What brings us back? What makes us Remember, whether it’s Guys or any of the other things that are out there to remember? Is it the fundamental human urge to open what is closed, or to return to places in which we have felt happy or safe in the past, or to create “snackable” video content to put onto a website? Something else? Maybe you just like weird hard gum. It’s not complicated, really, but it is individuated.
So I can just tell you what brings me back. Ripping packs of baseball cards was one of my favorite things to do as a kid, and I discovered later in life—while I was working at Topps, as it happens, writing and editing the text on the back of the cards—that the allure of it never went away. I don’t care about cards in the way that I did as a kid, because adults should and generally do care differently than children do. I don’t really care about baseball the same way, either; as I got older, I got more into Getting Really Upset than I was as a kid. But I like the experience of opening something that’s closed to find whatever’s inside. I like not knowing what’s in there to find. I like the experience of seeing a picture and some words and then having them unlock whatever surprising small memories they unlock. I never really liked the gum.
In this installment, the third part of our trilogy with the baseball historian and former Cooperstown mayor Jeff Katz, we unlock the blurry and hirsute magic of the deeply janky 1981 Fleer baseball set. This means giving muttonchopped speedster Gene Richards the respect that he deserves, Pete Redfern the semi-respectful silence he deserves, and somehow managing to talk about Dan Pasqua for a record eighth time. At one point Jeff says “I was just talking about John Grubb” and I got authentically upset. It’s what I needed, and I was glad to have it.