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And the first pack is here…

18 Nov

My eBay purchases arrived one on top of the other, as I excitedly opened my first pack of 1985 Topps in 25 years.

Why am I so excited. I gathered the essentials for the rack pack: the pack, scissors and a beer. Hey, I might be reclaiming my childhood, but I AM still an adult. As such, I am entitled to an adult beverage or two.

I sliced open the pack, and pulled out the cards.

I must say, buying packs of cards is fun, but for practicality, I’m going to go with rack packs from here on out. They are hard to search (if not impossible) and there is a lack of gum stains and wax stains. Two cards of every pack were ruined from every wax pack. Maybe more!

I scored a pretty decent on the first packs…the flip side of my first rack revealed a Darryl Strawberry, his second year card. There was a time when this would have been an awesome score, but like his counterparts, The Straw succumbed to the pressures of 1980’s baseball, namely cocaine.

I remember his suspension from baseball in 1995. It was just 10 years after this baseball card came out, that Darryl Strawberry’s career was in permanent jeopardy.

In 1996, he was out of Major League Baseball, playing for the Independent League St. Paul Saints. I remember watching a few highlights of Strawberry on the news in those days. Soon after, he would sign again with the New York Yankees.

In spite of his troubles, Strawberry still played fairly well until 1998, when he was diagnosed with colon cancer.

Comparisons to Hank Aaron or Babe Ruth seem long gone from now. There was a time when The Straw could have written his acceptance speech for Cooperstown. Today, he’s a side note to the awesome Mets teams of the 80’s.

In the packs, I didn’t score so as well. I did find another one of Strawberry’s cohorts in the set.

Eric Davis.

He’s another case of what-might-have-been, but of a different sort. Davis was just injury prone. Did he ever have a season where he didn’t spend a good portion of it on the DL? Speed, form, power, a great swing…all the tools needed to be a huge player.

I remember, during the Reds 1990 World Series win, the television announcer held up the 1985 Topps card of Eric Davis, talking about how the card was now going for more than $20. My brother and I raced upstairs to see if we had any Eric Davis cards of any sort.

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The Beginning.

4 Nov

1985.

My parents came home from a trip to our local flea market. It was a Wednesday morning ritual in those days. Get up early, treck to the neighboring town, walk around the hundreds of tables, filled with useless crap, and hope to score something good. For nothing.

Usually, it didn’t work like that.

There were moments that you struck gold. This particular Wednesday was one of those mornings. It was a vending box of 1985 Topps. My brother and I were ordered to split the cards up as evenly as possible.

Being the youngest, I decided this wasn’t fair, and in my immaturity, I grabbed a slice about 30 cards thick, right from the middle. This obviously tilted the balance in my favor.

After the ensuing argument calmed down, settled by me keeping the handful of cards and my brother being rewarded with a few extra for his troubles, we started to look through the cards.

Almost instantly, I found it. It was a Team U.S.A. card. Those distinctive red white and blue colors of the uniform with borders to match made for an eye popper in the relative boredom of the rest of the design of the set. I distinctly remember seeing the card for the first time. It was a boyish smiling face staring back at me, a bat casually slung over one shoulder, with a blue sky background and seats from a stadium. But the graphics and artwork aren’t the reason I remembered the card so vividly. It was the name…Mark McGwire.

Now, in 1985, Mark McGwire wasn’t a household name, and the only reason my young brain gave a shit about him was because his name was like mine — very Irish. A Mick. Like me. And he played for Team U.S.A. My brother and I sifted through more of the cards, hoping to score another. We did, in fact, I believe my brother scored big that day with 3 or 4 Olympic cards, while I only ended up with two – Cory Snider and McGwire.

I must have been on the cusp of my 7th birthday. It’s a magical time in youth, far from being a toddler, just wise enough to start seeing the world around you, but not hormonal enough to understand why you want to chase girls. Instead, a young boy can focus on silly things like “how does baseball work?” and “where do I get more of these joyous pieces of cardboard?”

Soon, I discovered the grocery store, where my mom worked was loaded with these cards, and I poured every penny I had into purchasing them.

It was 35 cents back then for a pack of cards. A little slice of heaven, paired with a slab of pure, cruddy, crusty, dusty, bubble gum hell. The package said bubble gum, but the flavor said “shit”. It didn’t matter, by that time, I was hooked.

Now it is time to start again.

4 Nov

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