I took my sons back to the local baseball card shop this week. They had Christmas money, and my oldest son wanted to get some baseball cards. Really good baseball cards, he said.
It turned into a learning opportunity.
The first lesson is simple economics. The cutoff for “vintage” varies a bit, but generally speaking, after the mid 1970s cards were printed and saved in much larger quantities, so if you stick to 1970 and earlier, you’re much more likely to be able to get some of your money back out of your cards if you ever want to sell them for any reason. They’re also the cards most likely to appreciate in value over time, albeit slowly.
So we looked around for some bargain-priced Hall of Famers from 1970 or earlier. He had $20 to spend, and I spotted four cards from 1967-1970: Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer, Joe Morgan, and Willie McCovey. They were nice-looking cards for the money, not too beat up, and in most cases the biggest flaw with the card was that it wasn’t cut perfectly center. It was a nice haul for $20–I would have been happy with that haul when I was in grade school–and more importantly, a haul worth learning to take care of. He’s still a bit young but is learning fast.
“Why are three of these four players black?” my son asked.
It’s an innocent question, and that led to a second learning opportunity.
“A lot of the best players from the 1960s were,” I said. “Did you know there was a time when black people couldn’t play baseball with white people?”
“Why?” he asked.
“Some people don’t like people who aren’t like them. The first black player in the major leagues was Jackie Robinson.”
“Was he good?”
“He was very good, but the rest of the players made his life miserable.”
“There were people who wanted baseball to stay white,” I said. “The reason they picked Jackie Robinson to be the first one was because they knew he was good enough to play, but he also was strong enough to handle the other players. It was because of him that these other three guys were able to play major-league baseball.”
It turns out there are more life lessons in baseball than even I had imagined.