Today is the first day of a brand new year and while I usually simply consider the night before and this day to be just like any other, my thoughts have been turning recently and more and more to the past. Guess it’s a result of getting older and a somewhat slow baseball off season.
It all started a couple of months ago when an ad for old baseball cards caught my eye. As I scrolled down the list of this particular website, a set which I had thought no longer existed and one which I had occasionally dreamed about owning again one day caught my eye. The 1962 Post Cereal baseball set.
I can’t recall how many of the actual set I had owned as a kid, (probably not more than 30 or 40 of the original 200 cards), but I have never forgotten the very first cards I cut off the back of the cereal box. Looking at the pictures of the cards brought back a flood of memories. I remembered the smell of the cards. I remembered making my mother wait (patiently?) In the grocery store while I searched for those cards I didn’t yet have never mind the type of cereal it might be, and I remembered emptying the box in a bowl, not being able to wait a week or so until the box was empty.
I would look at my six new cards over and over again, carefully cataloguing them with any others I might have. I would listen to that night’s game on the radio and whenever a player came to bat, or pitched, I would pull out that card. In my mind’s eye, I could see all the action on the field all those many miles away. My card collection continued to grow and one lucky day, a friend of mine who was moving to Germany that fall, gave me a shoe box stuffed with baseball cards. I now had Bowman and Topps and I can’t remember what else, but there must have been a couple of hundred cards in that old shoe box.
No one else I knew cared about baseball, Canada was then and is now a hockey country, and the only baseball game on television was the once a month Saturday Yankee or Dodger game on the French station of the Canadian Broadcasting corporation. I didn’t at that time understand any French but that didn’t matter. I really didn’t know any of the players, which ones were stars and which were not. To their credit, my parents would let me watch the game. They had no interest in baseball and probably didn’t understand my love for the game. I probably didn’t understand it either-but I knew for whatever reason, I cared about nothing else.
In those days, the off season really was the offseason. It was next to impossible to find any baseball news from the end of the World Series until that first Saturday game in April. Sometimes there were no games until May or even June. I suppose the information was out there in magazines such as The Sporting News and sports Illustrated, but I didn’t have the money to subscribe to any of those publications. The first baseball magazine which came out each year was Baseball Illustrated with their pre season preview and I sometimes managed to find a copy of Street and Smith. Baseball Illustrated had color pictures of the leagues previous season leaders. These, of course, went up on my wall first thing. My chances of actually seeing a major league game were less than nil. These pictures, along with my Post baseball cards, were all I had to look at and dream about.
Over the past couple of months I have been purchasing the 1962 Post Cereal baseball cards from what has turned out to be an excellent and very reliable website. I don’t usually go for the stars although I have purchased Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Sandy Koufax to name a few of the stars from that era. But my most prized are the three I originally cut off that cereal box way back in 1962. Woody Held, Vada Pinson and Lee Maye were those first. I take those three out and look at them every day. I have a special box for them.
When I look at them, I am seven years old again. When I look at them, baseball once again is free of player salaries and steroid scandals and all the rest. I am innocent and I feel safe. I know I’m not alone.