If you’re anything like me, some of your sweetest baseball memories — and probably some of your sweetest childhood memories, in general — lie in the time between the start of Spring Break and Easter.
As a kid, Spring Break brings the obvious advantage of being out of school for a week. When you were still too young for a Florida trip or whatever, that likely meant more time to play, more time to goof off, more time to fiddle with your baseball cards.
Indeed, all through my childhood, Spring Break fell in the second or third week of March, and that was plenty late most years for me to get my mitts on at least a few packs of new baseball cards for the year. Most years, that was also late enough to knock off the deep chill of our Indiana winters and give us at least a hint of sunshine a few days during that week off.
And by the time we got to Easter, the cards were flowing freely, and you could rightly expect some sweet Spring-y weather on a more or less regular basis. And, the Easter Bunny — or E.B., as I called him — always left some packs in my basket.
So it’s not surprising at all that any hint of Spring elicits a huge, mixed-up hairball of memories from my addled brain that is roughly equal parts blue sky, baseball cards, Easter candy, and goof-off.
Oh, and Spring Training.Because nothing ties it all together like Spring Training, when everything is possible.
I knew, then, that I’d have to include a baseball card that showcases a beautiful blue baseball sky when I was laying out my 2019 Spring Training Baseball Card Challenge, so I’m here to do that on Day 36.
Now, there are hundreds and hundreds — probably more like thousands and thousands — of great baseball cards that have featured blue sky over the many decades that baseball cards have blessed this earth.
How to choose just one?
Well, I fell back on the theme of this whole series — Spring Training, with an emphasis on Spring.
And an extended emphasis on Spring Break.
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One of my earliest memories that combines my growing love of baseball with Spring Break came in 1983. I was riding around with my parents — Dad took the week off to spend with me — and we had to take our old blue bomb of a Dodge pickup truck to the shop for some reason. First, though, we stopped at a grocery store, where I plucked one of those “Who’s Who”-type preview magazines from the newsstand.
While we waited for the truck to get well, I read every word and every stat, and I came away with the impression that the two greatest players in the game in the upcoming season would be Andre Dawson and Pedro Guerrero.
I was enamored of both players, and The Hawk turned out to be a Hall of Famer, but somehow Guerrero struck my fancy to a greater degree. I remained an admirer throughout his career, even though it seemed like he was always pounding Reds pitching.
Given that Guerrero played in Los Angeles, with the Dodgers, it’s natural that I associate him with sunshine, and I’d bet — without checking — that plenty of his cards feature our coveted blue sky.
But one of my goals for this series was to dig into some of the issues I haven’t thought about for awhile, and that some newer collectors may not remember at all. Topps and Fleer and Donruss base sets were (and are) great, but there’s a whole lot more to appreciate in the big, wide cardboard world than just the same old same old.
Luckily, I wasn’t the only one who appreciated Guerrero’s power-speed combination, as he was a regular inhabitant of All-Star and MVP-candidate rosters for several years there in the 1980s. That meant he also found his way into many of the oddball sets that kept the hobby interesting while rookie cards and speculators started to drive base-card prices skyward.
For example, Ralston Purina teamed with Topps in 1984 to issue a 33-card set in packages of Cookie Crisp and Donkey Kong cereal, and guess who was included?
Now, these cards were not the most beautiful ever produced, and they were heavily branded for Ralston Purina, including a couple of prominent displays of their famed red-and-white checked logo.
What was beautiful, though, was the perfect blue sky and wispy white clouds above deep green trees, with a smiling Guerrero in the foreground. The man was in his prime, happy and healthy in his Dodger Blue, and he came at you from a pile of sugary goodness that only 80s cereals could supply.
It’s an eternal reminder of Spring and hope … and baseball.
Check out the entire series of 2019 Spring Training Challenge posts here.
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