The Lost Legends of Childhood

Today’s guest post is brought to us by frequent commenter Brad.

My first year of collecting baseball cards was 1991.  Nothing in my life at that time beat the thrill I got when opening a pack.  Ken Griffey, Jr?  Jose Canseco (don’t laugh), dare I say it…OZZIE!?!?  There was no telling what joy awaited me on my monthly trip to Triple Play Cards and Comics.  Granted, I usually walked away with Wally Joyner or Bob Welch, but the thrill of anticipation was enough to keep me coming back.  One day, amid the usual group of Rob Deers and Kent Hrbeks, I got a bright yellow card.

CHIPPER JONES  1ST ROUND DRAFT PICK

I was curious.  Who was this Chipper Jones?  Why did he get a yellow card?  I needed to know more, yet, in this pre-Internet era, I lacked the means to do so.  All I knew about Chipper was that he appeared to have been birthed by the sun.  For a nine year old, that was enough.  He settled in right under Ozzie and on top of Ken Griffey, Jr. in my pantheon.

As the years went on, I worried about Chipper.  What had happened to him?  I didn’t understand the concept of minor league baseball, so I figured that he and fellow yellow card honoree Todd Van Poppel were just an invention of the SCORE baseball card company, superheroes along the lines of the Flash or Superman designed to spruce up a set that was reduced to taking a picture of Bob Welch’s fingers.  We didn’t have cable or the Internet, so my sports knowledge was limited to the Commercial Appeal box scores.

In 1995, a CJones started appearing at 3rd for the Braves instead of the great Terry Pendleton.  Could it be?  I didn’t know for sure until I tuned into the 1995 World Series.  There he was!  He was a little bigger than the stringbean on the card, yet he was still a fresh-faced rookie phenom who was ready to lead the Braves dynasty, well…forever, in my mind.  What 14 year old thinks about endings?

I’ve kept a strange attachment to Chipper over the years.  I was confused when Andruw Jones supplanted him as the phenom in residence in ’96.  I rejoiced when he would disposed of the Mets in dramatic fashion in 99, sure that his MVP award was a sign of future greatness, just as the future held great promise for me.  His resurgence in 2008 meant that my physical peak was far from over, despite what my body was beginning to tell me.  His knee injury in 2010 had me panicked.  If it was time for Chipper Jones to retire, I was….old.

But he came back!  2011 wasn’t the greatest year for Chipper, but he was still a formidable player, an important part of a team that was in the hunt until the end.  My youth survived!

This spring, Chipper announced that this will be his last season.  He’s 40, and he just doesn’t have the energy to make it through much more baseball.  It is inescapable.  He is old.  And so am I.

Did you collect things when you were young? What are the things that remind you that you’re getting old?

10 thoughts on “The Lost Legends of Childhood”

  1. Brad,

    I’m impressed that even at nine you sensed greatness in that Chipper Jones card. I guess you can’t deny that being birthed from the sun really gives a player a leg up. I feel similarly about Chipper Jones. His retirement is certainly a sign (among many) that I am getting old… or older. Other things that remind me that I’m getting old include:
    – When I reference a TV show and my lab mates don’t get the reference. (He-Man, for example)
    – Garbage Pail Kids
    – Freestyle music (i.e. Debbie Deb and Stevie B)
    – My Speak & Spell, which still lives in my closest in my mother’s house. It is still functional, and at the time was a technological marvel (or so I thought).

    There are plenty more, but this is getting depressing.

    Nice post.

    Reply
  2. I’m right there with you on the Chipper Jones thing. Not only do I have the same card as you do (actually, the 91′ Score set was a Christmas gift I coveted and own to this day), but I’ve had the same thoughts about getting old as Chipper retires. I was there for Chipper during his ’91-’94 years with the Richmond Braves. He was a great minor league player during my most precious baseball watching years–I was still filled with awe over minor league games. Chipper is one of the few guys I can actually remember watching and following as he made it out of the minors. Soon, as we grow increasingly fat, old, and broken down, Chipper will no longer be there to remind us of when we were young, spry, and vibrant.

    I tip my cap to you, Brad, for the memory.

    Reply
    • I also got the ’91 Score set for Xmas. It was a fantastic gift, all shiny and exciting compared to Topps. Remember the Dream Team subset? I was furious at the time that Barry Larkin was the SS entry instead of Ozzie. I’m still furious, and I still own the set. But I’ve known I was old since Hot Prospect Todd Zeile retired.

      Reply
    • How did you feel about receiving the entire set, rather than compiling it painstakingly through opening individual packs? I, too, coveted the entire set, but instead requested a couple boxes of Score for Christmas, from which I opened two packs a day for what seemed like an eternity.

      I never did quite complete the set – missing maybe 10 – but I am proud of my noble quest.

      Reply
      • That’s a good question–I’m curious about Aaron’s answer. I’d never want to receive a full set of cards. It removes the mystery of opening each pack. That way you get to feel like you’re building the set with your own two hands.

        Reply
        • No, I loved getting the set, actually. There were so many damn sets in those days, there were still plenty of packs to buy. Actually, I tried to collect the ’91 Topps set pack by pack, and I think I’m still about 50 cards short.

          Reply
  3. When you combined the Barry Larkin travesty with Bobby Cox’s indefensible decision to pick Jeff Blauser as the backup All-Star shortstop in ’93, there was a lot of rage building up inside pre-teen Brad.

    And you’re right about the ’91 Score set. Blew Topps out of the water. There was a defining line in ’91 card sets: Those that had Bo Breaker, and those that didn’t. Topps fell on the wrong side.

    Reply
  4. I remember opening pack after pack of Topps baseball cards, putting the gum in one pile and the cards in the other. I didn’t follow baseball at all, but for some reason it was really important to have those cards. There was something about the stats that I found particularly intriguing.

    Perhaps even more fond is my memory of collecting Marvel cards. There was one set where if you put 9 different cards together in a 3×3 sleeve, they formed a cohesive picture (usually a battle). It was brilliant on Marvel’s part, because not only did it encourage us to buy more cards to complete each picture, but it also made trading even more fun because you could help someone else complete one picture while they help you with theirs. Again, there was nothing you could really do with the cards after that, but they looked awesome.

    Thanks for the post, Brad.

    Reply
  5. Katie? Sarah? Anyone? Hello….

    The gender of those who replied to this says a lot about the current state of my romantic life.

    Reply

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