When I was a kid in the 1970’s, baseball card collecting was a kid’s hobby. Which was good for me, because I was a kid, and I loved them. I loved the backs of the cards just as much as the pictures on the front. The stats appealed to my nerd self. I was too young to have paid attention to Bob Gibson in 1968, but I knew he had a 1.12 ERA—it was right there on the back of his card. The ability to fill out sets appealed to my slightly OCD self. (I have every card for every set Topps produced in the 1979’s.) For a while Kellogg’s put All Star and shall of Famer cards in their Frosted Flakes boxes—Ty Cobb, Eddie Collins, Babe Ruth…and the birth of my love of baseball history.
The cards came in wax paper wrappers that sometimes stained to card—a little wax on the back of my 1972 Carl Yastrzemski did not curb my excitement at the acquisition. The packs contained a piece of very hard gum, which I chewed anyway; it gave a pleasant aroma with the opening of each pack.
The cards became very important to me when my father got transferred to Germany for four years beginning in 1973. There was no American TV the first two years, so no This Week In Baseball with Mel Allen, and no Game of the Week. There was Armed Forces Radio, so I could listen to day games in the evening sometimes. I had a subscription to Baseball Digest, and I had my cards. Those were my connections to MLB. I mail-ordered my new cards. Some in 1974 showed San Diego Padres players on cards indicating they had moved to Washington, DC—but the rumored move didn’t happen. There are both Washington and San Diego cards for each Padre. In 1975, I discovered I could order a box of 500 cards straight from Topps. Suddenly I had a way also to keep my cards in pristine condition.
Like most kids, I did trade some and play with some—but only if I had multiple copies. I still have my cards. As an adult, I’ve added to the collection—mostly older cards…but those first ones from the ‘70s are my favorites.