On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal broke a story and my heart at the same time. MLB and the MLBPA would be cutting ties with Topps trading card company and signing a long-term deal with Fanatics as their exclusive trading card producer. When I read this news all I could think was that Gordon Gekko just stole my childhood.
When I was a boy growing up in Middletown, USA there was a small store just about two miles from my house called Lineberry’s. This was before Dairy Mart and Ultra-mart before even Cumberland Farms. Just a small family-owned store that welcomed you into the Westfield section of town. A place where your dad bought his cigarettes and grabbed his paper on the way to work, where your mom bought her cigarettes and half-gallon of milk (in a glass bottle) on her way home from dropping us at school. It’s also the place I discovered Topps Baseball cards.
From Rafael Belliard’s 1989 #Topps Big card: pic.twitter.com/MmmhiLT9S9 — 1986-92 Pittsburgh Pirates (@1992Pirates) August 20, 2021
Topps times were Good
For 25 cents, Topps gave me fourteen heroes – well six heroes, three villains, and five guys I had no clue about. But all fourteen cards were brilliant and beautiful. Bonds, Bobby not Barry – Griffey Sr., not Jr. – Jim Rice and Fred Lynns’ rookie cards. I was hooked. I was an addict. Baseball cards were my first possessions. The first things I bought with my own money. I owned them. They were mine to stash away, trade, or in the case of any Yankees, may have been stuck with, were used in my bikes spokes to make it sound like a motorcycle. And that bike got a lot of use on that four-mile trip back and forth from Lineberry’s.
Earn baby earn
My 50 cent allowance soon wasn’t enough to feed my addiction and I turned to mowing lawns and shoveling driveways to get my fix. By the time I was twelve, I had a shoebox for each team in both leagues. Just thinking about those boxes makes my jaw hurt from the stale strips of gum I ate with each pack opened. Doubles, triples, and quads of players were badges of honor. And I wasn’t alone. Most of my friends were fiends as well. They didn’t have the hook in them the way I did but they all had their impressive collections.
🔥8.18.21🔥 Mickey Mantle 7️⃣Card with a /61 Chase card of Roger Maris9️⃣ – 1961 @Topps card design Get it exclusively, for 70 hrs, tomorrow at https://t.co/uH5e7Sp4ol I went all in on details on these two. 👀#whodoyoucollect #thehobby #topps #Project70 pic.twitter.com/ykoAy1VQFT — Lauren Taylor (@ltillustrations) August 18, 2021
Gone are the good old days
By the time the ’80s had come and gone so had Lineberry’s. And all the corner shops you grew up with. You couldn’t find loose packs anymore. Baseball cards were a commodity and Topps did all it could to cash in. They lost their way. Cards were “graded” and sold in Mega Box Sets at card shops and shows. The kids were left out. It was a grown-up game. So here I am hat in hand, begging Fanatics to go back, go back to the loose packs, go back to the new neighborhood stores. Fill the shelves, let the children play. Let them trade, let them dream.
As always you can follow/give me grief on Twitter @Tmurph207