Some faithful readers of this blog probably won't be surprised by this statement but others may be:
The majority of my youtube time isn't spent on baseball card pack openings or box breaks. Much of it isn't even spent on watching old baseball games, although that percentage has certainly gone up in the last couple of weeks.
No, by far, the most enjoyment I get out of youtube is watching music channels. Whether that's old music countdown shows or concerts or album reviews or whatever, I am so there for it. I subscribe to several channels that are run simply by music fans and I am always appreciative of new music knowledge as well as unearthing song gems long forgotten or brand new to my ears.
One of those music channels is the now very popular youtube channel by music producer Rick Beato. Perhaps you've heard of him. I got started watching his videos two years ago, when his following was quite small. Beato is from upstate New York, like me, and he's only about four years older than me. His music tastes are rock and jazz from all over the map but his roots are the same as mine, pop and album-oriented radio from the '60s and '70s.
Beato is a former music professor and his knowledge of music is way past mine. Half of what he talks about loses me, but I remain entranced. The other day he was talking about "the song that changed his life."
It was the first song he ever learned to play on the guitar. It was a track from the first album by '70s soft-rock legends, America.
I enjoyed the video quite a bit but also was heartened to know -- there! SEE? Somebody else who remembers his childhood firsts!
I write about my baseball firsts a lot on this blog. A lot of the time I receive comments that go something like: "I wish I had a memory like yours."
I don't think it's anything special. Maybe people don't know how to hold on to their childhood. They're too busy trying to grow up. But even though there was plenty I didn't like about my childhood, I have always known it was special. These were the days when you stumbled across something new almost every day. Why wouldn't you want to hold on to those memories and keep them alive? They are special.
As I get older I find myself getting more forgetful. It just comes with the territory when you hit your 50s. And I become concerned that I won't remember some of those "firsts" that I've treasured for many, many years. So, I thought, why not record that stuff here, where I can turn if I can't suddenly can't remember something?
So here we go:
First baseball card I ever saw
I've written about this one so much, some people probably know more about the first card I ever saw than the first card they ever saw. This Tommy John was on the front of the cello pack that my mom bought from the grocery store and handed to me in my bedroom in 1974. It hooked me on baseball cards and the Dodgers for life.
First card I ever pulled out of a pack that I bought
This is significant because this signaled my start as a collector. I knew it was a big deal even at the time because I have hung on to the actual Darold Knowles card that I pulled for 45 years.
First baseball card I ever saw on the ground
A 1971 Topps Manny Mota, ripped into pieces, sat in a roadside gutter as I walked home from school when I was in fourth or fifth grade. I stepped carefully off the sidewalk and onto the grass and reached down and gathered up the pieces and brought them home. I later taped them together and there was a hole in the middle where the missing piece was. Still, I kept that card for several years.
First baseball card set I saw in its entirety
It was the 1978 Topps set, purchased through the mail by my brother. It arrived in a long box and it was the most fascinating thing that I witnessed that entire year.
First card set I ever completed
I completed the 1975 Topps set in 2004. Yup, it took me almost 30 years to complete my first set.
That's because completing sets isn't easy. It wasn't even easy back when I first started collecting and that was long before parallels and SPs and nonsense. It simply took a lot of money to buy cards and completing them pack by pack was the only way it could be done (well, you could buy the whole set even back then, but that's not really completing it, is it?)
First World Series I ever saw
I was a late-bloomer. Nothing wrong with that. I didn't get into baseball until I was 9, 10 years old. And the TV was for kids shows. The first World Series I remember seeing is highlights from the 1975 Series, mostly the Fisk home run, the Reds' Game 7 clincher and Luis Tiant.
First World Series I remember watching
That would be the following year, the Reds' sweep over the Yankees in 1976. I didn't watch every game, no attention span and I still couldn't stay up late enough. But I do remember Johnny Bench hitting EVERYTHING.
The next year I would watch as much of the Series as I could. Unfortunately.
First Sports Illustrated issue that came to my house
It was from May 3, 1976. The Phillies beat the Cubs in an epic game that year. This was three years before the well-known 23-22 Phillies win over the Cubs in Wrigley Field. In 1976, the Phillies beat the Cubs, 18-16, in Wrigley, coming back from 11 runs down to win on Mike Schmidt's fourth home run of the game in the 10th inning. I read about that in the first issue of Sports Illustrated that came to our house. It was a subscription gift from my folks.
I took to this magazine right away and learned so much. But the second issue to come to the house showed jockey Steve Cauthen on the cover and I was like "what the hell is this???"
Which is why the following was so important:
First Baseball Digest I ever saw
I don't remember the where or why of this issue but a subscription started coming to our house soon afterward. This magazine was all about BASEBALL and nothing else. No horse racing. No yachting. No swimsuit models (they just didn't matter to an 11-year-old). BASEBALL.
First Baseball Digest that ever came to our house
It was two months later. Baseball Digest became ritual at our house for the next two or three years. There was a certain rhythm to BD (World Series issue in October, Top rookies issue in November, Player of the Year issue in December, past World Series review in January, etc.) and I knew it well. I devoured the articles but also I devoured the ads.
The baseball magnet standings board sat in our bedroom for like two years.
The best thing about the ads is they were all about baseball (or sports) in almost all cases. There was so much baseball you could buy! Baseball cards, for sure, but also baseball helmets and hats, baseball posters and magnets, baseball albums and pages, baseball lamps and banks, baseball T-shirts and buttons, baseball pennants and cassette tapes, baseball books and wallets and mugs and record albums!
This was a big part of my world from around 1977-80. (As you have probably been seeing, Baseball Digest recently made its archives available for free, head on over there and sign up for a free account).
First baseball book I ever read
This was part of a series of baseball biography paperbacks put out for young sports fans. This is where I first read about the friction between Thurman Munson and Carlton Fisk, how Steve Garvey was the Dodgers' bat boy when he was a kid and his dad was a Greyhound bus driver who often transported baseball teams to and from the park.
It's stuff like this that make you look at your professional career and wonder whether it groomed you for the career you would have or whether you took to stuff like this because it was naturally in you.
First sports article I read in the newspaper
I just wrote about this. It's possible I viewed some other newspaper story first, something on the comics page probably. But the trade of Dusty Baker to the Dodgers (and Jimmy Wynn to the Braves) is what sticks in my head. Considering I was 10 at the time, it's a good chance I wasn't reading anything else.
The Traded card of Dusty Baker in the 1976 Topps set was our first look at Baker as a "Dodger" and that's all we had.
It wouldn't be until 1977, nearly a year-and-a-half after the trade (longer if you didn't pull the Baker card until the summer)! There was no Update set. No Topps Now. You waited. Yes, it was excruciating sometimes. But does it make me hate my childhood?
Nope. I'm still holding on to those memories.
There's plenty more firsts I could write about. Perhaps I will add more to this (or probably not -- I won't REMEMBER!)
At any rate, I hear all that stuff about the pitfalls of living in the past (and living for the future), how you're supposed to live in the now, etc. I agree with all of that. But there's nothing that says you can't carry some of the fun parts of your past around with you in the now.
As I've said many times before: it's why I'm collecting.
RIP, Al Kaline
Yes, this is another first. This the first Highlight/Record Breaker card I ever saw.