Like most of the boys I ran with in junior high, I collected baseball cards. 1987 was my high water mark for set collecting from wax packs. I assembled both the '87 Donruss and '87 Topps sets the hard way. We burned untold hours at The Stamp & Coin Shop, staring through the glass at mint condition rookie cards. We memorized the latest Beckett Guide, "The Honus Wagner went up." And rushed to buy as many packs as we could afford each time Jerry Lomsdalen got new boxes in. A good way to spend your time as a kid on the Samish Flats. Here's a few cards I remember collecting.
Mike Mussina was a star pitcher at Stanford University during the years my brother attended. We visited campus a couple of times as high schoolers. We were fully into sports, thus spent most of our visits trying to get into stadiums to watch teams practice. I remember being completely blown away by the caliber of the athletes. The facilities were phenomenal. Stanford teams win more often than not. Off the field, there were hotties and nerds and Olympic athletes and foreign nationals and frat boys all mixed together. The weather was perfect. Stanford made quite an impression.
I came of age during the Don James years at University of Washington. Back then, the Huskies were a dominating football team and went to the Rose Bowl with some regularity. I loved watching Husky games because the whole goal of that program was to have players made their mark at the college level and think nothing of pro ball. Steve Emtman, Dana Hall, Brett Collins, Mario Bailey, Donald Jones, Beno Bryant were college stars whether they made it to the NFL or not. The end of the Don James Era coincided with the end of old school college football.
I never paid much attention to Barry Bonds when he was playing. Looking back through my card collection, I was surprised to find so many of his cards. He should be in the Hall, steroids or not.
Randy Johnson (The Big Unit) and Ken Griffey, Jr. (The Kid) were superstars in the '90s. It just happened that they played for the Seattle Mariners during that time, which meant I got to watch them play. Both were so far above the rest of their teammates and their opponents. Just watching Johnson warm up was impressive - the ball looked like a golf ball in his hand. When that long left arm swung out into the right-handed batter's space, knees buckled. I remember his fastball killed a pigeon that happened to fly through the strike zone at the wrong time. Griffey was equally sublime - his perfect swing, home runs hit seemingly at will, backward hat, and outfield catches that no one else made. He was simply the best player in the game for several years. More than Mattingly, Clemens, Boggs, Bonds, or Gwynn, The Unit and The Kid embodied the very best of the game.
These two cards were like the holy grail to me and my friends back in the day. I was surprised to find them both in my stack.
Football cards were worth nothing when I was a kid. Maybe things have changed with the explosion of all things NFL. Hope so, because I've got a few good cards in the stack.
I always liked these goofy double-image Topps cards for two reasons. First, their captions were always awkward - apparently penned by some intern at a desk in the marketing department. Take this one, "Leading Firemen". No one has ever referred to a Major League Baseball pitcher as a "fireman", yet there it is in bold, red capital letters. Second, the strange player pairings. One famous player and one bench warmer was the norm. Everyone knows Rollie Fingers. Who is Bill Campbell?
This is Wade Boggs best rookie card, from 1983. He was my favorite player. I think I have all of his cards. I acquired this card when a kid handed me two unopened wax packs just before I got off the bus. This was in one of those packs.
We went to a batting cage with my cousin, Stefan, one time. He was in junior high and we were in college. All of us were playing baseball, but Stef put us to shame. He crushed the ball like someone twice his age. Stefan played for WSU and was drafted by the Red Sox. He played several years in Lowell, MA and Portland, ME. He was a truly great hitter, setting records at the college and AA level. We were lucky to see 3 of his games while on our honeymoon in Maine. Stef hit 2 home runs while we watched. Injuries finally caught up with him and he's retired now. I wish he'd get back in the game and coach.