We all get funny ideas sometimes, and we find heavy influence in things we ought not to let affect us so much.
No one is immune to those ravages, but some of us are more susceptible and impressionable than others.
Like children, for instance.
And baseball fans.
Both groups are often searching for information about things they don’t yet know well, and both are often looking for sunny forecasts. Tell them (us) what they (we) want to hear, and you probably have a receptive ear.
And when you have young baseball fans, the effects can be compounded. That reality played out on a personal level for me in the summer of 1983, just as my friends and I were starting to get into baseball cards.
One day, one of those guys and I arranged a “play date” — we lived in the country, so getting back and forth between each other’s houses was sometimes an ordeal, and required planning. After a few hours running around in his yard, looking for and finding plenty of adventures, his mom called us in for lunch.
While we downed our bologna sandwiches, potato chips, and grape pop, the afternoon rains set in. Soon thereafter, so did the sleepiness, and we decided it would be much more fun to find something to do inside for the afternoon.
Luckily, he had accumulated a few baseball cards that spring, and so had I — and I just so happened to have brought some along with me. (Truth be told, we were all always looking for an opportunity for a pop-up trading session).
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I probably had a couple hundred cards in a small box I lugged along that day, and I’m guessing he had maybe 500-600 in his collection. Our options were limited, in other words, but we didn’t really know that at the time. We were too busy devouring every glimpse of a “new” card or unknown player, and every morsel of information on card backs.
By that point, I had already spent many hours reading through all my card backs, inadvertently memorizing stats and facts. I knew my buddy had done much the same because, in an earlier get-together, he had recited some glowing bit of Topps text about Barry Foote that I had only recently come across myself. My friend made out like it was his own original thought, and I let him have it — but I knew the truth.
On this day, my trade partner was looking through my box of cards to see if there was anything of interest to him when his eyes went wide and his body tensed. I knew he’d found some cardboard gold.
“Not much here,” he said, poker face stiff and flushed. “I might be able to give you something for this Dave Laroche … I guess.”
He pushed the card forward just a smidge from the rest of the stack, and I could see it was a 1983 Topps Super Veteran card. I had opened enough packs that spring to know that the Super Veterans included guys I knew pretty well, like Pete Rose, Reggie Jackson, and Steve Carlton, but also a few players who were mysterious to me as recently as January of that year– Kent Tekulve, Jim Kaat, Ted Simmons.
And Dave LaRoche.
I still didn’t know much about LaRoche as the days grew hot, but I did know — thanks to that Topps card — that he had been around since 1970, which was basically forever. And, from the card back, I knew he was 10th on the all-time saves list, with 125. And that he had some All-Star and postseason credentials to his name.
Oh, and he sort of looked like my friend.
LaRoche, then, was a star. At least in our eyes. No wonder my bud wanted that card!
But that was just fine with me, because I had spied the perfect return as I thumbed through my friend’s cards — a 1983 Donruss Storm Davis.
I didn’t know it was Davis’ rookie card, and I only vaguely knew what a rookie card was, anyway.
I didn’t know Davis was a pretty good prospect for a good Baltimore Orioles team.
Nope, what I knew was that he looked like a real ballplayer on the front of that card … and that his name was, “Storm.”
That was plenty, and the deal was swung.
Looking back, neither one of us really got the better end of that trade, but both of us won because we got to spend time with new cardboard, we got to learn about new (to us) players, and we were able to strengthen out friendship.
What more could you ask from a rainy summer afternoon?
(This look at “a card I traded away” checks in at Day 43 in my 2019 Spring Training Baseball Card Challenge.)
Check out the entire series of 2019 Spring Training Challenge posts here.