In the dying weeks of winter in 1981, I’d gotten a Dynamite magazine with baseball cards inserted in it. They were actual Topps 1980 baseball cards, except that they were still on the same sheet. The perforations separating them were candy-ass, so I’d torn my fascinating new cards. I think my mom must have picked up the very last pack of 1980 cards from the kid’s crap shelf at the Safeway to shut me up; here be the unremarkable people who set me on a hobby thru most of the rest of elementary school.
Spring rolled around and I was signed up for the 7-8 baseball clinic. The Star Wars action figures and Adventure People went into the closet and stayed there til my folks left the house I grew up in. I learned about ‘being a fan,’ reading box scores, and scanning the lower right-hand corner of the Sun for a cartoon which summed up the previous night’s game as some kind of brutal street fight ass-whipping between loosely drawn ballclub mascots.
Not pictured is the 1980 John Lowenstein. He was separated from the rest of the guys from that first pack of cards because he was an Oriole. By summer of 1981, I knew just how goddamn difficult it was to get the ‘home’ team in those blind-packed, randomly assorted packs. I’m sure there was some kid in San Francisco or Arlington wondering why the fuck he kept getting Steve Stone over and over again. I’d put all my Orioles cards into a credit card wallet emblazoned with an ‘Airco’ logo, courtesy of my salesman father, so’s I could — AT AN INSTANT!!! — whip out all six of my Orioles cards.
You know where this is going.
That shit went in the wash, of course.
John Lowenstein – OF
Steve Stone – P
Two Donruss Dan Grahams – C
Eddie Murray – 1B, most ‘clutch’ Oriole ever
One guy ‘survived.’
Had not Big Eddie Fickus talked me out of my ’81 Donrusses, I’d still have a Lee Mazzilli to go with the 5 or 6 Mike Hargroves I amassed over the years, and the 3 or 4 Jim Beatties Topps’ random packing policies stuck me, and all those guys and the lone Mike Flanagan could all get together in a circle and discuss the pointlessness of ‘rebuilding’ the ‘Oriole Way.’