My daughter, who is 18 months going on 6 years old, ripped open a pack of 1990 Fleer and was playing with the little round team stickers, as she loves to do.
It was a relaxing family Friday night at home, not quite two weeks ago. I opened a pack of 1991 Upper Deck and sorted through it, deliberately flipping over and rotating every card so they faced the same way, as is my habit when opening cards. I handed her the sticker, a full-card holographic Twins logo, and she squealed in delight, just a little bit.
I’ve opened a lot of packs of old, mostly worthless baseball cards — “junk wax” as they’re affectionately called — over the past several months, but this one struck a chord with me. Every player, it seemed, reminded me of another story.
There was a Mike Lieberthal Top Prospect card. As you probably know if you’re a fan of baseball and “The Office,” Dwight Schrute had a Mike Lieberthal bobblehead on his desk; Lieberthal played minor league ball in Scranton, and his middle name is Scott, so he’s Michael Scott Lieberthal. Fun. And there was a striking card of Robin Ventura in his White Sox throwback uniform, and you can’t think about Ventura without thinking about the Nolan Ryan pummeling, right?
I got a Griffey Jr., and every Griffey Jr. is a special card. So many catches and smiles and home runs come to mind — and one unforgettable slide across home plate. Mike Henneman was the only player I knew of as a kid who was born in the same town as me, St. Charles, Mo. It was cool to see that on the back of a baseball card then, and it still is now.
So many stories. Some everyone knew, but some, like Henneman, that only mattered to a handful of people who had a random connection to that player. I thought — as the kiddo put a Phillies sticker on her nose and laughed — that other people probably had stories like that, too. So, on a whim, I organized the cards on a table, in three rows of five, took a picture and posted it to Twitter.
The request was simple: “tell me your favorite story about one of these players.”
Mind you, it was nearly 7 p.m. ET on a Friday. Not exactly the prime time for social media activity. But almost instantly, the replies started. Story after story, mostly about people’s personal interactions with the players. It was telling, at least to me, that there were more replies about Billy Hatcher and Milt Thompson than Hall of Famers Ken Griffey Jr. or Carlton Fisk. That’s really cool. That’s the connection we have with baseball.
Fifteen minutes after the tweet posted, I said to my wife, “I think this has really struck a chord.”
I’ve posted at least one pack every day since, and I have no plans to stop, because this: Reading the replies has been a highlight of my day. With all the crap out there these days, it’s nice to be inundated with good stories.
Anyway, enough from me. Let’s take a look at some of the original replies.
And now, a sampling of the best replies from other days …
Just the best, right? I could go on and on, but we’ll cut it here. There are more great stories in the replies, though, I promise.
It’s good to know I’m not the only one who enjoys this new daily routine.
If you want to be part of the story-swapping, give me a follow at @ryanfagan and tell me your tales from time to time. Looking forward to it.
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