Joe Montana, Cal Ripken Jr., Eddie Murray and Ron Kittle

I did quite a bit of spring cleaning today, gathering a pile of things to donate and rediscovering things that I have long since forgotten. I found some baseball cards and football cards, and immediately was transported to a time when I was just learning to speak English and falling in love with baseball and football.

Like every other American boy growing up in the late 70s and 80s, I became obsessed with baseball and football cards. And I loved to get with my friends to trade mine for theirs. When I first started, I got taken quite a bit. While the Dodgers and the Red Sox were my teams in baseball, and the NINERS my team in football, certain players I just loved, even if they were not on my team. And because of that, I’d get fleeced. Two stories jump out.

As a kid, Joe Montana was my favourite player in the NFL. It wasn’t even close. I loved the other NINERS as I was getting older – Steve Young, Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott and others, but Joe was my first. He was a Golden Domer, and I loved all things Notre Dame. I didn’t even realize it, but I had Montana’s rookie card at a young age. My brother loved comic books and had his eye on one that a friend of his had. Without my knowledge, he traded my Montana rookie card for the comic book he wanted. To this day, I don’t even remember the title of the comic. The Montana rookie card? A pristine version of the card (I read today) sold at an auction for over $65,000.

I remember Chicago White Sox Ron Kittle’s rookie year like it was yesterday. He hit 35 homers with 99 RBI’s, if memory serves me. I prefer not to Google it; cos I might be wrong. One of my friends had it and I wanted it. I’m not even sure why as I wasn’t a huge White Sox fan. I had an Eddie Murray rookie card, the slugging switch hitting first baseman for the feared Baltimore Orioles. He was one of the best players in the game. My friend wanted that card, as Murray was already a perennial allstar. He was even willing to throw in a “future stars” rookie card of newcomer Cal Ripken, Jr., who would become one of the all-time most famous and best players in baseball. “When I got to the big leagues, there was a man – Eddie Murray – who showed me how to play this game, day in and day out. I thank him for his example,” said Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr. Years later, I would have dinner with him. (More accurately, I was seated at a table with colleagues having dinner with Cal, but as far as I was concerned, it was just me and Cal.)

I didn’t even give that card another thought, as I traded straight up my Murray for his Kittle, happily walking away smiling, a winner. In the years since, that trade proved to be extremely lopsided. Murray’s rookie card at Gem MT 10 (i.e. a perfect card, which admittedly, I’m sure mine was not) could command $4,000; and the Cal Ripken Future Stars at $1,500 in the same condition.

My Ron Kittle rookie card I walked away with?

Fifteen cents in perfect condition.

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