The tradition lives on: I bought my yearly packs of baseball cards today

Tales from baseball card collecting

It's a tradition. I made my yearly purchase of two packs of baseball cards today. One pack for me and one for Casey.

When I was a kid, my grandma would buy me a box of Topps cards to open every Easter.  

Man, did I love opening those 25 packs in the box, one by one.  I'd sort through my cards......"got him, got him, need him."  

I still look forward to opening my first pack each year.

I felt like I was 10 years old again today, excited by the good players and disappointed with the back-up players.

I handed Casey his pack to open. We shouted out names of players as he thumbed through his pack: Scherzer! Judge!, Arrenado! Strasburg!

Today's cards are slick, shiny and sharp looking. They now list WAR and OPS on the back of hitter's cards and WHIP on the back of pitcher's cards. The cards even list the Twitter handle for players. But I'll admit it, I miss the baseball cards I grew up with in the 1970's and 80's. Those cards were plain and simple cardboard. I loved the cartoons on the back, with something like "Willie Montanez loves to restore old cars in the offseason," with a picture of him and a car.

I never believed in buying a set of cards, I thought that was cheating. I bought pack after pack after pack, trying to complete the set on my own. I use to sort the cards by teams, put rubber bands around them and put them in a shoe box. I never believed in putting cards in my bike spokes and riding around the neighborhood. 

I would sit on the front porch with my friends and make trades. I will never forget spending my summer of 1975, as a nine-year old, searching for the elusive Topps Johnny Bench, card. It was card number 260. I reached a point that summer where I had 659 of the 660 cards, with Bench being the only card I needed. I wound up trading my entire box of "doubles" to a friend for his Bench card.

Doubles were the cards you had duplicates of. I never thought about the value of having multiple Pete Rose's or Hank Aaron's. I never owned a Beckett's price guide, because I never worried about the dollar value of my cards. I didn't collect the cards to sell them, I collected them because I loved baseball. Heck, I'd take a pen and put a check next to the player's name on the team checklist card when I got that card.

I ruined a complete set of Topps 1976 cards when I was 10-years old. An adult neighbor told me I should preserve my cards in a photo alum. So, one by one, I put all the cards in an album. A few months later I pulled the clear sheet back and tried to take a card out, The front of the card pulled off, the back of the card remained, stuck to the adhesive on the album. Stupid. Stupid. Me. That was a heck of a set in 1976.

I do remember when the innocence of my card collecting was lost. I bought multiple Jose Canseco Donruss rookie cards in 1986, in hopes I could later sell them for big money. Well, that never happened.

I also sold a Mike Schmidt rookie card and used the money for a spring break trip to Panana City when I was in college.

I think my favorite card is the 1989 Ken Griffey Jr. Fleer rookie card.

I still have many of my boxes of cards in the basement. Others have been lost in moves over the years. Most of the cards are now in albums, protected by insert sheets. Sometimes I sit and flip through those cards. They take me back to my childhood and certain moments in my life. I can still remember exactly where I was when I got some of those cards.

I remember when Topps starting making the triple pack of cards that would hang on the rack. We'd sit at the Convenient off Denallen Drive in Anderson and pick through those cards before we bought them. You could see the three cards you were getting on the front and the three cards on the back. We thought that was cool.

Man, I miss those days.

Did you collect baseball cards?

Lance McAlister

Lance McAlister

Lance McAlister covers everything in Cincinnati sports! Host of sports talk on Cincinnati News Radio 700WLW and ESPN 1530! Read more


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