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Time for the annual pack of baseball cards

By By Tony Krausz/assistant sports editor
July 12, 2003
It's that time of year again.
The days are long and getting hotter.
Stories such as a first baseman whacking a mascot running a wiener race dominates the headlines. (Okay, that's new.)
But it's obvious, the dog days of the long sport summer are upon us with gusto.
Football training camps and two-a-days are still a little too far ahead to really start churning over team rosters and schedules to decide how good your favorite team will do this season.
The NBA and NHL playoffs are a distant memory, and considering the match ups the two leagues gave us, that may not be such a bad thing.
And Major League Baseball has hit its midway point, but still has not quite heated up to the final stretch when each game seems to have some kind of value on the standings.
Fortunately, baseball does spice up this quiet lull in sports with its annual All-Star Game.
It is also the time for this friendly neighborhood assistant sports editor to purchase a pack of baseball cards.
The tradition began two years ago, after I had stopped collecting the small piece of cardboard with an action shot and stats on the back about 10 years earlier.
The first year, I picked up the pack of cards before the All-Star Game just because they were sitting right next to the register at Wal-Mart
Last year, after a little contemplation, I picked one up because I wanted to feel good about baseball again, as what seemed to be another work stoppage was just moments away in 2002.
As folks like to say, "The third time is the charm," so this year's pack was picked up simply to keep the tradition going. (Plus, since the cards are work
related, I can write it off as a work expenditure right? No. Um, okay.)
Though this is my third year to journey down memory lane, I still can't get over a few changes to the cards today from the cards I picked up in my youth.
First the single pack cost $2.99, quite a far cry from when the most expensive pack of cards was 75 cents during my collecting days.
Kids must get an allowance equivalent to my weekly salary to afford cards these days.
Second, the pack was called "Topps Chrome." When did this happen?
You think there would have been a full-on media blitz to announce this change in baseball cards.
Finally, I had to come to terms with the fact that there would be no gum in this pack of cards. You know the gum I'm talking about, that pink sliver of cardboard covered in a white-sugary powder.
The kind that had no taste after the first second it touched your tongue and blew apart into a trillion little pieces after biting into it. The gum with the unique smell of paper and candy that harkens one back to more carefree days, despite being the only piece of candy no child ever really wanted.
After dealing with these slight modifications to the trading cards I knew a decade ago, the thrill of ripping open a fresh pack of cards was still there when I got home.
Just like the first Topps I opened, the hope was there for getting the big name cards.
Of course the names are slightly changed. I used to hope for Roger Clemens, Don Mattingly, Ozzie Smith, Jose Canseco or my personal prize Tommy Herr (St. Louis Cardinals second baseman 1979-88).
Now the names swirling through my head were Scott Rolen, Ichiro (since we've long since stopped worrying about his last name), Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi or Pedro Martinez.
Popping the pack open by the crease the rush that only a Topps foil packaging can produce overcame me, and just as quickly the feeling went away.
My first card was Chicago Cubs pitcher Matt Clement.
Ugh, as a native of St. Louis, there are few things worse in the world of baseball cards than a Cub.
The second card was a Neifi Perez, which let's face it is one of the coolest names in the game today, followed by a Geoff Jenkins and finished with a Joey Gomes, who was apparently a draft pick of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (poor guy).
Yep, only four ballplayers in the pack and a card with a website where people can buy and trade cards online.
This little nugget of information is printed on cardboard that is as thick as three of the four cards stacked on top of each other.
So, baseball cards have changed quite a bit over the years, but it is still a thrill to open them as much today as it was back in my youth.
Baseball cards are just one of those pure American things, like apple buy and hamburgers.
So go ahead, pick up a pack of cards today. You won't regret it, even if you do get a Cub in your deck.

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