Normally, as a lifelong fan of both the Boston Red Sox and competence, the last thing I'd expect to get excited about would be a baseball card with Derek Jeter and President Bush on it.
But you may have heard about the New York Yankees star's Topps trading card this season that features the president Photoshopped into the crowd in the background. Fortunately for Bush, only Jeter's career highlights are listed on the back.
Every April, I like to buy a pack of baseball cards, for both sentimental reasons and so later in the season I can prove to my wife my maturity by throwing them out.
But when I went this week to buy my pack of Topps cards at my neighborhood baseball card store (there really is one), I was told they weren't for sale. The gimmicky Jeter card, which also features a Photoshopped Mickey Mantle in the dugout, is worth so much money that selling individual packs that might contain it isn't worth it to the store.
And that's what has me so excited. What could be more fun than a return to the days when the fun was taken out of collecting baseball cards?
If, like me, you collected baseball cards in the 1980s, you were part baseball fan, part investor. Oh, and part chick magnet.
Baseball cards, of course, hadn't always been kids' first brush with business. Our fathers would -- every single time they saw us with our cards -- tell us how they used to put their cards in bicycle spokes, and then play a game where they'd see who could flick them the farthest, and then, I believe, go home and vomit all over them.
And then they'd tell us how when they moved out of the house, their mothers threw their collections out, which is the reason my whole generation of boys detested their grandmothers and why in 1986 the Boy Scouts changed their bylaws to explicitly forbid helping old ladies cross the street.
You see, by the '80s, everything had changed. Cards were to be hermetically sealed in plastic sleeves; sometimes you didn't even open up the packs you bought. These cards would someday pay for college!
We kids would go to card shows and wheel and deal with other kids or, more often, with adults--card-collecting professionals who, come to think of it, probably weren't the most honorable people. Imagine if in buying the Tribune Co., Sam Zell had outbid not two fellow billionaires but an 8-year-old.
I wasn't much of an investor. My one attempt at striking it rich involved buying a slew of Wes Gardner rookie cards. Right, who? But it's worse than that: Not long after making my investment, Gardner was arrested for hitting his wife. I decided to cease my quest for wealth and dream of a career in journalism.
At some point after I stopped collecting, the bottom fell out on baseball cards. Moms weren't throwing their sons' collections out anymore, a number of brands competing with Topps flooded the market, and people all of sudden realized that baseball cards were pieces of cardboard. Plus, most of the adults who had traded baseball cards for a living had probably moved on to meth.
This week, with the Topps not for sale at my local store, I bought a pack of Upper Deck brand cards. Got Frank Thomas and Miguel Tejada. Not a bad pack. An annoying pack, but not a bad one. And now I want more cards.
More specifically, I want to devote the rest of the spring to a single-minded hunt for any stores selling Topps packs that don't realize what they're sitting on with the Jeter/Bush card. If I'm successful, I may be able to someday afford to send my son to college.
Mark Bazer can be reached at email@example.com
(c) 2007 Mark Bazer, distributed by Tribune Media Services