Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Round, Round, Bat Around, I Bat Around, yeah

My favorite memory of acquiring cards happens to come from my childhood days. When I saw the topic for the 5th Blog Bat Around, I knew what I wanted to say, but I couldn't remember exactly where I was going - literally. Follow along, and you'll soon understand.

When I was a child, my grandparents lived in Cleveland. More specifically, they lived in Lakewood. It is from them that I got my love for the Indians. It is strange to say that, since so far as I know neither of my grandparents (these are my Dad's parents) gave a rip about the Indians. But, I adored my grandfather and because he LIVED in Cleveland, well, that was good enough enough for me.

My earliest memories take me back to a time when I was probably 11 or 12, as far as card collecting goes anyway. As I reflected back on my youth, I could picture the road my brother and I would take to get to the hobby shop. We would leave my grandparents' house, take a left and walk down to where the road curved. That curve came to a "T" and we would take a right and head for "the big road." We would carefully cross "the big road," and enter a world of trains, model cars, dollhouses, and baseball cards. I pictured it perfectly in my mind.

I can see this so vividly in my mind that it was the only thing I had to go on when looking for its location on Google. I could not remember my grandparents' address, or even the street they lived on. I called my mother, and all she could remember was that they lived "off Detroit Avenue." Close enough. I began my search. I zoomed in and out, moving the map anywhere, everywhere, looking for my grandparents' house.

Eventually, I gave up. I decided instead to look for hobby shops in Cleveland. Several popped up and TWO in Lakewood! But, they were on/near Detroit Ave, and I was convinced that my grandparents lived NORTH of that road. As I zoomed out, though, I saw it! The curve in the road! And suddenly, when I saw the name of the nearby road to the SOUTH(Winton), I remembered that was the name of the street where they lived!

Sitting, just as I had remembered, was the little dot signifying "Wings Hobby Shop."

I can still see it the way it was back then (I have no idea if it is still laid out this way or not): Walk in the front door and the baseball card display was on the left. On the right, shelves of models and books. Against the far wall on the right (again, as you entered) were glass cases full of model train cars, and behind them were shelves of pieces and parts for trains. I also remember racetracks, model cars, remote control cars, you name it.

But of course, I was there for the baseball cards.

I looked in the glass case, pouring over the cards sitting before me. I wish I could say I saw Mantle and Gehrig or even Pinson and Feller. But my clouded memory blurs all the cards in the case except for two:

The first is the very first baseball card I ever spent money on: 1951 Bowman Dale Mitchell. It cost me 25 cents. It did not have the crease in it. I did that years later myself. I remember asking the guy at the counter how old the card was, and when he told me, I was amazed that cards could be "that old!" Hard to believe that I bought the card in the late 70's/early 80's (making it already 30 years old) and when the card was MADE, cards had already been around for more than 50 years. I was one clueless kid.

The second card is a 1970 Topps Alvin Dark. I bought it on a subsequent trip to the hobby shop. In my memory, it was at least a year later. In reality, it was probably later that same day. It was the first 1970 Topps I remember ever seeing. I think, though again my clouded memory may be playing tricks on me, I bought several packs of cards that day along with the Dark card.

Over the next several years of trips we made to my grandparents' house, my brother and I would always take money to the hobby shop. I think I was more interested in going than my brother ever was. At the time, I thought the trek to the store was at least a good couple of miles. After doing a "directions to here," however, it was a mere half-mile walk.

I remember flipping cards with friends many years later. I remember hauling my card collection to the various houses and dorms I lived in throughout my collegiate career. I remember "rediscovering" the cards that had been packed away after I got married.

But the most vivid and sentimental memories I have of acquiring cards are those walks with my younger brother down a suburban street to the hobby shop on the other side of "the big road," Detroit Avenue in Lakewood, Ohio.

sidenote: I always thought Dark looked like one of the kids in that "Been Farming Long?" poster from several years ago.


  1. Absolutely amazing story !! I wish I had a story like that but my childhood collecting was not that big a deal. My sons may have some similar stories, I do have a lot of memories with them !

  2. Here's a strange coincidence: the first baseball cards I ever bought was when I visited my grandmother, who also lived in Lakewood, on Winton Avenue! While you walked North to Detroit Avenue, I walked South about 10 houses to Madison Avenue, and, in the late sixties, bought my ten cent packs of Topps from Winton Drugstore. That Alvin Dark card is one of the ones I got from those trips. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  3. Reggie, man that is too cool! I remember the drug store! We were allowed to walk to the drug store on the corner. They had these brown bags with 'grab bag' items in it, which usually consisted of weird fabric letters. I had a 110 camera and would buy film at the drug store. Man, talk about drumming up memories!