WARNING: This post has nothing to do with neither beer nor books.
I was recently sorting through my old baseball cards and couldn’t resist making a quick post about the experience. For someone who didn’t collect I’m not sure I can adequately explain to you the joys of flipping through 100s if not 1,000s of mid-to-late ’80s and early ’90s baseball cards. But for those who did, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. All those memories of opening up packs as a kid. The thrill of the hunt and the excitement when you finally got that card you were after. The nostalgia of coming across all those players you used to watch, superstars and near-forgotten journeymen alike, smiling at you from cardboard photos taken when they were younger than you are now. Remembering that Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Alex Rodriguez, and Manny Ramirez were once thought of without any asterisks attached. Realizing that we’ll probably never see two-sport professionals again, nevermind All-Stars like Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders. Remembering what it was like watching the game as a kid, when it was just a game to you. Like that card of Brian Downing that reminds you of that cold April night you saw him launch a home run over the Green Monster, against a steady wind and nearly freezing drizzle. And a postcard of Fenway reminding you that home run went over a wall without ads or luxury seating on top of it. Recalling that at one point in your life you knew way too much about your favorite player – mine was Nolan Ryan as my mountain of his cards from 1969 through 1994 can readily attest.
I could easily go on, but instead I would rather share some of the highlights of what I uncovered. Having just missed out on the craze around finding error cards, rookie cards and later on limited inserts were the big draws of my collecting days. Looking at these cards now, I found myself significantly more interested in the rookie cards, now having the advantage of hindsight to see who made it. There some busts (Todd van Poppel), some tragic stories (Brien Taylor), and some that lived up to the billing. This post is focused on the latter.
Since I am a Yankees fan despite my Boston upbringing, I’ll open with a few near and dear to me.
Nice first year cards for one of my all time favorite Yankees. I think that whole “Core Four” media creation really short-changed the contributions of Bernie and Paul O’Neill, but I digress. Back to the cards, you have to love those aviator glasses and rare reference to him as Bernabe!
A nice grouping of various players who came to the Yankees a bit later in their careers. Scott Brosius certainly made his mark on the franchise with his 1998 World Series MVP and was one of my late-90’s favorites. Johnny Damon’s double steal in Game 4 of the 2009 World Series against the Phillies is enough for me to forgive him for his time with the Red Sox. While Randy Johnson’s stint with the Yankees may not have been the pinnacle of his career, he was one of the premier pitchers in this era and it fun to see The Big Unit 1) without his long hair and 2) in a Montreal Expos uniform. Mike Mussina on the other hand, had a very nice career in Pinstripes. He wasn’t around for any of the world champion teams, but came close twice and was an easy guy to root for.
Representing both the rookies and the inserts, here’s one of A-Rod as a Mariner. I have to admit, I was not looking forward to him rejoining the Yankees this last season but then he went and did everything right. Wish we had more of that guy from the start, he’s really won me over.
And lastly, the crown jewel of my collection. Like I said in my introductory ramblings, Nolan Ryan was my favorite player as a kid. My dad won this for me in an auction at our local card shop over 20 years ago and it has been the highlight of my collection ever since.