Tuesday, March 07, 2006



Look at that blue uniform...At the risk of sounding a little maudlin' and flaky...a little piece of my childhood died today.

That card is Kirby's from the 1985 Topps set. That 1985 set was my second year of collecting baseball cards, and my first big year in the hobby.

In 1985, I was 8. I was already a Chicago Cubs fan, owing mostly to their being on WGN as I got home from school. In all my 8-year-old wisdom, I was figuring that 1985 would bring a division crown just like 1984...I was hoping to not have to live through the disappointment of another playoff loss. Yeah, I was a starry eyed little booger.

Well, this starry-eyed little booger collected baseball cards.

I got a small allowance. I don't know how much, but it was for doing little things like keeping my junk picked up, and keeping my bed made. It might have been three bucks, it might have been five.

However much it was, I spent the bulk of it on 1985 Topps baseball cards. Now, keep in mind that this is when you could still get a pack of baseball cards with 15 cards in the pack without having to take out a loan. So, with my meager allowance, I was able to usually get five or six packs of 1985 Topps cards a week, and still have enough left over to buy my 75 cent issue of Batman or the Avengers every month.

And if I was extra helpful, doing extra chores, like helping mow the yard, I was often rewarded with a rack pack of the 1985 Topps. Those were sold at Red Food Store, on the toy rack. They cost a buck thirty nine.

If memory serves, I often recieved my allowance in baseball cards. At my own choice. Forewent the cash altogether.

Well, the point of saying all that is to say this:

I wasn't a Kirby Puckett fan, per se. Heck, that 1985 card was his rookie card. And watching the Cubs and Braves growing up, the only American League teams I saw came in the postseason, or the occasional Saturday Game of the Week. So, I didn't see Kirby play, I don't think, until an All-Star game in 1985 or 1986.

But I knew him. I went on a run where in just about every pack of 1985 Topps cards I opened, I got a Kirby Puckett card. You couldn't sling a dead cat in my childhood home without hitting a 1985 Kirby Puckett card.

No kidding, I probably had 15 Kirby Puckett rookie cards, at one time.

So, before I'd even see him play the game, I knew who he was.

Over time, I lost them. I traded some. I was in what may have been the last generation of kids to trade baseball cards without much consideration to their monetary value. In that 1987 season, when they made their World Championship run, the Twins became the favorite team of my friend Michael. Now, Michael's previous favorite team had been the Mets, and would later be the Dodgers and A's....

Now, it's neither here nor there, but I traded a lot of my 1985 Kirby Puckett cards to Michael to complete my 1987 Topps set.

I would later go on to trade four of the Kirby Puckett cards for one of the Mark McGwire Olympic card.

And I would sell all but one of my last Kirby Puckett cards to a local comic and card shop, for trade credit. I bought comic books that I read once, probably, and either got rid of or still have sitting in the ton of fire hazzard down in the basement.

I'm rambling.

Yesterday, my Dad, brother-in-law and I were watching the Southern Conference basketball final between UTC and Davidson, and we saw ESPN's scrawl say that Kirby had been taken to a hospital in Arizona after suffering a stroke.

Kirby's been on my mind ever since. See, when you get past the card, I always liked how he played. He played hard. He used his talents, and didn't try to be something he wasn't.

Plus, as a little plug of a guy, he gave a fat kid like me a little hope that he could be good at the game, too. Plus, he always seemed to be having fun, when he played. Always smiling, and that stood out. Too many players, in Kirby's or any other generation, seemed to forget that it was a game, and channeled anger or aggression into their performances. Treated it like it was work. Kirby always looked like he was having fun.

But I keep going back to that card, that 1985 Topps card, with a skinny Kirby and a blue Minnesota Twins uniform, has been on my mind. It's just what pops into my head. There's a lot to pop into your mind...Kirby in the 87 series, Kirby exulting watching Mark McGwire at a home run derby, cheering each monster shot...Kirby running the bases at a near sprint after his home run to force a game 7 in that 1991 World Series against the Braves....

But that 1985 Topps card pops to my mind first.

I bought a pack of 1985 Topps baseball cards last October. When my buddy Steven and I visited Cooperstown, I wandered into one of the many, many souvenir shops lining Cooperstown's main street. I bought a pack of 1985 Topps baseball cards.

Wax pack. I paid something like 8 bucks for it. Considerably more than what I'd paid at the Jiffy or the Quick n' Easy, way back when. I opened it on the ride from Cooperstown. The gum was there, permanently staining the back of the Dan Quisenberry All Star card, where it had rested for 20 years. Best card? Probably that of Atlanta Brave Rufino Linares, who was another name from my youth...but that's a story for another time.

No Kirby Puckett card. I half expected there to be one.

I think part of me wanted there to be one. You know. Relive the magic.

I'm rambling again.

Kirby Puckett died today. Due to complications suffered after his stroke. Saw the news when I signed on.

I won't lie to you. I got a little misty-eyed.

Yeah. Feeling kinda down.

Went digging. Found my old baseball card albums. My glory days of collecting were 1985-1991. My best cards were in one binder. Most of them near-mint, some of them probably worth quite a bit.

I moved one to the front page tonight. With my Ryne Sandberg rookie cards, with my Tom Browning signed card (story for another time), with a few other of my favorite cards. Yeah, 1985 Topps #536 isn't Near Mint. Heck, it's not even in good shape. But it's the last of his breed, at least as my collection is concerned.

Yeah, had to move the Kirby card to the front of the collection.

Don't know if I have much else to say. I'll miss Kirby.

I think I'll hang on to that card, though....


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home