I didn’t want to write this post on Father’s Day, because, come on, it’s a bit spot on. But this post is about my dad.
My dad died back in March of this year. He was a collector. He collected jazz 78s mostly, though he also accumulated large piles of sheet music, movie memorabilia, even oddball action figures.
I am a collector, too. First, I started collecting small scraps of metal I would find on the street (yes, really). After I got a beautiful pink plastic ring out of a little vending machine at Hardee’s, I collected rings for a few months.
My aunt DeeDee, who lives in Miami, somehow acquired a Miami Dolphins football helmet and gave it to me as a present. I of course instantly became a Miami Dolphins fan (a side note — when playing football as a youth, the other kids gave me the nickname Csonka, because like Dolphins FB Larry Csonka, I could not be stopped).
Some time shortly after getting the football helmet, I started collecting football cards.
This is the first card I remember owning:
My dad, who would on occasion look for nice finds at flea markets and thrift stores, found a box of baseball cards at the Springfield, IL Salvation Army. It was mostly filled with early 70s cards. He brought them home for me. He was a collector, buying for his son, the collector.
The only card I’m sure was in that box was a 1971 Pete Rose.
I remember this card because of a traumatic event. The Pete Rose was in a handful of cards that I carried to my friend’s house. On the way back home, I got caught in a rainstorm. I put the cards in my t-shirt and wrapped them up. It didn’t help. The rain drenched the cards, and many of them, Pete Rose included, got badly damaged. Sigh. Sorry, Pete.
My dad would buy cards for me from a local barber. I can’t remember any of the cards he bought for me, but I remember getting my adenoids out (and being absolutely terrified by the procedure), the throwing up afterwards, the sore throat, the ice cream, and then the next day my dad taking me to get some baseball cards. Father and son, collectors. I also remember my dad later overhearing the barber bragging about how much money he was making off my dad from the sale of baseball cards, and my dad getting angry and never talking to that barber again.
One day, my dad gave me a big collection of cards he had bought from someone. There were cards from the 1960s! There were cards from the 1950s! From the 1940s! It was amazing. My nimble little fingers started filling up binders with cards. There were enough cards in the 1957/1958/1959 Topps series that I left spaces where the cards I didn’t have would go. It was pretty darned cool.
I didn’t collect cards for a long span of time — maybe a few years. It was during that same time when my brother gave me some hand-me-down superhero comics.
There was an Amazing Spider-Man #55:
There was a Fantastic Four #66!!!
I was enthralled by the comics. They had stories, and were more than a picture with stats on the back to memorize (I’ve been told I could regurgitate a player’s statistics from the back of a baseball card by memory, though I don’t remember having this talent). And look at that Jack Kirby artwork on FF #66! Wow. It’s gorgeous.
So, I gave up baseball cards for comics. But this post isn’t about comics.
I never got rid of my baseball cards, until this past Saturday. There were about 4 paper boxes full of them. They sat in a closet in my parent’s house for many years, until my folks told me, hey, how about you get your stuff out of our house and into yours. Fair enough! So, for several years, those baseball cards were in the corner of my daughter’s closet. This wasn’t going to be a permanent place for them.
The thing is, I didn’t really have an emotional attachment to those cards. That emotional attachment pretty much transferred to my collection of comic books (which I still own). I thought, I have no place for these cards to live, and I need some extra money because I have a baby on the way.
I found Michael Osacky just by searching for people who looked to buy collections. He had a 312 area code, so I figured he was local. He was interested based on my description of my collection, and we went back and forth for several weeks. You can see pictures I took of my collection for him here.
We finally met at the Rock and Roll McDonald’s (his choice, not mine — I would have opted for a deserted warehouse filled with sputtering fluorescents).
He went through my cards meticulously. Yeah, most of my 1957 Topps had pen marks. Yeah, my Robert Clemente rookie card was in pretty bad shape, but not as bad shape as my 1957 Mickey Mantle. I had hoped to sell the cards for X amount of dollars, but he suggested Y was a more realistic price for them. I talked him up a couple hundred dollars, and then it was either yes to the deal, or no. I think he offered a fair price to me, so I took it. He had taken a cab there, so we loaded the boxes back into my car and I drove him home.
He was a nice guy. I had mentioned how I had wanted to take a couple Walter Payton cards out of the collection for ShesAllWrite (one of our daughter’s middle names is going to be Payton, which should give you an idea as to how much she loves the man), and he was totally cool about it. He also offered to send me any more Payton cards if he found them.
The thing was, after I got home, I felt a little hole inside me. I felt like I gave away something when I sold those cards that my dad had bought. I called my mom and told her how I felt. She said, “It’s just stuff.” She’s currently going through a lot of his old sheet music and movie items, and trying to find something to do with them. Like the baseball cards were to me, sheet music and the movie items weren’t an emotional attachment for my dad. He loved his record collection, and that collection is just as safe in my parents’ home as my comic books are in mine.
When I went to meet Michael, I didn’t take a couple things. There was a chintzy St. Louis Cardinals batting helmet, and there was an old sports-card carrying case made to look kind of like a locker. There were a hundred or so cards in there. I didn’t even look at the cards inside it, knowing that there weren’t any cards of value in there. So, when I got home and saw those two things sitting on a table in the basement I got kind of choked up. The football locker was the first thing I ever had to store my cards. More than the Mickey Mantles and the Hank Aarons and the Willie Mays cards I got later, the locker was some kind of symbol for the start of a collection, and a connection to my dad.
I took the cards out of the locker and looked at them tonight. There were lots of 1981 Topps (that was around the time I stopped collecting). There were some mid-70s football cards. I had some basketball cards! Where the hell did I get those from? I never, ever bought basketball cards.
After I looked at those cards, I started writing this post. Some of the things I wrote here I had forgotten about until now. I love my dad and I miss him very much. I miss you, Dad.