It was a cool spring day in the city of Chicago, just west of Lincoln Park. That’s when I was first introduced to the art of collecting baseball cards. The year was 1967 and I was in third grade. The three Nelson brothers, who lived two doors down, were the ones who introduced them to me. But, it was all of us boys on the block that collected and traded them.
In those days, nobody was chasing signature cards or inserts. We simply wanted to complete Series 1…and we had a checklist that we marked when we received that particular player. If Johnny had doubles on Micky Mantle and I had doubles on Dooley Womack, we would trade...if they had not been marked off of our checklist.
Back then, my favorite player, and thus, favorite card, was Brooks Robinson of the Baltimore Orioles. That summer, when my brother and I went to stay with my grandparents, we got to watch him play in action…for real. It was at Memorial Stadium. I was awestruck.
Baseball cards were only a nickel a pack. Yes, that’s $.05, or simply, five cents. If our grandfather gave us a quarter, we felt rich and ran to the corner store to purchase a whopping five packs of baseball cards! We would stuff the rectangular piece of pink gum in our chops, chew and gobble -- gobble and chew, all the while we were carefully inspecting our new cards.
Oh, and we kept them in a cigar box…with rubber bands wrapped around them to keep them together. I went on to collect baseball cards for another three summers, until 1970, before I was onto something else, during my junior high school days—we’ll leave it at that.
I never thought about baseball cards again until 1991 when I was deployed to the Middle East for Desert Storm. Our Executive Officer, a major, had a stack of them on his desk. I was intrigued by the fact that they had a golden “Desert Shield” emblem at the top corner of the card. Seeing my interest, he gave them to me. After I returned home, I started looking into collecting cards again, mostly for my son than myself…except he wanted basketball cards.
I had amassed quite a collection of both for many years, and for many years I had two cards that were my absolute favorite: the 1957 rookie card of Johnny Unitas (football, I know) and the 1957 rookie card of Brooks Robinson, both hometown heroes. I bring this up because, as of yesterday, they are no longer my favorite two cards.
My daughter, Jacquelyn, gave me two new cards last night that instantly became my new all-time favorites. Although the Johnny and Brooks both book for $400.00 or $500.00 each, these latest two cards are priceless. They were so cool, that I had to put them in protective cases and take them to work the next day to show them off. They are, Jaden and Hunter Currie--my grandsons!