Monday, September 28, 2020

Here Is The House

Tomorrow is my mom's 78th birthday. Today she moved out of the place she called home for half that time. I was 18 months old when she moved in, and 25 years old when I moved out. Here are some photos and memories from my final walkthrough ten days ago. And here's a song to set the mood:

The house I grew up in is at the end of a dead-end street.

If you were to walk past the house from left to right you could continue down a ramp that leads to the motel I mentioned in this post. There was a metal barrier blocking the path but it's been gone for quite a while.

Across the street and beyond the shiny white fence is a parking lot. I guess it's for the shopping plaza a block ahead but it seems superfluous and too far from the stores. The pavement covers what used to be a dirt lot that hosted our Wiffle Ball games. The big tree is blocking the outfield fence and the brick wall of the house that we used to call the "warehouse" as a nod to Baltimore's Camden Yards. (Sorry for the screen, I took this pic from my mom's bedroom.)

The enclosed porch was always a fun place for chatting and having coffee. My aunt lived on the right side of the house until she died; one or both of us would often meet her on the porch for a visit. One time a hurricane-force storm blew in and I stayed inside watching the weather report while my mom and aunt watched the action outside from their rocking chairs.

The living room was still being lived in when I was there. 

Let's head to the dining room, where my mom would host holiday dinners and serve her super thick sausage lasagna (and other things I suppose.. the lasagna was always my fave.)

Aaah too bright! That lantern at the top left is probably older than I am. It's one of those things that has been in the house for as long as I can remember. 

On the far right of the dining room is a doorway that leads to the kitchen. Take a hard right and you'll see a door that leads to..

.. the basement. I was tasked with cleaning this up last weekend while my mom separated the contents (mostly Christmas decorations) into 'keep' and 'donate' piles. 

Let's go back upstairs.

On the way to the kitchen there was a unique feature that I've never seen in any other house:

No, it's not the sign (which my mom bought, btw.) It's that little door that slides open on either side of the house.

This allowed my mom and aunt (and later my mom and nephew) to leave each other letters, envelopes, misdelivered mail, or anything else that would fit in the "hole."

Here's a look at the kitchen, with the back door at the far right. The backsplash and countertop had some awful sunflower-colored wallpaper when I was a kid. My mom painted over it.

The kitchen table is flanked by a padded bench. I always thought that closet on the right was in an odd place, but it came in handy for storing garden tools, shopping bags, and the bottles/cans we used to accumulate. One of my few fond memories of my father was when we'd cash in our collection at the supermarket. I'd go in with bags of empty soda bottles and I'd come out with packs of baseball cards (or stickers.)

When I was very little I used to bite the edge of the cushion by the window. My teeth marks are still there, but they're hard to see even in person.

My lifelong best friend stopped by Saturday night for one last visit (and a banana.)

The backyard was not always so overgrown. My mom isn't physically able to tend to it anymore. See the clothesline at the top left? I used to have a basketball hoop at that pole. Before that there was a garage at the back, where the table is in this picture. The garage was made of wood, which was damaged in Hurricane Gloria and further deteriorated until my brother pulled it down with a crane attached to his truck. 

Let's go back inside, and take a tour of the upstairs.

There used to be some ratty shag carpets on each step nailed (poorly, I might add) by my father. I learned to tie my shoe laces at the bottom of these stairs. Also the wood paneling was brown but my mom painted it white, which is the next best thing to removing the panels altogether.

I took this photo at the intersection of my childhood bedroom (behind me) and my teenage/young adult bedroom (to my left). Since this is ostensibly a baseball card blog I made sure to include the '48 Bowman Augie Galan here.

This greyish-blue room was the latter. And it used to be red. Whenever someone would ask me why I painted my room red I would reply "because I couldn't paint it black." I really wanted a black room.

My bed was in various places but mainly up against the white wall where I'm kneeling. The view outside my window isn't nearly as nice as Matt's but I liked it. Everyone in the neighborhood has a pool.

This is the guest room, where I would stay whenever I visited. It was originally my bedroom (and it wasn't always that color.)

When I was 5 or 6 someone gave me a balloon for my birthday and I made the mistake of bringing it into this room. The popcorn ceiling popped it, scaring the shit out of me. I probably cried. I hated loud noises as a kid. Fire drills were a source of serious anxiety. Perhaps that trauma can be traced back to this damn ceiling popping my birthday balloon. 

Among the more positive memories in this room are the origins of my card collection. I had Gremlins and Wacky Packages stuck to my dresser - and Garbage Pail Kids stuck to my closet door.

Some remnants of GPK stickers are still there. My oldest nephew Michael was born the year I really started accumulating these. He was fascinated with these from the time he was 4 and often asked me to show him this door. We tried peeling off what we could, which is why there are so many fragments.

This room might have been the birthplace of my collection but its home was in the 3rd floor attic.

My mom used to let me (and my friends) draw on the walls. There are still some badly-drawn Bart Simpson sketches and some anti-NKOTB statements left uncovered when we ran out of blue paint.

This peg board at the top of the stairs was installed by my (former) brother-in-law, so that I could hang my Starting Lineup figures on hooks like a store display. I once had a gray card table up against that blue wall on the right where I would display some of my most valuable cards. Many of them were stolen right from under me when my parents left me alone in the house with a pair of punk-ass kids pretending to be my friends. 

That incident shaped me as a collector. I thought about quitting forever and selling off whatever I had left. Instead I rebuilt my collection bigger and better than ever, and kept on going.

The original Collector HQ. I apologize again for the bright glare. There wasn't a bed there until after I moved out and other family members moved in from time to time. The crawl space door is at the far left. I still have some items from that find to discuss, which I will get to soon. 

The window above the crawl space has seen better days. Somewhere on that roof is a 1988 Tony Gwynn Starting Lineup figure that my eight year-old self decided to a) paint the base with whiteout and b) toss it out the window. I have no idea why I would do such a thing, but I have always wondered if it's still stuck on the roof, or in the gutter. It couldn't have come down - someone would have found it.

That wraps up the tour. Thank you for joining me on this final trip through my old West Haven home.


I'm building a Christmas care package list, and if you're doing the same you should know that COMC is so far behind that orders placed today will not be guaranteed to arrive until 2021 unless you pay $9.99 $11.49 for "rushed" delivery. Which makes me mad because I have a card in my inventory that was meant to be a gift for a generous blogger. Guess I'll have to do my holiday sports card shopping elsewhere this year. I am so done with COMC.

Anywho... I added a much shorter post to my 1993 Blog today. I'm not saying that I'll add you to my Christmas gift list if you follow The 1993 but I'm not not saying that 😜

Thanks for reading!


Sunday, September 27, 2020

Photo Album Find

I haven't been in a creative mood lately. My brain has this bad habit of wanting to write five posts in one week and then none at all. My next post will be a long story about leaving my childhood home for the last time, and so I'll keep this preview as brief as possible.

My mom packed up several boxes with my old school papers and things I'd long forgotten. I found a copy of the West Haven News dated November 1, 1984. My mom had the front photo on our fridge for years. I remember it well. I'm sitting on a bench with my preschool classmates. What I'd forgotten - or never seen - was the headline above it. Vice President George Bush had visited our town just days before the election. (I'd show you the front page but my mom doesn't have a scanner.)

I consolidated some of the boxes so that my mom wouldn't have so much to carry. There was an old photo album with family photos on the first few pages. I'd used the last few pages as my own personal scrapbook. Two pages were dedicated to a girl I'd crushed on in fifth grade as a result of her performance at a school talent show. 

The page before that had a single baseball card stored in a cut-up 9-pocket page,  sealed in the cellophane of the photo album page. It was almost certainly the last card left in that house, though I wouldn't be shocked if someone uncovered a couple more in a corner or underneath the flooring.

This is a 1948 Bowman card of Cincinnati Reds outfielder Augie Galan. Galan was nearing the end of a 16-year career when this card was released. I was excited to uncover this gem, which was certainly the oldest card in my collection at the time. As I examined the snipped corner at the top left and what appears to be crayon marks on Augie's hat I tried hard to remember how I could have acquired this card. It's a shame because I have specific memories of several cards I owned as a boy - but not this one.

That said, I have seen Galan's name listed on baseball-reference a time or two and briefly thought to myself Augie Galan.. why does that name sound familiar..?

Here's a close-up of the front and back. Note Galan's walk total in 1943 and 1944:

What Bowman doesn't mention is that he struck out just 39 times in '43 and 23 times in '44. It's a different game nowadays.


There's an insane amount of sports this weekend: NHL Stanley Cup finals, NBA conference finals, the final weekend of the MLB season - and some great NFL games including Packers-Saints tonight. 

What will you be watching?

Thanks for reading!


Friday, September 18, 2020

You Had One Job

Elliptical Man has been running some giveaways on his blog. On Labor Day he offered up a stack of players with occupational last (or first) names. Less than ten days later I received a bubble mailer full of football cards just for commenting. Let's take a look at these laborers:





Barbers and a Hunter

Butlers and a Baker (bonus points for the Packer parallel)

Coopers and a Fletcher

Garçon, coffee!

Mr. Monk

...and the rest. One of these guys was a first overall draft pick. Can you name which one, without peeking at Pro Football Reference?

Brendan also sent some 1987 Topps cards for my nascent set build. He specifically said not to send him anything in return so I will respect his request -- for now. Thanks for the cards!

I will be back in Connecticut tomorrow, saying goodbye to the house I grew up in. I'll try to take some pics for posterity and/or a blog post.


 Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!



Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Hall of Postcards

Obviously I didn't get to Cooperstown this year, as I had originally planned to for my 40th birthday. I was looking forward to seeing how much has changed at the Baseball Hall of Fame since the last time I visited in 1999.

That year I made a point to pick up some postcards in a gift shop, as the museum produces these for every inductee. According to the Trading Card Database this series began in 1965. I know I picked up at least two during my initial visit to Cooperstown in 1991.

This Stan Musial postcard was uncovered during my crawl space cleanup. It's got a few creases but it still looks better than the reprinted version featured on TCDB. I also bought a Roberto Clemente postcard back then, which I taped to a gift envelope from my Sports Illustrated subscription.

Last weekend I began downsizing my sports memorabilia collection and uncovered my stack of plaque postcards including this Clemente. I'd forgotten why I taped it to the back of an envelope -- turns out my young self filled it out with the intention of sending it to my best friend at the time. I'm not sure why I never sent it, but we weren't friends for much longer after that summer.

These two Red Sox were not in the stack; they were part of a Christmas gift from Dennis in 2018.

The other eight postcards in my collection were purchased during my return visit to the Hall eight years later. All of them have printing dates of either 1998 or 1999 on the back.

Two more legendary outfielders here. Not sure why I didn't choose Hank Aaron but if I ever go back to Cooperstown I'll be sure to add him to my shopping list. 

I think I tried building an All-Time Team and left out a catcher for some reason.

Sandy's gonna need someone to throw to. I'll probably pick up a Bench or Campanella 'card on my next visit, along with some right-handed hurlers like Pedro Martinez.

Birthday boy Robin Yount was part of the Class of 1999, inducted just a few weeks prior to my visit. I looked all over town for a #19 Brewers throwback jersey and didn't see a single one. There were plenty of Nolan Ryan and George Brett jerseys for sale though.

Yount played his last game in 1993, which I will use as an excuse to plug my new blog about all things '93. I added a quick post there this evening and there are plenty of interesting stories and topics in the works so add The 1993 to your blogroll if you're not already following  :)

Do you have any postcards from the Baseball Hall of Fame?

Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, September 15, 2020


 The first sports card I ever remember seeing is this 1985 Topps Bob Baumhower single:

It was wedged in the back seat of my parents' station wagon. My dad never mentioned collecting football cards; it might have belonged to my (half) brother. I can't imagine how seeing this helmetless, non-descript headshot of a non-descript player, whose name is listed sideways on a black-bordered card, got me interested in the hobby.

The first hockey card I ever remember seeing is this Ulf Samuelsson single from 1988-89 Topps. It was one of a pack's worth of cards scattered in dad's sock drawer, along with an Old Spice shaving kit, weed rolling papers, and a couple pairs of socks. My dad never mentioned hockey and I never saw any packs of 1988-89 Topps anywhere. Ulfie probably wasn't the first card I saw but it's the one I remember because I recognized the Whalers logo.

I do remember my dad bringing home a pack of 1988-89 Fleer basketball cards one day. I don't think I had any interest in the NBA until the next year, and I didn't recognize any of the names.

One of the cards in that pack was Milwaukee Bucks center Randy Breuer. If I focused really hard I might be able to remember another card or two. (I'm almost certain there was an All-Star subset card in that pack.)

I don't actually remember the first baseball card I ever saw. I do remember that the first packs of baseball cards I came across were also Fleer products. We were in a WaWa and I spied an opened box of 1986 Fleer adjacent to the shelf with Wonder Bread. I picked one off the top and brought it home. Really wish I could remember any specific card I pulled for certain, the logos were more interesting to me than the players. I know I pulled an Expo and a Pirate. I don't think I pulled a Yankee.

I'm about 98% sure Pat Clements was in that pack. 

Do you remember your first sports cards?