Thursday, March 10, 2011

Pack mentality

I bought a pack of baseball cards for Eldest today.

That statement is not entirely true. I bought a pack of baseball cards for Eldest and me Thursday.


I was checking out at Walmart today in the lane that adjoined the shelves with trading cards, Pez dispensers, compact umbrellas and "As Seen on TV" wares. I glanced over, saw the baseball cards, thought about it for a minute, grabbed a $2 pack of Topps 2011 and added it to the conveyor belt.

For a few years now, seemingly every spring, I've been contemplating buying a pack of baseball cards just for nostalgia sake. Other than a one-year flirtation with MLB Showdown (a collectible card game published by Wizards of the Coast that I was writing strategy articles for), I haven't bought packs of baseball cards since perhaps 1981.

Thursday, I finally bought a pack. I'm guessing I pulled the trigger because of a combination of things:

-- I'm quite hooked on Josh Wilker's blog Cardboard Gods, which takes a look back at cards from the 1975-81 (my own prime collection years -- at least 1977-81). He wrote a book from the blog that Wife bought me last summer, that aside from sparking my card nostalgia, has provided a bit of inspiration to write more.

-- I really wanted to let Eldest experience the thrill of opening a pack of baseball cards and seeing who was inside, even if he has no clue who the players are. I started collecting cards when I was 6, and it helped teach me the game. I know this sounds like over-pushing sports on a kid, but Eldest, as a boy, will need to understand the rules of baseball (as well as football; I think he's got basketball down) as he grows up. Of course, I want him to know the basics so we can enjoy games together, but on a practical note, boys who don't know sports are thought of as dorks by other boys. Right or wrong, that's the reality. I'm not worried he's not going to pick these things up, but I figured baseball out at 6, I think he can be well on his way at 7. Another practical consideration: I'm hoping he'll want to read the cards.

-- Simply, spring is almost here, and I've been listening to spring training games off an app on my Android.

I let Eldest open the pack, which contained 12 cards. I informed him that the first year I collected cards, a pack cost 15 cents (but didn't add that wax packs, with more cards, were a quarter; and damn, I forgot to describe the gum that used to come with baseball cards). The first thing I noticed was that today's baseball cards are much nicer than back in the day -- full color, glossy finish, more statistics (including slugging percentage!). Shuffling through the pack, we got Vincente Padilla, Jair Jurrjens, David Eckstein, Michael Cuddyer, Howie Kendrick (I told Eldest that Kendrick used to play for the Bees), a Josh Hamilton AL MVP card, a blue Justin Verlander that directed you to the Web, and AL ERA leaders.

The pack also included a cardboard replica 1950 Bowman card of Jackie Robinson. I explained to Eldest the significance of Jackie Robinson as well as told him that this is what baseball cards used to look like in my day: color on one side, two-toned and gray on the other. I read the statistics off two cards, trying to explain what they meant (though I didn't even attempt to explain OPS). I told him that maybe we'd try to see a game in Wrigley Field when we visit Grandpa in Chicago this summer.

Eldest asked if he could keep the cards, and I said yes, adding we could buy more packs as the year went along. I did say he had to find a shoebox in which to keep them; otherwise, they will be all over the place (I'm speaking from experience).

I'm looking forward to buying more cards as the season goes along, and wonder if I save a little money to go on eBay and buy some cards from my youth (I own complete 1980 and 1981 Topps; I'd love to get the 1977 set, but that won't be cheap). In the meantime, I'm debating whether to sneak into the boys' room and get the cards I bought today and look at them again. That's not the crazy part of all this -- what's crazy is that I wish today's baseball cards still came with that non-soft, tasteless bubble gum.

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