I’d venture to say that most of us in the hobby entered it due to at least some influence from our father, whether that was from a first pack of cards that was given to us once upon a time, or simply the handing down of a love of the game.
Which leads to a question I imagine we’ve all asked our father’s at some point: did you have any baseball cards when you were a kid? I know I certainly asked it of my dad, quickly followed by things like, “what where they? Did you have anything cool (i.e. valuable)? What happened to them?”
The trope of moms throwing out not-so-vintage-then baseball cards after someone had moved away – whether for work or school or whatnot – is such a fundamental truth of this hobby, that you might say it’s one of the core principles of this hobby. The notion that these pieces of cardboard might someday be worth anything of sentimental value, let alone monetary, well it just wasn’t a thought in the minds of the general populace, certainly not most mothers who didn’t have room for that clutter. It’s the reason (along with other general causes of scarcity among old cards) that those mid-century cards are so prized: they represent something that old collector’s might have had once, something younger collectors – particularly my generation who got our first cards in the 80’s and hung around for the junk wax boom and 90’s explosion – never had a chance at, and its a driving force for the reason many of us collect today. Older collectors are regaining a piece of childhood, those in my generation are probably kids that swore, “mom will never throw out my cards.” It may even be the reason we chase older cards.
Hell, this facet of the hobby is such an overarching theme that Topps has not only used it as an insert concept, but the card industry as a whole has made an entire industry of reprints, design callbacks, and former players in sets. It’s even true enough that our fellow blogger Jared picked the moniker Cards My Mom Didn’t Throw Out as his masthead.
Sure, I’m waxing poetic. And while I’m not entirely certain how the first few cards in my collection floated my way, I do know that my dad at least fostered my early love of this hobby.
And yes, my dad’s cards were once thrown out as well. The 1956 William Edward “Eddie” Robinson card that graces the top of this post is one of two surviving cards from his boyhood collection. We found the pair of them in the back of a desk drawer in his childhood bedroom on one August visit to my grandparents’ house in Pittsburgh, and he gave them both to me a little while later.
Here’s the back. Aside from some soft corners and a noticeable crease that runs through Eddie’s portrait, the card is in decent shape. For the longest time, these two cards were the oldest in my collection.
Dad grew up as a Pirates fan, of course, idolizing Roberto Clemente and attending games at Forbes Field as a youngster. He even had the good fortune to attend two games of the 1960 World Series – although his fortune wasn’t all that great as he suffered through Yankee blowouts in Games 2 and 6. But getting to go to a pair of World Series games with his mom sure beat sitting in his sixth grade classroom. He still has the ticket stubs, too. I believe we came across them on this same trip. It always struck me as a bit odd that one of the only cards to survive from his collection was a Yankee, and I think for a long time that made me under-appreciate this piece of cardboard.
You see, Dad’s cards were thrown out when he left for college. Or rather, they were thrown out just before he left for college. His mother said there wasn’t room for them if he wasn’t going to take them to school – a preposterous thought when you consider that he probably didn’t have more than a shoebox worth – and so one evening the three of them sat in front of the fire and pitched them into the blaze, one by one.
When my dad first told me this story, my adolescent brain nearly collapsed into itself. What was in there? What were we missing? Oh sure, they probably weren’t all in good shape – Dad was a flipper at one point – but still!
Yes, there were Mantles. Who knows which ones, but Dad does remember having a couple at some point.
It all just makes the other surviving card that more remarkable – and I’d wager to say that this is one of the more iconic cards of the era, although no, it is not that ’56 Clemente. I still don’t know if Dad ever had one as a kid, but I do know there’s one in his collection now.