This blog is about sports cards. I tend to only purchase cheap items so don't come hear expecting to see big money cards. My teams collections are Chicago White Sox and Michigan Wolverines. I also have a bunch of player collections.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The year my life changed forever

I just finished reading a post by AJ over at "the Lost Collector" about a kid excited about the 2012 release of Topps and his father taking him to the store to get them.  Click here for the story.  And it got we wondering if my dad would have collected with me.  Before I continue with this post, I'm going to give you just a quick summary.  My father was diagnosed with cancer around 1979 or so and passed away in the summer of 1981.  I was 8 years old then.  From what I've heard and remember is he was a huge baseball fan and was a diehard Cubs fan.  My mom tells a story about when I got home from the hospital after being born, how he gave me a pencil and started throwing paper wads at me hoping I could hit.  He was big into the strat-o-matic games back then as well.  I don't remember cards ever being around back then so I don't think he collected.  I'm guessing the neighborhood kids got me into it.

My first thought after reading AJ's post was that was awesome that somebody young was into cards that much.  I've said before on this blog that I think when our generation dies off, so will the baseball card collectors.  My second thought was, I wonder if my dad would have taken me to get cards.  Then it slammed into me. 1981.  The year my father died. The 1st year I started collecting.  Now I can't tell you if it was just coincidence or if they are related.  But now I wonder if I didn't go into card collecting full steam after my dad had passed to subconsciously keep him around.  I know growing up, that I invented a dice baseball game just to create stats.  The number rolled corresponded with what happened at that at bat.  And I would keep an actual book and keep all the stats for each player on my team.  Even pitching stats.  My mom used to tell me that I was so my fathers son, because he was that way.  I don't really remember a whole lot about him so I don't know if any of this is true or not.  I might have to investigate.

But what I really started to wonder was, would we had made a father/son duo in the collecting world?  Would he have taken me to all the local card shows and shops?  Would we have gone to games together?  Would we open packs and get excited at what each other's pulled?  I would like to think so, but we'll never know for sure.

What I do know is, those questions I asked above, my mom did those.  She used to take me to the Pierre Moran mall so I could spend my allowance at the coin & card shop.  She'd listen to me ramble on and on about my cards all the while pretending to be interested (like my wife does now).  My grandparents lived in Glen Ellyn (suburb of Chicago) and we used to make family trips to Wrigley.  But as awesome that my mom was with that stuff, I can't help but wonder what could have been.

One of my last memories of my father was a birthday party for him at the Glen Ellyn house.  I remember the cake and even what he was wearing that day.  But I also associate that day as being a month before he died.

I know we still made trips to Glen Ellyn after he had passed.  My grandfather was a pastor there and lived next door to the church.  Now that I'm older I realize it was probably the parsonage.  But I remember a younger guy, a youth pastor or assistant pastor or something to that effect, lived in the lower level.  And I remember how much I loved to go through his filing cabinets.  Because they were full of cards.  The only thing I remember as to what cards were there are he had them in order of teams rubber banded together.  And on the top of each stack, was the 1981 Topps team card.  So sometime between my father dying, and meeting this guy was when I started collecting.

One thing is for certain.  1981 was a significant year for me.  In my personal life and my card collecting life.  Here is something else to throw at you, my dad died at the age of 30.  Now here I am, exactly 30 years later, trying to collect the first set I collected.  1981.  The year my life changed forever.


UPDATE:  I've texted my mom and she doesn't remember my dad collecting.  He did as a kid but his mother threw those out later.  I also texted my grandfather, (yes, my 80+ year old grandparents text) and they lived in Glen Ellyn between 1981-1982 so my memory serves me correct on that point.


  1. Powerful story, Jeff. Thanks for sharing.

    As a father of four, have your kids started to show any interest in collecting? Although you unfortunately didn't have that opportunity with your father, it goes to show how much they could appreciate it one day - whether it's cards or another interest of theirs.

  2. Great story!

    (Charlie from Lifetimetopps - can't sign in for comments on blogspot right now)

  3. Thanks very much for sharing that, Jeff. I've harbored a massive grudge against my father for decades, but right now I feel very fortunate to have been able to do that. All my best to you.


  4. AJ - They have some with Cars 2 for my son, and Hello Kitty for my daughter. But after reading your post, I decided that this weekend I was going to pick up a blaster or some packs of cards and have my kids open them and see if they show any interest. They both play baseball so they have interest in the game, we'll see if I can get them interested in the cards. My other 2 kids are stepchildren and they are 16 and 18 and neither like baseball. I guess I wasn't around early enough in their lives. lol.

    Charlie - Thanks for reading and responding, even if blogger is showing you no love.

  5. Thanks for sharing that Jeff. Powerful indeed.

    I'm curious how you became a White Sox fan. You probably shared that at some point but I think I missed it.

    It's funny - your made up game as a youth sounds very similar to those that I made up. Also funny, I posted about 1981 Topps about the same time as your great post.

    Do you have a 1981 want list posted anywhere?

    And, before I forget, I received an AWESOME bubble mailer yesterday. What a great surprise! I'll post about it in a few days. Where did you come across the Tanana auto? Just curious.

  6. Rob - Sorry to hear that, but thanks for reading and commenting. If your at odds with your father, the best thing you can do is be a better father to your children. And from reading your blog and the occasional glimpses into your families life, I'd say you've probably achieved that.

    Potch - I was actually a Mets fan as a kid. Then when the strike of 1994(?) hit I quit watching and collecting baseball until 1999. I probably gravitated towards the Sox at that time because I live close enough to get all their games so I watched them more.

    I was going to comment on your post about if I had known you were collecting that set as well, I might have sent some dupes in that latest package but when I got home, I couldn't find the post on your page, I see it's there now.

    1981 Topps Want list - https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AjZfxb7DAkhbdGo4aXp5YlBUZE1ic1FEeDNRM1NqdHc

    I don't know if the Tanana auto is real or not. A lady at my eye doctor said she had a bunch of cards in albums and just gave one to me and that was in there. Most of it was junk wax but that was in there. Glad you enjoyed the package, I was going through my trade box and saw the couple of cards you had requested so I packaged it up before I forgot about them again.

  7. That's a touching story. Thanks for sharing it.