handle them, generally abuse them, in the most loving way that he knows.

That's why we call obviously mangled baseball cards "well-loved."

A card like this was not "neglected." Quite the opposite. It's been loved. Those creases you see there are hugs and squeezes.

So I thought I'd show some of the most-loved cards in my collection, the majority of which received a great amount of affection from me.

From the very first cards that I ever bought, I knew that cards were something you kept close to your heart. But I didn't really have pockets on my shirts, so I kept them in my pants pockets.

When I wasn't moving around at 190 miles an hour, the cards were close by, in my bedroom, on a nightstand or a book shelf. And in quieter moments, I'd stack the cards up, knock the stack down, organize them by team or color or batting average, shifting each card on the bare floor until it reached its appointed spot. And, of course, sometimes I'd throw the cards across the room -- in the most loving manner possible.

Here is a card that I vividly remember placing in my pocket. The creases tell the love story. Also the pencil mark. You can see most of these well-loved cards on my loving tribute to the first cards I bought in my first year of collecting.

But those aren't the only cards I molested and groped (I guess those aren't really loving terms).

Of course, there were minis to love.

And the following year, my love grew stronger in the form of paper loss.

I had it bad for the Orioles. Real bad.

And the Mets and the White Sox, too.

There are cards in the 1976 Topps set -- just like the '75 set -- that hold so much childhood meaning that I can't bear to part with them, even after upgrading. This Tom Underwood card is such an example. Is that love or what?

Yes, this is my Valentine to baseball cards. And cards and love manifest itself in many ways.

Some collectors show their love by folding the card a few times, sticking it in one of those old-fashioned, four-corners paper scrapbooks and then pinning it on a wall.

Some show their enthusiasm with a love bite.

Some just don't know how to express their love, so they draw little rectangles all over the card and then sign their name.

You may ask, "Is writing on a card 'love'?" Of course! Look at the careful penmanship on this checklist. Compiled by someone head-over-heels for set-collecting. I do hope they found that 1954 MVPs card. We don't need any broken collecting hearts.

"Love can make you happy," as the old song goes, "if you find someone who cares to give a lifetime to you."

Baseball cards have given me a hobby for a lifetime, which is why I hold on to old beat-up cards and make them precious. They are the greatest symbols of why I collect and have more meaning than any pristine card in my collection in a binder or under a top-loader.

A card like this will always have sharp corners. It could sit out in the open for decades and still have sharp corners. It will always be well-centered, slick and glossy. But it will never be on display, never be played with, never be considered except for this one post. You know that saying, "the opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference."

I am indifferent to this card. That's why it may never be touched again.

But this ...

This is true love.


  1. I used to take my 1982 Topps and 82 Fleer and use small pieces of Scotch tape and tape them inside a photo album or store them in a cigar box and run all over the neighborhood with them klink clanking around loosely inside

    1. What were you thinking? Rubber bands worked great to keep them in tightly packed stacks.

  2. Yeah, I've got some pretty banged up cards from my childhood, too. On some I actually drew circles around the player's faces! I think by about '76 they stop looking that bad, although they still wouldn't exactly rate well from PSA.
    Pretty sure my 75 Garvey looks better than yours, although it isn't a mini.

  3. Makes me think of the greatest baseball card blog post of all time:

  4. Amazing post. I never actually carried around cards in my pants (at least I don't think I did), but I definitely used rubber bands and threw them in shoe boxes. I've also picked up my fair share of "well loved" over the years and they're often my favorite cards to stare at... as I wonder how the cards earned their creases, markings, tears, tape stains, pin marks, etc. There in my special "cards with character" PC.

  5. It's hard to remember back that far but I have evidence that I made my own game cards out of my 1967's. They have things like, "Fly Out" etc. on the back. I'd like to say I did it a year before the 1968 Topps game cards but it's possible that's where I got the idea. But then why wouldn't I have used the 68 cards. It's a mystery. Poor Nick Swisher. Somewhere, some little kid loves him.