We all grew up baseball fans, but few of us really had a chance to be raised around excellence. Fortunately for me, I was one of the few (relatively speaking) who lived, breathed and witnessed the greatness of the Oakland Athletics, circa 1988-1992.
True, I am a Red Sox fan, and have been since 1988, when I selected Roger Clemens as my favorite player. But there has always been a soft spot for those A’s teams, the same squad I would rush home from school and listen to on 560 KSFO radio or watch on KCIU-36, the flagship television station.
Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco were my guys. I waggled my bat the same way they did whenever we played pickup ball. I had pretty much all of the batting stances down from those teams, including the ridiculous bat-wielding technique of Ron Hassey, Carney’s bat jitter, Rickey’s rock and explode, Hendu’s toe-tap, the way Walt choked up on the bat. Yep, all of them.
So imagine my delight when I stopped at a thrift shop and saw a binder full of Oakland A’s cards. Now before we go any further, this simplistic description of a binder of cards is actually pretty common in my area. I still live in the Bay Area. All sorts of collectors have dumped their collections at thrift stores, who then routinely over price them. But not today, my friends. The Cardboard Gods were shining down upon me. This time they wanted a mere $3.99.
I flipped through the pages of this neat-looking binder and nearly dropped a load in my pants when I saw this page:
Do you see it? Hell, do you see them? It’s a pair of freakin’ Mark McGwire autograph cards! And one of them being signed on my favorite McGwire card of all time, the 1989 Upper Deck card?
When I saw this, I closed the binder and headed to the register. You’re telling me that this store — which often removes cards from binder pages, throws them into baggies and hawks them 50 for $2.99 — was going to sell this entire binder for less than a bottle of Diet Coke and a pack of gum at the neighboring liquor store?
I was hoping the cashier didn’t thumb through the binder to get a gander at what I was so giddily ready to purchase. Good thing he didn’t or he might have realized there were FIVE more autographs in the binder including Bash Brother Jose Canseco (90 UD), Dennis Eckersley (89 Fleer), Mike Gallego (90 UD) and a pair of Walt Weiss (89 Topps, 90 UD).
Questioning the authenticity of these autographs? Not me. They are absolutely legit in my opinion, especially those McGwire’s. I’ve been mesmerized by McGwire’s auto since childhood and have been studying every stroke. I spent my first two years of college (1998 and 1999) trying to perfect it instead of listening to the history of Napoleon Bonaparte and the such.
Aside from the inked cards, there are still a boat load of cards that bring back all sorts of memories. Check out these Mark McGwire Mother’s Cookies cards. Gotta love the one with the massive bat and the one with fellow Rookie of the Year winners, Jose Canseco and Walt Weiss. I’ve written about some of these before.
And these unlicensed issues, which were pretty prevalent in my area during childhood.
I can’t seem to figure this one out. It’s not really a card, but more like a wallet size picture. The image appears to be from 1987, or Spring Training 1988, based on the jersey. The back only says “This Paper Manufactured By Kodak.”
How about this 1988 Topps Record Breaker Error/Gimmick card. Check out McGwire’s plant foot — there’s a bow on his cleat, and a weird triangle toward the heel. Come to think of it, it looks like Someone at Topps made a poor attempt to make it look like he was wearing a wedge heel. Seriously.
And for good measure, how about these rookie-year issues, 1987 Topps and 1987 Donruss Rated Rookie. Oddly enough, the Donruss card is probably the nicest raw copy of this card I have ever owned, and I’ve had a few come through my collection. They were tough to keep mint back in the day because of the stiff binder pages and black card borders.
Pretty cool, eh? And that’s just McGwires.
Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane with some other Junk Wax Era releases.
Here’s some 1989 Fleer error cards. Notice the red color bars on top and below the photos; they are supposed to be green.
I used to LOVE these oddball releases. 1989 Topps Toys R Us Rookies Walt Weiss and 1988 Topps Revco League Leaders Mark McGwire.
What an awesome image of Rick Honeycutt signing autographs. He actually looks like a police officer writing a speeding ticket. Sweet shades, Rick.
Who can forget how useful Tony Philips was. I’m pretty sure the Topps photographer caught Phillips off guard here. I wonder who else signed that ball and what happened to it.
A partial set of 1990 Fleer World Series cards, recapping the 1989 victory over the Bay Area rivals San Francisco Giants. That was the Bay Bridge Series that was stopped for a week or so because of the Loma Prieta earthquake.
I was going to scan an image of each player from those great teams, but there are too many. There are literally 200-plus cards in this binder. Instead I’ll finish this post with five of my favorite A’s cards from the era, all of which just happened to be in the binder.
1992 Upper Deck Mark McGwire — check out the bat.
1990 Score 1989 World Series recap of Games 1 and 2. Love the wording at the bottom left of this Dave Stewart and Mike Moore image. It says “Actual World Series Action Photography.”
1989 Fleer Triple A’s card featuring Canseco, McGwire and catcher Terry Steinbach. There’s a very personal story that goes with this card. Not the right forum to share it though. Actually, pretty depressing. Maybe I’ll save it for my book.
1988 Topps Team Leaders. So Young. So good. So innocent … or so we thought.
1991 Score Dream Team Rickey Henderson. Only a Canseco Dream Team card would have rivaled this badboy. Go, Rickey! Go!