Sunday, April 29, 2012

Batting averages, part 4

(Part 4 of this series got away from me a little bit -- my last post was almost two weeks ago. Click for Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and an old post detailing my baseball season of 1980.)

I started collecting baseball cards when I was 6. We had just moved into a new neighborhood, and my new friends collected them, so I naturally followed along. I pored over each card, reading the players' stats and the fun facts on the back of each one. In 1980, I probably came closest to a complete collection than I ever did in my youth.

The 1980 Topps cards looked good. Though some debate exists whether action shots make the best baseball cards, this set might have had the best photos -- very few of them posed -- in the four years I had been collecting. The back of the cards included a cartoonish fun fact for every player. With it being 1980, it was simple to deduce the age of the player from his date of birth.

This summer, I really started liking the Brewers. The Cubs were still my favorite team (especially the pictured Bruce Sutter, who was coming off his Cy Young season), but I had to root for an American League team, and the White Sox sucked, so the Brewers it was. They were full of young, good-hitting players, including my new favorite star, Paul Molitor, who was played third base the year before -- the same position I played (though Molly moved to second base in 1980 and rarely played third base again; no matter, I moved to the outfield in 1981 and didn't play third again until my 20s in softball). My new Brewer fascination only fueled my card collecting even more this summer. And this Molitor card pictured was my favorite one.

On top of the playing baseball, watching baseball, rolling dice to simulate baseball and reading about baseball, I was collecting baseball -- more than ever in 1980.


 The odd thing is, 1980 was the last year I collected baseball cards. The next summer, I did buy some packs, but my goal eventually became to get the cards I wanted, not the whole set. In 1981, Fleer and Donruss unveiled their own baseball cards, carving into the monopoly Topps held. I played baseball and even more Strat-o-Matic in 1981. I just didn't collect cards. I started giving my old ones away, not having a clue how much I would cherish them as an a adult. Full sets are expensive today, but with only one key rookie card (Rickey Henderson) in the 1980 set, I bought this season rather inexpensively. Though I have bought all three sets from 1981 and am building collections in 1977 and 1979, 1980 is still my favorite. Just digging up these three cards to scan for this post was a thrill.

With my decreased interest in baseball cards in 1981, I likely chewed my last packs of the pink, flavorless near-cardboard gum included in every pack. The gum would sometimes be crumbled into a few pieces as you opened the pack. Fleer, which produced baseball stickers before it started its own cards, produced more flavorful, juicier gum with their packs. Topps clearly hadn't caught up in 1980. But 32 years later, I can still taste that bland gum.

Just when I thought this series was over, I wrote an epilogue.

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