So here I am in Day 42 of my 2019 Spring Training Baseball Card Challenge, and I’ve run into a dilemma.

See, today I’m supposed to write about a single card that I bought, but …

As I sit here and rack my brain trying to come up with a suitable swath of cardboard, I’m realizing something about myself as a collector. Namely, I haven’t been much of a “singles” buyer over the years.

Now, don’t get me wrong here — I’ve had a few collecting projects over the years. I made good stabs at Pete Rose and Mike Schmidt base-card runs. I’ve chipped in a couple of cards in singles-fashion to complete a set here or there.

And like just about everyone in every walk of life, I’ve had my dalliances with impulse buys, too.

But there are problems with most of those.

I’ve already written extensively about Pete and Schmitty here on the old blog over the years.

And I honestly don’t remember which individual cards I slid in to finish specific sets.

And I sure don’t remember all my impulse buys.

Luckily, though, I do remember some of those spur-of-the-moment purchases. And as I sit here on a cold and snowy night in March of 2019 after a long day of work, I’m longing for the heat and freedom of a childhood summer.

1984 Topps Super Keith Hernandez

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Which makes me think particularly about the summer of 1984, and all the times my parents and I spent tooling around in our old blue Dodge pickup, traipsing from antique store to antique store, flea market to flea market.

And it was on one of those sweaty trips that we found ourselves at the monthly flea market held at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis. It was a monstrous show, swallowing up three whole buildings, including the Agriculture and Horticulture building.

That place is a huge, cavernous three-lobed beast that feels like an old basketball field house when you’re in it, and you can practically taste the history dripping down the walls (along with the summer humidity).

On this particular day, we had finished winding our way through one side of the show and had just entered the wedge-shaped center section when I spied a guy with a pretty sparse booth near the women’s restroom. Basically, the set-up was just a few tables and maybe a bookshelf, but I could see even from a distance that he had the gold I was seeking — baseball cards!

So I high-tailed it across the floor, Mom and Dad chasing after me, and started picking my way through his wares. Mostly, it was mundane newer stuff — unopened 1984 Topps wax packs, some 1983 Fleer singles, maybe a team set or two.

But there in the center of one of the tables was a ginormous 1984 Topps Keith Hernandez card — the one with all the pale blue “METS” and accents, the Mets pinstripes … and Hernandez’s rump in center frame.

I’d seen that card plenty in the scores of packs I had already opened that spring and summer, but this version was freaking enormous.

“Those are the new Super cards,” the guy said. “Not many of them made. Going to be real collector’s items.”

“Wow!” I said. My poker face always has been stellar.

“And Keith Hernandez is a Hall of Famer, I’ll tell you that. He’s going to lead the Mets to the World Series.” The guy had a live one.

“How much?” I blurted.

“Well,” the dealer said, rubbing a scraggly chin. “I could let it go for 40 cents.”

“I’ll take it!”

And I did.

Still got it, too, so I suppose it wasn’t too bad of a buy even if most of what that dealer said to sell me on old Keith never rally panned out.

Check out the entire series of 2019 Spring Training Challenge posts here.

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