***This post was written by @LandofOzMayor***
As I reach the point in my life where I am closer to my 60th birthday than my 50th, there are few things that transform me back to being a 12 year old boy. The days jumping in a pile of raked leaves, playing hide and seek, catching snowflakes with my tongue, playing in the flowing gutters after a summer rain, and collecting baseball cards.
I remember taking my weekly allowance to the local store and buying a few packs of Topps cards at a nickel apiece and then tearing the packs open to see which one of my favorite players I managed to get. The joy was pure, the excitement real, and combined with the pink powdery gum made for few minutes of simple delight. The wondrous anticipation of maybe getting the card of my idol Johnny Bench was at the forefront of my experience always. As a catcher until I started to grow I idolized him like no other. He was the first catcher I saw that could throw out a base stealer from his knees! That combined with his power and I was hooked.
The mistake I and so many others made was not paying attention so much to the collecting or coveting the cards made during the later years of some of the greatest players ever. My dad didn’t enjoy sports, much less baseball; I never heard the names of those players around the house. My grandfather was an avid Detroit Tigers fan and I have Freehan, Horton, McCauliffe, Lolich and others in my collection but not many of the true “legends”. Remember, baseball was the box scores in the newspaper and the Saturday game of the week with Tony Kubek and Joe Garagiola.
Living in a non MLB city the exposure was limited. It was the younger guys and up and comers that drew my attention. Something that a lot of people can relate to is that the cards that were not necessarily in our “wanted” pile were either actually traded (hence the name trading cards) or were relegated to the spokes of our bicycles. I wish I could remember the names on my spokes to see if any of them now have the HOF moniker after their names in the record books, or there again, maybe not? The neighborhood kids would gather on the block to see if anyone was trading and what they were offering. All the while, the hobby was an innocent and fun time for everyone involved. While it was certainly started long before I began collecting it was the late 60’s/early 70’s that it really took off and thankfully there would be 15 more years or so before the entire hobby began to get absolutely inundated with cards for so many other platforms other than sports. Admittedly it did cause me and many others to stop the purchase of sports cards due to the fact we could sense the watering down of the hobby. It never once made me second guess the moving, sorting, or thinning out of my collection over the years. As I browse through my 45 years of collecting I am again transformed into the 12 year old boy chasing Johnny Bench, and the pink powdery gum.