Longing for the days of Alex’s MVP and R&L Galleries


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I cleaned my room at my parents’ apartment this weekend (more on that in a future post), throwing away thousands of my baseball cards. Good ones, too, not just “commons.” Even 10 years ago, this would have been unfathomable to me, let alone 15 years ago, when my collection probably could have been sold to a dealer for at least a few thousand dollars. Now the market for the cards is a fraction of what it once was, and the few cards I chose to keep were those that I saved more for sentimentality than any value that they might have once possessed.

Mark McGwire’s once sought-after 1985 Topps rookie card (the ‘84 Olympic team card) is being listed on eBay for around $10. I was collecting baseball cards at exactly the time that their market reached unprecedented heights, and I remember when a PSA 10 of that McGwire card alone (and I had 2) could fetch upwards of $1,000. That card wasn’t even the gem of my collection. At one point, I had the ‘87 Classic Bo Jackson, the ‘83 Topps Traded Darryl Strawberry, and the ‘90 Leaf Frank Thomas. Actually, Danny had that one, and I wanted it so bad. I’ve got a ‘78 Eddie Murray, a ‘79 Ozzie Smith, and even an ‘89 Upper Deck Ken Griffey, Jr, the card that some say created the baseball card industry’s feeding frenzy of the early 1990’s. But man I wanted that Frank Thomas card.

There’s a legion of kids about my age who believed that they’d one day become price guide-authoring, pre-blogger-era media superstars like their hero, the inimitable Dr. James Beckett. We never learned what the Dr. was for anyway.

For those dorky enough to remember it all, here’s a trip down memory lane with some of my favorite cards:

The infamous 1988 Fleer Billy Ripken error card. Someone on the ‘88 Orioles team thought it would be funny to write “Fuck Face” at the bottom of Billy’s bat during picture day (it was). Billy had a fairly indistinguished 12-year career as a second baseball for some crappy teams in the the light hitting late 80’s-pre-power-surge era of steroid-free baseball, but the card’s popularity was increased by the fact that Billy is Cal’s little brother. Fleer pulled the card shortly after the error was discovered, but a few thousand were already out there. I pulled mine out of a rack pack sometime around 1991, an experience which, when prorated for my age and maturity at the time, ranks somewhere below seeing Beck in concert (really good) and above getting promoted at my first job (pretty decent) in the pantheon of my own memories. I am such a loser.

1987 Classic Bo Jackson, the “football/baseball” crossover rookie card. Classic cards weren’t even meant to be collectibles, they were part of a trivia board game that could be played with the cards, and ‘87 was the first of several Classic series. This wasn’t even really an official Bo Jackson rookie card, but because Classic made such a limited run in its first year, the card’s rarity drove its value way up during the “Bo Knows Bo” era. I got this card in 1989 when I was at Westchester Summer Day camp. We were brought into some building to play board games during a rainy day, and I found the original Classic board game buried underneath several editions of Chutes & Ladders. I also remember that I saw Rocky for the first time that day, followed immediately by Rocky II and, the next day, Rocky III and Rocky IV. Looking back on it, I think I just had a counselor who was really into Rocky.

1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey, Jr. card. If memory serves me right, this was card #1 in the set. Being card #1 was always a big deal, but it was particularly significant considering that this was Upper Deck’s very first set and Griffey was drafted straight out of Moeller high school and had not yet even played a day of pro ball (nor would he ever play in the minors). Upper Deck was the first company to include a hologram on their cards. And yeah, I’m writing all of this from memory. I don’t remember how I got this card, but clearly, I could have used some other hobbies when I was 9.

1981 Topps Harold Baines rookie card. I love this card. Despite the fact that the card is from the early ’80’s, everything says “70’s” about it to me, from the ugly ass colors, to the cheap design, to Baines’ amazing facial hair. I got this card when my uncle went to a tag sale and paid $3 to some guy for a binder filled with a bunch of cards from the 1980’s, including an entire page of nothing but Vince Coleman cards, and 6 Oddibe McDowells. What a sweet binder.


Darryl Strawberry ‘83 Topps Traded rookie card. I got the ‘83 Strawberry in that same binder that my uncle bought for three bucks. Topps Traded was always an awesome series because while the regular Topps set was issued in advance of the season (usually around spring training), the “traded” set would come out toward the end of the season and would include cards of the players who had been traded to new teams, as well as any hot rookies. Strawberry was the big winner in ‘83, Kevin Maas was the guy in ‘90. Kevin Maas was awesome.

Frank Thomas 1990 Leaf rookie. The 1990 Leaf series was the first that I can remember where a company that already had an existing brand (Donruss) issued a fancy, premium brand (Leaf) that collectors went nuts over. I was so jealous that Danny had this card. I think I still am.

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One Response to “Longing for the days of Alex’s MVP and R&L Galleries”

  1. Dan Engel Says:

    You went to R&L in Mamaroneck too? I used to work there.

    Interesting news: http://www.cnbc.com/id/28116692

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