If I still had my Johnny Bench rookie card, it would be worth at least $1,500. But I thought his picture looked stupid with this goofy white swim cap on, so I did what other kids did — clothespinned it so when it hit my bicycle spokes it would sound like a motor.
Guess who feels stupid now?
But money is not why I got into collecting baseball cards in 1967 at the age of 10 years old. The Seattle Pilots came to town — just for one year — and I became a fan, listening to games on the radio. I watched Major League Baseball games on many Saturdays with my Grandpa Powell, and we’d play catch in the front yard. I loved sports, actually wanted to be a pro basketball player.
My first pack of baseball cards had Matty Alou in it, but early on I also obtained one of Tommy Harper of the Pilots. But the Pilots quickly moved to Milwaukee, so I became more of a general baseball fan. I loved Mickey Mantle and have a couple of his cards that are valuable today. I was a big fan of “Yaz,” Carl Yastrzemski, I think maybe because of his odd batting style. So cool that his grandson is playing in the pros today.
Some of my cards I can relate to personally. Some of my friends used to call me “Boog” after the Powell who played for the Orioles. I also saw one of the greatest hitters of all time in person — Rod Carew — hit two line-drive home runs out of the Kingdome.
I saw Randy Johnson pitch many times — man he could throw darts.
And then there’s Gaylord Perry, the “Ancient Mariner,” who I interviewed in person his final season. I’ll never forget standing on the floor of the Kingdome to take a photo behind a catcher as Perry warmed up before the game. The ball went off the catcher’s mitt and hit me in the shin. It felt like Perry still threw pretty hard for an old guy.
Pitchers who had unique styles were a favorite of mine — like Juan Marichal and Luis Tiant. I also have a Denny McLain, who won 31 games in 1968, and everybody has heard of Tommy John, but mostly because of the surgery.
I also appreciated great defensive stars — like Ozzie Smith, Cal Ripken and Brooks Robinson.
Later on, I became a fan of Mr. October — Reggie Jackson.
Of course, when Seattle got another team years later — the Mariners — I went back to being a hometown fan. I’m certainly not one of the haters of Alex Rodriguez, loved watching him hit. I also have an Edgar Martinez and loved shortstop Omar Vizquel. I’ll always remember the first bare-handed play I saw him make.
No Ken Griffey though, a disappointment of mine, along with no Willie Mays, my favorite player ever. My son Chris took up collecting for a while and does have a few Griffeys, along with a bunch of Nolan Ryan, his favorite pitcher, whom I got to see pitch his final game — also in the Kingdome.
Some of my cards remind me of tragic times — like my rookie card of Thurman Munson, who died in a plane crash. Also sad for me is my card of “Charlie Hustle,” Pete Rose, who played as hard as anyone ever in the game.
Others truly are downright heroes of mine, like Jim Abbott, who had a deformed right hand, and Carlton Fisk, who hit one of the most memorable homers in history. Though not really big fans of these players — don’t really know why — I do have cards of other famous players: Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Frank Robinson, Tom Seaver, Albert Pujols, Tony Gwynn, Jose Canseco, Kirby Puckett and Mariano Rivera.
I don’t have many football cards, but the ones I do have are of some all-time greats: Johnny Unitas, Bart Starr, Joe Namath, Fran Tarkenton, Gayle Sayers and Dick Butkus.
And while I was a big fan of his when he was at USC and again when he was in the pros, I’m not such a big fan anymore of O.J. Simpson.
Before Seattle had the Seahawks, I was an Oakland Raiders fan — the closest team to us, I guess.
Early on, my favorite was the “Mad Bomber,” Daryle Lamonica, throwing deep to Warren Wells and short to Fred Biletnikoff, the first Steve Largent.
I don’t have a Largent card, but I do have one of a QB who threw to him — Dave Krieg.
I don’t have many basketball cards, either, but I do have one of my favorite all-time player, Wilt Chamberlain. He could score, assist, rebound and block shots like nobody else ever has.
And, of course, I was a Seattle Supersonics fan and have a Tom Meschery card from the expansion team in 1967.
I was a big UCLA fan of college basketball during the John Wooden years — I actually got to interview him while attending school at Green River Community College in Auburn. So I was excited when I got a Lew Alcindor rookie card. Of course, you all know him as Kareem Abdul Jabbar.
I’m really excited that I didn’t put that card in my spokes. It’s worth at least $750 up to thousands of dollars.
So, yea, it’s not just about collecting them anymore.