there goes my retirement

Last year I retrieved my 3,000 baseball cards from my parents’ house.  I started collecting in 1973, when my brother and I would spend our 30 cent allowance on a pack of 12 Topps cards and a stiff, bland, powdered pink stick of gum.  We coveted the Indians’ players the most because we were living in northeast Ohio and we were dumb.  We had doubles and triples of Duane Kuiper, Frank Duffy, and Charlie Spikes.  If you have never heard of these singles hitters, then you probably wasted less time in your childhood than I did in mine.

While my brother kept his cards in mint condition, I foolishly put rubber bands around mine–which warped and cut into the cards, and played make-believe baseball games in our living room by smacking a marble with the cards and then pushing them around the floor.  I pretty much ruined a ’73 Lou Brock this way.  He was fast, so his card was always stealing bases, which led to carpet burn, which wore away the statistics on the back of his card.

I had mostly forgotten about my cards, but I figured they were my ace in the hole.  If we fell into a depression and a barter economy, my baseball card collection might buy me a new car.  Which makes this essay on Slate disturbing.  Apparently my childhood was smack in the middle of the baseball card bubble, and my cards today, even if they were in mint condition, wouldn’t even be worth a Toyota.  The story is an interesting read, and a reminder that nothing in this life is guaranteed.






16 responses to “there goes my retirement”

  1. Richard

    And to think I had a Mickey Mantle rookie card I attached to my bike to make it sound like a motor cycle when I was a kid. sigh….

  2. Todd

    I’ve collected wheat pennies, so my retirement is secure. Almost as reliable as social security…

  3. Mike, I think you already know how much I admire your thinking, your writing and the rest of your work. But with today’s post, my admiration has gone through the roof.

    I was also a huge baseball card collector in my childhood (the 70s and 80s). I likewise would play “baseball games” on the living room floor with my cards and a marble, ruining the cards but creating great memories. And Lou Brock is my all time favorite player (I still have every Topps card of his produced during his career).

    By the way, nice call on including Duane Kuiper in the post. Did you know that he had only one home run in 3,379 career at bats…a major league record for lack of power!

  4. mikewittmer


    Wow, now I have a man crush on you. I remember Kuiper’s only home run–I don’t think he did it on purpose–which is why I called him a singles hitter. 🙂 I wonder if he is related to my favorite theologian Kuyper?

  5. I suppose next you’re going to point us to an article on how Star Wars action figures aren’t worth the plastic they’re molded from, huh?

    If that’s the case, I’ll have to keep working as well.


  6. Not only did me and my brothers use our baseball cards for this type of game we played a similar game with the football cards we collected as well.

    I bet my retirement on my Mark McGuire 1984 Olympic Card. Just after he set the record the card was worth several hundreds of dollars and I foolishly thought it would only continue to go up… Now after Barry Bonds breaking the record and sterioids and all that the card is probablly not worth the money it is printed on.

    I still hang onto my Bo Jackson cards (both football and baseball) and several other cards that are wasting away in either my basement or my parents garage.

  7. mikewittmer

    This thread is getting depressing. We all sound like losers, but at least we have company!

  8. Mike –

    I had the same thought about Kuiper/Kuyper, but I refrained from saying anything out of fear that this thread might head in a direction that in anyway resembled something edifying.

  9. Brad Davis

    I don’t know where my retirement would be, but no matter what I’m keeping my Ozzie Smith rookie card… there’s just too much sentimental value there. No one else would understand.

  10. I grew up in NE Ohio as well, but luckily I have never been an Indians fan. My childhood was during the glory days of the Big Red Machine, so I have always been a Cincinnati fan (Dr. Turner would understand). I too collected baseball cards, but had the intelligence to stay away from anything having to do with the Tribe. My love for the Reds caused me to collect mostly cards of Johnny Bench (my favorite player), Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, and the like. I doubt they are worth much, but maybe someday…

    By the way, I remember those bad Indians players too. I also remember going to games with my family every summer and being able to buy the cheap seats and then sit wherever you wanted. The old stadium held about 80,000 and the Indians drew about 3000 per game in those days. Fun times!

  11. Mike,

    As a Tennessee graduate and fan, it was a hard loss today to MSU. However, I will way that State was the ONE team I would not want to play in this particular game because of their experience and their coach.

    Still, we gave them what we could, and the Spartans did not exactly blow us out. Congrats and good Providence in the FF.

  12. … and all the pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and half dollors we stuck in the little blue books when we were young but then we bcame teenagers and needed “spending money”…. (sigh… )

    …favorite baseball memory is Micky Mantle in 1961 hitting a home run out of Tiger Stadium over the right field wall into the street below… and our all time favorite Tiger Al Kaline…

    retirement? When all is said and done, we are cast upon the Lord for His provision…. “give us this day…” even if it means I have to keep working a few more years then I wanted to….

  13. mikewittmer


    I remember those blue books–and I also remember CDs that paid 12% interest. Happy times! Except for the stagflation, gas lines, and plaid pants.

  14. Dan Jesse

    Forget baseball cards, my Operation Desert Storm cards are going to be worth millions some day!

  15. Tim Farley,
    What do you think the “odds” are that your Pete Rose card is actually worth money? 🙂

  16. craighurst

    I cannot tell you how many countless hrs I spent with my dad and two brothers buying, selling, trading and counting cards. I still have some MJ cards that I cherish but other than that the rest are for the trash!

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