October 25, 2003

A gift from my Uncle Art

My Uncle Art loved baseball, and he passed that passion on to me. He'd take me to the schoolyard and hit grounders and fly balls for hours. On my birthday he'd take me to see the Giants or A's play. He had a small collection of world series games on cassette tapes that he'd made and let me listen to them. I loved going to his place, because he had his own copy of the Unabridged Baseball Encyclopedia, with the stats of every single player ever to play the game.

Once, he took me aside and told me that the next time my family went to visit Grandma and Grandpa (halfway across the country), that I should go look in the old barn. He described a spot on one wall and told me that whatever was there was mine if I wanted.

A year or so later, we made the long trip during the summer. We always drove, stopping in Reno and Cheyanne and Laramie, taking forever to cross the salt flats in Utah, and finally reaching the home stretch around Omaha, Nebraska. Then it was a whirlwind week of visiting Aunts and Uncles and cousins, catching fireflys, playing badminton and shooting BB rifles and playing in the same places my mom and dad did as kids.

One free afternoon I went out to the barn. It wasn't your classic barn structure, although it originally served the same purpose. Over the years it had become a garage and storage shed, and you could almost read the life story of my grandparents by sorting through the antique treasures inside. I opened the big sliding door and went in, picked my way along towards the spot my uncle had told me about, and there, next to a dusty window, I found them.

On the wall were baseball cards, tacked up years before by my uncle, almost like a little shrine to his favorite players and stars of the day. He had told me that if I wanted them that they were mine, and I did want them. But at the same time I kinda wanted to leave them there forever, to not disturb them for another who-knows-how-long, for another young baseball fan to find them and appreciate them. This was long before baseball cards became collectables and kids became investors who knew the difference between 'mint' and 'very good'.

Their value (or potential value) meant even less to the generation before mine. They were for collecting - for fun - and trading and sometimes clipping to your bike frame with a clothespin so they clattered in the spokes of the wheel as you rode along.

I knew most of the names, at least in passing. Harvey Kuenn and Rocky Colavito and Early Wynn, Ken Boyer (brother of Clete) and Carl Furillo and Al Kaline. There were more, eighteen in all.

I carefully took them down, and did the least damage I could doing so. But these cards were nailed up by a kid and the nails were rusty and the cards mere cardboard, so there was damage done. Once, out of curiousity, I showed them to a card collector, and he was actually angry at the condition of the cards. They were worthless, he told me.

He was full of shit.

Maybe to a collector they're worthless, but to me they're priceless. These were a gift from one generation of baseball fan to the next. They were a gift from my uncle, who I loved very much (he passed away, much too young, a few years ago). I appreciate them, not because they're rare or perfect, but because they are.

I'll post a few pictures of these cards in the next few days. I've got them in plastic sleeves, which makes it hard to take a good picture without glare. For now, there's a couple in the extended entry.



Both of these are 1957 Topps.

Posted by Ted at October 25, 2003 04:59 PM
Category: Boring Stories


That's really cool, Ted. (I hope some day my niece and nephews will appreciate my old hockey cards.)

Posted by: Nic at October 25, 2003 09:01 PM

That was an excellent story. I'm glad you still have those. :)

Posted by: Dawn at October 25, 2003 11:51 PM


Take whatever the mint condition book value of those cards are and multiply it by ten or a hundred. Cards with great memories behind them are truly rare and precious. Be sure your kids know the stories before you pass them down.

Great Post.

Posted by: Kurt at October 26, 2003 03:51 AM
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