Jan 12, 2010
The news yesterday about Mark McGwire finally admitting to taking steroids reminded me of a “Hansen OFF Football” entry I made over three years ago, so I figured I’d share it again:
One group that’s been overlooked when people talk about the issues with steroids in Major League Baseball is the poor slobs who’ve been collecting baseball cards for the last 20-30 years, like me.
To give you some background:
I was an avid baseball card collector when I was younger and even collected after I graduated from high school. But when I was 20 years old, I went to a huge card show and brought with me a ton of quality rookie cards that I had in duplicate, looking to do some trading. I came across a Tommy Lasorda rookie card and wanted it for sentimental reasons (I’m a Dodger and huge Lasorda fan). The card was being sold for $175, and I offered the guy a Ricky Henderson (a hot card at the time listed for like $180), Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripken, and Wade Boggs rookie for the Lasorda rookie. My offer totaled over $500 in book value, yet the guy didn’t take the deal. He said he had 90 Hendersons, 80 Ripkens, etc. This guy, apparently, has a huge bag catching them off the assembly line at the Topps factory. I had bought these cards in single packs, like every other kid, and had held on to them for almost half my life, so I was disenchanted to say the least. After that disturbing discovery, my friend convinced me to stand in line for 45 minutes to get Hank Aaron’s autograph. The closer and closer we got to Aaron, the more I could see his cranky and uninterested demeanor, so I dropped out of the line, and almost threw up.
That was over 15 years ago, and I haven’t bought a card since. I have, however, given my son a lot of my top cards as incentive for doing good things. Honor Roll? Here’s a Ripken rookie. Stand up to that bully in the playground? Here, enjoy this Ken Griffey Jr. rookie (I’d have also thrown him some cash if he smacked him one). Help me rake leaves in our old back yard that actually had more leaves than the woods? Let me hand over this Roger Clemens 1985 card, his first ever.
Recently, my son had those cards out and was considering selling them, most likely for some musical equipment. My wife suggested he should save them, potentially for his own son, and I agreed – until I started looking at his collection of “precious” rookie cards: Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Rafael Palmeiro, figuring prominently among them.
I still think baseball is a great game, and my contention has always been that, while boring to watch at times, there is nothing more exciting than a walk-off home run, or any dramatic finish for that matter. When baseball is at the top of its game in the thrills department, it beats all other games, as long as you’re still awake. Hopefully, baseball can be bigger than the hat sizes of these guys and players like them. But my disdain for the four players listed above turned to disgust when I realized that I once cherished these pictures of these skinny athletes with diminutive hat sizes. I hadn’t really thought about it, but seeing those cards for the first time in years, and knowing what we know, really turned my stomach. So thanks a lot, Mark McGwire, for making me want to hold onto that 1984 Olympic card for 20 freaking years, and getting me excited in the late-90s that I had six of them. And thanks, Barry Bonds, for that investment I made in the mid-80s of a couple sets of the “Traded” series your rookie card appeared in, you with your small head.
Those cards used to represent a lot of good things, like the promise of a better day, and baseball history, and a love of the game. Today, those cards are an ugly reminder of how people just let you down far too often.