By Mark Nagi
Recently I had the opportunity to make the drive to upstate New York to visit my Mom for the first time in nearly a year and a half.
She’s vaccinated. I’m vaccinated. So, the risk that I could get her sick from the pandemic is significantly lower today than it was even a few months ago. Thank you, scientists! I’ve missed her so much and it is always good to be home.
My Mom has lived in the same house since the late 1960s. It’s the house that I grew up in and while so many things around my hometown have changed, the house feels the same as it did when I was a kid.
On this trip, I fulfilled one of my Mom’s requests… a request that she has had for a couple of decades. I’ve finally removed the tens of thousands of baseball cards that have been sitting in the basement since the late 1980s/early 1990s.
That was at the height of the sports card boom, and everyone believed buying 50 Bernie Williams rookie cards was going to one day pay for my future children’s college education.
Well, my oldest is graduating high school in three years. I don’t think those cards are going to get me through those tuition payments.
But as I packed up boxes upon boxes, I couldn’t help but check out some of the cards that were such a huge part of my childhood. My favorite player was Yankees first baseman Don Mattingly and I have more cards of his than I’d like to admit. There was Gregg Jeffries, the Mets phenom that was supposed to be the second coming of Cal Ripken but never reached those heights.
There was the holy grail of baseball cards of that era, the 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Junior card, which is actually worth something today!
There was also a smattering of football, hockey, basketball, and soccer cards. I even found cards for the artists formerly known as the WWF, so if you want an Andre the Giant card, hit me up.
I spent so many hours and so many dollars on that card collection. Maybe it taught me about economics. Maybe it taught me about organizational skills. Maybe it taught me how to deal with disappointment. Or maybe it just made me become a hoarder.
But the best thing I found was the program from the first baseball game I ever attended. April 1981. Yankees vs. Rangers.
I was eight years old (yes mathematicians, that makes me 48 today). My Dad told me we were going to this game a few months before and I couldn’t sleep for months. We took the bus down to The Bronx and since this was the early 1980s in that area, my Dad basically cut off circulation holding onto my wrist. I remember seeing the green grass and the blue outfield walls and white façade and thinking Yankee Stadium was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.
The Yankees won the game 5-1. They hit three home runs and Rudy May got the win. It was one of the best days of my life.
Oh, and I also found the program from a 1983 White Sox/Yankees game that was rained out. My Dad and I took the bus down to The Bronx again, only to have the heavens open for hours. Tom Seaver was going to pitch against Ron Guidry and the game got rained out. That was one of the worst days of my life. (Thankfully, my childhood wasn’t filled with much trauma.)
After a few days with Mom, I headed back to Knoxville. The car was filled to the gills with mementos like those I’ve mentioned. I’m not sure what I’ll do about them. They’ll probably sit in a box in my shed, collecting dust. The important thing is the memories that they’ve provided.
It’s nice to have these connections to my childhood.