Tuesday, August 21, 2007

1987 Topps Archive #2

1987 Topps #384 Johnny Grubb

This card...well, not this EXACT card, but one of the many that have come before it...has played a big part in my journey as a collector.

Let me set the scene. I had arrived at the age when I was deemed by my parents responsible enough to be left in charge of my brother and sister (whom I am five and three years older than, respectively) while they were away for one of the first times. It must have been summer, since there was a large orange-paneled box fan running in our living room. Knowing this was our chance to get away with doing something stupid, the three of us decided to experiment with baseball cards in relation to the fan. Our evil scheme (of which I was certainly the mastermind) involved inserting the cards into the fan while it was running. I suppose we had visions of one of those game show prize vaults where they lock a person into a transparent box roughly the size of a telephone booth and blow air into it to create a tempest of U.S. currency of varying denominations, only substituting the dollars with doubles.

What transpired couldn't have been further from this ideal.

Several obstacles stood in the way of our dream scenario, the first being that there was no way a whole, unaltered, mint condition card was going to fit through the protective grate of the fan. While typical card width is 2 1/2 inches, the slots in the fan maxed out at an inch, inch-and-a-half tops. Did we let this stand in our way, though? Never! The commitment to the plan was too strong. We were going to find a way. Sure, there were naysayers, but that group of kids who rescued their dads in the movie "Russkies" had their detractors as well ("We're going into North Korea, not North Dakota!"), but they didn't let that stop them, and neither were we. All we needed was a guinea pig.

My collection of cards at this point in my life was not huge. They were kept in a single Etonic shoebox, further protected within that by...get this...Ziploc bags. The Ziplocs each held two team stacks, which may have held 20 cards apiece at this point. The only exception to this rule were my beloved Brewers cards. These cards deserved better than the baggie treatment, so they were kept inside of a rubbery plastic Ghostbusters pencil case that came from some fast food restaurant. Obviously I had not yet heard of Ultra Pro yet, so I took my Dad's storage suggestion. (This leaves me wondering about something. Since there were an even number of teams, one other team must have gotten its own Ziploc bag, but I can't for the life of me remember what team it was. Part of me thinks it was the Yankees, because my meticulously catalogued cards were arranged alphabetically, and by the end of the arrangement, the Yankees would have been the odd man out. The world may never know.)

The paragraph above is meant to illustrate the sacrifice I was willing to make in the name of tomfoolery. From out of this meager collection, there had to step forth a sacrificial lamb, a good, honest man who would take one for the team. No star would do. No manager either. And certainly not a Future Star (B.J. Surhoff was off the table). No, we needed someone anonymous, someone who would not be missed, someone with a name evoking grunt work, life in the trenches, an air a filth. That man was Johnny Grubb. Despite the fact that he sported a respectable lifetime .280 average, and probably wore a 1984 World Series ring, Grubb was asked to make the sacrifice of a lifetime.

While I'm not sure who did the ripping, let's just say it was me. Seconds after its selection, this Topps masterpiece was torn into four-to-eight pieces small enough to fit through the grate of the fan. Next came the moment we were all waiting for: insertion.

With steady fingers and bated breath, the pieces were sent into the fan, hoping to mingle with the spinning blades where they would be flung in all directions, creating a deluge of cardboard and stats, laced with a hint of bubblegum.

The pieces sunk to the bottom of the fan, where they stayed. Switching the setting to HI did nothing to change their final resting place. Deeply disappointed (and without any sort of exit strategy from this campaign), the three of us quickly moved onto other means of allaying our boredom. Upon their arrival, the parents struggled to make sense of the ripped up baseball card lying within the housing of the family box fan. The pieces were somehow removed at a later date, and a punishment was probably handed down (most likely removal of trip-to-the-drugstore privileges, thus denying me additional cardboard reserves).

The lesson: Any card can become a sacred object in the eye of the beholder. And DO NOT mess with 1987 Topps.

Any time I run across this card, the fan incident replays itself in my mind. This is why I'm a collector.

1 comment:

--David said...

I, too, sacrificed many a double in the name of childhood experimentation. What impresses me most about your story is the recollection of the actual card used - the sign of a true ball card collector...