Baseball cards have been around almost as long as the game itself. From the early cards that hawked tobacco products to today's high-tech cards that feature game-used memorabilia, they have been enjoyed by young and old fans alike. To honor the national pastime and celebrate Father's Day, The Augusta Chronicle asked readers to submit stories about their favorite card.
BOWMAN 1951 MICKEY MANTLE
No. 1: Bowman 1951 Mickey Mantle. He signed it for me in the old Warwick Hotel in Houston. It's probably not worth anything because of that, but it's priceless to me.
No. 2: Leaf 1949 Jackie Robinson. It's pretty ragged, but it's Jackie Robinson. That's enough.
No. 3: Bowman 1951 Paul Richards, the White Sox manager. It's the only card I've ever seen that didn't have a picture on it, but a caricature of his face.
-- Tom Campbell
HISTORY SERIES BILLY JOHNSON
We have a "Baseball History Series" card No. 230 of Billy Johnson, New York Yankees third baseman from 1943-51. The photograph is a striking resemblance to him: the heavy eyebrows, the piercing eyes, the gentleness of his facial expression and the hands gripped tightly to the bat. We are very proud of the statistics on the back of the card, but we feel the most pride because he was our dad. He took his role of fatherhood seriously and was a wonderful dad. Daddy passed away in June 2006 and is greatly missed. But we have the assurance that we will be reunited one day.
-- Brenda Johnson Prince and William Russell Johnson Jr.
BOWMAN 1989 JOHN SMOLTZ
Of all my baseball cards, the one I hold in highest esteem is my Bowman 1989 John Smoltz rookie card. Of course, it's not the card itself that matters so much as the part that it played in one of my fondest childhood memories. I was just a kid and baseball was the only thing on my mind. John Smoltz came to the Kroger on Washington Road to sign baseball memorabilia. I waited in what seemed an eternal line of eager kids and parents. Finally, my turn came and I was standing in front of my favorite pitcher, overwhelmed with excitement. I handed Mr. Smoltz the card, and as he signed it I was overwhelmed with the urge to talk baseball with him, to tell him how dedicated I was to the sport, and that I never missed one of his games. But with the long, impatient line still trailing off behind me, all I could do was ask him for a handshake. Without hesitation, he extended his famous right hand. I'll never forget that firm handshake with the hand that won so many division titles and took the Braves to numerous World Series. Yet, this time the humble man held his hand out to me, a no-name Little Leaguer from Augusta, and I will never forget it. Thanks, Mr. Smoltz.
-- Mike Almeter
TOPPS 1964 LOU BROCK
A 1964 Topps Lou Brock is my favorite card. I was 8 years old when I went to my first game at the old Sportsman's Park on N. Grand Boulevard with my brother and Dad to see the St. Louis Cardinals' latest acquisition from the Cubs, Lou Brock. He had been traded for Ernie Broglio in what turned out to be one of the most lopsided trades ever. Brock went on to bat .348 that year and led the Cardinals to their first championship of my lifetime and the first since 1946. Beating the mighty N.Y. Yankees in 7 games, Bob Gibson and Lou Brock forever became neighborhood favorites for us little league players.
-- Mark Zagar
TOPPS 1973 ROBERTO CLEMENTE
I have always had an appreciation for the 1973 Topps No. 50 Roberto Clemente. The card boldly proclaims that Roberto achieved his 3,000th career hit in the 1972 season. It turned out to be the last hit of his career as he would die on New Year's Eve of 1972 while on an earthquake relief mission to Nicaragua.
-- Mike Munie
TOPPS 1954 BOBBY ADAMS
My favorite baseball card was also my first, a 1954 Topps Bobby Adams. I got it and a piece of gum for a penny at a drugstore in Decatur, Ga., when I was 6 years old. Of all the cards I have collected over the years it continues to serve as a reminder of when baseball, and life, were simpler.
-- Chip Lorch
TOPPS 1991 CHIPPER JONES
My favorite card is a 1991 Topps Chipper Jones No. 1 draft pick card. He was drafted first in the nation by the Braves as a shortstop in June of 1990. He batted .382 over his last three years of high school with 66 RBI, 44 BB, 43 stolen bases, 14 HR and 99 hits in 78 games. He also hit .483 his senior year.
-- Michael Ridlehoover
FLEER 1985 LARRY MILBOURNE
My favorite baseball card is my autographed 1985 Fleer Larry Milbourne card; he with the Afro haircut. My ex-wife went to high school with Larry and I met him in 1991 when he managed the Savannah Cardinals versus the Augusta Pirates. We had lunch with him and I "interviewed" him after looking through my baseball card/book collections. His nickname was "Diego" and he was the 1981 World Series shortstop for the New York Yankees. Larry was a switch hitter and only had two home runs in 1978 but they came in the same game, one from each side of the plate, and the only major league player I ever ate lunch with!
-- Dick McCoppin
TOPPS FUTURE STARS 1982 CAL RIPKEN
Cal Ripken's 1982 Topps Future Stars No. 21 (although he shares this card with two other prospects). His career started when my interest in baseball was peaking as a child and I was a shortstop in Little League. I was always told that I need to grow up to be like Cal Ripken. In 2000, my wife took me to Camden Yards to see him play as a Father's Day gift. Ironically, he did not play that game.
-- Rusty Hall
TOPPS 1968 NOLAN RYAN
The 1968 Topps No. 177 rookie card of Nolan Ryan, who has the untouchable strikeout record. The card also features a very solid Jerry Koosman. Two for the price of one!
-- Bill Fertig
I have had some of the greatest baseball cards ever produced. (My favorite) card is that of Todd Greene. I was a teacher at Evans High and had the opportunity to know Todd. As far as I know he is the only athlete that made it to the big times in major league baseball from Columbia County. He spent 11 years in the majors. Todd is a positive role model for the young baseball players today. While at Georgia Southern he had the opportunity to be drafted -- but he finished his career at that school. Todd is a credit to our community and his family and he will succeed in whatever he attempts because of his outstanding work ethic.
-- Robert Russell
TOPPS 1970 WILMER DEAN CHANCE
My favorite baseball card happens to be a mint 1970 Topps Wilmer Dean Chance of the Indians. I know you are wondering: who is Dean Chance? During the early 1990s when the baseball card craze was experiencing a revival, a friend urged me to "buy a pack" knowing I would be hooked if anything of value turned up in a pack I purchased. At the time Topps was promoting sales by inserting "vintage" cards into random packs. As "Chance" would have it, I got one in the first pack I purchased! Topps' marketing ploy turned a grown man back into a 10-year-old boy! I couldn't wait to buy my next pack, complete my next set or trade a "double" with a friend. The collecting was short lived because as "Chance" would have it my daughter was born on June 1, 1992, which happens to be Dean Chance's date of birth in 1941. More kids came along and baseball cards fell by the wayside but I will forever cherish the card that uncapped a temporary fountain of youth for this baseball fan!
-- Jerry Pitman Jr.
1936 HARRY SMYTHE
I have two favorite cards. Harry Smythe, 1936 Montreal card. Harry worked for The Augusta Herald as a district manager for a number of years and I worked for him in 1961 and '62. A nice guy. My friend Bill Johnson's 1953 Topps. Also a nice guy.
-- Lloyd Creech
TOPPS 1969 MICKEY MANTLE
My favorite baseball card? The 1969 Topps white letter Mickey Mantle. Why? It is the only card variation or accepted error card from that set I do not own. The 1969 set is special to me because most of the cards came from nickel packs I bought in the old Minkovitz 5 & 10 in downtown Sylvania. As a 12-year old I kept the cards; threw away the gum.
-- Burton Kemp
TOPPS 1962 JIM GENTILE
My favorite baseball card is a 1962 Topps "Diamond" Jim Gentile. This is the year after his big season with the Baltimore Orioles: 46 home runs, 141 RBI, .302 average. I know him personally, he lives in Edmond, Okla., a suburb of Oklahoma City. He calls me Billy. As you can see, I'm a big Orioles fan.
-- Billy Spivey
UPPER DECK DEREK JETER
I'm a New York Yankees fan for 40 years. Also a huge Derek Jeter fan. Jeff just moved to Augusta and joined the club I work at. On his third time coming in, he brought an Upper Deck autographed Derek Jeter rookie card. As I handed it back to him he said, "No, its yours." Well, I was so excited I screamed, cried and gave him a big hug. So this is my favorite baseball card.
-- Beth Guarnieri
NABISCO 1994 BOB GIBSON
My favorite baseball card of all time would have to be my Bob Gibson 1994 Nabisco card that was autographed and sent with a certificate of authenticity. I have many other baseball cards, but this one is my favorite because my Grandpa gave it to me right before he passed away.
-- Jimmy Pennoyer
TOPPS 1976 OSCAR GAMBLE
My favorite baseball card is the 1976 traded card for Oscar Gamble, when he was traded to the Yankees. Oscar was a larger than life major leaguer during the 1970s and was known for his great Afro. His hair added about four inches to his height and often popped his batting helmet off his head. Consistent with a long-standing team policy against long hair and facial hair, owner George Steinbrenner made him get it trimmed before he was issued a Yankee uniform.
-- Mike Daly