It is another day of heat and humidity here in the Northeast.
As I write this, it is 92 degrees with 54 percent humidity. I'm sure it is even more oppressive in more southerly parts of the Northeast. But a few degrees won't make anyone sweat any more or complain any less.
The heat doesn't bother me like it does some people. Yeah, I don't like it being 80 degrees when I'm trying to sleep, but I accept this as summer. This is what summer does. In fact, it was 88 outside when I got up. I went out for a run. No problems. But not counting roofers and mailmen, I was the only one out there.
I'm one of those annoying folks who doesn't want too much air conditioning. I need to feel the heat of summer. It makes sense to me. It makes me feel alive. Some of the best moments come when it is blazing hot outside. For example, you know that if it's hot, someone, somewhere is playing baseball.
As I was outside, I thought about the times when I was collecting cards in the past when I specifically remember the heat. I was surprised I could come up with a few of them. But that's the beauty of summer.
It's a blazing day in July. My brother and I walk to the drug store that is maybe a mile-and-half away from our house. It's a direct trip. We head down our street, take a right, walk past our school, walk past the street where our babysitter lives, walk past a couple businesses, and then there, on our left, is a strip mall. The drug store is one of the first couple of stores. (I'm sure we wanted to take our bikes instead of walk, but the trip was along a busy street).
I don't remember how many packs I bought. Couldn't have been more than three. I do remember a few of the cards that I pulled. Clarence Gaston, Cesar Cedeno, Johnny Bench. I specifically remember pausing under an awning on the way back home to open some of the cards. That allowed us to take a break in the shade and that is where I spotted the Johnny Bench card. An epic moment in my first collecting year. It was hot. And so was the weather.
It's still 1975, it's still July and it's still hot.
The family is on vacation. And my brother and a friend make a trip to a nearby store to get some cards (I'm sure there was more on the shopping list but who cares?). I remember nothing about the trip or the purchase except that we crossed some railroad tracks.
Back in our room that evening, it's too hot to wear a shirt. I open the pack(s) on my bed. I still remember some of those cards, too. Oscar Gamble. Tito Fuentes. And the Bake McBride card. It was possibly my favorite pack of that year. I remember being overwhelmed -- not by the heat but by my sheer luck.
When it comes to the 1976 collecting scene, I remember two things: collecting that year's set with my friend Mario and trying to stash the cards under the tables in our classroom so the teachers wouldn't find them; and going to my friend Jeff's house to play and talk baseball.
Jeff was from Kansas. He was in town for the year. He loved the Royals, which was refreshing around all the Yankee fans where I lived. He wasn't above talking about how great certain Royals were, like George Brett, Larry Gura, and his favorite, Amos Otis. This card, man, it almost took on legendary status because of Jeff's reverence for it.
I remember it being hot that summer, too hot to be outside. We spent a lot of time indoors at Jeff's. His family had air conditioning, which was kind of a luxury back then.
I have no specific memories related to collecting cards in the heat for this year, I just remember it being a hot summer.
I spent a lot of that summer out of town at my grandparents' house in Buffalo and I remember being thrilled that I would be sleeping in the room in the basement. No sweating while sleeping!
When I hear the popular songs from that summer, I do remember the heat. How can you not, with stuff like Donna Summer's Hot Stuff and the Charlie Daniels Band's Devil Went Down To Georgia?
But '79 was also the year for pulling multiple versions of double-printed cards. This was the second year that Topps did this, following 1978, in which I did nothing except pull cards of Rob Belloir. Jim Gantner's first solo card was one of those double-printed cards for 1979. I figure by the time I first heard the words "My ... My ... My ... Sha-rona" I had pulled 5 or 6 Gantners.
This is the year that I first seriously attempted to complete a Topps set. I fell less than 20 cards short (Hendrick was one of the last cards).
When I think of trying to complete this set, one image flashes into my brain. I'm downstairs in the basement rec room, which is where I spent a fair amount of my teenage years. I'm looking at my binder of 1980 Topps cards trying to see which cards I still need.
I also remember I'm down there because it's HOT. A heat wave and drought had crossed the U.S. that summer and few states escaped unscathed. There's a good chance I never emerged from that rec room except to eat and take showers.
A wide variety of card options opened up to us in 1981. My brothers and I didn't stop to consider the impossibility of the task. We just knew we would have to take a lot of trips to multiple stores.
Our quest was finding Topps, Donruss and Fleer wherever we could. Some nearby stores had only Topps. Some had just Topps and Fleer but no Donruss. We interchanged between the drug store on the main shopping drag in town, a Greek market not far from the main drag, and a corner grocery store three blocks from our house.
We were feeling pretty good about landing what was available until one very hot day, I walked into the Greek market and spotted these giant baseball card packs that featured --- what? -- glossy photos. I had to buy them. They were baseball card collectibles. And they were beautiful. I wish I still had all the ones I bought.
I'm attending the local community college. I don't walk anywhere anymore. I drive. I don't really collect cards anymore either. I buy the entire 1984 Topps set from a buddy of mine.
But old habits die hard. It's the summer between my first and second year at the college. I've purchased a handful of packs of '84 Donruss. I'm sprawled on my bed, viewing the cards as if I was 10 years old again. It is boiling outside and upstairs. The fan is going. I remember lying on my back fanning out the cards (the Whitaker is one of them).
We take a trip out west to see some college friends who have moved out there.
Even though we're not in Texas or the Great Plains, our friends -- who are from the Buffalo area -- say that the Michigan border near Indiana is much warmer than upstate New York. It doesn't take more than a day into our week-long visit (and one hellacious thunderstorm to greet us) to figure that out.
Our friend's double-wide doesn't offer much relief from the heat so we spend a lot of time looking for places to cool off, including the pool at nearby Notre Dame. At some point during our touring I buy some 1991 Topps. I was a collecting fiend at the time, and nothing was going to stop me from finding some cards wherever I was.
I don't remember the cards I pulled out there. I do remember, however, the extreme disappointment I felt back in that trailer as I read the Indianapolis Star and learned that Dennis Martinez had pitched a perfect game against the Dodgers. Being on vacation, I was out of touch with the outside world and I probably was reading a two-day-old paper when I discovered the news. But it ruined that one day of my vacation. And I will not let Martinez forget it.
We're in a shopping mall. I don't know where or when. But it's the summer time and we're only there because it's baking outside and we need a place to hide.
At this point no one would consider me a card collector. I hadn't collected even close to seriously for five years.
But we're in a bookstore, probably Walden Books, and weirdly -- because I've never seen this before or since -- I see a small display of 1998 Topps baseball cards on one of the shelves. I decide to buy 2 or 3 packs for old-time's sake. Let's see what they're doing with cards these days.
Upon opening them, I'm not impressed. I don't really like the look. The gold and foil is off-putting (still is) and it certainly doesn't re-ignite the collecting desire inside me. But I don't throw them out. I put them in a box where they stay until I start collecting again six or seven years into the future.
I'm collecting cards again.
It's a new and strange and wonderful world. That summer I discover something called baseball card blogs.
At right about the same time, I read about something called Allen & Ginter and discover those same Allen & Ginter cards at the Walmart in town.
I recall June being particularly warm that year, which is when I found A&G for the first time. There, in that air-conditioned big box store, I began a love affair with A&G that was never stronger than it was in 2008.
It's earlier this week.
My brother and I go to watch a game by the local Double A baseball team. The Binghamton Rumble Ponies -- who should be known as the Binghamton Spiedies -- are playing the Portland Sea Dogs. It's close to 90 degrees.
We have seats in the grandstand area behind home plate, way up in the back. The sun is shining behind us and I can feel the back of my neck sweating. This is when the heat bothers me. I can take it when I'm moving but not when I'm still (this is why I can never understand sun bathers). After three innings, we move to various other parts of the stadium before finally settling into an open-air part down the third base line where we spend the rest of the game.
During a visit to the gift shop, we see some merchandise from a one-off game when the team was actually known as the Spiedies. For anyone who is a native of the Southern Tier, this is great fun. The spiedie hats and shirts are marked down (it's the last weekend of the season), but the hats aren't very attractive and I pass on the shirts.
I also pass on a set of minor league cards. The 2017 Rumble Ponies cards are $5 and the 2018 set is $10 (I don't know if Tim Tebow is in the $10 set). I'm not sure why I didn't buy at least one of them. Maybe it was the heat. I had to spend all my money on beer.
So those are my heat-card memories.
As you can see, I'd rather be comfortable than boiling, but I accept the heat as part of summer. Here in the Northeast, the chances of it snowing in October and April are not remote at all. The window for warm weather is narrow, so I enjoy it when I can.
After all, my memories of buying cards when it was snowing outside would be about one-tenth as long as this post.