Thursday, June 5, 2008

Building Our 1990 Topps Set - Part 1 - The Commons

Tonight is a night that I will never forget. On my deathbed 900 years from now I will remember this night. Yeah, I’m holding out that science will figure out a way to keep me around that long. My 4 ½ year old son and I spent our first night sorting baseball cards together!

I've alluded to this post so many times in the past. I knew that the day would come very soon when Connor and I would sit down in the floor with a box of ratty old Topps cards and sift through them until all of the 1990 Series were pulled. Never once was I worried about bending the edges. Most of them were bent by my own 10 year old hands a long, long time ago. I wasn’t worried about creasing them, dinging the corners or anything that today’s collectors would consider baseball card blasphemy. We were only concerned with finding the right set’s cards.

First we took our Topps box and stacked everything in the floor. I pulled a few 1990 Topps and explained to him how to tell them apart from other sets. He had some trouble with the checklists, but after 2 or 3 stacks, he was pulling them with ease.

After the 6th or 7th stack, I began to notice his curiosity with certain cards. I watched him out of the corner my eye as he would stop and stare at some of them. He quickly pointed out that the Reds wore the same color jerseys as his t-ball team, the Fireballs. He found numerous cards that made him ask, “Is this one you, Daddy?” I thought it was funny until he asked me about Mel Stottlemyre, Jr. “No son, that’s not me. It’s not even close. Thanks for the vote of confidence in Daddy’s looks, son…”

I laughed when he pointed out that one guy looked like Mario from his Wii games. When I looked at it, I saw that it was, in fact, Mario. Mario Diaz. Oddly enough, the next card was Bo Diaz. He sat and listened intently as I told him how Bo was killed when I was just a little boy. Every question was “Why?” With four year olds, this is their favorite question. When he finally asked “How?” I really didn’t know how to say that a satellite dish fell on him. Instead, I went with electricity. That’s easier to explain away.

We made two new stacks out of the pulled cards. ‘90 Topps in one and everything else in the other. I noticed that he was making a third stack off to the side. This one he called his “super special stack.” I picked it up and glanced through it. He really liked old Stadium Club sets.

And then we came across Steve Olin. I began to explain once again how a young baseball player died in an accident. Death is not a subject that my son truly understands yet. Thanks to these two baseball cards and the lives of these long forgotten players I can help him to understand.

As the night wore on, Connor began to lose interest, as I expected. He got up and swung his play sword, jumping and flipping and babbling on about Ben 10. I sorted as quickly as I could through the “boring” sets to dwindle down the stack. I came across a bunch of old Stadium Club, Gold Label, and Stars that I didn’t realize were in there. I called him back to help me and gave him the stack of shiny cards I had found.

That’s when he found it. THE CARD.

I told him the name of the set, and he was off. He yelled, “Whoa! Mama, look at this one! It’s a ‘Top Laser!’” as he jumped up from the floor and ran to show Lori. “Yeah, Baby, that’s a pretty one!” she exclaimed. Throughout the remaining stacks he found a few more “Top Lasers,” each time repeating the process. These were the cards he wanted to keep for his own. I was happy to oblige.

We finished our first box around 9:30 and had one other box to sort. I knew that there would be little to no ’90’s stuff there, but we looked anyway. I was paying little attention to him, rifling through the cards quickly so that we could finish before Mama said “Bedtime.” I would hand him his stack, and then I would take one much larger. After his third stack I realized what was taking him so long.

This is the best part. This is what made me realize that my kid is cut from the same mold of Redneck as I. Of all of the things he did or said tonight, this is the crowning achievement. This made me realize that Connor is in this for the long haul.

He had three neatly piled stacks of cards. One for ‘87 Topps, one for ‘86 Topps and one for ‘85 Topps. My 4 ½ year old was collating his stacks by set! In over 100 cards, he didn’t make a single mistake! He did, however, have a 4th stack on the other side with everything else. But hey, it’s a start.

Eventually, the night drew to a close. I placed our ‘90 Topps chronologically in our “special” box. I took all of the other boxes back to the office knowing that this wouldn’t be our last trip into them. At some point, we’ll make two 1987 Topps sets, two 1984 Topps sets, all the way back to 1979 and all the way up to 2003. Two sets of each for every year between my birth and his.

I didn’t know what to expect from this venture. I was terrified that he would get bored and burnt out, never wanting to do this again. I think that tonight was a step in the right direction. I didn’t “make” him do anything he didn’t want to do. I didn’t force the hobby on him. I did exactly what I said I would in my essay.

I introduced him to baseball cards and let the magic of the hobby do the rest. I’m proud to say that it worked.

This is the first of, what I hope to be, a long series of “Father and Son” posts on Treasure Never Buried. I’m creating a new category that you can access on the right hand side of the site, if in the future, you want to read this series in order.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed experiencing it.


Gellman said...

June 5, 2008 at 4:35 pm e

Ha, I will too have this day with my son - if and when I have one. If I have a daughter, well, she better like baseball cards!

Dave said...

June 5, 2008 at 8:26 pm e

Sounds like a great night for you and your son! I don’t have any kids yet, but I really hope that I have a son to share moments like this.

I remember that when I first got into collecting cards, my dad had sold his entire collection of cards from the late 50s and early 60s for a down payment on a car. At least, he thought it was his entire collection at the time, until he discovered that my grandfather had saved the cards of the superstar players in a box in his basement. The joy that I had in going through those cards with my dad years later is too much to post about here; I’ll save it for a post on my future blog…

Mario A. said...

June 6, 2008 at 11:27 am e

Wow, love the story and the scans of the Topps Lazer, one of the most underrated sets of all-time!

Eli said...

June 6, 2008 at 2:25 pm e

That is a great post. I’ve got 4 kids who gather around when I start to sort and ask for cards from this team or that player. Or because it is really shiny. Thanks for sharing something special and not the normal rants that seem to pop up in some blogs lately.

jv said...

June 6, 2008 at 2:35 pm e

Gellman, my take on it is a little different. If you have a daughter just TRADE her for a son…haha. Or, if you can’t find a willing trader, then just trade her for more baseball cards. Either way you win… Daughter’s are overrated.

(This is a joke. Please don’t take the above statement serious. My name is Jason Voyles and I approve of this message)

Dave said...

June 9, 2008 at 4:14 pm e

I never knew about the 1996 Topps Laser set until reading this post. They look like great cards and I just bought the whole set (128 cards) for only $16.25 (including shipping) on eBay. I can’t wait til they arrive!

Joey said...

June 14, 2008 at 3:45 pm e

Great Post! I have two daughters neither of which collect cards but they respect that I do and have gotten excited a time or two when I found something really great. My oldest has a handful of Dallas Stars cards, she is a Turco fan.

I wish you and your son a long hobby experience together.