(This is Day 17 of my 2019 Spring Training Baseball Card Challenge, wherein I recall a card I traded for.)
You ever notice how, no matter what you were doing as a kid, there was always that one kid who had already done everything, already knew everything, and made you feel like a baby even though he was your age or younger?
Yeah, that kid.
Well, when it came to collecting baseball cards in my rural Indiana “town” (really the outer-outer-outskirts of a 50-person village), that kid was a guy a couple of grades behind me but who was really my age.
For the purposes of this story, let’s call him Sally.
Sally was big and loud, but I liked him OK, and he played all the sports. Played them well.
Sally also collected baseball cards and had been at it for a few years when I took up the hobby for real in 1983. He knew everything there was to know about baseball cards, too, thanks to his dad.
See, Sally’s parents were divorced, which was sort of exotic for our community at the time. There were folks who you knew were unhappy, but almost all of them chose to stay unhappy together.
But Sally’s dad lived way over in another state, and I’ve never seen the man, even to this day. I heard plenty about him, though, and especially about his baseball cards.
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Dude had real, live cards from the 1970s and the 1960s, maybe even the 1950s. Sally would get to hold them, touch them, every time he visited his dad, and he would, on occasion, bring a few home to keep.
Now, before long, Sally and I became trade partners, and he’d come to my house once every couple of weeks so we could do our business. For the most part, Sally’s cards looked about like mine, with plenty of current-year stuff, beat up to a level consistent with his being a preteen boy.
Made sense, considering his head start on collecting.
But none of the knockout cards from his dad’s collection ever made it to our trading room floor. “I’ve got those put away safe,” Sally would say.
Well, somewhere along the line, I came into possession of one of those handheld price guides and took it to school with me so all of us involved in recess trading — and there were quite a few by that point — could feel more confident in the deals we were swinging.
The book was a hit, and we were all having a pretty good time.
Then one night Sally called me up to have me look up some card values for him … he had been sorting through some of the cards from his dad and was just, you know, curious about their prices.
Among his goodies were ….
I was drooling, and I could feel my skin turning green (with envy, not because I’d eaten school lunch). But I told him the ridiculous prices I was seeing in front of me … how could Sally be holding these valuable cards?
Still, I was coping pretty well until Sally dropped the big bomb … “1962 Topps Maury Wills.”
I couldn’t find any mention of a 1962 Topps Wills card in my price guide, but I found a 1963 Fleer listing, which booked in double digits even way back then.
“Are you sure it’s a ’62?” I asked.
“Oh, yeah, says so right on the card,” Sally assured me.
Man … if a ’63 Wills was worth so much, think of what a ’62 must be worth!
I told Sally what limited information I had, and we ended the conversation. I don’t remember what he said, but I do know there was smugness in his voice when he said it. And that I retreated to a corner of my room to gnaw my arm off.
Not too long after that, another of my friends came over to my house. We’ll call him Harry.
Harry had been collecting cards for about a year longer than I had, but he wasn’t really feeling it. Since I was into it, though, he agreed to bring over his collection so we could do some trading.
Harry’s cards were pretty rough because they were just toys to him — something to throw around the bedroom floor or to shuffle through while watching baseball or “Hee-Haw.” But as we started to work through our cards, each of us formulating a deal that would work in our favor, some familiar names popped up …
And, yes, Maury Wills.
Harry had all the same cards that Sally had claimed to have, and judging by the nomenclature on the front of the cards, he had somehow acquired them by way of Kmart.
I was dumbfounded.
But I was also determined to land that mythical Maury Willls card.
Now, I’m not positive how it all went down, but I do remember that Harry was quite fond of Barry Foote back in those days. I think it had to do with the praise Topps heaped upon him here …
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So I’m guessing I swapped Barry straight up for Maury.
It took another year or so before I realized that the Wills card was a mock-up created specifically for the 1982 Kmart 25th Anniversary set, but by that point I was hooked … on Maury, on Topps, on the hobby.
And I can thank Harry and Sally — especially Sally — for all of it.
Check out the entire series of 2019 Spring Training Challenge posts here.
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