Nashville is a city near and dear to my heart. I lived there for four years for college (minus summers, of course). I have said frequently to others that I love the city and, if I didn't live in Atlanta, I would look to live in Nashville.
I don't think that is true any more.
It's nothing that Nashville "did," really. All cities change and evolve, and Southern cities in particular have experienced rapid growth and change. Atlanta has been experiencing that rapid growth since at least 1980, and Nashville especially started its ascent once the Titans moved in from Houston in the mid-1990s.
There's something else, too: I realized how much of a bubble I lived in while I was a student at Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt is not Nashville. It is in Nashville, but it is its own little world. Even so, even Vanderbilt has changed massively since my time there. The area around campus has been bought up, torn up, and built up again all over -- and it's totally different now.
Thomas Wolfe's book title was You Can't Go Home Again. Sometimes, "home" is a state of mind, and the realization hits that you can't go back in time to a comfortable place because, often, that place no longer exists either.
I think that desire to go back "home" is something that draws a lot of us back to our baseball card collecting again. Growing up as kids, our cards were a happy place -- our fortress of solitude, our escape from bad stuff around us, our place to daydream and think we too could be big leaguers some day.
Unlike my trip to Nashville, the good thing about card collecting is that we can all pick up wherever we left off and ignore current cards, if we choose. We can also choose to embrace the changes and dig in to the new fun aspects of collecting while ignoring as best we can those things that we dislike.
In many respects, the package of cards that I received recently from the legend himself, Jaybarkerfan, wraps all of that up in one neat envelope.
For instance, there were cards that could only come from the 1980s and early 1990s -- home, you might say:
We get Dave Parker in two store-specific sets, Angel Miranda and Joe Kmak from a deck of cards, Ted Simmons from a set fashioned after credit cards, and Teddy Higuera from one of the multitude Fleer Box sets from the mid-to-late 1980s. Oddballs to me are like getting a hug from an old friend -- it's heartfelt, warm, not awkward at all, and it feels welcoming.
As time passes, different cards take the place of these oddballs. Sometimes, they are oddballs of a different flavor -- such as minor league cards issued by Burger King:
JBF sent me a complete set of the 2001 Huntsville Stars team. For a long time, Huntsville was Milwaukee's Double-A farm team. Last year, after Huntsville refused to be held hostage by the team for a new stadium, the team relocated to Biloxi. It's telling about this team that I chose to highlight Mike Caldwell and Ed Romero -- two members of the 1982 Brewers -- here. The only hitter of note on the team was Bill Hall -- who only got 168 plate appearances.
Pitching-wise, there wasn't much to look at either. Coppinger was 27 and made his final appearances in the majors later that year. Neugebauer made it to the majors later in 2001 at the age of 21 years old. In typical Brewers fashion for that time period, Neugebauer would suffer a rotator cuff injury in 2002 which led to surgery in February of 2003. The injury could lead to his release in September of 2004 and his retirement.
As a final note, my wife especially liked the list of Burger Kings participating in the promotion, as several of them are owned by the company at which her father is in upper management.
Collecting these days, though, is full of gimmicks. Some gimmicks are still kind of cool -- who doesn't like a certified autograph, after all?
Patrick Ryan was a 19th round draft pick out of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida. That is an odd place for a pitcher to attend school, I'd say -- it's more known as a place to learn to fly as a college major than anything else.
Okay, back to cards. As I said, autographs are excellent. Cards that are jersey relics or bat relics?
They are okay, I suppose. Granted, getting a Molitor relic is very cool -- especially one with some color to it.
One of the most common -- and overused -- gimmicks are parallels. Bowman is fairly famous for this, but Topps does it in other sets as well:
JBF opened up his Bowman Chrome prospects and Prince files and pulled out these beauties. As you may have heard, Prince Fielder actually was named after the late musician Prince because his mother was a big fan.
It's not that I hate parallels for being parallels. I just think there are way too many parallels without any reason.
Finally, JBF sent me a couple of cards that will always be like home. Going back to 1980s Milwaukee will always be home. That "home" includes the Milwaukee Bucks of the 1980s. Even though they never won a championship, I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Sidney Moncrief, Terry Cummings, Paul Pressey, Dave Cowens, Bob Lanier, and even Alton Lister. Whenever those teams were on TV back then, the man on color commentary was 1971 Bucks member Jon McGlocklin.
Similarly, Athens, Georgia will always be home. I visit Athens enough -- and it's close enough to Atlanta -- that I am never surprised completely by changes there. And, JBF sent me something unique that I really appreciate:
Malcolm Mitchell was selected by the New England Patriots in the fourth round of the NFL Draft. Malcolm's almost better known for being a fantastic example for all of us generally -- even having written a children's book called The Magician's Hat:
JBF, thank you very much for the great cards and the printing plate from Malcolm Mitchell. All of them -- especially the plate -- are greatly appreciated!