Monday, July 28

Trading Cards

Growing up a baseball fan, I collected baseball cards, naturally.

Well, perhaps “collected” isn’t the correct verb. A more apt description of my activities would be “obsessively acquired,” although even that falls short of the level of activity. Reading the backs of those flimsy pieces of mass-produced pieces of cardboard – oh, it was a joy, maybe even more so than the eerie visages peering out from the front.

Born in the early 70s, I didn’t begin collecting until the late 70s, and my knowledge of baseball history at that age was limited. So I was puzzled as to why a whole group of men played for Cincinnati – Rose, Perez, Griffey, et al – and then left so suddenly. Or why Sal Bando, Bert Campaneris, Reggie Jackson, and Joe Rudi all quit playing for the A’s in the mid 1970s.

But the best was finding players with a “Senators” or “Washington” marker on their career statistics. To a young boy in the early 1980s, the Washington Senators were as mysterious as the Whig Party, an unknown entity only revealed through reading Toby Harrah’s curriculum vitae. What happened to the Washington Senators?, I wondered. Were they a latter-day incarnation of Jamestown, wiped from the face of baseball by some unexplained calamity?

I experienced this same phenomenon when the Vancouver Grizzlies left my adopted home a decade ago, and the scattered Sons of Vancouver began to disappear from the face of the NBA. A Michael Dickerson here, a George Lynch there ... before long, the majority of them had vanished into the land of memory. (Barring a Felipe Lopez sighting, there are six former Vancouverites still on NBA rosters: Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Mike Bibby, Aaron Williams, Othella Harrington, Damon Jones, and Stro Swift).

The astute reader can ascertain where this conversation is headed. For heaven’s sake, I hope so. We are now entering a post-Sonic world, a world in which children born in the last five years will grow up completely unfamiliar with the exploits of Gus and DJ and Gary and Shawn, who will think of Kevin Durant the way I did of Jeff Burroughs – a remnant of a long-ago era. Children who will wonder what it was like to see the word “Sonics” emblazoned on a uniform, and why it was that the team stopped playing in Seattle after the summer of 2008.

And that’s when you realize that being ignorant of the real story – as I was about the Washington Senators or Charlie Finley’s A’s – is best after all.

1 comment:

Kevin said...

I think I'll be trying to collect as many Sonics' cards as possible..eBay and local card shops will do the job