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For a meager $10, a mangled cardboard box transported a baseball fan back to his youth at TwinsFest.

Michael Rand, Star Tribune

Rand: A baseball card flashback

  • January 27, 2013 - 11:18 PM

Saturday morning took a decided turn for the nostalgic. With some time to spare, we hopped on the light rail and headed to the Metrodome for what could be the final TwinsFest held there before demolition makes way for the new Vikings stadium.

As with most previous trips to this midwinter Twins gathering, the overall objective wasn't really decided until stepping onto the spongy fake-grass field and taking a walk around. After stopping to watch some whiffle ball and buying a discounted shirt, a cluster of tables on the perimeter featuring baseball cards caught our eye.

As an avid collector once -- somewhere between 1985 and 1991 would have been the heyday -- cards still occasionally tug at the heart. Most of the vendors were selling individual cards (many of them with a Twins theme, naturally). Our thrill, though, never has come from knowing exactly what was being bought. If given a choice, it was always to buy packs of cards instead of individuals or sets.

Packs were few and far between Saturday, or so it seemed. Then, out of nowhere, it appeared: a box of 36 packs of 1989 Fleer. The box itself was badly mangled -- held together by multiple strips of tape. But the packs were pure. And for $10, the entire thing could be had.

Back in 1989, $10 was a significant sum of money to some of us. But now? Well, suddenly, the mission had been decided: Not only did a purchase need to be made, but the packs needed to be opened IMMEDIATELY. And where better to do that than up in the blue plastic Metrodome seats.

There is a sensory experience involving the tearing open of a pack of baseball cards that can immediately transport a person back in time. That was the feeling in those blue seats. These were Fleer cards, so there was no gum -- probably a good thing nearly a quarter-century after being manufactured because trying the gum would have been considered.

We looked at the cards stat-side first, trying to guess the player based on his team and his production (and being a little too good at it, confirming many misspent hours of childhood).

We came upon a Billy Ripken card (stat-side first) and slowly turned it over to see if it was the infamous error card with an obscenity scrawled on his bat (turns out it was a corrected version).

We separated out the good and bad cards, making five total piles to our right with the carnage of empty wrappers to the left. Among the highlights: Ken Griffey Jr. and Randy Johnson rookie cards and, for good measure, a Kirby Puckett card.

The Griffey card, according to some online value guides, is worth the $10 spent on the box. Either way, scratching a nostalgic itch definitely was worth it on Saturday morning.

MICHAEL RAND

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