Mine is probably the last generation that will lament the loss of our baseball cards. My dad has talked about all of the great baseball cards he had as a kid that his grandmother tossed in the trash. Think of what those cards would be worth today! I had some decent cards, and they have been lost to the ages, too.
Topps is still making baseball cards, but I don’t know how well they are selling. The Little Man collects Pokemon cards. He goes with a friends to a local comic book store each Saturday morning to play and trade cards. This Saturday he came back with a pack of baseball cards for me–which is what got me thinking about baseball cards in the first place.
Baseball cards were one of several fads among kids when I was growing up. Matchbox cars was another. I remember the thrill of getting a pack of cards. There were 15 cards in a pack (I think) along with a stale slab of bubble gum. The routine was always the same. I’d sift through the cards looking for duplicates of ones I already had. These could be traded for cards that I didn’t have. Then I’d look at the new ones.
Occasionally, some friend or acquaintance would get the entire season’s boxed set of baseball cards. I was always deeply envious of this. There in one box was a complete collection of all of the year’s cards. What a treasure! Looking back on it, however, this seems to be a rather dull way of collecting baseball cards. Where is the thrill of discovery? Where is the fun in trading cards with your friends?
We occasionally played games with the baseball cards. I remember that they were a lot of fun, but I have no memory of the mechanics of the games themselves. I suppose that means the company was better than the games.
My knowledge of baseball stats came from these cards, and for some players I could recite the stats on the backs of the cards as if they were state capitals.The numbers may very well have been my first introduction to practical statistics and math. I didn’t know what most of the numbers meant, but a few stood out: Avg, ERA, HR, W, L.
My favorite card was my 1978 Topps Reggie Jackson All-Star card. It was card #200 in the set that year. I had that card memorized. I think 1978 was my favorite years for baseball cards. Topps hit a high-water mark that year. I remember the cardboard-looking back of the card, with the brown borders and the blue print on gray background.
At some point kids stopped collecting baseball cards, but I don’t know when that happened. I suspect it was sometime in the mid-to-late 1990s when the Internet began to take off. Who needs a baseball card when you can go to baseball-reference.com to get the information you need.
I don’t know what happened to my baseball cards, but I was touched that the Little Man would spend some of his money at the comic book store to buy me a pack of 1999 baseball cards. I’ll try to take better care of these.