Monday, February 13, 2012

Dime Box Heroes: Like a kid again

2001 Fleer Platinum #500 Arizona Diamondbacks PG

This was one of the many cards I bought at Saturday's card show.

I'd found a few of these "Postseason Glory" cards in dime boxes at the last few shows. I love 'em. It's just something about those black-and-white photos.

Plus, they chronicle one of the best World Series ever played. I'm not sure you could write a better script. 

This picture captures the moment after Craig Counsell scored the winning run in Game 7 of the series, after the famous "bloop" single by Luis Gonzalez. Counsell leapt onto the shoulders of teammate Matt Williams after crossing the plate, ending what could only be classified as a emotionally-charged 2001 season. 

Even the umpire can't help crack a smile at the amazing scene that's unfolding in front of him.

What really stands out to me is the reaction of Mark Grace in the right-hand portion of this card. 

Mark Grace is one of the most beloved players in Cubs history. Of course, the downside to being a post-1908 Cub is that you don't have a World Series ring with the franchise.

Grace chose to leave Chicago and sign with the D'Backs for the 2001 season. It proved to be a fantastic choice, as he won his first and only championship in Arizona.

As you can see, Grace was utterly thrilled to have finally realized his dream of winning a World Series.

The enthusiasm that Grace shows in this shot reminds me of those crazy backyard baseball games that many of us played in our younger years. 

I never really had the type of friends that wanted to play a game of baseball at the park when I was younger. It was always football or basketball. No baseball.

That seems to be pretty typical of all kids in this day in age. Whenever I drive past a park in the summertime, I never see a bunch of kids playing a pickup game of baseball, our national pastime. If I do see a sport being played, it's always soccer or something. Or maybe they're just all at home "chatting" on Facebook or playing "Call of Duty". I don't know.

Little League is one thing that has spanned the generations. I definitely had my moments then. I was a two-time Little League "All-Star". And I even turned an unassisted triple play once. 

After I stopped playing Little League when I was in 5th grade or so, I devised my own type of "schoolyard" baseball game, since I could never get my friends together for a game of baseball on a regular basis. Since I lived in a condominium complex (and still do), there wasn't a backyard. So I mapped out a "game" that I could play in my own living room. I still give my parents a lot of credit for letting me run around the living room like a crazy person on the "game days".

I used to have this little yellow foam ball. From about twenty feet away, I'd just toss the ball up and "hit" it with my hands clasped together. There was a small gap between where the couch was and the living room window, so anything over that on a fly was a home run. Anything that bounced off the couch and into that gap was a ground-rule double. Any bloop that landed and stayed on the couch was a single. To get a force out, you had to hit the little reclining chair before the "runner" got there. 

It seems silly now, but I even made up fake names for all the "players" in my league. I even gave them "tools". Some guys had exceptional speed, and some were big home-run hitters. Some of the pitchers threw knucklers, and some were power pitchers.

I'd play a "season", filled with triumphs and devastation, comebacks and blown leads. The best-of-three championship "showdowns" (after one-game playoffs in the semifinals) were big days in my kid life. The championship games would be filled with excitement and tension. A game-changing home run. Getting out of a bases-loaded jam. 

After the last out, I'd jump around the room and celebrate, actually acting like I had won a big-league championship. It was a great day for the "team" that won it all.

Looking back, I find it amazing that I thought up all of that when I was just a fifth grader. It was my biggest dream. 

Mark Grace lived my dream on that fateful November day.


Cory said...

I have a nerf bat and balls and I still play HR derby in my house. I just mute Chris Berman and start swinging.

William Regenthal said...

That's awesome. I grew up in a large family, so we could always go out in the backyard and have our own games and not involve anyone else. There are days when it would be fun to try that again, but we are all old and fat now, so maybe we should just watch our kids take their turn.

AdamE said...

My brother and I used to play a baseball game with a yard stick and a marble in our basement. We made up teams with baseball cards and as we got hits instead of ghost runners we would leave cards on the bases. I bent up a lot of cards that way.

Mike said...

Your Mom and I often sat there trying to figure out what the hell was going on during those games!

......we also enjoyed your hockey games against the inflatable aliens!