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Fan’s treasure: The story behind my 1980 Topps Mike Schmidt baseball card
Philadelphia Phillies third baseman Mike Schmidt was my favorite player when I was a boy. I wore his number 20 on the back of my little league jersey. His 1980 Topps baseball card has remained my favorite for reasons that go well beyond the player.
I got it in a wax pack at a local convenience store that I use to walk to in the summer. It is inside an individual plastic case, that is stored in a larger collector's box, with other special cards from the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Many of my school friends and cousins used to buy packs of trading cards. We compared and traded them with each other all year long. Doing so was a fun way to learn about the game we loved playing.
When I got Schmidt's card, I looked at the statistics from his 1979 season where he hit 45 home runs and had 114 RBIs. It was in the spring of that year that my family took me to an exhibition game. I then unexpectedly found myself inside the Phillies clubhouse during a pre-game rain delay. Many of the players who I met were one season away from capturing Philadelphia's first World Series championship. Doing so transformed them into historically significant sports legends.
After my friend Nick opened a big red door, we entered a small, stuffy locker room where my baseball card heroes came to life. The entire team was in there. Schmidt, whose hair was surprisingly red, sat in a folding chair with his uniform pants and a t-shirt on.
He was playing cards with Steve Carlton and Tim McCarver. Tug McGraw was quickly signing a box of baseballs so that he could get in on the game. When Nick handed me a pen and one of those balls, I made sure to get Michael Jack's autograph first.
Schmidt's 1980 baseball card sells for around $5.00. Those who see trading cards and autographed balls as commodities value money over meaning. But, I don't recall many people asking about monetary details when I have spoken about this experience.
After meeting the Phillies, the only thing that I wanted to do was to tell my family and friends about it. I wished that they all could have been right there with me during that brief, yet infinite, moment in time.
However, when I retell this story I always connect what happened in that locker room to everyone who truly mattered back then.
Growing up in the Philadelphia region during the late 1970's and early 1980's naturally enabled everyone to become Phillies fans. My friends and I learned the game on little league fields, through trading cards, and by playing APBA. That era became an important part of our young lives. This new golden era has sparked a resurgence of baseball passion in everyone who never forgot the feeling of those old school days.
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