(This is Day 8 of our response to Tony L.’s 30-Day Baseball Card Challenge. See all our posts in this series here.)

Today’s challenge assignment: A card that reminds you of a family member.

1986 Topps Pete RoseThis is both easy and impossible for me.

Easy, because pretty much all my cards remind me of my father. Impossible because — how do I choose?

Even though my dad has never been a baseball fan and never collected cards himself, he always supported, wholeheartedly, whatever I loved growing up.

So when I “found” baseball and baseball cards in my preteen years, he was right there. As my collection grew, he became almost enthusiastic as I was in chasing down the cards I wanted.

Nowhere was that more evident than in our joint pursuit of Pete Rose cards as the Cincinnati Reds’ player-manager mounted his assault on Ty Cobb‘s all-time hits record.

The most striking example of Dad’s support, though, and the one I return to again and again, is the story relayed below.

Originally a Facebook post, I think it’s appropriate for this forum in this context.

So, if you’ll indulge me, here is the tale of how I landed a 1986 Topps set on a hot and steamy summer night.

Sacrifices

On a night much like tonight more than 30 years ago, I was a chubby little teenager on the brink of high school. I don’t remember much about that day, but I’m sure it was hot and humid, and I’m sure I spent the afternoon frolicking in the side yard or watching soap operas with Mom or luxuriating in piles of baseball cards.

And at the end of the day, when it finally got dark, I came inside and ate some great food, took a bath, and cooled off in the air conditioning. Maybe Mom and I played a game, and we almost surely watched Newhart or Cheers or Star Search.

Sometime late in the night, we heard thumping from the front of the house, and we knew that Dad was home. As always, he had worked 15 or 18 hours that day, or he had been on the road the night before and hadn’t been home at all in almost two full days.1986 Topps Complete Set

That’s the way it was — Dad busting his butt for what seemed like more hours than there were in a week so we could have a good life, Mom and me.

We rushed to see him, and he was dirty, sweaty, and tired, but he lit up when we walked into the room.

“How’s my babies?” he beamed.

I’d like to say I was as sparkly as he was, but I was more likely sullen.

Even so, I remember hugging him, the smells from his truck and the road singeing my nose and imprinting on my brain. How did he do it, day in and day out?

I tried to pull away — he WAS sweaty, after all — but as was his habit, Dad pulled me close and squeezed me hard. He jostled me back and forth until I felt the lump in his shirt.1986 Topps Pete Rose (back)

Daddy had brought me something, just like he had been doing for 14 years. Only this time, the “lump” was huge and jagged, and it hurt when he pressed my soft body against it.

No matter, my surliness disappeared, and I tore at his shirt to get at the box, the same box you see here.

Turns out that Dad ran across this 1986 Topps factory set somewhere along his truck route that day or the day before. He didn’t know if it was any good, he told me, but he figured he should get it for his boy, anyway.

“Was $19 too much to pay?”, he wanted to know.

I could tell that Mom wasn’t thrilled with his impulse buy, but she told me I’d always remember the time my Daddy bought me baseball cards when we couldn’t afford it.

So now, decades later, I have to say — $19 was perfect, Dad, just like the lifetime memory that Mom knew you’d given me.

 

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