HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
April 30, 2006

Staying young is in the cards

By Matt Kane

“Are you ever going to grow up?”

My mother asked me this question a couple months ago after I loaded up my Jeep with all the baseball memorabilia I collected over the years.

The answer to her question is, I doubt it.

Not as long as there is baseball. As my body gets bigger, slower and more fragile, baseball, at least, keeps my mind young.

And all those posters, game-used bats, and thousands of baseball cards contribute to my never growing up.

I think the one collectible I share with baseball lovers ages five to 100 is the ever-popular baseball cards.

Remember when baseball cards were fun to collect, just for the purpose of collecting them? Back before each 2 1/2-by-3 1/2-inch piece cardboard was graded with a microscope or had a piece of a bat on it, kids (because not many adults bought baseball cards for themselves when I grew up) would open packs, and anxiously thumb through the 15 cards looking for a Don Mattingly or a Ken Griffey Jr., only to be bummedout when they got a Dale Berra or Henry Cotto instead. All while testing the limits of the human jaw by chewing on the infamous powdery-petrified pieces of gum that came with Topps brand cards.

I remember getting comfortable on many drug store floors with a half-dozen packs of baseball cards, hoping I got a better lot of cards than my buddy sitting next to me.

My card-collecting days started in the mid-1980s and lasted through the mid-1990s. In that time, the market took off. Topps was the only brand available where I grew up when I started, and Fleer and Donruss were available in different markets. Then came Upper Deck in 1989, and the hobby changed forever.

Typically spending 40 cents for 15 cards for Topps, Upper Deck packs cost close to $1 when they came out. Now, kids pay more per pack and get less cards.

The other day, I picked up a pack of 2007 Topps Opening Day cards.For 99 cents, I got six cards. That’s right, six.

I was supprised to see that a stick of that vintage Topps gum still came inside, although now, the gum is separately wrapped instead of just stuck to the back of one of the cards.

The good old days of the dark, no-shine Topps days are over. Now, the cards are bright and thick, with clear photos. That doesn’t make up for getting only six cards.

Here’s who I got: Austin Kearns, Andruw Jones (not bad), Andrew Miller, Ben Sheets, B.J. Upton, and Adam Dunn. And a Topps mainstay, the garbage-filling insert card, this time promoting Topps of the Class, a program which rewards kids for getting good grades.

If I were giving Topps a grade, it would be a C+. The cards look nice, but I can’t get over only getting six actual baseball cards for 99 cents.

The one good thing these cards have, that I always loved about Topps, is a very informative back. Instead of just listing the player’s statistics from the past season, these cards list his stats from every major league season and even some minor league seasons. And below the stats is a paragraph about the player.

For instence: did you know former Devil Ray Greg Vaughn nicknamed B.J. Upton “Easy,” because “everything he does, it just looks so natural?” Or that Adam Dunn’s 479-foot home run April 6, 2006, at Great American Ball Park hit a moving car? According to Dunn’s baseball card, the driver got out, retrieved the ball, and sped away. “I ain’t paying,” Dunn joked, of the car repair.

It’s things like that that will keep me from growing up, mom.

So, now, I have six more baseball cards in my collection. And just like the thousands I collected before, I’m sure these six will find their place in a box, where they will stay for years. What else can I do with them?

I guess I could stick them in the spokes of my bike. Yet another way baseball keeps a guy young.

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