Which can cause more damage - a secret between a father and a son, or the truth when it finally comes out years later? Can something as simple as a baseball card destroy a relationship between the two?
A new short story from our Nibs literary line.
I came upon that old baseball card while digging through some boxes, studying it like I did the ones of my heroes thirty years earlier. This one, however, was of me: nine years old, wearing an Astros jersey, blue sweatpants and a batting helmet not quite big enough to cover the mop on my head. This was the card my father made for me after my first year in little league, complete with stats on the back. I hit .227, striking out 14 times in 22 at bats, and walking 17 times.
“Good eye!” my mother used to shout. I think I was just too scared to swing most of the time.
My dad had called earlier in the day. We talked about sports, as we always did. Sports, family, and baseball cards. Not the card I was turning over in my hand at that moment, rather the old Topps cards from the 80s, the ones my dad brought up every now and then.
“It’s really weird,” he said. “Every card I look for that’s worth something is gone. It’s like they didn’t include them in the set or something.”
“Really?” I said. “Man, that’s strange.”
Dad had the complete set of Topps trading cards from 1982 through sometime in the early 90s. They used to sit in boxes on the shelves of our basement next to the 8-track tapes and my mother’s Bible study books.
This was not the first time he had mentioned this. He always loved baseball cards, my father. He bought me packs by the dozen, and always received that year’s entire Topps set for Christmas from my mother.
As a child, my dad gave away all his 50s and 60s cards to his cousins, or else he put them in the wheels of his bike like he was a member of Our Gang. It kills me to think of all the cards he could have had.
I never gave away any of my cards. I traded them with friends at school. Junior high was all about baseball and baseball cards. My friend Aaron used to come over to my house and he and I traded cards all the time. We spent hours trading, then we would go through my father’s cards and take out the good ones because, when we ran out of our own cards to trade, Aaron always wanted more. I was reluctant. I knew it was wrong to steal from your own parent, but Aaron was like a junkie for bubblegum-smelling pieces of cardboard with pictures in the front and stats on the back. We were a pre-teen Bonnie and Clyde. I mean the stealing part, not the kissing each other and murdering people part.
So now, a quarter of a century later, all those rookie cards—Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn, Ryne Sandberg—are gone. Roger Clemens, Don Mattingly, Kirby Puckett—nowhere to be found. My father’s own son filched every worthwhile 80s card he ever had like a crazed thief in the night. A looter running away with a television. That was me and Aaron with Dad’s ’82 Cal Ripken.