Opening baseball cards with my dad

I never got to sleep in as a kid. On the other hand, I got to spend my days opening baseball card packs and talking baseball with my dad, so really, I think I came out ahead.

In theory, as part of this Topps Archive project, I'm supposed to write about my favorite baseball player from the 1980s. I'm not quite following that prompt, for two reasons.

First, Gary Carter and Will Clark are pretty unequivocally my favorite players, and they have already been written about on various sites (here and here). But second, there were three players whose cards got me excited when I found them in packs growing up. Carter and Clark were the first two. Spike Owen was the third. Spike Owen was never one of my favorite players.

He was my dad's.

My dad was a veterinarian, which meant my summers were spent waking up early (like 5 a.m. early), riding with him to his calls. As compensation for not getting to sleep in, I often got one of two things - a late-morning snack of soda and Little Debbie, or a pack or two of baseball cards. And either way, we talked baseball all day long.

The cards were a treat for me. Looking back, it's hard to imagine they could have been the same for dad. Sure, he's a die-hard baseball fan, and he liked making his son happy. But the opening of the packs followed a very specific, very kid-centric process I would read aloud, detail-for-detail, every card. If there was a subset, I told dad the details. If there was an insert, I told him how rare that sort of insert was. There couldn't have been much joy for a 50-something-year-old man to have to hear "RBI Leaders Manny Ramirez!" or "A piece of Stan Musial puzzle!" It was silly.

But if there was a Spike Owen card, I gave it to him.

I don't know what it was about Owen that caught dad's attention. His typical rooting interests were Tigers or members of the Boone family. How Owen nudged his way into that group, I have no idea, but he did, and it was a special treat to find a card of his and pass it over to the old man.

A couple years ago, my dad moved in with me, necessitated by his failing health. Along with him came his mass of stuff, which over 70 years of baseball fandom had grown quite large. Eventually, with a distinct desire to have my car in the garage again someday, I decided to go through that stuff, sell some, keep some, and basically figure out a plan.

There was a lot of junk. My dad's first wife ended up with a lot of his older, more valuable collectibles, so what I found was so many Don Aase and Oil Can Boyd cards that are basically meaningless. Most of the boxes were crammed full with sets from 1987, 1988. Cool to look at, sure, but nothing special. But I found one box that was mostly empty. I opened it to find a full stack of Spike Owen cards, along with some Tigers, some Boones. All were cards that had obviously started as mine - 1992 Triple Play sets, or other cards that were obviously kid-oriented.

When I was young, it didn't really matter whether dad kept those cards I passed along to him. It was the experience, the opening of the packs and sharing while we drove to the next vet call, that actually mattered to me. If dad had thrown the cards into the garbage, I would never have known. But he didn't. Every card given to him by his youngest son was kept, and they were kept separate from the masses.

Spike Owen was never one of my favorite players. That will always be true. But just like I will enjoy it when the Tigers do well, even if I'm a Rangers fan, finding a Spike Owen card was always a special thrill. Maybe it wasn't a thrill on the level of Will Clark, of Gary Carter. But there's still a special thrill when a young boy can find something that he thinks makes his dad happy. And, it seems, there's a special thrill when a dad can get a common card of a mediocre baseball card from his youngest.

God, I love baseball cards.

Topps Archives Baseball is a celebration of the 70s, 80s and 90s, what many consider to be the glory years of card collecting. If you collected Topps Baseball Cards during these years then you will love Topps Archives Baseball. Look for autographs and memorabilia cards from today’s stars and your favorite retired players on classic Topps card designs.

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