I enjoyed reading Night Owl's entry, as well as other bloggers who've since tagged on with their own. It's a great way to record some fond memories of our card-collecting youth, isn't it? And as the new guy, I think it's a good subject for an introduction. So here's my at-bat:
1983: The first packs I ever remember opening were from the 1983 Topps Baseball Stickers set. I've still got the album, and man, those foil stickers. How cool for a little kindergartener who was already wide-eyed over the sport.
If you finished collecting for the year and still needed some stickers to complete the set, you could send away for them (10 for a dollar, plus a self-addressed stamped envelope). Looking at the instructions on the inside-back cover now, the P.O. Box that Topps provided was located in the next town over from where I grew up. I'm pretty sure we sent away for a few stickers. We could have almost walked the letter over to the post office.
Coming home from the card shop one summer weekday (mom was a schoolteacher), we spotted one of my friends on his bike. He saw us and stopped, and mom pulled aside too. My friend saw that I had a binder and some new cards with me, and asked what I got through the open car window. And why wouldn’t he? Seems like every kid in my small New York town was on a Little League team and loved baseball. The Mets were on their way toward winning the World Series, and the Yankees had their share of stars, too. Mattingly, Winfield, Rickey, and "Pags" here.
Medicines and prescriptions were only part of the local drug store. You could also find an abundance of non-perishable items you might need to pick up if you didn’t want to go to the supermarket. And quite a few of those items were geared toward kids: toys, Wiffle Ball bats and balls, towering shelves of candy and chewing gum, and school supplies. I’d browse around those aisles, and would always briefly stop at the hangers of Topps Baseball rack packs—briefly because the pharmacist had a unique talent. He could take a matchbook in his hand, and somehow, by flicking his fingers a certain way, he'd get that matchbook to spin like a Frisbee through the air at an impressive speed. If you spent too much time looking through the candy or toys, WHACK! A matchbook would suddenly deflect off the shelf a few inches away from your head, just like in the old Westerns when a bullet would deflect off the boulder that the bad guy was hiding behind. From his perch behind the counter, I swear the pharmacist could even curve the matchbooks around corners. He could also bark like a few different dogs. I really do miss that place.
1988: Baseball was very important to ten-year-old me in the summer of 1988. In the phone book I found an indoor batting range not far away, and once or twice mom obliged and drove me there for some practice. You’d rent a cage for a half hour, feed the hopper with baseballs, start the machine, and take your cuts. When the machine ran out of baseballs you’d turn it off, shoot all the balls back toward the hopper with a street-hockey stick (more on hockey next), and fill up the hopper again. Mom would wait patiently, and after the 30-minute session ended she would extend that patience a little more as we walked up a ramshackle wooden staircase and into a baseball card shop. Yes. Amazingly, at a batting range, tucked into what didn’t even look like a finished second floor, there was a baseball card shop. And I remember buying packs of Topps Big Baseball cards there.
1989: This was the year I met a new friend at school. He had many older siblings, and they all played ice hockey and roller hockey. We'd play Blades of Steel on the NES in his basement, surrounded by hockey sticks and bags and bags of equipment. He began teaching me about the sport, and I started to love it for its combination of teamwork, toughness, speed, skill, finesse, physics, and geometry. That season I’d ask my mom for a pair of roller skates and a hockey stick. I was still playing baseball and opening packs of baseball cards, but I’d also open packs of hockey cards for the first time. I remember finding a Luc Robitaille card inside one of my first packs of 1988-89 Topps. I knew he was a good player, but I also remember pronouncing his last name Robe-a-TELLY. If I kept up my interest in hockey, I’d have to learn how to pronounce a lot of French-Canadian names.
Looking at their roster now, Khimik had some good players who'd eventually make their way to the NHL and have successful careers: Slava Kozlov, Valeri Zelepukin, Sergei Berezin, and Igor Ulanov.
Red Army was the strongest team, however (Kamensky, Konstantinov, Kovalenko, Kravchuk, Mironov, Nemchinov, Zubov), and they went 6-1 against NHL teams, defeating the Red Wings, Rangers, Blackhawks, Flames, Jets, and Canucks. Their only loss was to the Oilers.
Khimik went 3-3-1, and Dynamo Moscow went 3-2-2.
1992: At a big card show 30 minutes away, dad and I split up to cover more ground. Later, at our designated meeting spot, I saw him walking toward me with big grin on his face. He reached into a bag and pulled out a box of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles trading cards. The cost of the entire box? Less than 10 dollars. That's what prompted the grin. 48 packs of Turtle Power. I think my brother still has at least one complete set we made from those packs.
1992: At a card show in a VFW hall I came across a dealer who had wax boxes displayed from previous years, and was selling individual packs from each box. One of the boxes contained packs of 1978-79 O-Pee-Chee hockey cards (Mike Bossy’s rookie card was the big draw). At $3.00 a pack, dad said I could have four.
“Pick your poison”, the dealer said, and held out the box. I chose four packs and didn’t get much else at the show. When we got home, I opened a pack. Dave Taylor rookie card. Not bad. Second pack? Not much. Third pack? Not much.
I'd thought about saving that last pack, and maybe just never opening it. But after some mental pacing back and forth, and despite feeling some regret, I peeled open the wrapper. The result?
A Mike Bossy rookie card.
1993: My hockey-playing friend and I were now in high school, on the same team, and we'd often attend a monthly card show at the local Holiday Inn. Sometimes we’d pool our resources so we could buy a box of inexpensive hockey cards. Then we'd walk back to my house, open the packs, and play NHLPA '93 on Sega Genesis.
2014: After about 15 years away from the hobby, I found my childhood collection in the attic at mom’s house. What a tremendous feeling of nostalgia. I’d spend the year gradually sorting through everything, and brought the real sentimental stuff home with me. I’d also start to discover the first of many well-written blogs on trading cards, such as The Topps Archives, Night Owl Cards, Shoebox Legends, and The Shlabotnik Report.
I'd also occasionally buy an old wax pack or two from reputable collectors or online stores, and pulled a few great cards including the 1983 Donruss Wade Boggs rookie and a second-year Wayne Gretzky card (1980-81 Topps).
2019: The blogging begins. I’d thought about it since 2016, but wasn’t sure if I’d have the necessary content to post on a regular basis—at least not as much as some of you pros out there. Sometimes I'm still not sure about that. But if nothing else, blogging will be a way to document some great trading card memories, and Nine Pockets is that vehicle for me.
I plan to post content every Sunday morning. Here's to the new blog. Thanks for reading.