I wanted to wait until today to post this. Maybe because it makes me all fuzzy inside. Maybe because it's personally sad for me, or because it just brings me back to when things were simple...my childhood. This post is about Sy Berger. Sy was the designer of Topps baseball cards and he passed away at 91 this past weekend, read HERE.
Topps baseball cards were the first baseball card brand I was ever introduced to and to this day, I still own hundreds upon hundreds in a card collection that is neatly organized and being held for my children, to eventually pass to their children and so on. For me, it's become a tradition.
Card collecting was always a treat for me. It was something that I did all of my childhood. I remember being in my living room in 1975, and my father had bought me my first pack of Topps card. I wasn't a die hard baseball fan at the time, I was little, but for some odd reason, I remember the card pack, mainly because each card was colorful... remember, it was the 70s. The one card I remember from that living room in Kentucky? Ron Cey.
I still have it to this day.
Since then, I would be given a few packs for holidays in my stocking. Santa was good like that. I remember my dad bought me the entire box of unopened packs for my birthday in 1984. I sat on my bed for hours opening and organizing those cards. It was the most fun I had as a kid. I thought at the time, "My dad bought me the whole box! I might have the best dad in the world!
Over time, if I had a few bucks, I'd buy my own. Back then, baseball cards were on the counter of every store. There were no Targets, there were 5 and 10s and coffee shops, and every coffee shop had a glass counter with baseball cards in them. It was a great time to be a card collector and to be a kid.
My collection became bigger by the 1980s and like any kid, I aimed to try and get the good cards. The 1982 Cal Ripken rookie card, the Don Mattingly rookie, not the Donruss or Fleer ones... the Topps one. You know, the one where you can just make out the #4 on his back. Mattingly wore #46 before he wore the now retired #23.
Topps was the card, and while I expanding to the others, I always went back to Topps. They were the gold standard.
I remember sitting in my den as a kid, lining up my Topps cards according to the order of the lineup for that day's game. I remember having the game on, Messer, White and Rizzuto did their thing, and as the players were lifted from the game, switched with defensive replacements or whatever, I'd replace them on my card lineup too.
I remember bringing my baseball card binder everywhere, always looking through my cards and finding facts about players, and even where they lived and what teams they played for before. It made the summer vacation car rides better. Sy Berger had me hooked, and my hobby made me truly happy for years.
When I went away to college, the collecting stopped, but my parents didn't throw them out like other parents did to their kid's collections. My parents knew how much I loved it and when I graduated, and moved into my own place, my cards came with me, now about 3 boxes full. They were still all together, now in plastic, separated by YEAR with an index card that I hand wrote to separate each section. It's the perfect collection... and it's mine.
I never graded a single card, because it was my opinion that collections needed to be personal. Mine was. I didn't fall into the trap of buying sets that I would never open. What's the fun of that? I never looked for a mint card. I looked for cards that were unique, or something that stood out...something I liked. After all, it was my collection. For instance, there was a day in 1989 that I bought my first Don Larsen card. The card had drawing on it's face and the seller, a guy in a jewelry store I used to go to, sold it to me for $2 bucks. It probably isn't worth $1 at the time, but it was my first Larsen card. That's it above.
I remember being in Cape Cod with my parents and my dad brought me to a card shop. It was my birthday and he bought me a 1958 Yogi Berra. To this day, It might be my favorite Topps card in my collection. In short... I remember where I was and what I bought and what it made me feel like when I held that Topps cards... that's because Topps did it better than the others. I fell in love with not only the hobby, but with the brand.
Sy Berger is a pioneer. Sure, before Topps there was Goudey and Tobacco cards and I have those too, but it was Topps that dominated and made their cards better than all the rest. Sy Berger once said this about his product in 2002:
"We wanted to make something attractive that would catch the eye."
My collection is now massive, deeply organized and mine... it's unique to me! Most of all... It's overwhelmed with Topps baseball cards.
Thank you to Sy Berger. Prayers for out to the Berger family. Thanks for allowing me to go back to my childhood any time I want. All I have to do is go back to my collection at any moment, grab my card out and remember where I was when I bought them. It's always a pleasant moment. It was a much simpler life for me back then. It was one of the best times of my life.
My childhood never dies because of Sy Berger.
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