Baseball cards continue to mark the timeline of my life

From a young age I found that baseball cards in some ways acted as hash marks on the timeline of my life. I can remember certain cards associated with events of my life, both good and bad. And this weekend, they certainly found their way into my timeline as we celebrated the life of my grandmother.

Trips to grandmother’s house, which was about 70 minutes away from where I grew up, almost certainly involved me asking, begging and pleading with my mom to take me to a card shop, or anywhere I could purchase new cards. Sure, I grew up (ages 7-10) directly across the street from a card shop, but trips out of my neighborhood always presented new opportunities to see new shops. And so each trip to Fairfield, California, involved me finding cards somewhere. At times it was packs of 1989 Topps at Target; 1989 Donruss at the local corner store, 1990 Topps at 7-Eleven; packs of 1991 Classic Best Minor League or Donruss from some car shop.

I have lots of memories bringing baseball cards to grandma’s house and spending hours sorting them while the adults talked, argued, and laughed.

Grandma passed away in February of this year due to health reasons, she was 81. Grandma lived in Fairfield from the early 1980s through 2002 when she and her husband uprooted and moved to North Carolina, where pace of life was much more to their liking as they grew older. Since then her trips to California have only been for major events, a few weddings and graduations, but in recent year it was deaths. In 2017 her first husband died; then in 2018 her husband passed — I called both men “grandpa.” She came to visit again in 2019 to see her husband’s tombstone and to celebrate her 80th birthday with family. Then COVID came and stopped all plans for a 2020 visit. I last spoke to her during Christmas of 2020, she was so happy to hear from me. She laughed and cried; as did I as I could tell her memory was starting to fade. The came the call in February that she had been admitted to the hospital and then passed rather suddenly from non-Covid related health issues.

We’ve had a few months to process the passing, but we knew we as a family would gather again here in California when restrictions loosened so that we could have her ashes buried with those of her husband. And that’s how and why we all ended up near Fairfield again this weekend. And as luck or fate would have it, there just so happened to be a card show at Solano Town Center IN Fairfield. I knew I had to make it happen even if it was just for an hour or two with my son.

We went and it was the first real show my son had been to in almost two years; it was my first since March 2020 — literally as the country began to freak out over COVID. I remember it vividly because all autograph guests canceled their appearances over growing health and travel convcerns.

Anyhow, my son and I went to the Fairfield show and I had no expectations other than to find at least one card that I could use to memorialize this weekend; also to watch my son again dig through boxes and find something he enjoyed. I’ll probably post the small haul in a different post because I want to dedicate the rest of this space today to the one card I found.

We dug through a few bargain boxes and in one of the boxes I located this 1991 Score “Bo Breaker” card and it made me stop immediately. I knew I had found THE card for the weekend. Here’s the story.

In 1991 my family took a trip to Fairfield and my cousin and I visited a shop called “Batter Up.” To my recollection this was the second location for the store, but I recall it being larger than the ones I frequented in my hometown. They houses a dozen oshowcases with lots of singles, and for 1991 they seemed to have every pack one could want. During one trip I remember taking a few dollars and buying a fistful of 1991 Score Series 2 packs looking for a certain card — the “Bo Breaker.” The card features black borders and showcases Bo Jackson snapping a bat over his leg after striking out in a game. The reverse shows Bo finishing his swing with a broken bat in his hand. It’s sort of silly, but at the time it was a big deal. Anyhow, as luck would have it I pulled the Bo! But it didn’t leave the card shop with me.

You see, I didn’t get a ton of money for cards as a kid, but I loved opening packs. Every now and again my mom would give me a few dollars, but more times then not I earned my card money by raiding garbage bins for cans and bottles to recycle. So when I pulled this Bo, I asked how much the shop could give me in trade and the guy offered $3, which meant I could rip six more packs of 1991 Score baseball! (Insert eyeroll emoji here)

In the genius state of my 11-year-old mind this deal made total sense so I took it and then walked away with six more packs of Score figuring I’d pull another and just enjoy the extra stuff as well. Of course those new six packs did NOT contain another Bo Breaker and I went home with a stack of commons, which I still enjoyed (I later built the set with them) but certainly didn’t celebrate them the way I did or would have with Bo Breaker in my collection at the time.

I’ve owned a few Bo Breaker cards over the years, and have a few at home at the moment. But this particular copy feels extra special. I realize not everyone gets sentimental over their cards. But for me, it seems certain ones have been placed in front of me, just for me in that moment. And to find this card in the same city where we used to visit grandma, in the same city where the aforementioned transaction occurred 30 years ago, feels like the workings of something from beyond. And now THIS copy is going home with me to mark this occasion, this weekend. Love you, Grandma. Rest easy.

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