i've got three stories for the fifth installment, which i loosely interpret to be about memorable card or memorabilia acquisitions.
first, i am an unabashed fan of pete rose. during my formative fan years, there were several offseasons when a group of major leaguers would descend on our fair city for a fundraising dinner. local guys like roy howell and good players like tim wallach, rick burleson, and bobby bonds, and even some hall of fame caliber guys like robin yount and pete rose. joe dimaggio even showed up one year, but i was off at college.
the dinners were held at the local elks lodge, and you could mingle with the players before dinner. during dinner, they sat at a head table, and each took turns speaking for a few minutes. i recall one year it turned into a pete rose roast. anyway, every year i got rose's autograph. i still have a ball (pretty faded) with yount and rose and a bunch of other guys. one year, though, i had a hard time finding him. i finally saw him heading into the bar area. i remember he was wearing what i would now consider some sort of cheap leather/naugahyde jacket. there was a hockey game on the tv in the bar, and when i asked him for his autograph, rose snapped at the bartender: 'so now you're letting kids into the bar!?' i just smiled and held out my autograph book, which he took and signed.
the only in person steve garvey autograph i have is in that same book, and how i got it is story number 2. the cool thing about it is that i got it at dodger stadium on april 16, 1983. that was the day garvey broke billy williams' national league consecutive games played streak. i waited down by the padres' dugout along with a ton of other people to get the auto. it was garvey's first trip back to chavez ravine after signing with the padres in the offseason. i remember some older teens pushing their way toward the railing, sticking their items out closer to garvey, beyond my reach. as he took my book he waved their stuff away and said 'maybe next time'. i thought that was pretty cool.
but probably the best experience i have had acquiring something in this hobby, which i will use for story number 3, has to do with my personal white whale: the 1971 topps rich allen (cue the sunbeams and singing angels). i think it was around 1980 when i decided to collect the dodger team sets back to 1970, not really knowing how difficult it would be. i quickly discovered that ron cey happened to be on mike schmidt's rookie card, that steve garvey's 1972 topps card was a high number, and that ron cey and frank robinson also had high number cards in that set. those were the cards that i figured would give me the most trouble. i was wrong.
my dad came through one birthday with the schmidt/cey card, and the others were obtained over the years at card shows in anaheim and la. soon, the only hole in my dodger team collection was the second pocket of my 1971 team set. right between the team card and walter alston, sat a spot for rich allen.
at every show i went to, i would ask; just about every time i went into the local card shop, i would ask. but i didn't even know what the card looked like - i had never seen one. finally, at one of the shows, a dealer had a complete 1971 set. i saw the card for the first time - allen kneeling, pointing the bat, the left field pavilion of dodger stadium in the background, the photographer's knee (or was it someone else's) in the foreground. i remember telling the guy i would kill for that card - he had the decency to correct me, and i confessed that i would not actually kill. maim, maybe.
but so it went, no allen for me. in 1988 i went off to college and drifted from the hobby to some extent. once in a while, i would head to shops around orange county or go to anaheim or the oc fairgrounds for a show and look around, but never found the card. one day in 1995, i went into a local hobby store for some reason - i forget why. this wasn't a card shop. it was a hobbytown usa type store - models, remote control cars, that kind of stuff. i had never been in it before, even though i had been to that shopping center hundreds of times over the previous 7 years. as i wandered around the store, i saw a display case on one wall. right in the middle of the case was the 1971 topps rich allen card.
i was in shock. i literally began to shake. $25 was all that separated me from that card. i had to run back out to my car to get my checkbook (yes, i used to write checks for things). i remember running, worrying that someone was going to ask for that card while i was outside. i made it back in to the store and flagged down an employee to open the case and hand me the card. as i stood in line to pay, i struck up a nervous conversation with the woman in front of me. i told her i had been searching for that card for most of my life. she said that it must be important if i were willing to pay $25 for it. she had no idea.