A quick trip down a sticky memory lane

By By Tony Krausz/assistant sports editor
July 24, 2004
Things are going very well in the baseball corner in the Rants &Rambles office.
The St. Louis Cardinals are leaps and bounds in front of everybody else in the National League Central, and the boss' favorite team is on top of its division again.
So what do you do when your team is leading its division by 10 games?
Obviously, you buy a pack of baseball cards. Heck, it's a tax write-off because the cards were for work Mr. IRS Guy right?
And there is no better pack of cards to drop the R&R office's hard-earned money on than Topps.
Even better, Topps has gone back to putting gum in its eight-card pack. You cannot imagine the songs of rejoice coming out of R&R when we found "Topps Heritage" came with gum.
Sure the gum is secretly just leftover cardboard from the cards dyed pink and covered with what may or not be sugar, but dang-nabbit, this is our youth.
Of course, nostalgia has a price.
The price tag of $2.99 is a far cry from the 50 cents we used to pay for our cards here at R&R. It clearly blows out the previously-thought way overpriced 75-cent pack of Donruss cards of days gone by.
Luckily, all fiscal thoughts quickly vanish when it comes time to open the pack.
The thought of getting that special card takes over.
Granted the names have changed a bit from those in the R&R office's early collecting days.
Don Mattingly, Ozzie Smith, Jose Canseco or our personal prize, Tommy Herr (St. Louis Cardinals second baseman 1979-88), have been replaced by Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols, Randy Johnson and Scott Rolen.
There is just something right about a hot summer day, a pack of cards and thoughts of millionaires' pictures on cardboard that is so cheap it doesn't even have a price.
Ever so carefully, the pack is separated at its seal, and the question of, "Gum first or after going through the pack?" struck when the stack slipped out of the green-and-red plastic.
Then, tragedy struck the baseball card experience. The gum was not the little sliver of pink nothingness.
Instead it was the three-quarter size compared to the cards squad in a plastic wrapper. No sugar-coated top card, no pink flecks left on a card and no piece of cardboard stuck to the gum.
The gum is actually kept in a congenial fashion. We ate the gum first.
It was chewy, tasted like gum and just completely wrong for shame, Topps.
Things did not pick up after the gum catastrophe. The first card in the stack was Phillies pitcher Mike Williams.
Who the heck is Mike Williams? Thanks to the little biography on the back of the card, we discovered he is a closer who was released by Philadelphia last year.
Things got worse after Mike Williams. Next came Cincinnati Reds pitcher Paul Wilson, but Giants outfielder Michael Tucker picked up the pack a bit.
Kansas City Royals' Matt Stairs quickly halted the party after Tucker, but than came a shiny background card of Reds slugger Austin Kearns.
R&R chose to ignore the fact that Kearns was batting a terrible .195 with only three jacks before going down for the season. Instead, we focused on the fact that the card is shiny.
But all hope of salvaging greatness from the pack evaporated after the Kearns' card.
Completely Useless By September, aka Cubs' first baseman Derrek Lee, came after Kearns. Why would anybody want a Cub in a deck of cards?
Suddenly the gum returned to the stale, unchewable pink cardboard R&R remembered from its youth.
The pack was finished off by Astros hurler Brad Lidge, and another slap in the face, Cubs first baseman Eric Karros.
So not only was R&R mocked by having a Cubs first baseman in its pack, but we got stuck with Chicago's former back-up first baseman.
The Topps pack didn't go as hoped, but at least there is always the next pack. Plus, there is the promise that the next pack will be loaded with greatness or at least devoid of Cubs.

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