Baseball Cards and the Tales They Tell

Every single baseball card tells a story.

Whether it’s the font on the front of the card itself, the uniform the player is wearing in it, how tight or loose-fitting that uniform may be, the logo on it, or, of course, the stats on the back.

Whether you share a birthday (Sid Fernandez), or a bats/throws combination (mine was Wade Boggs; bat lefty, throw righty), or even a hometown (Billy Koch) with a player, there’s always a little gem to be discovered.

Italics, of course, means that player led the league in that specific category. Anyone remember the back of Tony Gwynn’s or Rod Carew’s cards? Crooked numbers galore.

How about the Ken Griffey, Jr. rookie card, with that wide, shining smile and those funky, late-80s Seattle Mariners uniforms.

Again, every single card tells its own little tale. And they’re all great.

On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy touched down upon the South Shore of Long Island and there were few along that coastline that were spared from her wrath.

We were one of those homes that you saw on the news. We were those folks taking handouts from complete strangers who simply wanted to help. We were the ones staying in a dark, cold house to fend off looters for a week after the storm.

It was us who walked around the blocks of our neighborhood in tears the morning after the water subsided, surveying the damage and realizing that, no matter what, someone’s always got it worse than you.

The main floor in the house we were living in was raised to nine feet above sea-level after Hurricane Gloria in 1985, with the basement sitting half in-ground and half out-ground.

The year before Sandy, we took on four feet of water in the basement during Hurricane Irene, which we were prepared for. That was the most water we’d ever taken on in a storm or high tide since 2004, when we moved in.

When Sandy was bearing down on us, we figured that Irene was the high-water mark and, as long as we kept everything above that line, we would be OK.

At around 11 AM, the morning of the storm, Hurricane Sandy was “upgraded” to Superstorm Sandy. We moved the few items that were close to that line up a bit and braced for impact.

We were evacuated by 3PM and we simply hoped for the best, but truly felt that we would be in good shape come morning.

We were wrong. Our basement filled up like a bucket and the water crept right up to the top step leading into our main floor before finally adhering.

Like I said, it could always be worse.

When we arrived back in the morning to National Guard trucks at every corner, we assumed the worst. Luckily, they were just keeping things safe.

When we walked up to the house, we could see the mark the resting tide had left, nearly a foot over the top of our basement, and instantly knew what the score was.

We opened the side door and water flowed out of the house with such force that it knocked me off my feet, revealing the damage.

Everything in our basement was underwater for hours. From the ceiling to the murky and not-yet-visible floor, it was just one, musty, soggy, mess.

Emptying the contents of our house into a 30-yard dumpster the next day will remain one of the sequences that are tattooed behind my eyes forever.

My mother, sobbing, as we brought out her crates of photographs, all of them, is probably the single saddest moment of my life.

Three of the crates that we had lined on the top shelves down there contained the lion’s share of my baseball cards.

Naturally, as I opened box-set after box-set to realize that absolutely nothing was salvageable, I was upset.

But then I looked at my mother, doing the same thing I was, but with her personal, cherished memories, not just baseball cards, and realized that someone always has it worse.

Over the last two years or so, my youngest daughter, now 8, has begun to enjoy baseball and take an interest in my interests.

I still have a few three-ring binders of various sports cards left (1995 Topps basketball is a personal favorite set), and we’ve been going through them from time-to-time.

Slowly but surely, we are adding to our collection. A pack or two here. A 1989 Topps set there. You know, the usual.

Just yesterday, a package came in the mail from a friend who was kind enough to send some cards over.

This morning I called her over to the kitchen table and we started going through them, and each one told its own story.

One of those cards was David Wright, so of course, like a bedtime story but at 9 AM, I told his tale of courage and guile.

Then there was a Zack Wheeler card, which brought upon a lesson of perseverance and dedication to one’s craft, even in the face of adversity.

Another one was Matt Harvey, but she’s a little too young to have that conversation, so I stuck to passing along the advice to always stay focused on your goals.

Again, every card tells a story.

Even though my childhood collection of cards is gone, the stories that I’ve mesmerized after years of poring over them as a kid will always be there, God willing.

Now that Lily and I have begun this journey again, over time, we plan to accumulate a collection of tales that would make Aesop or Mother Goose jealous.

minding my p's and q's

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store