When I was growing up, I used to memorize parts of the back of baseball cards. Most of the time, it dealt with League Leaders cards and the players who led the league in a certain category.
I could also recite the stats of Robin Yount from almost any year, even though I missed the first few years of his career.
Over time a lot of this information has left my memory, even though I would write out these statistics ad nauseum all over my notebooks in grade school.
In short, at one time I thought I knew my stuff pretty well. The other day, however, I got schooled – by someone who approached twice my age.
I had the pleasure of a visitor last week who was seeking some information on some baseball-related collectibles he owned. With the last name of Fritsch and from the central Wisconsin area, you can guess this guy had some good stuff and had forgotten more about memorabilia from the 1950s than I ever knew.
Now when I say he wanted some help with some collectibles I should clarify and mention that what he really needed was a younger set of eyes to help identify some players featured in a some pendants and kaleascope-type items from decades gone by.
Once we got those squared away was when my visitor got down to business, first by reciting some stats of players who last took the field in the 1950s. OK, I thought, not too bad. Then he recounted how he used to have family contests on who could remember the most information from the backs of baseball cards. He lost once and vowed to never let it happen again. He took a set of cards and decided to remember the middle name of every player in the set, of which he rattled off numerous examples to let me know he could still do it. He’d also throw in the birthdates of the players for good measure.
He said when it came to certain aspects of life, he could study something for a while and have a photogrpahic memory of it. Baseball cards are what brought this out in him. sixty years later, he was still the grade schoolers rattling off stats like those players were still on the field.
It reminded me of another gentleman I talked to a few weeks ago who challenged me to a contest. He told me to name a year and he could rattle off information from that season. I chose a year from the late 1940s and listened patiently as he mentioned who did what that year on the ball diamond as if he had pulled up the Baseball Reference website when I gave him the year – only this was all from memory.
A couple of thoughts crossed my mind in relation to these two instances. One was the fact that baseball cards were the central influence in learning this information – taking the love of the game into the home and embracing it for life. Second, the cold, hard fact that today’s generation doesn’t take the same liberty with their cards. I know of many kids who love sports, but they get a lot of their statistical information from the various baseball video games on the market and keep their card in binders.
I’ll admit I can still recite batting averages from the 1980s Nintendo video game RBI Baseball, but that initial exposure to baseball numbers came from Topps sets first.
I love hearing stories from those who started collecting decades ago, so keep them coming and I’ll pass them along here as you do.