Saturday, April 11, 2009

Where in the World

It's an old tale. I've heard it many times. Sad to say, it happened to me as well. If life is full of mystery, and it is, then this one is repeated almost daily. It just might be one of the quintessential experiences of American men growing up in the second half of the 20th century. I lost my baseball cards.
Or rather, they lost me. Somewhere between the throes of my first love affair and the day I left home, they slipped from my grasp. After loss, disillusionment, much wandering, and coming of age, they disappeared from my boyhood closet. I hope they didn't meet an untimely fate. I hope they continue to be appreciated. I hope someone benefitted from that shoe box full of Topps cards from the mid 50s. I had a great collection.
For many of us who grew up in the 1950s, this was the Golden Age of Baseball Cards. We'd buy them for a nickel a pack, chew the brittle pink gum dusted with white sugary powder, and then either complain or marvel at who we got in the latest pack. I bought them in pairs, but occasionally a certain kid who lived on the corner of my block bought the entire box. We'd walk down to Jack's Liquor and watch as he lifted the entire carton on display by the cash register. Larry E. would produce a five dollar bill and deny anyone else the opportunity to buy cards for the day. The worst part was watching him open the packs, methodically stack the stiff pink gum and the taunt us with how many Willie Mays or Hank Aaron cards he now had.
Growing up a Giants fan in LA was hard enough without a Dodger fan having all the Giant's cards. I'd get a few Giants but getting Mays or Cepeda, or McCovey was a crapshoot. I somehow had numerous copies of unheard of rookies or Ferris Fain, or Joe Collins. To this day I still contend that I appreciated them much more than Larry E. Don't think I haven't thought about taking a crisp twenty dollar bill these days and buying a box myself. It's just not the same.

Theories abound in my head about what happened to the wonderful collection of about 200 cards I kept in my garage. The two boxes could easily have been lifted when I left hope to serve as a VISTA volunteer. I asked a friend of mine to sell my '59 VW bug, stored in the same garage. Maybe he couldn't resist the temptation. I prefer to think my father, knowing their worth, sold them to help defray the cost of my mother's medical bills after cancer took her life when I was a college freshman. Either way, gone are the images of young Mickey Mantle and Sandy Kofax. All my Willie Mays cards, my Jackie Robinson, and Roberto Clemente. There were action shots of Minnie Minoso, Pee Wee Reese, and Roy Campanella. Even the weird cards like KC shortstop "Spook" Jacobs, or Satchel Paige in a St. Louis Browns uniform linger in my mind. Gone forever, but not lost.

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