Innocent Joy: Opening a Fresh Pack Of Cards

Illya Harrell@illya_1971Analyst IISeptember 10, 2009

Is that not the most incredible Eric Davis baseball card ever?  Man, I loved that guy, easily my all-time favorite Reds' player. "The Class and the Ass" was the immediate title that came to mind when I saw the Don Mattingly and Mark McGwire card.

During the warm months, on the first Thursday, the city shuts down the street below my apartment building and holds an outdoor concert. Vendors fill the avenue and try to hock their wares.

In my apartment, on those Thursdays, I can not avoid the music—which to myself is exactly three notches above God-awful.

There is one brilliant thing about those outdoor concerts: Kettle corn.

For those unfamiliar with kettle corn it has a light sugary coating... but far from it's overweight brother, caramel corn. From the first concert to last Thursday I have bought a two-feet tall, five dollar bag off of my kettle corn dealer.

So last Thursday I headed down the elevator to get my monthly fix. For the first time they had moved the stage. I remain convinced this little deviation was concocted to further annoy me with what supposedly passes as music.

Instead of the quick jaunt strait ahead, my kettle corn dealer had moved his location to a place where I passed other vendors. I love outdoor vendors and think everything should be sold from street kiosks—sort of like the wild west way one would acquire a coonskin cap.

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One of the first vendors I saw had a box filled with late 80s and early 90s, mass produced (and worthless) baseball cards. It barely registered. I was on a mission to the kettle corn man.

With my huge bag of in tow, I slowed down to absorb my surroundings—thankfully the music had yet to start.

I stopped at the card dealer's booth. He was paying attention to people who were interested in his more expensive new stuff with pieces of uniform somehow implanted in the card. 

I don't understand the appeal of those cards or the people who buy them.

I began rummaging the box of cheap stuff.  Wax packs and cellos.  Not to be confused with the three-fold rack pack, the cello also has a plastic see through wrapping where you are able to see the first and last of the 33 cards.

Priced at 50 cents per pack or 13 packs for five bucks, I felt like a kid in a candy store.  After getting the dudes attention I told him I'd take 13 packs and handed him my fin.

During my youth I was an obsessive collector. My first two packs were bought in 1978 while I was in a Ben Franklin store with my mom—I was seven.

I collected from '78 to '88. 

In 1989, I went to college and considered myself way too cool for my childhood hobby.

But seeing the cards of my younger days was a red-letter event in my otherwise ordinary day-to-day existence. I grabbed all four of his 1988 Donruss cellos and nine 1990 Fleer cellos.

I'm still sitting on three unopened packs. For this article, I thought it appropriate to open the tenth pack.

In my previous nine, I have so far scored a 1988 rookie Greg Maddox and a first year Fleer Ken Griffey Jr. 

In the pack I opened for this article, besides the Davis and A.L. All-Star Mattingly and McGwire, the highlight was a rookie or second year Gary Sheffield... back when his body was that of a normal human ballplayer before sporting his modern day steroid beast look.

Dave Winfield, Tony Gwynn, and Andre Dawson were some other big time players in the pack.  I also got a Willie Fraser who wrote for the some baseball website as myself last season.

I opened each pack in the same fashion as in my youth. Carefully moving each card down to cover the name of the next card while trying to remember or guess the player's identity. 

Flash backing to my preteen and teenage years has been nothing less than dreamlike.

That Eric Davis card is exactly how I remember his stroke. Long stride, bat back until the last second when his lighting quick wrists would crush balls over the wall in Riverfront Stadium.

It's crippling to know I have only three packs left. I've vowed not to open them until the first Thursday of next month. Hopefully, there will be another street concert and the baseball card will have a booth.

That will make the horrendous excuse for music, much more tolerable.


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