My mom started buying baseball cards for me in 1981 whenever she went to the grocery store.

I didn’t want them, didn’t like them … but I worked them over, then tossed them into a box.

Over the next couple of years, I’d pull out those old hunks of cardboard with names like Fleer, Donruss, and Topps, and I’d thumb through the stacks.

I wasn’t a baseball fan, so I didn’t know many of the players — Pete Rose, Reggie Jackson, Joe Morgan … maybe those names rang a bell, but that was about it.

In the spring of 1983, though, I fell in love with the game and the hobby … still not sure about the exact concoction of circumstances that made that happen, but it did. And I sure was glad to have all those “old” baseball cards to get me started.

One of the cards I remember running into over and over again as I worked through my meager collection was the 1981 Topps Porfirio Altamirano. Funny thing about that card, though …

It doesn’t exist.

Heck, Porfi didn’t even make his Major League debut for the Phillies until eight days short of his 30th birthday in May of 1982. Before that, he had spent three seasons pitching for the Oklahoma City 89ers after a long run as one of Nicaragua’s most dominant hurlers.

Serving mostly in a set-up role for the Phils, Altamirano logged 39 innings over 29 appearances in 1982, putting up a 4.15 ERA. It was more of the same in 1983, as he split time between Philly and Triple-A Portland.

Those two stints with the Phillies did land Porfi three baseball cards, including a pretty nifty 1983 Topps rookie card.

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In March of 1984, the Phils traded Altamirano to the Cubs, and he split that season, when Chicago won their first division title, between the Windy City and Triple-A Iowa.

That run landed him zero new baseball cards (of the Major League variety, at least).

The Cubbies traded Porfi to the Yankees in December 1984, but he never appeared anywhere in the New York system.

At 32, Altamarino’s short MLB career was done, and his master set was complete at three cards: 1983 Topps, 1983 Fleer, 1984 Topps.

So … why do I remember a 1981 Topps card of Porfi?

Probably because I’m old and my memory has conflated cards from the same set of other Phillies players with exotic (to nine-year-old me, at least) names — guys like Warren Brusstar and Nino Espinosa.

But there’s also a chance this personal Mandela Effect of mine is caused by our entering into a split universe on October 16, 1983, when Cal Ripken, Jr., stabbed the air to nab the final out in the Orioles’ World Series victory over Philly.

In another version of reality, maybe Cal missed the ball, and maybe the Phillies rallied in Game 5, and maybe the Wheeze Kids were world champions.

In that universe, the 1981 Topps Porfirio Altamirano baseball card sits waiting for someone to love it, after all these years.

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