Like most young American males, one of my biggest hobbies as a child was collecting and trading sports cards. And while I had cards for all the four major North American sports, baseball definitely ruled the day.
I remember sitting in my friend’s garage or my cousin’s room, flipping through our card books or shuffling through the disorganized shoeboxes, trying (and often succeeding!) to rip everyone off and get the best card collection possible. Once you found a kid’s weak spot — for instance, my cousin used to love Karl Malone — you exploit it. OK, I’ll trade you this Karl Malone 1991 Fleer (a double!) card for your Kevin Johnson, Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing. Done deal, all because some dope couldn’t stand to be without the full Mailman collection.
Memories like that fill my head, and the fruits of all that labor are still tangible. Sitting in my old bedroom at my parents’ house right now, to this very day, lies a collection of cards that I’m certain has some real treasures in there. And none of them were or are more valuable to me than my 1990 Topps Frank Thomas rookie card.
You see, I had the entire 1990 Topps set. You remember those, right? The entire collection of the series, sold in a long, rectangular box? I had that. And inside was this gem of a card, Frank Thomas’ rookie card.
I loved that card more than anything, even if I wasn’t one of the few who had the infamous error card, the one with no name on it. Didn’t matter. I was a huge Frank Thomas fan, a power-hitting first baseman who also hit for an insane average. He was an almost otherworldly figure to me, the type of player the Phillies never had at first base during my formidable year — no offense to John Kruk and his sweet swing.
As Thomas became one the absolute best hitters in baseball and led the White Sox to relevance, my love for that card only grew stronger. And even now, with Thomas ending his career looking completely out of place in Oakland and Toronto uniforms, as well as some moodiness and angst left behind in Chicago, I still treasure that card. It was the first baseball card I remember really meaning something to me, so I’ll always have fond memories of it.
And when the Big Hurt finally gets enshrined into the Hall of Fame — and he most certainly should — I know one of the first things that will pop into my head will be that rookie card sitting in my old bedroom at my parents’ house.