It's like: hysterical history, the hunger, this american life

shooting a raccoon in the face at close range with a 12-gauge shotgun

By dusty (January 9, 2009)

This story is a true Athenean tragedy. When I was seven years old, baseball cards were pretty much the only thing that mattered to me — and because The Universe is a dick hoping to break my bank and leave me homeless, it invented the greatest set of cards ever made in that very same year: ’89 Upper Deck.

Upper Deck was the Arabian Prince of baseball cards. Its exotic aura, its unmistakable glamor, was bedazzling. And I bought every single pack that a seven-year-old who didn’t know the inner workings of drug dealing or child prostitution could possibly afford.

That set in ’89, the first ever produced, contained a glorious card. An unbelievably glorious card. A card salivated over by every bike-ridin’, G.I. Joe-collectin’ youngster in the nation: the rookie card of Ken Griffey, Jr.

Here is where the tragedy lies; I NEVER FUCKING GOT THAT ROOKIE CARD.

Not once did I ever open a pack of those deliciously glossier-than-Topps cards to find the much sought after Ken Griffey, Jr. rookie card staring at back at me. The photo was weird — there he was, looking as if he had just been raped at gunpoint, wearing a turtleneck(!) and a strange assortment of gold chains, holding his bat over his left shoulder like an utter pussy — and it was all bordered by a pedestrian designer’s attempt at creating a baseball-field texture running down the right side. The border itself itself was resting atop a simplistic footer containing Upper Deck’s logo and Junior’s own name. Oh, and there was also a big “rookie” stamp plastered somewhere on the bottom right (in case you wanted to know if Junior was: (a) a rookie, or (b) not a rookie).

Yet that card was worth upwards of one hundred dollars, which to my seven-year-old self was enough money to buy slaves who could buy packs of Upper Deck for me.

Once I was at my best friend’s house (he lived about a mile out of town on a farm that wasn’t really a farm but still smelled like a farm and also had tons of cats and flies), and we were opening our freshly purchased baseball cards as usual. We had just biked the mile-and-a-half-on-gravel trip to the town mall and bought several packs of Upper Deck for ourselves (and one for his dad, who despite giving my friend a few bucks for one, did not avidly or even non-avidly — this was the first pack of cards of his adult life I am pretty sure — collect cards).

And my friend’s dad — that asshole — got the Ken Griffey, Jr. rookie card. Have you ever wanted to kill someone? Like, really kill someone? Because that’s the feeling I distinctly remember. The unmistakable feeling of murder. I had spent an entire summer looking for that card — wasting every allowance; dreaming of it; wondering what it would be like to touch, to make love to, to practice kissing on. He was my favorite player! Possibly the greatest baseball player of all time. My friend’s dad didn’t even like Griffey — they were a Frank Thomas family, those bastards. I devised several plans to get the card: plans that ranged from outright murder to arson to poison to trickery involving the likes of a bad Mrs. Doubtfire parody.

But I couldn’t do it. I was not a murderer, not an arsonist, not a con-man. And I couldn’t do it.

I never got that card.

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