February 24, 2006

Pax Baseball Cardannia

I remember the first time I kissed a girl. I was in high school and I liked the girl a lot. I ended up going out with her for over a year and I remember I got really emotional and threw up all over the back of her car (in the street outside my house) the night she broke up with me. I remember the day I graduated college and how all my friends came from around the country to the ceremony and my grandparents and whole family were there. It’s one of the days I will always cherish. I remember the way I felt after the Red Sox won the World Series, how the series with the Yankees had nearly given me an ulcer—I was wrapped up in it so much. But these memories pale in comparison with the utter joy and bliss that came with finding this Pete Incaviglia card in a pack of 1987 Topps when I was 8 years old.

I’m not making this up. And while to many that revelation may be both a) hard to imagine, and b) kind of fucked up that it would out-rank much more important, once-in-a-lifetime events, I don’t think I’m alone. I think that for collectors, there are the cards you get in packs during the day and then there are cards you get in the packs in your dreams at night. And you know what the craziest thing about coming to terms with this is? I’m still kind of excited by it, my heartbeat’s getting a little faster, the sides of my lips are curling into a smile. And more than just part of me thinks that the next time I’m at Foxwoods (or more likely, Ho-Chunk in Wisconsin or Turning Stone in Utica, New York), I might just have to place a bet on Inky coming out of retirement and having another tremendous season like he did for the Rangers in ’86.

This idea brings up something that I’ve been thinking about for a while: why did a certain card, like Todd Zeile’s 1990 Donruss rookie, and not others, like Steve Searcy’s 1989 Donruss rookie, get me pumped? I mean, what was it that I really thought I was going to get out of having Zeile’s card that I would never get out of owning Searcy’s (besides the fact that Searcy was never ever going to be good, if simply because he was on the Detroit Tigers in the late 1980s, and that Zeile had a cool name, was pretty good at the time but was never going to be great, and that Donruss had finally made a great looking card after phoning it in since 1987 (if only for one year, since their 1991 offering was basically a rehash of 1986 and 1992 provided an alternative to newspaper for bird cage lining). And what was up with the 1990 design, anyway? I remember the first time I opened a pack of those. My friend and I were stunned, absolutely floored by the red, the ├╝ber-cool cursive writing and the fact that it was by far and away the best-designed card front of the year (not including Upper Deck, because coming off 1989’s set, I didn’t know anybody who could afford packs of Upper Deck, except for the creepy guys who would hang out at the baseball card store in my neighborhood, always there, just standing around with sweaty armpit stains and pot bellies, motorcycle-bridged glasses and sloppy facial hair, always leaning on the glass of the cases (wait a minute…what have I become!?!) and hogging the controls of the motorized case originally intended for high-end jewelry, not Von Hayes and Darryl Strawberry rookies and that old Billy Martin card of him giving the photographer the finger)?

I think it was probably because magazines and talk radio talked about how great Zeile was supposed to be, and I was lucky enough to find in it a pack. And therefore, logically, I was going to become a millionaire thanks to owning it (I think that Beckett had it somewhere around $5.00 when I pulled it).

And upon attaining my guaranteed riches, as a token of appreciation I’d throw a housewarming soiree at my new mansion for myself and invite all the players whose cards I’d sold that had made me a millionaire. The VIP guestlist would definitely include Bo Jackson, Cecil Fielder, Vince Coleman, Bret Saberhagen and Oddibe McDowell (who’d for some reason be sporting a monocle)…not to mention Todd Zeile, the man of the hour. We’d all wear jackets and ties to dinner and afterwards retire to the drawing room and smoke pipes and talk about the state of the railroads and how finding a good indentured servant is so hard these days. Then Cecil would butt in and make Bo Jackson tell everyone the story of how he got his hip replaced with a piece of corrugated iron and how he can’t go through a metal detector at the airport, and when he finally gives in, he reveals that his metal hip is, in fact, how he learned to love the salty air of the open sea and that he now owns a ship building business in Mystic, Connecticut, and is secretly, on the side, building a private fleet of tall ships that will someday, if his plans come to fruition, creep down the river Thames in London and take England while she’s sleeping, claiming it in the name of Auburn University so that he and Charles Barkley can rule…forever more. I think I would probably also invite Mike Greenwell, but I wouldn’t give him a VIP pass.


Fantastic Card of the Day

I’ve finally figured out who Kiko Garcia looks like in his immortal 1979 Topps card. Actually, I’ve narrowed it down to two possibilities. He is either Terry Jones from Monty Python, or he’s from the 17th century and accidentally stumbled upon a time machine that dumped him at Orioles spring training in 1978. Earl Weaver found him in the outfield–wearing a smock and leggings–and told him he’d make a good shortstop, when really all he was good at was playing a woman in a Shakespearean play.

9 comments:

TOLAXOR said...

THAT WAS ONE OF MY FAVORITE CARDS OF ALL TIME...

THAT AND TUCKER ASHFORD OF THE SAME YEAR...

Poop Poopson said...

I still remember, one day in the summer of 1991, digging through all my 1986 Topps commons trying to find Cecil Fielder rookies. I found 4 or 5.

EM said...

Does Kiko Garcia look like John Travolta in that picture to anyone else?

Ben Henry said...

While writing about Kiko, I forgot that he may have been separated at birth from Viv Savage, keyboardist extraordinaire from Spinal Tap.

rockchalk said...

great blog. you need to do a post about the incredible joy created from looking through commons to check for rookies when someone bursts into stardom and suddenly becomes valuable. my first time was in '87 when eric davis blew up. the frantic search through my cards was exhilarating.

JB said...

my favorite cards were, and will always be, the '87 Donruss cards. Beautifully black borders on the front, yellow backs. Too bad most of these cards were rendered pretty much worthless by the unholy holographic trinity: Upper Deck et al. - not to mention that most of the superstars of the 80s fizzled out on drugs or sliders in the dirt, or whatever.

Where have you gone, Chris Sabo?

Anonymous said...

Ben:
If you'd like to relive (or attempt to) the Inky moment, I have a box of unopened 87 Topps...

TeeNutts said...

Kiko looks to me like Charlie Sheen with gorgeous, flowing locks.

Lou Pickney said...

I have a strange nostalga for the Topps "golden pot" rookie, as my brother and I used to call that little rookie distinction as kids. I got into card collecting in 1986 -- not exactly a banner year for the business -- but I've always been partial to those '87 Topps, especially because of the throwback factor from that Topps set from the 1960s.