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April 10, 2000

I'm a pack rat. I've been a pack rat since I filled a garage loft with shoe boxes full of baseball cards as a fanatic eleven-year-old. I have every record I've ever bought, every book I've ever bought, every video I've ever taped. I have newspapers that record the deaths of three popes, a president (and his son), and a princess.

And it's all going. It's not getting moved again. National Geographics dating back to 1988, along with several years of Natural History, Discover, American Heritage, plus the odd souvenir edition of Sports Illustrated and Newsweek. All headed to the dump or the recycler. I park in the driveway now, because of the stacks of mementos inching ever higher in my garage, awaiting their final journey.

Okay, not everything is going. The records, few of which ever get played, will find a new life somewhere, and the books will eventually be given away to good homes or sold at garage sales. But the 1962 set of World Book encyclopedias is of little historical and no actual value to anyone any more. They served their purpose, over a couple of generations, but that was before we had the instant access to information we have now.

And the baseball cards? I'm sure my grandmother didn't know what she was doing when she threw them out. She thought I'd outgrown them, or didn't have any further use for them, or that I was just bored with them. Or maybe they were just in the way when she got on a cleaning spree. She's gone now, so I can't ask her. I can't blame her for not knowing they would have any monetary value, because that never entered my mind when I was collecting them.

Not for a second.

Not for a tick, the tick of a bubble gum card against a bicycle spoke.

They were for studying history and math. The history of each player, from his first minor league team to the last year before the date it was printed, was on the back of the card. Every time at bat and every hit, run and error, plus every walk and strikeout, was embedded in the statistical table on each card.

These cards brought me closer to the players. I read about them in the paper, scanning the box scores each day to see who was hitting and who was in a slump. I listened to their exploits described on the radio by Russ Hodges and Lon Simmons, whose familiar voices resonated from the tiny speakers of my transistor radio. I didn't care about the value of my cards, just the cost. They were worth a quarter a pack to the man at the corner grocery counter, but a lot more to me.

Roger Maris, 1959A few years ago I found about fifty cards that my grandmother had missed. They were the Kansas City A's from 1957 to 1961, still in alphabetical order, the way I always kept them. Mint condition? Hardly. Frayed at the edges and faded by the sun is more like it.

There weren't many great players on the A's in those years. I don't think a single player whose card I still have ever made it into the Hall of Fame. But the names are like music, every bit as much as the rock and roll of that era, which we now call "oldies." Zeke Bella. Bob Cerv. Harry Chiti. Whitey Herzog. Frank House. Jerry Lumpe. Norm Siebern. Jose Tartabull. Virgil Trucks. (Told you they were alphabetical.)

These will not be taken to the dump, or sold to collectors. I still keep them in a shoe box, with a rubber band around them. They can't be worth as much to anyone else as they were to me when I was eleven.

I'm driving very carefully these days. Gingerly, you might say. You might also say illegally.

I'm not sure of the technicalities, but if driving with an expired license is against any laws in California, then this is my confession. Bless me, Father, it's been about thirty-five years.

My license expired Saturday, on my b****day, but the DMV sent me an automatic five-year renewal. All I had to do was send it back on time, with a check for the fee. This I did about a week ago, using my new address. I haven't got it back at either address yet, but when I checked the mailbox at the new place yesterday, there was a yellow card inside from the post office. One side of the card read, "VACANT," and the other side had blanks for the new tenant to fill in the names of everyone who might be receiving mail there. I filled out the card, which was still in the box today.

You know what I'm thinking. I'm thinking the carrier tried to deliver my new license last week, saw the "VACANT" card, and zapped the license back to the DMV. You also probably know just how easy it is to talk to anyone at the DMV and get an answer to this kind of question.

For now, I'm waiting. I doubt they've had time to turn around my renewal in a week anyway. So I'm waiting, and driving so defensively that something cosmically unfortunate is bound to happen.

Don't shoot, officer. I'll go quietly.

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Latest recommendation:

Don't miss Jane's moving April 10 entry of A Little Peace of Me.

And thanks to Aimee of The Mombat Situation for the birthday wishes (oops, I wasn't going to go there again).

Other recent recommendations can be found on the links page.