The news that a baseball card collection worth millions was found in an attic in Ohio this week was yet another painful reminder of the loss of my boyhood baseball card collection.
Unlike many lost baseball card collections, it wasn’t foolishly sold before its time to earn money for a bike or hot rod or other treasure of youth. It was thrown in the trash by an unlikely villain — my mother.
My mother was a good woman, a good mother and a better than good housekeeper. Everything in its place, and nothing that wasn’t needed. If it wasn’t being used, out it went. I don’t know this for a fact, but I think that when I left for the Navy my mother had a truck backed up to my room, threw everything I valued into its bed and drove it straight to the dump.
When I returned from the Navy, my clothes were gone. My catcher’s mitt signed by Bob Uecker, then of the Boise Braves, was gone. My baseball card collection was gone. My record collection was gone.
“You weren’t using them and I didn’t think you’d want them anymore,” she sheepishly explained. “They were taking up space, and you know how I hate clutter.”
Clutter. The baseball card collection wasn’t large compared with some, but it was big enough to fill a shoebox and included many of the big names of the 1950s, when I was a kid bewitched by baseball. I had Earl Wynns, Yogi Berras, Bob Fellers … I know for a fact that I had three of my hero, Mickey Mantle. Today, those cards would be worth thousands of dollars each.
The crown jewels of my record collection were the infamous Beatles albums with the butcher block covers. One I’d tried to peel, but the other was in close to pristine condition. There may have been a third; not sure about that. I am painfully sure, however, that, like the baseball cards, those records today are worth thousands.
My mother’s biggest blunder, from a collector’s point of view, was the Fiasco of the Gold Coins. My father had invested in gold coins, which he sealed in Mason jars and buried in the basement crawlspace. He’d been dead several years when my mother hired some men to fix a problem with her lawn sprinkling system one summer. Mucking around in the crawlspace, they found the jars and showed them to her. She’d all but forgotten them, and as a reward for their honesty gave them each a jar of solid gold collector’s coins, leaving herself with a single jar.
Later, my sister and I checked on the coins’ value. They were then worth $2,200 apiece — making the afternoon’s work the most expensive sprinkler repair in history.
As I slip into my antecdotage, I’ve grown philosophical about such things, or at least come to grudgingly accept them. After all, it’s only money. Some people are destined to fall into it; others aren’t. There’s not much we can do to change that, and a lot of rich people don’t seem to be any happier than the rest of us anyway. Maybe it’s all for the best.
But I sure do wish I had my Mickey Mantles back.