September 16, 2009

A Dying Breed

Over the few years I've lived in my neighborhood, I've noticed I live within 1/2 miles of not one, but two baseball card stores. I think that's about 2 more than most people in the world. One is on the way to my local Thai joint, so I pass it often. I've never stopped in because although it says "baseball card shop," I see nothing but weird roll-playing game memorabilia in the window and on multiple occasions, folding tables set up in the middle of the shop with grown men wearing medieval period attire playing some sort of card game. That's enough to keep me away for good. Well, that AND it shares a doorway with a Hello Kitty store. Those still exist? Anyway, the second shop is about a 1/4 mile down on the opposite side of the street. The other day I was sitting here and thought I'd go check it out. Not sure why. I haven't bought a pack of baseball cards since the last time I watched a full game on TV... since about '89.

This shop too has a sign adorning the facade reading "BASEBALL CARD SHOP." I've been fooled before, so I'm pretty hesitant at this point. When I walk in I couldn't have been more pleasantly surprised. I had, in fact, walked into a BASEBALL CARD SHOP specializing not in Japanese character-based roll-playing games, but baseball cards. Specifically those from the 50s and 60s. No surprise, I was the only patron at 2PM, so the owner gave me his undivided attention. I told him about my lack of knowledge in the cardboard arts - he schooled me for the next thirty minutes. Evidently everything I knew about Jose Conseco's rookie cards and Bo Jackson's "Ball Player" was a lost language in the game. Today's kids buy $100 packs trying to score "jersey cards," glossy cards with little pieces of actual game-worn jerseys sandwiched between clear plastic film.

In 1984, an 8 year old kid walked in the shop and bought a set of 1984 Topps cards. 24 years later, that kid became partners with the very man who sold him his first set of and got him hooked. Now that's how it should be done. Baseball cards are all about passing, trading, and holding memories. Although the "kids" walking through the door are now few and far between, adult patrons from all over the State still make the drive to the shop to unload fist fulls of cash on Ted Williamses and Micky Mantles.

I left the shop without shelling out any money and actually felt guilty about it walking home. These guys and their shops are indeed like bald eagles and manatees. Without our help, they will soon disappear forever and be nothing more than a "man, I remember those places. I used to spend hours in 'em." I'm going back this weekend and buying a pack... maybe I'll score a jersey card!