Friday, November 30, 2018

The sun always shines on baseball cards

I have a couple unspoken rules when it comes to collecting sets:

1. Don't attempt to collect a set older than you.

2. Don't attempt to collect a set that was issued before you knew what baseball was.

There are both emotional and practical reasons for these rules. On the practical side, I need to feel like I actually can complete the thing -- meaning I won't run out of cash, or have to go on a three-year hunting expedition for certain cards.

On the emotional side, I need to feel a connection to the set. The easiest way to find that connection is to complete sets from when I was around, watching baseball. I know the teams, I know the players, I know the times. Connection made. This is the reason I've completed every Topps flagship set between 1974-91. I know these guys. I saw them on TV, sometimes even at the park.

But more recently I've been venturing outside of my familiar zone. The 1971 and 1972 Topps sets are complete. The 1973 Topps set is less than 60 cards from completion. There wasn't a baseball thought in my head during any of those years.

I'm also starting on the 1970 Topps set. And also on the horizon, really not that far away, is the 1967 Topps set, which while not older than me, pretty much shoots the above rules -- and the reasons for those rules -- about two thousand feet out of the water.

In short:

a) I was likely sporting diapers when the '67 set came out.

b). It is one of the most direct routes to the poorhouse.

But here comes several more 1967 Topps from Bo of Baseball Cards Come To Life!

Got To Get Them Into My Life? You know it. That's four Orioles from the just-crowned World Series Champion team of 1966.

I'm impressed even though they swept my Dodgers. And I'm hopelessly hooked and have broken all of the above rules for a set that I either can't complete or will rob me of all my money. I don't even know half the guys in this set!

The '67 set is just one of those that causes me to throw all the rules out the window. Its wide-open view of baseball in the 1960s draws me in. They really played baseball in the '60s! They really enjoyed the game! Fans actually came out and watched! The sun shone and the bat cracked and the organ played! All of that did happen even if I don't remember one second of the 1960s.

So, yeah, here I am nearly 200 cards into the 1967 Topps set. Who knows what happens from here.

I have more practical and emotional reasons for collecting the 1970 Topps set.

Although it's a '60s set at heart, it was issued in the 1970s and I must complete the entire run of '70s set. That is my childhood we are talking about.

The 1970 set will not hold me up with insanely priced high numbers either.

The package that Bo sent contained a healthy chunk of 1970 Topps, most from the first series.

The 1970 set, even with those gray borders that bored me to tears when I saw them as a kid, still contains much of what I remember about baseball in the '70s. There are familiar players on those cards, even if they aren't on familiar teams.

Bill Robinson should be a Phillie or Pirate. Fred Patek, first, is "Freddie," and secondly, is a Royal.

The best thing about that Patek card, though, are the players warming up in the background. This is what I know from collecting baseball cards as a kid. There were always guys in the background doing basebally things.

There you go. Right down the line. Bullpen work. Guys headed back to the dugout. People doing baseball before I knew what baseball was.

More backgrounds. More people doing. Players standing. Players head-scratching. Security guards watching. The sun shining all the while. This is all stuff that was happening when I started collecting cards in the mid-70s!

So, yeah, even though all I knew in 1970 was kindergarten and Sesame Street, I'll collect the 1970 set. I'll collect the catchers and the grumpy unfamiliar managers, the All-Stars I never knew, and the guy performing a Bo Jackson pose long before it was a Bo Jackson pose.

Overall, it's still baseball.

And I'll form that connection by collecting it, just as I have the 1956 Topps set (which, to be fair, is already connected to my childhood because of one of the single greatest collecting days of my life).

The sun always shines on baseball cards. No matter what year.

(P.S: Except on night cards).

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Following up

I've got a little housekeeping to do, tidying up several recent posts.

I'll start with the 10th Anniversary Giveaway. I've sent out about two-thirds of the packages. I'm going to try to get to the rest in the next week or week-and-a-half. I didn't think ahead and realize that I would be sending out all these cards during the gift-giving season. So I have to wait a bit for funds to regenerate to get the rest of the cards out the door.

Here is a look at my progress in sending out giveaway envelopes:

If your name is crossed off it means I have sent your giveaway prize. Hopefully it is in your possession. The two most recent envelopes I sent went to Henry Blanchette and sg488 so they probably haven't arrived yet.

I have packaged up cards for three Canadian readers but I need to send those all at once when I have funds because of the cost of sending cards "overseas." Also, I've struggled to find a good box to send Corky his 1993 Leaf cards so I'll probably need to get some postage wrap.

I thought I had an address for EP (who picked the '71 Topps 6-card lot), but I can't seem to find it. I'll need an email from him ( with an address.

Also, mr haverkamp, who is not on the above list, is still due to receive that Jackie Robinson SP card from me.

Moving on to yesterday's post (thank you for your kind words and wishes). It was suggested in the comments to turn the post into a Blog Bat-Around. I'm going to suggest that, too.

It's kind of an open-ended topic and you could probably take it in several directions. The general theme is: what memories are generated when you view certain cards or sets? Where were you in life? What were you doing when the store down the street was offering 1995 Fleer? OK we know that one. You were recoiling in horror. But what about 1988 Topps? 1997 Topps? 1989 Upper Deck? Pick as many sets as you like and see what memories they generate.

If there is enough participating, I'll make sure to follow-up to group all the blog bat-arounds.

OK, the rest of the housekeeping involves actual cards.

They were sent to me by Kerry of Cards On Cards. We must be at 60 or 70 transactions now. I lost track a long time ago.

He sent some 2018 Dodger cards from my want lists and then he probably saw my post last week about reining it in on modern team collecting and probably figured "what the hell?"

No need to panic anyone who sends me Dodger cards on the regular. I still want all the Dodger cards. I'm just not willing to make the effort anymore that it takes these days to get all the Dodger cards. This is totally on my end. I'm preserving my sanity while gladly accepting Dodger cards that come to my door.

I hope that makes sense.

Kerry also sent a sizable grouping of Buffalo Bills cards as he recently stumbled across a bunch of football at the Goodwill.

These are welcome although I wish I had thought of this package before I went ahead and organized my Bills cards. I know I said on an earlier post that I'd only organize my Sabres cards because the Bills are stupid. Then Buffalo won two straight games and, while that's not 10 straight like the Sabres, it did get me to organize the Bills.

All of the cards sent were from the 1990s. I did not buy one, single, football card in the '90s. Nothing. Obviously football was all about gold like baseball was.

I don't know what the heck this is. Cornelius Bennett has apparently been eaten by a werewolf.

O.J. Simpson on a card produced by something called "Roger Staubach's NFL Football." It's actually a Ted Williams Company card. It was issued in 1994. Something else was happening with O.J. Simpson in 1994. Maybe not the greatest idea to put him on a card that year.

This is some sort of prism parallel from 1994. They were doing prism parallels in 1994? Isn't this pre-chrome? Pretty advanced if I'm calculating this right.

I don't know what these are, but I've seen them a bunch and I know supposedly they were hot stuff back in the early '90s. They are VERY '90s in the cheapest way possible.

More WILD cards. I'm sorry, I should look these up and be an information blog, but I can't get excited enough to do that.

I don't expect to add much to my Bills card collection. Unlike the Sabres where I'll add some select cards, I have no plans to buy modern football cards, or go back and fill in all those past years that I missed. I have plenty already to satisfy my interests. My football card goals will remain steadfastly with the 1977 Topps completion quest until that's finished and then we'll see (I'm intrigued about 1979).

These -- no offense to Kerry -- I will never collect.

College football is right at the top for me when it comes to annoying sports. It is the only sport in which I celebrate the season's end every year. If there is a College Football Widow support group somewhere in Alabama, I want to join my sisters so we can throw a big bash when the whole travesty is finished with that annual disaster of a College Football Playoff What A Generic And Incompetent Name For A Final Let's Have Another Poll And 87 More Bowls Championship.

College football and the NFL are on separate planes and I don't like football cards mixing them up. Off to the box of rejects with these two.

OK, so obviously I'm still mostly a baseball card collector.

But I appreciate the expanded card horizons and will still dabble a bit in hockey, football, tennis and nonsports.

And now you're up to date with where I am. I'm sure you all were wondering.

(P.S.: I haven't forgotten the Top 100 Greatest Cards of the 1980s. I'm hoping for a January start).

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The reminiscence bump and baseball cards

Memory has been on my mind, even more than usual.

For the last seven months my family and I have been dealing with my mother's declining health and memory. Doctors haven't been able to provide a concrete diagnosis and health care workers and assisted living personnel have visited my folks' house so often we should install a turnstile. It's a draining situation for everyone and the demands on people's time and resources are enormous.

The baffling part is my mother was an extremely healthy individual for the first 77 years of her life One day, when I was a kid, our sugar cereals disappeared out of the cupboards and my mom began cooking "healthy-alternative" meals. From that point forward, she was an encyclopedia for healthy living. The mental aspect was important to her, too. I'm still turning up crossword puzzle books at my parents' house even though she can't do them anymore.

I've been reading articles about restoring mental capacity and such. Music, of course, is a great instrument in assisting people with brain conditions, such as Alzheimer's Disease. I am constantly aware of music's ability to evoke memories and emotions. I encounter it daily as I refuse to let 24 hours pass without music.

I've begun to follow various musicians and music writers on social media and even they have helped elicit memories that were long dormant in my mind. For example, one musician asked yesterday about the one album that you love that no one else knows or cares about. My brain went immediately to the debut of Lone Justice, an alt-country band (called "cow-punk" at the time) from the mid-1980s when that kind of music was the rage.

It's not a perfect album and even though it had the backing of the biggest names in the music business, the record was ignored. However, some songs are priceless and among the most honest I've heard. The potential there was amazing. And, most importantly, the album introduced me and the rest of the world to Maria McKee, one of the greatest songwriters of the last 30 years.

Anyway -- I'm getting to cards, I promise -- my memory of that album, which was released when I was 23, strikes at the heart of a psychological term called "the reminiscence bump," which is particularly notable for people my age.

"The reminiscence bump" applies to a bump on a graph in studies that chart people's recall of moments over their lifespan. People age 40 and older most frequently cite memories of events that occurred when they were between the ages of 10 and 30. That's where the bump lies.

There are various theories for this. One says that you are at your best cognitively when you are a teenager and young adult and you process and store your memories more efficiently than at any other time in your life. Another says that you form your identity and make decisions that affect the direction of your life during your teens and 20s and therefore those memories stick in your brain.

I know that when I hear music, 80-90 percent of the memories associated with those songs are connected to periods from childhood to adolescence to young adulthood.

And I can say the same thing about baseball cards.

I have written many posts about baseball cards and the moments I associate with them. I swear that's half of this blog. Most of those memories come from the first 25 years of my life.

It's about time I include those baseball card memories all in one place: on this particular blog post.

I will try to recall a specific memory from a card set from a specific year. In most case, that memory will spring forth as soon as I see the card. If I have to think too hard, I'll skip the year.

So, here we go, the reminiscence bump illustrated through baseball cards:

1974: I'm 8. I'm sitting in a little grotto area in my bedroom (it's not as fancy as it sounds, it was a part of the room that jutted out between the closet and the storage area/attic). I'm at the desk my brother and I shared (the same desk in my basement right now). I am opening a cello pack of 1974 Topps bought for me by my mother at the grocery store. It's the first pack of cards I've ever opened.

1975: I'm 9. My brother and a friend and I are obsessed with catching frogs in the yard. When we catch them, we put them in a bucket that we've made into "frog living quarters" with grass and twigs and rocks. The frog is dead within three days. What does this have to do with a Ken Holtzman card? I don't know BUT I THINK ABOUT THE FROGS EVERY TIME I SEE THIS CARD. So obviously it has something to do with this card.

1976: I'm 10. I'm in fourth grade. I am in an experimental class for the whole year in a building called "The Annex" which was built off the back of the main school (the whole school complex was wiped out by a flood a few years ago). The Annex features no desks, just tables and chairs and work stations. My friend Mario and I would stash our 1976 Topps under one of the tables in the back room of The Annex and try to catch  glimpses of them when the teacher wasn't looking.

1977: I'm 11 and a sixth-grader and back in the main building with desks. They're the flip-top kind. Loved those desks. We stored our cards in there. The teacher was cool this time. She didn't mind us bringing baseball cards. So many memories with this set, but one of them is throwing those rubber-banded cards into the flip-top desk before heading to lunch.

1978: I'm 12 and have just seen a complete set of Topps baseball cards all in a single box. My brother ordered the entire set through the mail: a dream of all of ours. And my brain is nearly in explode mode as I sift through each of the cards in the long box.

1979: I'm almost 14. The '79 set may remind me of baseball more than any other set. I immersed myself in baseball that year. It was a painful, awkward time filled with longing and loss. Baseball -- that throw from Dave Parker in the All-Star Game!!! -- took me away from that.

1980: Age 14-to-15. I remember the walk to the discount drug store on Washington Street. We couldn't take our bikes there because mom said it was too busy. So we'd walk up Adams, down Monroe, to Washington to get our baseball packs, which sat on an end cap directly across from the front register because us fool kids kept swiping them.

1981: I'm 15. I'm at Monroe Market, a corner store on the way to the drug store. Monroe Market has all of the cards: Topps and the new sets from Donruss and Fleer. Money is tight (paper routes don't pay great) so I can never buy all three. I usually pick Topps and one other, and then try to sneak a peak at the obscured Playboy cover of the latest issue, which is just above the card and candy aisle. Nice placement, Monroe Market.

1983: I'm 17. It's March or April of '83. Two months from high school graduation. Everything is wonderful.  The '83 Topps set is awesome. It also reminds me of Michael Jackson's Billie Jean and Dexys Midnight Runners' Come On Eileen. How about that? Cards reminding me of music!!

1984: I'm 18. It's the spring. It's sprinkling out, kind of dismal. I'm standing in front of the library at the community college where I go to school. My friend is selling me a complete set of 1984 Topps, which has just been released. It sounds logical for a busy guy like me, buying the entire set in one shot. I feel dirty.

1988: I'm 22. The new cards are out. I've pretty much ignored the hobby since 1983. After buying complete sets in '84 and '85, I bought a smattering of '86 and '87 Topps, maybe a rack pack or two. In 1988, I bought one pack of cards. One. (so much for the baseball card boom!). I recall viewing this card of Phil Lombardi. I had no idea who he was. That seemed appropriate. I was out of touch.

1989: I'm 23 to 24. I've graduated and am working a couple part-time jobs, including one in my chosen field. My girlfriend and I are getting serious. For some reason, I decide this is the perfect time to try to complete a set through buying packs. My lasting memory of '89 will always be buying another pack at the drug store in the plaza in the Buffalo suburb of Amherst. I don't know how many trips I made to that store. 50? 60? Still came 4 cards short.

1990: I'm 25. New job. New address. I have no idea where I am. A lot to process. Zero time for baseball cards. My co-worker in the office buys a few cards from the convenience store across the street. They're 1990 Topps. They're ... different. I get a look. That's all I need. I buy nothing that year.

1991: I'm 26. Newly married. The card-buying fever has hit. My lasting memory is of digging in the back of our bureau office for a couple of boxes that will house my growing collection of 1991 Topps and Donruss and Score and Fleer.

1992: I'm 27. Buying every card in sight. The store only a quarter of a mile from my apartment sells every card in sight. The cards are all down an aisle near the front of the store. I recall the first day I saw something called "Pinnacle." Didn't even know what it was. Just knew it was new. And I had to buy it.

1998: I'm 32. Cards mean little to me. I've mentioned before that I discovered 1998 Topps at a book store in a mall and decided to buy three packs for old-times sake. I thought the Roberto Clemente card was cool but had no idea what it meant (that a retro era was just beginning). What I didn't mention is that when we were at the mall, I was pushing my daughter in her stroller. She was no more than 4 months old.

2006: I'm 40. It's the Year of Walmart. Early in the baseball card season I see some rack packs of 2006 Topps at Walmart. The rack packs advertise "3 vintage cards" in every pack. SOLD. Even though most of the vintage cards are from the mid-1980s, it's enough to get me hooked on modern cards again. Every trip to Walmart that year was exciting.

2008: I'm 43. I'm sitting right where I am now. I'm creating something called "a baseball card blog." I barely know what I'm doing. But the thought of writing about baseball cards is as exciting as anything I've come across in years. Blogger tells me to hit the orange "Create new blog" button. I do.

So if you got through all that, you saw the reminiscence bump in action. The vast majority of those memories are between the ages of 10 and 30. Also, unlike music, most of my baseball card memories have to do with ... uh ... baseball cards, rather than a specific relationship or activity, like music might evoke. So I don't know if it's the best instrument for unearthing memories.

But it certainly does its job. That's why when I'm old and in my rocker, I will have two things next to me: my music and my baseball cards.