John F. Russell: Trading for Mickey
June 27, 2010
Steamboat Springs — So, what would you trade to get Mickey Mantle?
Back in 1980, I easily would have given up my entire summer vacation, popcorn at the movies for a year and, well, if at all possible, my older sister.
On a summer afternoon in 1980, I had to make the choice on the shaded front porch of my parents' home in Littleton. If I remember it correctly, the guy with the card wanted a bunch of random team cards — or Kate Jackson, Cheryl Ladd and Jaclyn Smith.
Not an easy choice when you are 13.
In the end, I gave up the team cards and the Charlie's Angels to get one of the greatest players in the game's history. It was a shrewd business deal. Nobody ever really wanted the team cards, but I have to admit that losing Kate, Cheryl and Jaclyn hurt a bit. I had to ride my bike to a local convenience store and spend my last quarter (and some change I got in my sister's room) to buy the Charlie's Angels cards because the kid with the Mantle liked them.
In the world of a teenager, the chance to get a hold of a decent Mickey Mantle card — even if the corners were a bit rounded — was rare. It was worth a few miles on the bike and that sinking feeling I had when I handed the cashier the money for the Charlie's Angels cards.
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I still have the baseball card to this day, and I still can remember the high-pressure deals that took place in the relaxed suburban neighborhood where I grew up.
It was a time when baseball cards were a game, a time when you bartered with friends for your favorite players and stuck the cards you didn't like in the spokes of your bike.
The deals took place in a time before protective card holders, and you could get a pack of cards for a little more than a quarter — way too much, according to my mom.
Back then, you traded for cards, you didn't collect them.
Every pack was a surprise. They smelled like gum, and the gum was as stiff as the cards. We would spend our allowances to get as many packs as possible and tear them open hoping to find a Johnny Bench, Carl Yastrzemski or Nolan Ryan hiding inside.
They lived in a box, separated into piles of players you would be willing to trade, those you might trade and a few cards that would meet their fate clipped to the frame of a Huffy.
It was a time before video games, a time before texting and before 24-hour-a-day cartoon networks. There was a time when I hoped my baseball cards would be worth something, but now I realize that they were always priceless.
— To reach John F. Russell, call 871-4209 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org