“Wanna go to the card shop, sonny?”

Could an eight-year old in love with baseball possibly hear a better phrase?

The pandemic brought us a lot of sadness, but on Father’s Day, I’ll choose to pick out the silver linings of the past 16 months. One of them is the baseball card boom. People turned to baseball cards for a variety of reasons – for the pure nostalgia, to turn a quick profit knowing that unopened packs sold for more than typical retail prices, or for something to comfort them in a hectic and uncertain time. While I personally didn’t invest too heavily in card mania during the pandemic (I only picked up one Topps 2021 box and a Bowman box), it made me reflect on how much I missed going to the card shop and collecting cards with my pops.

Some of my favorite new cards. Pretty awesome to see these guys in the throwback format.

Some kids couldn’t wait to have their weekly soda, or an extra cookie after dessert, or to watch another episode of Arthur (#90sKid). My version of that was the baseball card shop. Every weekend (at least that’s what it feels like in my mind), my dad would ask that amazing question. Whether it was after a game, after mass on a Sunday, or just a quick trip while my dad picked up cigars, we always found ourselves in a card shop. We had this awesome old-school card shop right next to the cigar shop in our downtown, and we’d always stop in to see the latest deals. There were few better feelings of walking into the card shop to see the new cards that we could pick up, as well as just soak in the awesome baseball atmosphere. For someone who had not yet been to Cooperstown, this felt as close as I could get without actually journeying up to New York. You simply never knew what you would walk out of the shop with on a given day.

The absolute best memories were when my dad found out there was a card gallery in a banquet hall in a nearby town coming up, and I was downright giddy whenever he got wind of this news and let me know. I always knew the best cards would be there, and the banquet hall would be buzzing with people talking shop about baseball, negotiating prices for cards, and bombarding through crowds of people to see what each card table had. The atmosphere was everything perfect about baseball at that time. I grew up in the Sosa/McGwire era, and while we look back at that era with some regret, it was the time of my life. I played other sports, sure, but baseball was easily my favorite. I think that comes down to the relationship I had with my dad at that time, and all the effort he put in to helping me become a better ballplayer and person. He taught me discipline, how to improve in all facets of life, and how to invest in someone else’s life. It’s easy to think of all the big events that parents need to “show up” for, but I’m learning as a new dad that it’s these small day-to-day moments that can mean just as much, if not more. Investing in me by simply sharing a mutual love of baseball cards was a small and simple act that went a long way.

And boy, did we get some cards! Some cards we picked up throughout the years include a 1969 Mantle, a Sporting News All Star Ted Williams, and a 1961 Topps Roger Maris. Yeah, it’s not a vintage Mantle, and the card isn’t completely centered, but I don’t care…I have a Mantle! My dad was always on the hunt for rookie cards too:

That Manny Ramirez “Youth Service League” rookie gets me every single time. Randy Johnson also has looked 40-years old for as long as we’ve all been alive, apparently. If you had a normal dad, he probably told you that “these cards could be worth a good chunk of change one day” before he went out and trimmed the hedges or did some other absurd dad-like thing that you still make fun of him for, years after the fact. Of course, I believed him, and kept every single baseball card that came through my house. When I moved out after college, I took the best cards with me, and kept the rest at my grandparents. My grandparents thought they owed me that, since my grandma threw all of my dad’s cards away when he was a kid. Now I know what my grandma knew then, which is that 99% of these cards were not worth a “significant chunk of change.” Of course, I still kept them.

Fast forward several years later, and my dad lives in Florida. He made the trip back north to meet his new granddaughter, and he made a pitstop at my grandparents to pick up those cards. At the end of his visit, he went to his car to get the cards, and I haven’t seen him move so fast in years! He was buzzing back and forth with boxes of cards, telling me what’s in each box, naturally saying that my McGwire USA rookie card is worth thousands.

A quick search of Ebay says I can get about $30 for it.

He told me to go through each box to see what I find, but I’m saving that for when he comes to visit again later this year. Given the joy that I saw on his face, I know that will be a memorable few hours, searching through those cards and talking about our love of baseball back in the day. I don’t have a specific memory of getting one of the cards below, but the experience of being at the ballcard shop with my pops is what I’ll remember.

Some of my favorite throwbacks.

Being a new dad this year, it made me think about all the great memories I’ll create with my daughter that I hope she will cherish 20+ years later. She may not like baseball, or sports, and I won’t care much. My goal as a dad is to help her reach her goals and be the person she’s meant to become, and to share in her joy. My dad instilled this in me, and I know that there’s a million other dads who did the same.

A salute to all dads who have done the right thing. Happy Father’s Day.