Tag Archives: Mickey Mantle

Card Abuse

We were sitting on a gold mine and just didn’t know it. Nobody knew it, not even the card makers.

beliveau cardWhenever we got a chance outside school, we’d throw Rocket Richard and Gordie Howe and Mickey Mantle cards against the school’s brick walls to see who would come the closest. All those helmet-less, legendary, magical names of yesterday, bang against the wall.

Winner takes all. Awesome!

In fact, we ruined pretty well every card we owned, because we’d also bend them and put them in our bicycle spokes and wrap tight elastics around them and pick food from our teeth with them.

In Orillia we’d buy our cards at a little kiosk at the corner where the two main streets meet, a place run by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, and the man who worked there couldn’t see a thing. I always wondered how he did it – taking money, making change, reaching for the right thing stacked among so many other things.

We could’ve taken anything within reach at that little store and that man would never know, but we didn’t. We were there to spend five cents a pack on cards and try to get our sets completed. And we’d usually get them all, or lose most of them by doing like I said; firing them against hard walls to see who got the closest.

These cards would be worth plenty now. Rookie cards of every name you’ve ever heard of from the NHL and MLB of the 1950s got dinged and bent and mud splattered on them. We loved our cards, but I guess you always hurt the one you love.

I remember when I was about eight years old and I needed only one card to complete my Montreal-Toronto set, and on a winter evening my dad came home from work with about fifty packs for me so I could finally find that one missing card.

I imagine what those fifty packs of unopened 1958 cards would be worth now and my eyes widen.

Of course, my mother and all my friends’ mothers eventually did their spring cleaning and threw our cards out. It’s what mothers did. They fed us, taught us, and threw our cards out. They were born to throw their son’s cards out.

We were just goofy kids throwing cards against walls until girls got interesting, and anyway, we were of a different mindset. For us, keeping Jacques Plante and Tim Horton mint, or even keeping them at all, didn’t really matter. It was the game that counted.

Getting rich just wasn’t in the cards.

Kid Stuff


Practicing my quick draw in Orillia.

American author Bill Bryson wrote a tender and funny book about growing up in the 1950s called The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, I read it, and I was amazed by this guy’s talent (I’ve since read several more of his books).

I also saw how he and I have a couple of things in common.

We’re almost the same age (I’m a year older), we both lived in towns with great main streets, we wore Davy Crockett coonskin hats, we practiced our quick draw like Roy Rogers, we delivered newspapers, and occasionally we came across naughty skin magazines.

Both our dads were creative, his being a sports writer and mine a sign painter, although his dad got to go to baseball games in New York and Chicago, while my dad stayed in Orillia and painted letters on store windows.

Bill almost saw a naked girl once when he was about eight years old while playing doctor, but she backed out because she had a crush on him. I made sure I didn’t miss my chance because all I had to do was stand on my bike outside the window of the women’s change room at Couchiching beach and look in the window. I was doing great too, until one of my classmates from school, Carol Montgomery, saw me and gave me shit. But I’m pretty sure I rode away on my bike with eyes wide open.

Bill’s big job back then was his paper route, and it was mine too. I won a red transistor radio once for getting the most new customers, and sometimes on winter nights I’d pick up Habs games from Chicago where the homer announcer called the Hawks players by their first names as they moved about the ice.

I would tie my radio to my bike’s handlebars and listen to rock and roll as I made my paper route rounds, and it became the beginning of the end of my world as I knew it, because as soon as I heard Elvis and Roy Orbison and the rest, I began to grow up a little. Music was sure better than just about everything except maybe hockey and baseball, it was way better than school, and through it I began to learn more about girls.

Like Bill, I used to go to movie matinees and whip popcorn boxes like deadly frisbees at the screen and around the room. It was one of life’s great pleasures for me. If you’ve ever fired off a popcorn box missile and clunked some guy in the head who was making out with his girlfriend, you know what I mean.

Life then seemed to have only a small wrinkles, like hoping my classmate  Carol didn’t squeal on me about looking at naked women in the change room. Or trying to decide whether to spend money at the new Dairy Queen which had just opened around the corner, or pinball at the The Hub nearby, or maybe a new fishing rod or Hespeler Green Flash hockey stick at the tiny Canadian Tire next door to the movie theatre.

Back then the Antarctica wasn’t melting, the NHL only had six teams, Mickey Mantle was reaching the upper decks, and doctors recommended smoking for fun and relaxation.

It was great to be young. That’s for sure.

Thingamabobs

I bought a brand new size large Montreal Expos t-shirt the other day, brought it home, washed it, and now it’s a size small, which means I’ve never worn it and never will.

Twice I dialed a Telus 1-800 number,  twice the phone rang, and twice my friend Mike in Toronto, who has a 905 area code, picked it up. How could this be?

Anyway.

Have a great night. Get a good night’s sleep. Then wake up, enjoy a heart breakfast, and help a little old lady across the street.  You never know, she might be a billionaire with no friends or relatives.

009

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Mick

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Boys Of Summer/Winter

No, this isn’t Mantle, Maris, Ford, Berra and others from the ’61 Yankees. It’s late 1950’s Habs, after winning another of their five straight Cups, getting down to business of going deep, shagging flies, throwing out runners, creating sparkling double plays, and drinking beer afterwards.

Below, Jacques Plante at bat, sizing up the pitcher; Boom Boom Geoffrion pounds his glove; Andre Pronovost, Phil Goyette, and Claude Provost share an inside joke in the dugout; Dollard St. Laurent at bat, hoping for a nice juicy one down the middle; and Marcel Bonin, the Rocket, and catcher Jean-Guy Talbot plan some serious strategy, because with these boys, whether it’s hockey or baseball, winning is everything.

(Gleaned from my scrapbook).

  

 

The Bread Man’s Dad Just Struck Gold

Is this the night the Stanley Cup is won?

In honour of this big hockey day, I’ve decided to mention a small baseball story.

The bread man stopped in where I work to say hello and drop off some bread and he told me what had happened to his father. His dad was renovating an empty house, and while in the attic working on something, found a huge binder filled with mint baseball cards from the 1940’s and ’50’s.

“It’s a huge binder, really big,” said the bread man as he looked around to find a similar size to show the comparison. “And they’re all mint!”

He also wanted to know what to do about finding out the cards’ value and I told him there are books and even eBay to check out.

I think he and his father have no idea just yet what a treasure they have on their hands. But probably very soon they’ll be jumping for joy.

I wonder if there’s a Mickey Mantle rookie card in there.