Collecting baseball (card) memories

A few weeks ago, as my parents were cleaning out their basement in anticipation of their upcoming move, they reminded me my baseball cards were packed away in a box down in the storage room of their house.

One of my Dad's first questions was, "Do you want them?"

Absolutely. In reality, I think my Dad knew the answer to his question even before I had a chance to answer.

These baseball cards are a trip back in time for me. Boyhood treasures from my youth.

Growing up in the 1970s , baseball was life.

Long before ESPN existed, or the Internet gave us immediate access to what was going on at ball parks around the country, we relied on slower ways to get our baseball fix.

Thirty-five years ago, when I was just a freckled-faced, red-headed kid, we actually read the newspaper to get the score of the game, usually around the breakfast table as we consumed our sugar-coated cereal. If we were lucky, local television might show one or two games a week.

Fortunately, I had a Dad who loved baseball as much as me, and our home away from home became the ball park -- first Busch Stadium in St. Louis, then after a transfer to Philadelphia, Veterans' Stadium. Both places have been torn down, replaced by more modern structures, but they will live on in my memory forever.

If I close my eyes, I can still picture sitting in the stands. The sights and sounds and even the smells at these historic baseball fields are unique to themselves.

A transistor radio sat on my nightstand and was my link to the outside baseball world. Very often I went to sleep listening to the golden tones of those great radio announcers. First, Jack Buck and his side kick Mike Shannon in St. Louis. Then, Harry Kalas who spent years calling games for the Phillies.

Listening to these guys was just as exciting as a Lou Brock stolen base, a Bob Gibson high-and-tight fastball, a Mike Schmidt home run or a Steve Carlton strikeout.

Then there were the baseball cards. I had thousands of them, because after all, you weren't a true baseball fan unless you collected them.

For a dime, you could get 10 cards with a stale piece of bubble gum. Eventually, the Topps company realized the gum was staining the cards and they took it out.

Those of us in my neighborhood became as shrewd as a Wall Street stockbroker when it came to making baseball card trades. The better the player, the more cards we wanted in exchange.

Often times our negotiations seemed to go on and on before reaching an agreement or we left the deal on the table all together. Sometimes you would ask for four or more other cards in order to give up one superstar, even if you had more than one in your collection.

Some kids destroyed their cards by sticking them in the spokes of their bike tires. It made a unique sound, but also ruined the cards. Not me. My baseball cards were valuable, if not monetarily, as important keepsakes.

Recently, as I went through my collection, there they were: Hank Aaron, Pete Rose and Steve Garvey. Superstars from my era. I often wonder what I was doing or where I was when they became part of my collection so many years ago.

Then there were hundreds of guys who played, but barely enjoyed a cup of coffee in the Majors. Cards of guys I can't remember. But, hey, at least they were in the show and have a baseball card to prove it.

One of these days I will give the cards to my nephew, Justin. Maybe they will mean something to him. Maybe they won't. But at least I can tell him about some of the great players from my era.

After all, I will keep those boyhood baseball memories with me until the day I die, and those baseball cards will help me hold on to a piece of my childhood, when baseball was pure and part of every young boy's life, especially mine.

Doug Gorman is sports editor of the Daily. He can be reached at dgorman@news-daily.com