Like many other collectors, I don’t own any of the first baseball cards I collected as a kid. The story begins with a familiar refrain: my mom threw them out. Where my story differs is that my mom threw them out when I was seven. She was punishing me for leaving them all over the floor of my bedroom, and she figured that my behavior would quickly and drastically change once I clearly understood that disposal was a real consequence for not properly rubber-banding and placing them in the shoebox when I was done playing with them.
She was right.
As for the cards I collected after that traumatic experience (I’m convinced that it scarred me in ways I still don’t properly appreciate 35 years later), during my late 20s I replaced most of the ones that predated my teen years, when I truly became a serious collector, with cards in much better condition. Yet, even though I no longer own a large percentage of my originals, I cherish their much better preserved replacements as if I was their only owner.
Of the cards that didn’t survive my mother teaching me lesson I never forgot, Greg Luzinski’s 1978 Topps probably stands out most. During the late ‘70s, Luzinski was my favorite Phillie. I had a giant poster of him on my wall, and I know that during the summer of ’77 I kept checking RC Cola cans to find one bearing his image. The detail about this card that really made an impression on me was the red, white, and blue All-Star shield in the upper-right corner. Although I didn’t know it until I completed the team set some time during the mid-to-late ‘80s, he was the only Phillie in the set bearing the signifier. Even without that knowledge, the All-Star shield made the card that much more special to me.
Interestingly, when Luzinski was traded following their World Series championship in 1980, I wasn’t all the heartstruck. Lots of factors likely played into it: his two consecutive subpar seasons preceding the trade; the acquisition and subsequent performance of Pete Rose; the ascension of Mike Schmidt into the ranks of the game’s elite; the euphoria from the World Series victory; and the fact that by the time of the trade I was no longer living in the Philadelphia region, which meant that I only saw the Phils when their games were nationally televised.
However, Luzinski still enjoys a place in my heart as a former favorite. His autograph cards, when they appear, are always high priority acquisitions for my collection, and at the home finale last season, which was my first trip to Citizens Bank Park in over four years and my son Brandon’s first since he was a toddler, I made it a point to go to The Bull Pit and get a photo of him with two of us. It looks like we’re photo-bombing him, but I don’t care – I’m just glad to have the photo.
As for the photo of Luzinski we had him sign, Brandon now keeps that in his room.