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Sentimental card world changing

Boys growing up in the 1950s and ’60s never envisioned a time when Topps cards might no longer be an exciting component — or, indeed, a partner — of every major league baseball season.

Every year, when the teams of those days were preparing to take the field for Opening Day, boys already had begun purchasing — with the nickels and dimes that their parents gave them — that year’s “bubble-gum card” packets that they hoped would reward them with their favorite players and other members of their favorite team or teams.

Not only were the cards prized possessions, but also a source of trading among friends.

Back then, if you lived in Pittsburgh Pirates country, who would not trade a Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra or Don Larsen card for a Roberto Clemente, Bill Mazeroski, Dick Groat or Buc Hill Aces card, which featured pitchers Vernon Law, Bob Friend, Ron Kline and Roy Face.

Cards back then generally were not stored in well-organized albums but, instead, were kept in any kind of unused small box in their home that could meet their need.

Cards were not kept in “mint” condition either; many ended up with tattered corners and other kinds of damage or wear, but having them, in whatever condition, was valued nonetheless.

Today, many of the now-much-older “boys” still have fond memories of card collecting, amid the different world of card collecting that exists at this time. However, those boys who traded away original Larsen cards might now regret that transaction, considering that Larsen remains the only pitcher in World Series history to toss a perfect game.

In the minds of some former boys — now senior citizens — each World Series, like the one that will be played this fall, probably conjures up recollections of feats like Larsen’s, which compares with pro football’s Miami Dolphins’ 1972 perfect season, which never has been matched.

Nostalgia is a part of all sports, but a different kind of nostalgia might be on the verge of “running the bases,” at least in the world of Topps cards.

While today’s young people might not feel upset about what seems to be about to happen, older card collectors — former or current — might experience a tinge of sorrow while recalling their young days of collecting the images and statistics of their diamond heroes.

According to an Aug. 21-22 Wall Street Journal article, Topps now is on the verge of losing its 70-year-old grip on the card market due to a breakdown in the baseball relationships that were central to the company’s longtime success, despite the emergence of competitors over the years.

Topps claims it was blindsided by the decision by Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association’s decision to strike an exclusive trading-card-agreement with a new company controlled by online sports-merchandise retailer Fanatics Inc.

The MLB-MLBPA agreement with Fanatics will cost Topps a big chunk of its revenue and who knows what else.

For longtime, notoriously sentimental baseball fans and collectors, present and past, this troubled world might have found another way to be upsetting.

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