I’ve been a baseball fan for as long as I can remember. I can remember playing catch with my Grandpa in front of our house in Memphis, TN while he told me stories about listening to Don Larsen’s perfect game on the radio or about Harvey Haddix’s 12 perfect innings. I remember my Uncle Larry telling me about seeing Stan Musial play in person as a kid. I remember playing Wiffle ball with my brother and my parents in our backyard. I just always loved baseball.
My earliest distinct memory of a baseball game is the 1977 World Series. I remember Reggie Jackson hitting three home runs, on the first pitch, in three consecutive at-bats. You don’t forget that. I may have been a Yankees fan, but I don’t remember for sure. I know I hated the Dodgers and the Red Sox. I couldn’t even begin to explain the reasons.
I can remember the one game playoff between the Yankees and the Red Sox in 1978. Bucky Dent might have been my first favorite baseball player after he blasted that home run over the monster. I remember becoming a Phillies fan during the playoffs when they lost to the Dodgers that same year. The Phillies would be one of my favorite early teams.
I’m sure that at some point in that time period above my parents bought me a pack of baseball cards. I’m sure of it. I can’t remember it. I couldn’t tell you what the cards were, but I know it happened. I think it would have had to. Now, 1979 I remember.
My favorite player in baseball in 1979 was the speedy second baseman of the Memphis Chicks, Tim Raines. I must have gone to ten games or so that season and at every game Raines was the star. I can remember Willie Stargell (whose 1980 Topps card I would chase for 25 years) and his Pirates winning the World Series, winning games six and seven on the road in Baltimore. I still think about that team whenever I hear Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family”. I remember the Yankees finishing in fourth place. I remember discovering This Week in Baseball for the first time and listening to Mel Allen talk about Pete Rose joining the Philadelphia Phillies.
I remember sitting the bench for the Schoolfield Methodist Midgets. I remember getting a hit and how proud my Granddaddy was for me. It may have been my only hit all season.
Mostly though, I remember this older kid who lived across the street named Randy and I remember a number of grocery bags, the paper kind of course, filled with cards. I remember becoming a baseball card collector for the first time.
I’m not sure why Randy had offered to sell me his baseball cards. We had been trading comic books for a year or two. He was much older than me and he was saving up money. I can’t remember why though. (Getting old … kinda sucks.) Still, he needed money and offered to sell me a bunch of cards. I ran home and asked Dad for the money and he gave me two dollars and I came back with a bag full of cards. Dad and I spent what seemed like hours that evening pouring over the cards. They were all from 1976 through 1979 and I loved every set from that era the second I laid eyes on them.
The next day Randy would offer to sell me more and Dad would again cough up the money for me. All told, I think we paid Randy 12 dollars for around a thousand cards. Was it a good deal? Who cares! Dad and I sorted the cards into teams and for the first time I would wrap baseball cards in rubber bands and store them in a shoebox. I was never so proud of anything in my life. Sitting there with my Dad sorting my first baseball card collection is my fondest baseball card collecting memory.
In 1980 I would become obsessed with the 1980 Topps set which remains my favorite set of all time. In 1981 we would move from Memphis to Columbus, Georgia. I was allowed to carry my box of 1980 Topps in the car, but my other cards, the cards I acquired that weekend in 1979, were packed with our other belongings for the move. I’d never see those cards again. The heart of a young kid was broken when he first arrived in Georgia. (Thankfully, having cable television for the first time, and discovering WTBS, would mend it and make me a Braves fan for the rest of my life.)
Actually, I didn’t lose every card from that weekend. A 1978 Jim Spencer was stored in my 1980 Topps box for what I can only assume was an accident. I still keep it in my 1980 Topps binder to remind me of the weekend I began my collection.
My relationship with my Dad right now is … at best … rocky. Still, I have that memory of 1979 and the weekend I became a baseball card collector. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I wanted to get back in this hobby. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I wanted to write this blog. Baseball cards remind me of a time in my life that I’ll never get back.
Thanks for reading.