False Start

4 Nov

I know the title refers to a different sport, but it still applies here.

I went into a baseball card shop today. Yes, they still exist. Of course, it is also filled with memorabilia, and various sports paraphernalia, but remains largely, a sports cards collectors shop.

Sports Collectors Heaven on Elm Street in Manchester, NH. They have an entire wall dedicated to boxes of cards. A majority of them are new, but in the front corner, there are about a dozen or more boxes of 1980’s era baseball cards.

Alas, there wasn’t a single 1985 Topps pack to be seen. I even asked.

“Oh no,” the lady at the counter said, “good luck with that.” I shrugged it off.

“We do have a set,” she continued, “and an uncut sheet of 85 Topps hanging in the back.” What? Really? I walked back and stood in amazement. An entire sheet of cards, saved from the knives of the Topps factory for more than 25 years. It was marvelous.

132 cards in all, 1/6th of the entire set, including the entire Team U.S.A. Olympic card sub-set.

“Used to get $1200 a pop for those,” the proprietor told me. “I’d be happy if you gave me $200 today!’ I passed. It was a beautiful sight, for sure. And the McGwire card was right there, second card up from the bottom left corner, but it certainly wasn’t worth $200 of my precious money.

132 1985 Topps cards - uncut...what a waste.

Back in the day, these were cut by large machines, and the slightest cut the wrong way would end up sending the grade of the card down. When I first collected, we relied on sheer judgment to grade cards. We were probably off a little on our guesstimates, but fairly close. Of course, as a child, all my cards seemed slightly better than they actually were.

I lamented with the owner of the store how I ended up with five McGwire rookies since I started collecting, holding them all when they were worth $200 a piece. He just shook his head.

Though I didn’t find any 1985 Topps packs, I did end up making a couple of purchases, which I’ll share in a later blog post.

I talked again with the lady up front at the register, telling her my plans with the blog and the cards.

“Just remember, every generation has their faults,” she said, speaking of baseball. “Your too young to remember, but there were the Black Sox,” she said, referring to the 1919 disgraced team. She didn’t look old enough to remember either, but I didn’t call her on it.

She reminded me of the other drug scandals, the cocaine problems of the 80’s, the uppers of the 60’s.

“Mickey Mantle boozed it up,” she said. Though I hardly think Mantle grabbed a bottle the night before a big game, thinking it would help his performance. She did offer me one tidbit that I’ll use. As I was leaving, she told me to remember how great it felt to first get those cards, and the happiness they brought with them.

It’s true, and in spite of any scandal, I still love the game, and the memories it brought me back when I was young. And while I’m never going to forget how wronged we all were, it is nice to recall the fondness we’ve all had, especially in the innocence of our youth.

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