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Mentally Undressing Four Packs of Cards

Say, you look familiar. [1]

Say, you look familiar.

These March days, when spring somehow infiltrates the air, my instinct is to head to the nearest candy store, stationery store or luncheonette and pick up a pack of cards. More than a pack really. That instinct was finely honed in my childhood when every candy store, stationery store and luncheonette sold packs of cards.

Sadly, they don’t seem to have as many of those outlets anymore, at least not in my immediate vicinity. So I will have to cater to my mood by going back to some random March day in 1975, when I was 12, and buying baseball cards was as easy as strolling to the Cozy Nook or Belle’s or the Laurel or Echo or the Colony or anywhere in my Long Beach midst and putting down my spare change.

Each pack contained 10 cards and a stick of disgusting bubble gum for 15 cents. I’m not sure there wasn’t a markup. I doubt I comparison-shopped. I also know I rarely if ever stopped at one. Four packs was my chosen quantity if I could swing it on a four-dollar weekly allowance. It was a good, indulgent amount. Three wouldn’t have been enough. Five would’ve been too many.

OK, so I’ve gone back four decades with my sixty or so cents and purchased my four packs from the Cozy Nook (same block as Belle’s, but they’re nicer). I shall now open them up and see what I got.

PACK ONE

Craig Kusick. Again?

Bart Johnson. Again.

Jim Wohlford. Not again.

Vada Pinson. Hey, he used to be pretty good.

ERA leaders. Leader cards are less exciting than they should be. They have great players on them but they’re not really the cards of great players — y’know? This one has Catfish Hunter before he became a free agent and Buzz Capra after he stopped being a Met. Man, can you believe Buzz Capra led the N.L. in ERA? Nice job, Bob Scheffing.

Diego Segui. I’m pretty sure I’ve been getting Diego Segui every year since 1970.

Rudy May. A Yankee. Yippee.

Lynn McGlothen. I always pronounce it McGlothlen. I guess I’m wrong.

Steve Braun. I sure get a lot of American Leaguers.

Bob Bailey. This could’ve been a better pack.

PACK TWO

Joe Morgan. Now we’re talking! All-Star! It says so right there in the bottom right corner.

Don Hahn. A Met! Well, not a Met anymore, since he was traded to the Phillies with Tug, but the card says he’s a Met. I’ll take it.

Bart Johnson. Of course.

1958 MVPs. I love these MVP cards. I’m getting to where I must have most of these. Ernie Banks…I always wanted an Ernie Banks. Didn’t get one until last summer when I got hit in the head by the rudder on the sailboat at Treasure Island Day Camp, which put me out of commission, and my counselor Irwin felt bad for me and visited me at home and brought me a box full of his old baseball cards, all of them from 1967 to 1969, all of them either Mets or stars. Nolan Ryan and Jerry Koosman’s rookie card was in there. Willie Mays was in there, though he was a Giant back then. Mickey Mantle…Whitey Ford…a really young Bud Harrelson…and Ernie Banks. I didn’t know he won the MVP twice. I’m learning a lot from these cards. For example, I just learned who Jackie Jensen, 1958 American League MVP was.

Craig Kusick. I will never not get Craig Kusick, will I?

Jim Spencer. Texas Rangers, all right! The Rangers are my favorite American League team. They came from nowhere to win 84 games last year. They’re gonna overtake the A’s this year. Billy Martin turned around the Twins, then the Tigers, now the Rangers. What a great manager.

Steve Yeager. I guess that’s good.

Jim Barr. I’ll be flipping this one.

Rusty Staub. ALL RIGHT!!!

Fritz Peterson. Ex-Yankee. Ex-yippee.

PACK THREE

Padres team card. I guess they didn’t move to Washington after all.

Dave Chalk. I read about this guy in Baseball Digest. He’s supposed to be good.

Jim Wohlford. There may have been an energy crisis in this country, but there is no shortage of Jim Wohlford baseball cards.

Jim Lonborg. When we went to Philadelphia last year, I wondered if I had brought all my Phillies cards with me if I could’ve traded them to the local kids for all their Mets cards. I should try that sometime. Or do the kids in Philadelphia already have all the Jim Lonborgs they can use?

Rich Folkers. Ex-Met. I like looking at the back and staring at that line in his statistics.

Bart Johnson. Bart doesn’t really exist, except in most every pack I ever get.

Bill Bohnam. Since Ernie Banks retired, every guy on the Cubs is Bill Bonham. Or Paul Popovich.

1970 MVPs. My first year of real collecting. I never got Boog or Bench that summer, but here they are, real tiny on one card. I did get their Sporting News All-Star cards in ’70, but those don’t count.

Boog Powell. How weird is that? He’s a Cleveland Indian now, too, but an Oriole on here. It must’ve been too late for them to have a card that was that up to date. I guess Kingman is still a Giant on these cards. Seriously, I think that by getting Kingman, the Mets have to be the favorite in the N.L. East. Seaver’s gonna be healthy, Unser and Clines are gonna be an upgrade in center, we got Torre for third and now Kingman. First I thought it would be the Cardinals, then I thought it would be the Phillies. I’m sick of the Pirates winning every year. It’s going to be a four-way battle. I’m picking the Dodgers in the N.L. West, the Rangers in the A.L. West and…I hate to do it, but with Catfish Hunter and Bobby Bonds, probably the Yankees edging out the Orioles in the A.L. East. That has nothing to do with Baltimore trading Boog Powell to Cleveland. And I’d pick the Mets even if I weren’t a Mets fan. I’m surprised most of the magazines are ignoring them. Then again, they, like these cards, came out before the Mets got Kingman.

Frank Duffy. Boog Powell’s new teammate.

PACK FOUR

Brent Strom. I’ll put him over here with Rich Folkers.

Balor Moore. The Expos have the weirdest names.

Tom House. He’s number 525. I wonder why he rates a 5. I thought that was for really good players only.

Bob Locker. I’ve been getting Bob Locker since before I started collecting baseball cards. Seriously, Bob Locker was one of those cards I got from my sister when she gave me her cards, the ’67s and ’68s that she said she bought under peer pressure. It’s weird how her ’68s just peter out after the first series. Topps stopped doing series altogether, which is fine with me. Except I keep getting Jim Wohlford, Bart Johnson and Craig Kusick.

Craig Kusick. If it weren’t for baseball cards, I’d have no idea who Craig Kusick is. Actually, I still have no idea who Craig Kusick is. But I sure do have a lot of him.

Clay Kirby. He’s a Red now? Not a Padre anymore? When did that happen? He was a Red all of last year? I must not’ve been paying attention.

Claudell Washington. World Champion A — excellent!

Ron Cey. All-Star! Not as good as Schmidt, but still.

Roric Harrison. I’ve never met a Roric in real life.

Jim Wohlford. Uh-huh.

Well, that’s it. Four packs. Two Mets. The gum isn’t so bad if you just bite down on it real hard.

No, I take that back. This is terrible.

Let me look at my Ron Cey again.