Forever Tied to Baseball Cards
The great thing about baseball is that there is always a thread to tie you to the rich fabric of its past.
We’re reminded of that during All-Star time when we see so many of the Hall of Famers playing in celebrity games or just hanging out and signing autographs. The last time the All-Star Game was in Anaheim, back in 1989, my favorite memory was strolling through the clubhouse right before the then Old Timers Game and seeing Joe DiMaggio and Warren Spahn and Bob Feller.
It was like all my old baseball cards suddenly had come to life. But that’s what baseball does.
It brings out the little boy in all of us. We look at the oldtimers or glance at what’s left of our old baseball cards, and for a few wonderful minutes, we’re back wearing scruffy jeans with holes in the knees. We’re chewing the stale piece of cardboard that passes for bubble gum. And we’ve got our worn-out, tattered Rawlings glove stuck in our back pocket.
We’re all linked by the baseball names and faces that have flashed before us since childhood, the ones we associate with growing up, attending school, starting a family, getting a job.
These aren’t just passages in time. They are milestones in our life.
All that comes flooding back whenever you see those precious old pieces of colored cardboard. There was a day some 20 years ago when my late father was moving out of the Alhambra apartment he and my mom, who had just passed away, had lived in since the mid-1950s. I was helping him get rid of some of his stuff when he pointed at a banged up dresser in what had been my bedroom growing up.
“Better check to see if there’s anything in there you forgot,” he said. I laughed and said, “I really doubt it.” But I went in and checked anyway. I ruffled through the two top drawers and found nothing and was about to leave. But one more drawer remained, so I turned around and opened it.
Much to my shock, there was a small mountain of 1953 baseball cards. I thought my mom, like most moms, had thrown all my cards away when I moved out. But here some of them were, and I let out a loud, shrill shout.
My dad came running in, thinking something terrible had happened. When I showed him, he wasn’t impressed. “You don’t understand,” I said. “Some of these are worth a lot of money now.”
They were. And still are. I went home and carefully put them all in a large blue album and have them encased in plastic. Not only do I still have them, I’m looking at them right now, as I write this, and they still make me smile and shake my head.
There is Mickey Mantle, the Mick himself, on two different cards worth the most. But then there is Jackie Robinson, who was my very first sports hero, and Roy Campanella, not to mention Yogi Berra and Spahn and Feller and Pee Wee Reese and Eddie Mathews. Well, you get the idea.
I have two sons who think I should have sold the cards long ago, but they don’t understand. You can’t sell history. You can’t sell tradition. You can’t sell away your past. Somehow, some way, you’re tied to these things. They’ve become a part of you.
No way I’m selling. What I will do, eventually, is pass them down to the new pride and joy of our life, our two-year-old grandson.
By the time he gets them, the names probably won’t mean much to him. But I want him to know what they meant to his Grandpa.
Robinson’s brave story was what originally drew me into sports. If it wasn’t for Jackie, who unfortunately I never saw play in person, I probably never would have become a sports writer. Once I fell in love with baseball, though, I couldn’t get enough. Mantle, Campanella, Spahn, Yogi, Pee Wee, all coming to life for me on those precious cards.
I don’t intend to push any of this on my grandson, who probably will have other interests and passions. But even if he isn’t impressed, and I doubt he will be, I still want to pass this treasured blue album of baseball cards along to him.
Why? The answer is easy.
I want the precious thread to that rich, American fabric of baseball to somehow remain intact.
— Steve Bisheff