Many people have been confined to their homes during the past year due to the COVID 19 situation and the quarantine. As a result, some of us have used that time to clean out the house, to begin to get rid of some of the junk we’ve collected through the years. Fortunately, as we sort through our junk, we sometimes find treasures from long ago, souvenirs that remind us of our youth and take us back to a time of innocence and optimism. Recently, I found my old baseball stamp albums from 1961 and 1962, and those mementos definitely will not go in the trash.
Those stamp albums remind me of the spring seasons of my youth. With the first sign of warm weather, my friends and I would begin to play pitch and catch in the driveway. Then, we’d start to hit wiffle balls in the back yard. Finally, when the nearby fields had dried out enough from the winter’s snow and rain, we would gather as many guys as we could for an actual game with nine players on a side. Our favorite game, the American pastime, had returned.
Another spring ritual that came with the warmer temperatures was collecting baseball cards. For one shiny nickel, we could get five baseball cards and a stick of pink, stale bubblegum. We loved the cards because they included color pictures of our favorite players with statistics and interesting anecdotes on the back. Most of us were Yankee fans, and everyone wanted to get Mickey Mantle’s card. We used our remaining cards to trade for other favorites, to gamble with our cards by tossing them one at a time as close to a wall as possible, and to clip them to our bicycle spokes to create a motorcycle sound. In 1961 and 1962, however, our baseball-card packs included an extra bonus: stamps.
Collecting baseball stamps was never quite as popular as collecting baseball cards, but during those two years, each pack of Topps cards also included two stamps, stamps that you could lick and paste in a small album about the size of a half sheet of paper. The album cost a dime, and the 1961 album included this introductory message from the Topps Chewing Gum Company:
“Your Baseball Album has space for 180 stamps of America’s greatest baseball stars — the 10 outstanding players from each of the 18 Major League Teams. We hope you enjoy collecting the stamps that are enclosed in Topps Baseball Picture Card Bubble Gum and know that you will look with pride at your album for years to come.”
Sixty years later, I can’t believe I am actually looking with pride at my album which is missing only 11 stamps. That’s amazing. In all my years of collecting baseball cards as a kid, I never came close to getting a complete set, most likely because each set had almost 600 cards which came out during the course of the season; in addition, just as the summer days faded in late August and September, so did my collecting. Fortunately, I think I was one of the few kids in our neighborhood who actually put the stamps in an album, so my friends would often give me their stamps.
As I look at the 1961 and 1962 albums, I notice that both albums include two new teams: the Los Angeles Angels and the new Washington Senators in the American League in 1961 and the New York Mets and the Houston Colts in the National League in 1962.
The 1961 edition includes the team’s career batting and pitching records while the 1962 edition includes the 1961 statistics for the featured players. That means, of course, Mickey Mantle’s best home-run year ever at 54 and Roger Maris breaking Babe Ruth’s 1927 record by hitting 61.
The 1962 album is also much more colorful. Each of the 1961 stamps had either a green or red hue, but the 1962 stamps are in full color, a much more attractive feature.
So why do I have my baseball stamp collection today but no baseball cards from those years? Because I thought I was mature, but I obviously had no foresight.
In the spring of 1966, as a freshman in high school, I decided I was too mature to keep collecting baseball cards. I was so mature, in fact, that I actually threw away my shoe boxes full of the cards I had collected during the previous five years or so. The only cards I actually hung onto were my Mickey Mantle cards; I couldn’t bear to say good-bye to The Mick.
About 15 to 20 years later, though — I’m honestly not sure when — I actually sold those Mantles because their value had increased significantly, and I needed the cash. Again, I don’t remember why I needed the cash, but I believe I got a few hundred dollars for my meager collection. Thank you, Mick.
For some reason, however, when I disposed of my cards, I held on to my stamp albums. Most likely, I had them stored somewhere else, and I simply forgot all about them. So after all this time, where did I find these baseball stamp albums from my youth. I found them with a bunch of high-school mementoes stored — where else? — in an old shoe box.