Have you ever stopped to think about how memories work? Of course, as I get older, the memories get fuzzier and harder to recount. But there are some that remain vivid and when I stop and focus on them, I can almost place myself in the exact moment in time. I think about this a lot because I have a 10 year old daughter that is starting to really enjoy a lot of new things. She reminds me so much of me as a kid. She loves watching those teen Nickelodeon shows, making slime, playing video games on her iPad and even collecting sports cards. I was wondering just the other day how much from this age she would actually remember and it immediately took me back to my youth and what I remember. She may not be able to retain it all but I certainly hope she remembers the role I played in trying to create them with her.
When we went to Disney in April, she rode Space Mountain for the first time and as we stood in the line, I could totally remember the feeling of wonderment I had going through that futuristic environment to ride an indoor roller coaster at 10. When these moments arise, I always make sure she understands what’s going on around her. I point things out, I ask her what she thinks and I get her to recount the event to her mom or sister so she’ll take it all in and let it soak in. In today’s fast paced world, it is hard to stop and focus on something that is really meaningful; we have phones in our face, Twitter spilling news everywhere and fidget spinners taking the world by storm. We are constantly chasing the next exciting thing. That’s sort of how modern day collecting has become.
Collecting sports cards doesn’t have to be that way. I can sit down with a stack of cards and show my daughter various memorable players and share memories of my youth with her. The cards are more to me than a value in Beckett or a dollar sign on eBay. Do they have those meanings as well sometimes? Sure, but it’s not why I do it now. It’s why I did it in 1989 but I’ve evolved over the years into more of a collector than a cardboard entrepreneur. Cards don’t just take me back to a specific player or baseball moment. These old collectibles take me back to the year they are from and I remember the world around me at the time and what I had going on in my life. Let me see if I can explain a little better with a few cards.
1987This time period was just before I started collecting but I have since gone back and bought tons and tons of ’87 cards for my collection. Topps that year remains one of the most iconic designs in sports cards and I had more woodgrain in my collection than Ford did in the station wagon. But when I look through these cards, it doesn’t take me back to actual sports cards memories. At age 10, I was totally engulfed in baseball. I was cutting my teeth in little league baseball at Centennial Stadium and watching it as much as possible. I remember Jason Lee having the hardest fastball and always being thankful that my Uncle Speedy drafted him to be on our team. I remember always wanting to hit a homerun into the O’San parking lot but never being able to. I remember playing wiffle ball with the neighbors and watching my uncle Greg play with the big boys.
I also watched a lot of baseball on TV. In 1987, I was blessed with two TV stations that played baseball every day. We didn’t have MLB Season Pass “back in my day”; we had 2 channels. One station was TBS, the home of the Atlanta Braves, America’s Team and my local guys. We would watch Dale Murphy, Ken Oberkfell, Bob Horner and Gerald Perry every night even though they weren’t very good. Skip Carey, Pete Van Wieren and Ernie Johnson were soothing to the ears and made me long for the baseball field. The other station was WGN out of Chicago. The great thing about Cubs baseball in 1987 was that most every game was played in the afternoon because Wrigley field didn’t have lights until late summer 1988. I would get home from school around 3:30 and a Cubs game would be on and I would get to here Harry Carey and Steve Stone call the game. The Cubs weren’t very good in ’87 either. The Braves finished 20.5 games out of first and the Cubbies were 18.5 games out. But at the age of 10, watching baseball was more important than watching the standings. And the Cubs had Ryno, Andre Dawson and Shawon Dunston who were all fun to watch!
1988Believe it or not, the first thing I think of when I see 1988 baseball cards is pro wrestling. That aforementioned TV station, TBS, had a show on Saturday nights called WCW Saturday Night! I can’t get into today’s wrestling because it is so overproduced and the storylines are all so outlandish. The storylines were probably the same in 1988 but I was 11 so I thought they were legit. Also, WCW “rasslin” was way different than today’s WWE wrestling. These guys got nasty in the ring and they would bleed and poke eyeballs and kick below the belt. It was more about what happened inside the ring as opposed to the lead up and fall out after what happened in the ring. And there is also no better ringside announcer for me than Tony Schiavone!
The wrestlers were so much better back then as well. We had names like Dusty Rhodes, Ric Flair, Lex Luger, Arn and Ollie Anderson, Barry Windham, The Road Warriors and The Midnight Express. There were hateable managers like Jim Cornett and Paul E. Dangerously. There were vixens like Miss Elizabeth, Madusa, Missy Hyatt and Georgous George. A new face had joined WCW with Sting and he is an all-time favorite, along with The Nature Boy. So yeah, it may be odd but 1988 Score takes me back to Jim Cornette and his tennis racket and wanting Hawk and Animal to demolish the Midnight Express. I didn’t realize until a recent Beckett podcast that Cornette is doing his own podcast now. He was such a heel but is such a legend at the same time!
1989I have a lot of baseball card memories from 1989 but I also have other memories that are tied to when I started collecting. One person I always think of when I am looking through my original ’89 Donruss and Bowman is my late friend, Josh Haire. Josh and I became friends in Middle School and were best friends until late in high school when we had a falling out that I regrettably was never able to reconcile before he passed away far too soon. But back in 1989, we were two peas in a pod. We would spend the night at each other’s house on the weekend and watch movies, trade baseball cards and fish at his pond. He had a ton of Bowman and I had a ton of Donruss so we would trade with each other to try and help build the sets.
There are some very vivid memories I have of my time with Josh and I will always hold on to them. It was at his house on a scary Friday night that we played “Bloody Mary” for the first time. His step dad was the “Voice of the Eagles”; our high school football team that won state in ’89 so we were at all the games and got to sit in the radio booth for many of them. I learned how to play records at the radio station he DJ’d at on Saturdays. I watched “The Lost Boys” behind my parents back at Josh’s in the attic bedroom he had. I wasn’t supposed to watch horror movies at 12 but we watched that one! He had a couple of Doberman’s that were as gentle as could be but still made me very nervous when I was alone with them. Josh was a great friend during childhood and I will always remember the good times we spent together. I also look back on the days we were immature and not so good friends to each other with regret and remorse. But when I look at cards from ’89, it’s only good memories.
1990I was introduced to the second best video game ever in 1990, RBI Baseball 3. It is close to Tecmo Super Bowl but nothing can ever top that sports classic. I got my start in 1986 with RBI 1 at my Uncle Speedy’s house. Unc was a great ball player and was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals but his quest to make it to the majors was derailed by Vietnam. He even knew a couple of the players on RBI 1. Our area baseball all-star teams were loaded in the mid 60’s from my understanding as my dad and Uncle Speedy both played on teams with Ray Knight and Harry Spielman. And to hear the legend, my Uncle Speedy was the best player out of all of them. He was a SS and I do remember seeing him play softball in his 30’s and he was as smooth as Ozzie Smith. Who knows, the Cards may have never traded for Ozzie if Unc had stayed on the baseball path. History as we know it could have been altered!
By 1990, we had moved on from kid games and RBI 3 was what you would routinely find us playing. It had all of the major league teams at the time and even included the division champs from ’83-’89. I liked playing with the ’87 Tigers and taking out the Twins but that was more for personal reasons. My favorite two teams on the game were the ’89 A’s and the ’90 Reds. I loved Eric Davis and Barry Larkin. But I also loved Chris Sabo or “Beebo” as we called him for some strange reason. We would even keep season long stats in a notebook and I drove one of my friends crazy because I would steal bases with Beebo. He would famously remark one day, “I’ll outrun Beebo backwards!” I remember that because we would record ourselves on cassette tape while playing the games and then go back and listen to the radio gold. To this day, I strongly feel that Chris Sabo is one of the most underrated baseball players in major league history.
1991I was on my way to being a trading ace by 1991 and was moving all of my non-favorites for Frank Thomas and Robin Ventura and Ken Griffey Jr. I was only 2 years away from pulling off the awesome (at the time) move of those Igor ’92 Bowman rookies for the Griffey Jr. forgery discussed Here. But any reminder from 1991 takes me back to the Buffalo Bills. I know what you’re thinking – Why does a South Ga 14 year old care about the Buffalo Bills? Three words – Tecmo Super Bowl. When this game came out, I latched on to the Bills and have really been a closet fan ever since. I suffered through 4 Super Bowl loses as much as anybody could outside of the state of New York. I loved Thurman Thomas, Jim Kelley, Andre Reed, Nate Odomes, Cornelius Bennett, Bruce Smith, Don Beebe, Daryl Talley and Steve Tasker.
I went to a post-church youth Super Bowl party every year being the guy that was pulling hard for the Bills. Every one of those parties ended in disappointment. The one I especially remember was the loss to the Cowboys because there were a ton of Cowboys fans at this shindig. Buff was never able to get over the hump but I was consumed with Bills football in 1991. Remember, the Falcons were not very good at the time. I pulled for them as my home team but aside from Deion, Tuggle and Rison, there wasn’t much happening by means of stardom. My heart was broken earlier this year when the Falcons lost in the SB but it really took me back to how I felt each time the Bills lost in the early 90’s. I know that’s probably crazy to some of you but I can tell you that I will be cheering for Buffalo when they make it back to a Super Bowl, unless they are playing my Falcons.
You see, there are other reasons for me to continue to collect that outweigh trying to get rich. Besides, I tried that with Gregg Jefferies, Eric Anthony and Kevin Maas and it didn’t pan out. So when you see me post a review of 1988 Score, don’t think that I’ve lost my mind or that I’m trapped in the junk wax era. Sometimes, I just want to take a trip down memory lane. For me, the best (and most fun) way to do that is to go through old sports cards. The images conjure up the old days for me. They take me out of the here and now and sit me down in my old bedroom with the Jordan poster and the nerf hoop and the Nintendo. My stress melts away, if only for a short time. They are a time machine and I will cherish the junk wax as much as National Treasures for the rest of my days for these very reasons. I hope that Bailey has something that she can use as a memory inducer when she’s 40 and I’m long gone. Maybe it will be the cards. She asks me regularly who is going to get my cards when I’m old and the answer is always, “You, Bailey.”