People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring. – Rogers Hornsby
Yesterday marked the unofficial first day of baseball season. With the NFL season finally under wraps, we can start prying ourselves away from the hot stove conversations of our long off season and look forward to pitchers and catchers reporting next week! What better way to get into the 2016 season than with what hopefully will be more consistent blog posts this year!
A week or so ago, I saw a tweet from the Baseball Hall of Fame, specifically their baseball card corner. If you read my blog post from September 20, you know that baseball cards are very near and dear to my heart. For the better part of 40+ years, I have stored my cards in one or more shoe boxes, sometimes wrapped with rubber bands, now more recently with each team stored in their own Ziploc baggie. Most of them were collected the old fashioned way: one packet at a time, 10 cards to a pack, with a stale piece of bubble gum. Some were purchased at little league games (and stuffed into my back pocket – no worries though as I rode the bench quite a bit so no chance of them getting dirty), and others at my local 7-11. Most have been meticulously cared for.
I got to thinking, sure I have my fair share of dud cards, but I do have some pretty good ones from the 70s and early 80s. Why not ask the HOF if they are interested in any of them. There is a card exhibit at the hall, so I contacted them to see if there was any interest. Sure enough, I got an email from Sue MacKey at the HOF, saying they were pleased that I bought my cards to their attention, and they are in the process of planning a new baseball card exhibit. They asked if I had an inventory of my cards. GULP! An inventory?? Wow…. This was serious business. So this past weekend I set out to inventory my cards, setting up a spreadsheet with first name, last name, team, year, and number of cards. Surely they wouldn’t take all FIVE of my Dave Lemanczyk cards from 1976, right? What about all four Oakland A’s team photo cards from that same year?I sat down and started going through the bags of cards. It was like visiting old friends again. While my last exercise was just pulling out my hall of famers, this time it was looking at each card, maybe glancing at the stats on the back, thinking “wow, I remember him!” It was quite a look into my childhood (ok and into my college years) past. Oh, there’s Sparky Lyle. Hey, Tim Foli, long time no see. Oh and my autographed card from Don Sutton…… Hey, there’s Rick Monday, now a broadcaster for the Dodgers…… Oh look, Terry Francona with the Expos…… There goes Bill Buckner with the Dodgers…. And the Expos!
It wasn’t until I was nearly to the end that I felt two big losses. Like I lost part of my childhood that I will never get back. Somewhere, somehow, I have lost the California Angels. I had Frank Robinson and Nolan Ryan set aside from my project last September, but the bag with the rest of the Angels was gone! I have searched all over for it. Gone. Vanished. No more Frank Tanana, no more Jerry Remy. No more Don Baylor, no more Leroy Stanton, no more Bruce Bochte. Completely disappeared! I know…. They were just small pieces of thin cardboard with photos of ball players. But they were part of the collective, part of my growing up. It’s now part of my childhood I will never get back.
My second loss that I felt was actually the result of re-finding a card I thought I had lost. In the words of Inigo Montoya, “Lemme ‘splain.” At some point last year, I went looking for my Bob Moose card from 1972. Moose was with the Pirates from 1967 through 1976. While certainly no HOFer, he did have a no hitter to his credit in 1969 against the ultimate World Series champs, the NY Mets. I don’t even remember seeing him play on television, but his card stuck out in my mind because he just looked like an all American kid, and his card was one of the few from my first year of collecting. So when I found his card stuck to the back of another, it was like finding a lost friend. It replaced a little of the loss I felt when I finally gave up on my search for the missing Angels. Looking at his card, I thought, what ever happened to Bob Moose? Or anyone else of the hundreds of cards I had? Thanks to Wikipedia, Baseball Reference, and other sites, answers can be quickly had. Scrolling through the Wikipedia entry on Moose, the first thing I noticed was October 9, 1976. Surely Wikipedia had a mistake and put his last game date up. As I read the third paragraph, though, I found out that Moose was killed in an auto accident heading to Bill Mazeroski’s golf course on October 9, 1976 – his 29th birthday. Just when I found a long lost friend, it seems like he was snatched away from me again. But at least I still have his card, and for some reason, even if the HOF DID want this card of a slightly better than average pitcher who made it to the show for 10 seasons, I just might hang on to this one.
On a happier note, I am very excited for the season to start! I already have plans to see four games in five days in south Florida at the end of spring training, and there’s an outside chance I may have to travel to Phoenix in early March. If that happens, I think I will be extending my stay a bit to hopefully see some Dodger blue! I also purchased a ticket to see historic Rickwood Field on June 1 for the annual Rickwood Classic with the Birmingham Barons. Since that’s a road trip south, and a mid week game, I might be catching some games along the I-81 corridor on the way! I also might try to catch games from the Florida State League, Appalachian League, and maybe some of the teams in NC that can be quick weekend jaunts.
As I head into this season, I am reminded of what Terrence Mann said in Field of Dreams: “The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again.”
I mark my time of the year by the baseball calendar, and starting this week, this is the best time of year!