Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Pack of Baseball Cards

You are 10 years old. It's the summer of 1992, the week in which the latest set of Upper Deck baseball cards arrives at your local baseball card retailer. Upper Deck is by far the most revered and respected baseball card brand of any 10 year old kid, especially your 10 year old friends.

They are the best looking cards, crisp and colorful. They just... look cool, like cards are supposed to look. Not too boring like Topps, not too wacky like Donruss, not downright ugly like Fleer. They are the most valuable (so sayeth Beckett), the most tradeable, the most desired. They made the holy grail of our generation, the 1989 Ken Griffey Jr. #1. The first card of the first set they ever produced is of the best young player in the game. And it's worth about $70.

Shinders sells Upper Deck cards. You would spend every single day of the summer there if you could. You're tempted to ride your bike the dozen or so miles yourself, lest you face the wrath of your parents if they did not know where you were for 15 minutes. Instead, you resort to the usual tactic of begging your dad for a trip there this weekend, and as usual, you succeed.

You walk into the store way ahead of your dad, straight to the table with the newer packs. And there they are: Upper Deck 1992 Baseball Edition.

"Exciting New Card Design for 1992!
15 Baseball Cards Per Pack
Look for Collector Holograms
Random-Sequencing Tamper-Resistant Pack
Counterfeit Deterrent

My dad knows the drill. He gets one pack for $2.75. Upper Deck commands a higher price because of their demand. I don't care - I'm out the door and in the car opening it as my dad is still paying for it.

The pack itself just looks so pristine. I almost don't want to open it. But I'm not dumb. Card number one is...

Darrin Fletcher, a backup catcher for the Phillies. He's tracking a pop-up in his picture which probably means he sucks at the plate. He played in 46 games last year and hit .228. Totally unimpressed, I skip to the next card.

Kirk McCaskill, a starting pitcher for the Angels. Heard of him, but he looks kinda old. He lost 19 games last year. NEXT!

A team checklist card for the Mariners featuring... Edgar Martinez? How could you possibly have a Mariners team card that doesn't have Griffey? Nobody cares about Edgar Martinez. I want Griffey! It even says on the back underneath his name "Team Leader: AVG" and "Team Leader: RBI". But you throw Edger Martinez on the front? Team leader in NOTHING? Where's Griffey? I WANT GRIFFEY.

I'm getting a little impatient. I quickly flip through the next three cards.

Three middle relievers in a row. I just jinxed myself by doing that, I know it. Horrible mistake. You're supposed to savor every moment with a new card with a pack like this, but Edgar Martinez rattled me. Take your time. I just made these cards worthless. Nobody likes middle relievers. I feel the stack of cards in my left hand is still slightly thicker than the stack in my right hand. I'm still hopeful.

A nobody middle infielder hitting .249. Plus he looks really old. And he's fielding.

A nobody middle infielder hitting .247. Plus he plays for Oakland. I hate Oakland. And he's fielding too.

A nobody middle infielder hitting .243. Plus he plays for the National League. I hate the National League. And HE'S fielding.

Time to regroup. This is my first Upper Deck pack of the year and I just had three middle relievers followed by three middle infielders. My right hand outweighs my left hand. I'm starting to feel a bit panicked.

Kelly Gruber. I have a million Kelly Gruber cards. I get him in practically every pack. Every freaking pack. Still, he had one good year, he hits home runs, he was good once. He plays for a good team. This is a good omen.

A rookie!! Roger Salkeld. Never heard of him. He'll be in the price guide though, for sure. Almost everyone's rookie is. I flip to the back, how good is he? He's a pitcher who went 2-1 with a 5.12 ERA with "Jacksonville" whoever that is. He started 4 games. I don't get it. He's in a warm-up jacket, and he looks like kind of a jerk. Why does this guy even have a card? I feel nervous again.

Al Newman, ANOTHER middle infielder. A backup middle infielder. He's hitting in his picture, but he hit .191 last year. His home run total since 1987 reads like this:


I'm starting to feel kinda sick. I don't want my first Upper Deck pack this year to be this bad. I only have three cards left.

Mark Grace! I've heard of him! He had a Topps Golden Cup card once! That was years ago though. He doesn't hit home runs but still, he's kinda good. He might be in the price guide. I doubt it though. Still, good omen.

A Top Prospect!! Some guy named Tom Nevers. Um, he played for a team called the Tourists. What kind of a team name is that? He hit .252 for the Tourists. I don't know, if this guy were any kind of prospect, I would have heard of him, like Phil Plantier or Eric Karros. Those guys are prospects.

My sour feeling increases as I realize I only have one card remaining in my left hand. I'm almost afraid to look. It could still be good, there's still a chance, no pack is ever this bad, I gotta have a good card, it's gotta be Griffey or Thomas or Bagwell or even Kirby or Ripken... it's...


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