I’ll never forget the day I got my first baseball card. It was November 23, 1929, around the time we lost our house, whenever that was. From the moment I laid eyes on that card, I knew I had to have more—one wasn’t enough to make a blanket.
My friends and I had caught baseball card fever, as well as regular fever. When we didn’t have any paper to make a trashcan fire with, we were happy to have baseball cards for company. We felt sorry for kids who weren’t able to collect baseball cards and had to play real baseball outside with their friends.
People would line up for miles outside the card shop before realizing it wasn’t a soup kitchen. When the doors opened, only true card traders remained along with some polio kids still limping away. Once inside, we’d stare at the new cards out of sheer amazement and a strict look-don’t-touch policy. We’d then rummage through the dumpster outside for cards, moving aside coffee rinds and other things to eat.
Baseball cards were like a currency to us, because the U.S. dollar was worthless. A holographic Babe Ruth got you dinner for six at O’Reilly’s. A Jackie Robinson got you awkward looks from white people. As for me, I’d save up all my baseball cards to buy more baseball cards.
Without baseball cards, I was just another face in a crowd of thousands, hungry for an old way of life. Or were they hungry for food? I don’t know.