Posts Tagged ‘nostalgia’

flat screenings: diminished capacity (2008)

February 1, 2011

Can you think of a better way to celebrate Ernie Banks’ 80th birthday than to watch a quirky indie film that features him playing himself signing autographs at a baseball card show in the Windy City? Well sure, probably… but that’s what I did Monday night, so I’m going to blog about it.

Clearly Mr. Cub’s highest profile role since he played a judge in the 2003 film “Malibooty,” Diminished Capacity also stars Alan Alda as the colorful owner of a baseball card that MAY prove more meaningful to him than the cold hard cash it could be exchanged for. Matthew Broderick plays Alda’s nephew with fewer tricks up his sleeve than Inspector Gadget. – ROAD TRIP!!!!



Diminished Capacity was a book
some 10+ years before it became a movie, so you may have read it. I haven’t. Instead, I will wait for the graphic novel to be released.

Overall, I found the movie entertaining, and not just because of all the baseball card angles. Chances are, if you are reading this blog, you will catch yourself laughing during this film. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil the movie for you. (That’s what trailers are for.)

– Kris

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heads up!

December 20, 2010

Wally Moon drops into the Aardvark Trading Company’s command center to remind all you stargazers to be sure to check out tonight’s total lunar eclipse- if local conditions allow of course.

Although the entire event is expected to last in excess of five hours during Monday night and Tuesday morning, the peak will occur at between 12:41 am and 1:53 am (mountain) when the moon will change from a burnt orange color to brick red. If you need assistance converting that to your time zone, the friendly folks at NASA will be happy to help.

Interestingly, the last time a total lunar eclipse coincided with the winter solstice was in 1554 AD (2098 for our Buddhist readers), believed to be the year Sir Walter Raleigh was born. One can’t help but wonder if tobacco cards would ever have existed without Raleigh’s efforts to popularize the New World plant in England.

– Kris

cards your great grandmother didn’t throw away

December 12, 2010

Yesterday, December 11, 2010, marked the 135th anniversary of the birth of Roy A. Stamm. Odds are stacked against you having heard of this man before, but considering that you are reading this blog, I would imagine that you would have shared some common ground with him.

Roy Stamm and friends circa 1890

Given my interest in most things historic, I always have an eye peeled for early mentionings of baseball and baseball cards. As a result of my ongoing research, I have amassed a sizable database of historical accounts of the origins of baseball in the New Mexico Territory, including the names and addresses of businesses and homes associated with people who either played baseball or had their hand in the industry in one manner or another… saloon owners, tobacconists, printers and photographers are prime examples of historical folks I collect data on. The bottom line is that you simply cannot know when that sort of information will prove valuable, even though your hunch tells you that you should try to only have to sift through the written archives once. At any rate, I’ve already gone further into all of that than I intended to do here.

With little spare time to spread around, I sometimes must make a decision to ignore the stacks of unsorted baseball cards on (or near) my desk, and pick up a book instead. The result can prove both entertaining and informative. The written account of Roy Stamm’s life struck me like an unexpected bubble envelope stuffed full of baseball cards off my want lists. Although Stamm completed his work in 1954, “fOR ME, THE SUN: The Autobiography of Roy A. Stamm, An Early Albuquerque Business Leader,” the book wasn’t published until 1999, some 42 years following his death.

Stamm the man, his book and his balloon (1890)

The following except from the book followed an incident in 1882 in which a bully had tossed the author, then six-years-old, into a mud puddle on South Second Street in New Albuquerque and attempted to force him to eat a toad. I’m not sure which is worse, the incident or one’s mother finding out about it.

“She was of Puritan Massachusetts and Mohawk Valley Dutch ancestry and had taught school in Kansas. Outraged by this “plain evidence of racial resentment”, she saw that from that time on I rode my saddle horse during most of my childhood (I became so accustomed to this, I’d ride across the street instead of walking!).

This decision was all right with me. Forbidden to play tops or marbles “for keeps” and ordered to hold myself, literally, “above those bad boys,” I used this easy transportation to reach the tremendous distinction of owning the “third largest cigarette picture collection in town.” The first and best belonged to a black boy whose father and brothers were porters in saloons; the second, to a newsboy. Their inside sources of supply were partially balanced by my ability to move around and to trade for pictures desired by others to complete their sets.

All of which distressed mother but, fair minded, she allowed me to retain my well won trophies. No matter how strong and possessive a mother’s instincts may be, unless he is predisposed, a boy’s natural inclinations seldom will permit him to become “sissified.”

The only conclusion I am going to allow myself to draw from this segment of Stamm’s book is that card collectors of the past were as varied and passionate about the hobby as are card collectors of today- and most likely, the future. I did contact Roy’s son to tell him how much I enjoyed the book and to thank him for his efforts in helping bring his father’s words to print. We were not able to pinpoint which cigarette cards were contained within the collection, but I have been having a blast paging thru my copy of “American Tobacco Cards: Price Guide and Checklist” by Robert Forbes and Terence Mitchell and wondering about what treasures may have been contained within Stamm’s collection.

Allen & Ginter: “American Indian Chiefs” and “American Editors” series

I think it is reasonable to predict that Roy may have been fond of the Allen & Ginter American Indian Chiefs series since he was an twelve-year-old boy growing up in the wild west when the cards were issued in 1888. As wonderful as these cards are, I feel the need to remind readers that many of the men featured on the cards were still alive when the amazing Linder, Eddy & Clauss lithographs were reproduced as tobacco cards. Even if Roy didn’t collect the Allen & Ginter American Editors (1887) cards, you can bet your bottom dollar that the Albuquerque newsboy did, and would have traded handsomely to complete his 50-card set.

Roy Stamm and his UNM football teammates (1894)

Roy Stamm led a fascinating life; regardless of what angle you choose to examine it. However, I will not be spoiling potential future book sales by stating whether or not he included more about tobacco cards or baseball as he drew from his extensive journal that he kept throughout his life. Stamm passed away two years after the release of 1952 Topps baseball cards, 10 years before the first Sharpie mark became permanent and decades before the dawn of blogging. I wonder whether he would have adapted to trading his cards via the internet, or if he would have stuck to his guns and traded only on horseback.

– Kris

the bandit

December 6, 2010

You may be wondering why I selected a 1975 Citroën for the background of my image of Ken Berry’s autographed 1975 Topps baseball card. Then again, you may not. Regardless of whichever it may be, the car’s antennae reminded me more or less of how Berry held his bat in this photo. Actually, the logo of his brainchild, the Ken Berry League Southwest Youth Athletic Association, Inc. is also quite similar.

Ken Berry – 1975 Topps no. 432

Allen Kent Berry, no relation to Franken Berry, was kind enough to autograph his card for my collection honoring my thru the mail request. I am a huge fan of baseball cards that feature players in front of empty sections of ballparks. I’d like to imagine that someone asked the photographer if they should move the bat on the ground out of view, and he (or she) replied, “Nah… someone at Topps will simply airbrush it out later.”

Working as a technical advisor on the film “Eight Men Out,” Berry got into the movie near the end playing the fan that heckles Shoeless Joe Jackson during a minor league game. There’s your fun fact for the day.

– Kris

only the shadow knows…

October 9, 2010

I remember the 1970s. However, I do not claim to actually understand how many of the things from the 70s came to be. A perfect example would be Jerry Terrell’s 1974 Topps baseball card.

Jerry Terrell (1974 Topps – no. 481)

I remember having Terrell’s 74 Topps card in my collection as clearly as I recall eating jelly beans and drinking Shasta root beer in the back seat of my father’s 65 Chevy Impala while our family enjoyed a “Herby Rides Again”/”My Name is Nobody” double feature at the drive-in. Who knows… I may have even first seen this card while opening a pack during the 15-minute drive to the theater.

Interestingly, I didn’t think anything was strange about the card until I reacquired it for my collection earlier this year. I sort of wonder if anyone else has written about the odd “shadow” cast on the ground next to Jerry, but I find that I’m not so interested as to actually take the time to scour the interwebs to answer my own question. The bottom line is that I picked up a few blaster boxes of 2010 Allen & Ginter baseball cards during the baseball season when I didn’t have any spare time to open them, and have decided that I can only open a box after I post some sort of offering on this blog. Thus, you get this.

Although the shadow not only seems unnatural in that it is not varied from the dirt warning track to the raised grass surface, but also the shape of the shadow seems unlikely to have been cast from the same light source as is the shadow across Terrell’s face from his ballcap. Even with that in mind, I doubt I would have bothered to call attention to this card if not for the fact that Terrell’s shadow is cast in different direction from that of his teammate’s in the background. Here is a quickie Photoshopped version that illustrates a “truer” shadow that would have been cast off Terrell in keeping with the same light source as his teammate.

MODIFIED Jerry Terrell (1974 Topps – no. 481)

Without having access to the original negative, I can only speculate that this photo has been doctored. Even then I am left scratching my head as to WHY would anyone have bothered to do so in the first place.

– Kris

tasty temporary storage solutions

August 27, 2009

There have been a great number of innovations in the trading card industry since I began collecting baseball cards back in the early 1970s. These changes have not only impacted cards, but also have noticeably shaped what we choose to store our treasures in.

In “my day,” we didn’t have penny sleeves, top loaders, or fancy screw-down acrylic cases, but any self-respecting baseball card collector had a decent supply of sturdy Velveeta cheese cardboard box bottoms to store cards in. Regular old shoeboxes were also commonplace, and the kids who lived in houses with garages even had these plastic boxes designed to look like gym lockers… but everybody used Velveeta cheese box bottoms for cards that were being sorted. Smokey used them. So did Pete. Mudnuts did as well. Joel had so many boxes we all thought that his family must have subsisted on mac and cheese (and baseball card bubble gum). The one exception was Mike, who stored all of his cards in a large paper sack. Mike was a Phillies fan, so we didn’t hold him to the same standards as the rest of our localized trading society.

Obviously if you are reading this blog, you already have an understanding of the myriad trading card storage solutions available at your local hobby shop or the many trusted online dealers. Like you, I have all sizes and counts of white cardboard storage boxes, plastic cases, binders of archival storage sleeves and on and on and on. I am also willing to wager that every now and again, a situation will arise in which you will find yourself having to improvise, and that need is what this post is intended to address.

I have a space on top of my CPU next to my scanner where I temporarily house cards that require my attention. These include autographed cards that I have already included in a blog post that are in need of proper filing, autographed cards received TTM that I have neither scanned nor written about, autographed cards that I am going to blog about (some scanned – some yet to be scanned) at some point when I find the time, and some 700-800 cards that I have gotten autographed in person this season that may never be featured in a blog post, but are awaiting proper sorting and filing. While the space is wide enough for a row of Velveeta cheese box bottoms, those won’t work because they are not wide enough to hold cards that are in plastic sleeves. Doh! Leaving such a large number of unorganized cards in stacks is a dangerous idea that can only end in frustration.

cakesters boxes

Well, leave it to my dear old friends at Kraft Foods to make sure my belly is happy and my cards are stored upright in the proper sorting position with a couple of fantastic products. First, Nabisco’s Oreo Cakesters [135mg of sodium per serving] boxes are ideal for storing baseball cards in protective penny sleeves. Makes absolutely no difference which flavor you choose- regular, Golden Oreo, strawberry crème or peanut butter, as each box will hold around 400 to 450 cards without overcrowding. The sides are not super strong, so you may choose to reinforce them with a ring of packing tape. I do not.

cakesters macncheese

Sometimes I find that nostalgia is fun simply for nostalgia’s sake. While you MAY find a better storage box for your Topps Allen & Ginter mini cards, I prefer to keep mine in Kraft Velveeta Shells & Cheese [940mg of sodium per serving] boxes that are cut to size. Once I have obtained the majority of the set, those cards are transferred to sheets and binders.

Of course these are only a couple of trading card storage options that you may choose to employ while dealing with your collection. The important item to take away from this posting is the reminder that the next time you find yourself thinking that you need to run to the hobby shop to pick up a box for that stack of cards on your desk that isn’t going to file itself like you thought it would, a more convenient and delicious solution may be as close as your kitchen pantry.

–  Kris

will work for baseball cards: 1965 topps edition

August 4, 2009

Though fraught with risk, freelance work often offers serious advantages over the ol’ nine to five grind. Besides being able to complete the work around your schedule, contracting out your skills also allows for a creative compensation plan. For instance, I recently designed a website for a client in exchange for a healthy stack of beautiful 1965 Topps baseball cards that I needed for my set that I am building. I would be willing to trade html code all day long for vintage baseball cards that I need, so naturally I was elated to discover that I also was going to receive a half-baker’s dozen of autographed 1965 Topps cards as a tip.

Now that I have the cards in hand, I’ve decided to share scans of the autographed ones with you fine folks.

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Wayne Causey – 1965 Topps no. 425

Picking up this card was quite interesting since I had just written Wayne a few weeks ago- when this card was still on my 1965 Topps baseball want list. Also, I had just gotten this embossed card back TTM this past week, so they make for a super combination.

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Wayne Causey – 1965 Topps embossed no. 21

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Ed Charles – 1965 Topps no. 35

Ed Charles has some absolutely fantastic baseball cards. This is but one of them. Possibly better known as being a member of the Miracle Mets, I believe I prefer Ed in his colorful Athletics uniforms. No stranger to writing instruments, “The Glider” was writing poetry long before fans began asking for his autograph.

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Mike Hershberger – 1965 Topps no. 89

The comic on the back of Hershberger’s 1965 Topps baseball card includes a sketch of a player sliding head first into third base with nary a defender in sight. Given that he hit 21 triples in the minors in 1959, I have to believe that he wouldn’t have been sliding into a base unless a play was being made. Mike was traded to the Athletics in January of 1965 with Jim Landis. These cards provide an interesting mini study of the mid-60s baseball card manufacturing process as Hershberger is still shown as being with the White Sox, while Landis is depicted with the Athletics in a later series- though still wearing a White Sox uniform.

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Jim Landis – 1965 Topps no. 376

One of the things I enjoy most about autographed baseball cards is where the player chooses to place his (or her) signature. While many just slap it on haphazardly, most appear to give it some thought. Some players (current and retired) sign every card in more or less the exact same spot. While I tend to use a blue Sharpie for the majority of my autographs, I have to admit that the use of the black Sharpie by Landis really works well with this card.

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Bill Monbouquette – 1965 Topps no. 142

The surface of this Bill Monbouquette card suffers from either wax or gum residue. It also appears that Bill used some random blue marker instead of a Sharpie, resulting in an autograph that has either faded, or has bled into the card to some degree. Nevertheless, the card is a welcome addition to my collection- especially considering that Monbouquette reportedly charges to sign memorabilia sent to his house. Regardless of that, I probably would not be sending him any autograph requests, as I understand that he suffers from leukemia and probably has better things to be doing.

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Tommie Reynolds – 1965 Topps no. 333

Well-wishers should make note that former Major League outfielder/pinch hitter Tommie Reynolds has a birthday coming up on August 15th.

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Pete Ward – 1965 Topps no. 215

Named The Sporting News Rookie of the Year in 1963, Pete Ward seems to be the type of guy who would be a blast to have a beer with, eh? This is a beauty of a baseball card! Aren’t they all?

– Kris

unsung heroes: 1965 topps

June 16, 2009

Well crime fighters, I believe the last time we met I was discussing 1965 Topps baseball cards and sharing scans of the cards I have gotten autographed through the mail (TTM). Obviously excited by the prospect of having their mugs posted on Cards in the Attic, a number of retired players have been taking the time out of their busy schedules to autograph the vintage baseball cards I’ve sent them and drop them back into the mail. Not one to disappoint, here we go once again- this time listed in order of height.

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Larry Brown – 1965 Topps no. 468

I swear, I am listing these cards in order of player height (least tall to tallest), then alphabetically for ties. It is a simple coincidence that the first player, Larry Brown, shares my birthday. I really like this card with the interesting background and the label clearly visible on the bat. Either this photo was posed, or the Topps photographer following him around while he was trying to take some batting practice irritated Brown.

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Joe Azcue – 1965 Topps no. 514

Back to back Indians! Interestingly, like Brown, Azcue chose to sign his card at a 45-degree angle, and in approximately the same location on his card. I wonder if all 1965 Indians autograph their cards in this manner. I rather enjoy imagining Joe warming up to answer his fan mail by swinging two ballpoint pens before settling on the black one.

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John Kennedy – 1965 Topps no. 119

No, John Kennedy did not add the “NY” at the bottom of the card. The original owner of this card performed that documentation- probably early in 1967. Kennedy didn’t seem to mind the extra writing, or if he did, he didn’t cross it out. John Kennedy is one of those baseball players who launched a homer in his first at bat in the major leagues. His came off Minnesota Twins hurler Dick Stigman. Um… you MAY want to file that little bit of information away somewhere nearby. Another interesting factoid about John Kennedy is that he was born on JFK’s 24th birthday. Finally, I had to write Kennedy after learning that he was the person who allegedly branded Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee as the “Spaceman.”

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Joe Cunningham – 1965 Topps no. 496

Joe Cunningham spent 12 seasons in the major leagues. More than half of those years were bonus after Joe just missed being killed by a tornado that destroyed his St. Louis apartment in February of 1959. Like many retired players, Cunningham’s preferred writing instrument is a ballpoint pen.

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Dalton Jones – 1965 Topps no. 178

Best known for a base running blunder in which he was called out after bashing a grand slam, it should be pointed out the Dalton Jones remains the Boston Red Sox all-time pinch hits leader. Jones appears to be a fan of Sharpie pens.

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Al Weis – 1965 Topps no. 516

Interweb sources suggest that Al Weis was born on April 2, 1938. I’m not sure how they can justify their shoddy research attempts since Al’s April 1, 1940 birthday is clearly noted on the back of his 1965 Topps baseball card. A career light-hitting infielder, Weis elevated his offensive game in helping the Mets top the Orioles during the 1969 World Series. Weis’ weapon of choice appears to be some wide-tip black marker. It should be interesting to see how this autograph stands up over time.

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Hal Woodeshick – 1965 Topps no. 179

I just learned while writing this post that Hal Woodeshick passed away this past Sunday. I honestly had no idea that Hal was ill when I sent the card to him a couple of weeks ago. If I had, I certainly wouldn’t have bothered him for an autograph. That said, I am extremely grateful that he took the time to honor my request in spite of his poor health.

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Dick Stigman – 1965 Topps no. 548

Enter Dick Stigman… I’ve already mentioned his name once in this post. I obtained this card in trade not long ago from a fellow blogger. Somewhat poorly aligned and miscut, I felt that the best thing to do was to send it off and ask for an autograph. Stigman was happy to oblige, and now his card is perfect for my collection and I don’t need to find a better specimen to fill my set.

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Jim Lonborg – 2001 Topps Archives no. 272

(1965 Topps reprint no. 573)

Okay sure, technically speaking, this card is not from the 1965 Topps set. But I am a huge fan of cards like these from 2001 Topps Archives set, and decided to include it with the cards that it represents in spirit. My only complaint is the glossy finish that negates the extra thick card stock used in this product. This was the first time that I have written to Gentleman Jim. He has an amazingly quick turnaround of his fan mail.

Be sure to tune in next time for another exciting adventure in this signature series!

– Kris

the improbable dream: 1965 topps

May 29, 2009

Like many of you, I was born in 1965. I don’t remember the first time that I saw a baseball card that was issued in my birth year, but I can tell you that many years passed before I owned one. And that is really interesting considering what a great looking set of cards the sixty-fives are.

At some point after I picked up my copy of Frank Slocum’s Topps Baseball Cards: The Complete Picture Collection (A 35 Year History, 1951-1985), I studied the sixty-fives and developed a “wish list” of cards that I would like to pick up at least one of as a representative sample of the set. A couple of weeks later I commented to a buddy that I had been getting outbid on each of the single sixty-fives I had been trying to pick up on eBay. Frustrated, and obviously outgunned, I tabled that project for “another time.”

Not long after that, my pal Marty hooked me up with my first 1965 Topps baseball card. It wasn’t just any random card, but a sweet autographed Luis Aparicio card. Check it out!

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Luis Aparicio – 1965 Topps no. 410

Although I haven’t featured this card before, it has appeared here partially as I utilized it in part in a post about Steve Finley since he was also born in 1965. At any rate, I had pretty much come to terms with the notion that this was going to be THE card in my collection to represent the 1965 Topps set. At least I had one!

Then a strange and mysterious thing happened….

While conducting research for a blog article about the roots of my baseball collecting habits, I stumbled into a deal that resulted in the acquisition of a boatload of vintage cards the likes of which I never seriously thought possible. Long story short, I was able to add the goal of building a set of 1965 Topps baseball cards to my list of vintage cards to collect in addition to my other favorites– 1975 and 1972.

Don’t worry; I have no intention on discussing every single card in the 1965 set. I believe that Kevin of the Great 1965 Topps Project is doing a fantastic job of documenting this set. However, I will be posting scans of the cards that I end up getting autographed. Unless I mention otherwise, it is safe for you to assume that I am getting these cards signed through the mail, or “TTM.” I mailed the following four cards with short letters to players just over a week ago.

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Ty Cline – 1965 Topps no. 63

Ty Cline leads off since he will be celebrating a birthday on June 15th. If you happen to be planning on asking Tyrone to sign TTM, this would be a great opportunity as you could also send him a birthday card. Playing for Cincinnati, Cline was the first player to record an official at bat at Three Rivers Stadium during the summer of 1970. At the end of that same season, Ty scored the winning runs in the first and third games of the National League Championship Series as the Reds sent the Pirates migrating to the golf courses for the winter.

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Dal Maxvill – 1965 Topps no. 78

What can I say about Dal Maxvill that hasn’t already been written? Appropriately featured with his leather rather than a piece of lumber, Dal’s 1965 Topps card has it all. Noting that Maxvill supplemented his income by working as an electrical engineer during the off season, the Topps artist in charge of rendering his comic for the back went so far as to depicting Dal in the process of electrocuting himself.

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Max Alvis – 1965 Topps no. 185

Alvis was selected to the American League All-Star team in 1965 and 1967. The comic on the back of Alvis’ 1965 card indicates that the Jasper, Texas native tried his hand at pitching in the minors in 1959. Always searching for a hidden story, I decided to check into that. Yes, Max did pitch for the Alabama-Florida League Selma Cloverleafs- a single inning in which he walked one batter and struck out none. Of course, his lifetime ERA of 0.00 is nothing to sneeze at!

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Max Alvis – 1965 Topps Embossed no. 3

Never a fan of the foil slapped onto cards these days, I have to admit that these embossed 1965 Topps All-Star cards are extremely nifty. Even niftier when artfully autographed!

Again, I am actively seeking trades, and am interested in establishing long-term trading relationships with other collectors working on the 1965 Topps baseball card set (or any of the other vintage sets found in my online want lists). Don’t be shy!

– Kris

born in a small town

February 20, 2009

The patch sewn onto his work shirt read “Marion,” but he was always “Mr. Burcham” to me. Marion P. Burcham earned the distinction of becoming the first non-baseball player inducted into the Aardvark Attic of Appreciation, predominately for the role he played during the formative years of my baseball card collecting. Unfortunately, the honor must be awarded posthumously as Mr. Burcham passed away on March 17, 2007 at the age of 96.

I had been kicking around this idea to write about Mr. Burcham for quite a while, being of the opinion that it is important to remember real people and celebrate their contributions made to our society, while reflecting on how these true heroes stand firm in stark contrast to the transparent greed, corruption and scandalous behavior that is commonplace amongst our leaders and favorite sports heroes. I also hope that you will read between the lines in order to take away from this article, the importance of having access to a physical location to purchase trading cards rather then relying entirely on interweb dealings with people who might just as well be numbers. This is especially true for the younger collectors.

Marion Burcham was the owner of the Sunoco Service Station in Toulon, the diminutive, west-central Illinois town of that served as the backdrop of my childhood. One of less than a handful of businesses in town that sold gasoline, the Sunoco station was our Mecca. The candy case within- our shrine. Mr. Burcham was believed by many to be some sort of wizard, always managing to have that old case stocked with best selection of candies and trading cards in town.

Of course, Mr. Burcham didn’t JUST deal in candy. Practically any issue we encountered with our bicycles- handlebars requiring adjustment, a chain dropped off the gear sprocket or a flat tire, could be cured with a quick trip to the Sunoco station. Far from instinctual, this behavior was learned from having watched Mr. Burcham help keep our fathers’ automobiles on the road year after year.

Believe it or not, a time existed in this country when you could pull your car into a filling station, and an actual person would greet you at the pump and begin servicing your vehicle. In my opinion, Mr. Burcham blew the doors off the competition. He would check the oil, give the engine a good look to make sure everything was working properly, inspect all four tires for excessive wear and proper air pressure, and literally scrub the windshield leaving it showroom clean- all while filling the gas tank. Most importantly, he performed these services, and probably many that I was unaware of, all with a friendly smile on his face. Plus, you only paid for the gas, and possibly the motor oil if your car needed more than half a quart.

Kids flocked to the Sunoco station after school in an effort to spoil pending dinners. The candy case, which doubled as Mr. Burcham’s checkout counter, was constructed largely of glass, wood that had once been painted yellow and more glass. The glass was instrumental to the success of the case as it allowed customers to conduct preliminary shopping while Mr. Burcham was busy servicing a car. One of the fabulous things about Mr. Burcham was that he would excuse himself from his grownup customers long enough to run in and make sure the kids were taken care of as quickly as possible. He knew that we had BIG things to get done, such as playing a game of ball, trading cards, or riding our bikes down to Indian Creek to throw stuff off the bridge.

As luck would have it, I recently obtained a photograph from Mr. Burcham’s son after explaining that I wanted to share it with my readers. As an unexpected bonus, “John” also provided me with a number of very interesting stories about his father and the service station ranging from everyday business practices to intriguing accounts of robberies and fraud. That these things had gone on in a town where few people locked their doors was unimaginable!

I selected the 1976 Topps style baseball card to “frame” Mr. Burcham’s photo due to the fact that the bicentennial took center stage in middle America. It was also the year that I made the most trips to the Sunoco station.

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In 1976, kids could, and DID, purchase baseball cards in mom and pop grocery stores and gas stations similar to the Sunoco station all across America. It wasn’t easy saving money that I got for Christmas or my birthday, but I did because I wanted to buy baseball cards when they came out in the spring. Every instance when I found a dime on the ground, or got paid for doing lawn work around town resulted in a trip to the Sunoco station. I was addicted to baseball cards! I was never really tempted by the packages of Chuckles or Snickers candy bars even on the days when I was informed that the new supply of cards had not yet been delivered. Disappointed, but not wanting to leave empty-handed, I would usually pick up a few pieces of Bazooka bubble gum, or a package of five baseball-shaped gumballs that I think were produced by Fleer.

Besides exhibiting the patience of a saint, Mr. Burcham was also extremely generous. He provided free coffee for customers 364 days per year, and for the town cop 365 nights per year. More than once, I found myself sitting in the middle of the back seat of the family roadster, flanked by my older brother and sister who held the luxurious window seats as my father informed Mr. Burcham that we were off to visit the grandparents for the weekend. As if sensing the grueling three-hour trip I was about to endure, Mr. Burcham would silently pass me a few packs of baseball cards through the window as if they were a Styrofoam cup of free coffee. The man understood his customers!

During any random lazy, dog day afternoon I could walk into the Sunoco station, purchase 50 cents worth of baseball cards, hand Mr. Burcham two quarters and receive either a dime or a dime and a nickel in change. If your transaction worked out so that you purchased the last pack in the box, you took the box with you. If you purchased the next to last pack in the box, you generally walked home with not only the box, but also an extra pack of cards. It was a beautiful system! For years, I couldn’t imagine buying cards anywhere else.

While the majority of the world lived in fear during the summer of 1979 that “Skylab,” the first United States space station, was going to plummet from the heavens and crash into their house, Mr. Burcham stepped up to the plate and painted a target on the ground over one of his buried gas tanks. Similar to a knight called upon to fight a dragon threatening a village in mythical times, he was more than willing to take one for the team if necessary. It is the sort of gesture that is hard to forget.

The Sunoco station closed a few years later, having been purchased by the State Bank of Toulon. It seemed that the entire county turned out to watch the demolition of the old fortress, but here I will admit that time might be playing tricks with my memory. I’m sure that those people who feared change had either stayed home or were sticking to their normal routine, but everyone else was there. It was a surreal day that I really never wrapped my head around.

As proof that my personal memories weren’t clouded from my addiction to baseball cards that he supplied, Marion Burcham received what is arguably the highest recognition in the area when he was selected to serve as the Stark County Old Settlers badge honoree during the annual celebration in 1999.

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Born during the summer of 1910, Marion would have only been two years old when the Old Settlers Association dedicated the monument to the Stark County pioneers that still stands on the courthouse lawn. The monument was also dedicated to Stephen A. Douglas and Abraham Lincoln, both of whom had delivered speeches near that spot on successive days during fall of 1858. It would have been interesting to have heard the speech that Mr. Burcham delivered a decade ago, or to read a transcript of it today.

Completely unrelated, as far as I know, is that I didn’t spend more than ten bucks on baseball cards between the years of 1982 and 1999, the time between the demolition of the Sunoco station and Mr. Burcham’s Old Settlers speech.

– Kris

Special thanks to John Burcham and Jason Musselman for taking time from their busy schedules to provide me with the photos of Marion manning the candy case and the 1999 Old Settlers badge respectively.