"Mickey, Humberto & Me"
If you grew up in Philadelphia during the late 50's and early 60's, you more than likely developed
a lasting hatred for New York and its baseball teams. Obviously the hatred was helped by their annual appearance
in the World Series, a habit that seems to have continued to this day. You didn't necessarily hate the players, but
you hated the team, and you hated the IDEA of the Yankees! Even an eight year old recognized the obscenity of
perennial winners. Especially if your team lost as much as did the Phils! We knew Mantle was a great ballplayer,
and we loved Maris. We rooted for Maris in 61, when they both challenged Ruth's season home run record. We were
happy that Maris did it and that Mantle fell by the wayside. We even developed an affinity for the Mets in 62, especially
since their centerfielder, Ashburn, was a former Phil. We could also identify with their ability to lose!
A popular pasttime during these years was the collecting of baseball cards. Many of which you may see on these pages. They are not the originals, which I collected as a kid, as I was victimized (as were millions) by the spring-cleaning habits of my mother, and her desire to toss things away which had not been touched in ages. Overcome by a wave of nostalgia, and encouraged by the low prices assigned to cards of losing teams, I have replaced most of the cards I loved so much during those years.
Another popular part of the game to a child of those years was the "flipping" of baseball cards. This was an activity which was not entered into lightly, as the winner would end up possessing most of the cards brought to the playing field. It involved an area maybe 10 or 12 feet long, ideally a front porch, with a smooth concrete surface. Both players would kneel at the same end of the porch and flip cards, much as a frisbee would be thrown. The cards would land in the playing area, and depending upon the rules in force, the winner would be determined. One variation of the game was known as "farsies", each player flipping a card and the card which travelled the longest distance, without striking the wall, would win the match. The winner would take possession of your "losing" card. We also played "topsies", where cards would be flipped until one of the winner's cards landed "on top of" one of the loser's cards. The winner would then take possession of "all" of the cards on the field. Depending on where you grew up, and your imagination, I'm sure there are a million more variations of the game.
Now, there were smart card flippers, and there were average card flippers, and then, there were the others. The ones who were destined to feed the insatiable appetites of those who victimized them. The ones who returned home with an empty shoe box, dejected and in despair, but wiser men nonetheless.
The strategy behind the game involved the law of supply and demand. Certain cards were desirable; those depicting super stars and those of the home town team. Most kids also had an additional favorite team they prized. If you came to the match with 500 cards, at least 420 or them were worthless (to us) commons that you would not shed a tear over. However, to ensure that the opposing player was using SOME cards of value, you also had to use SOME cards of value. That's where the strategy came in! Which to flip? Which to keep? Which not to bring along at all?
Which not to bring along at all? Ah, there lies the rub! Some of us should have been forbidden to bring our baseball cards out of our house! You had just about an even shot at the flipping contests, though some were better than others. The really terrible victimization came about at the hands of your "slick" card traders. The ones who knew way back in 1961 that Mickey Mantle cards were going to be worth thousands today! The little twelve year olds, in glasses and pocket protectors, who spent summers in their room reading astronomy books! They cared nothing about the game! They didn't even play the game! Somewhere though, during their long summer months of intellectual pursuits, they realized that these little pieces of cardboard would someday be treasures in themselves.
The ironic thing is that "we" thought we were victimizing them! We'd trade off our Hank Aarons....our Mickey Mantles....our Frank Robinsons.. They could have our Yogi Berra's....our Stan Musials....and our Bob Fellers....How naive could they be? We'd walk home, smug in our knowledge that we had just completed our 1960 Phillies team set. The acqusition of Jim Coker, Pancho Herrera and Humberto Robinson had made our dream come true! We had the whole team! What did it matter that it cost us two Mantles and a Maris?
The 90's came along, and much to our shock we discovered that the 52 Mantle card was selling in the area of $50,000.00 while you couldnt't touch the remainder of his cards for a penny under $300.00 each. Some are selling for thousands! Very similar fates befell the Musials, Marises and Fellers. I'd have to sell my house to finance the collection I had in the 50's and 60's. The Cokers?? Humbertos?? and Panchos?? About $1.60 depending on availability! I guess you could say that by the age of 10 I was destined to drive a mini-van. I'd like to close by saying, "John Graziani, I know you're out there somewhere! I hope you're enjoying that Jag!! The least you could do is stop by and give me a ride sometime!!
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"Mickey, Humberto & Me"