Monday, January 12, 2015

Sock Card ain't no game

Sock Card! It's like Extreme Wallet Card! Put a card in your sock everyday for a year. If you make it an entire year and your card is still recognizable, you get crowned Sock Card Champion.

Haha. Just kidding, obviously. Can you imagine?! Nobody should put a card in his or her sock. That's kinda gross and probably uncomfortable. But today's post is a little story about an ill-gotten baseball card from my youth. My first sock card.

I was reminded of this incident while rambling in the hidden text snuck into my recent Chris Jones post, and so I figured I'd confess all these years later get a post out of it. I was a pretty good kid, all things considered, but you know, "boys will be boys" and I got into my share of trouble here and there.

My mom's old college roommate Kathy lived in Tucson, and when I was a kid our families would alternate visiting each other every couple years or so. Her sons Nick and Ben were a little younger than me, but they were pretty cool to hang out with. Lots of fun memories running around and playing with them. I still remember the first time I ever played Super Mario Bros. 3 was at their house.

Here's the 3 of us kids in Old Tucson in the mid '80s. I'm in the back, Ben's behind the wheel, with Nick riding shotgun. Note my Padres hat. #bringbackbrown

Anyways, when they were out in the San Diego area visiting us, they'd usually get together for a dinner party with other friends of theirs in Leucadia, which is a pretty swanky little beach community in Encinitas, a suburb of San Diego, and sometimes I'd get to tag along.

The Leucadia family was a couple with a boy around my age and a little girl, but honestly I don't remember their names at all. What I do remember is their awesome house. It was huge, with a big yard area with a pool. Always a lot of fun adventuring around the place.

Here are some photos of their living room, taken some December in the late '80s:

The kid in the upper left is the victim of our story. Again, I forget his name. Mike? Bobby? Something like that. (I even called my mom just now to ask if she remembered. She said his mom's name was Sue, but she couldn't remember the boy's name.) He wasn't really a friend, but rather a friend-of-a-friend that I saw once every few years growing up.

I remember being pretty envious of him, not just for the awesome house he lived in, but he also had tons of cool stuff. He had a Sega Genesis back when it was still pretty new, and I remember being blown away by how cool it was. I specifically recall marveling at the graphics and sound on Fantasia and some Shinobi (ninja) game. (I'm somewhat of an old-school video game nerd, so these are things that stick out in my memories.)

A photo from the fateful day in question! That's me in the back with Nick and Ben.

In December 1991, I was in the height of both my "awkward stage" (see previous photo) and my baseball card collecting obsession. Nick, Ben, and I were once again in Leucadia all hanging out and being awed by all Bobby/Mike's cool stuff, and among the toys, video games, and whatnot was a shoebox or two of random baseball cards. I looked through them and was instantly enthralled by a Reggie Jackson card I had never seen before. Reggie was the #1 guy I collected back then. I had to have that card! Bobby-Mike seemed indifferent about it, and just shrugged off how interested I was in it, much to my chagrin.

Now, this is the part I'm not proud of, but later in the evening, I think during a game of hide-&-seek or something, I made my way back to the card stash and grabbed the Reggie. I guess I thought slipping it in my pocket would be too obvious, so I put it in my sock against my ankle. It stayed there for the rest of the night till I eventually took it out after I got back home. Not surprisingly, it got pretty creased up. Not sure what I was thinking.

Here it is again:

Reggie seems to be judging me. "I know what you did. Not cool, kid. Not cool."

I felt kinda bad, and given the chance to go back in time, I definitely wouldn't do it over again, but it hasn't exactly haunted me all these years, since it wasn't a valuable card or one he cared about at all. Honestly, I bet he never even noticed it was missing. Still, though, it was wrong and I regret doing it. I've never stolen a card before or since. (Well, there was "finding" some 1990 Post cards once when my buddy Doug and I were poking around at a daycare that we happened to stumble upon unlocked afterhours one evening. But that's another story.)

I never had a chance to go back to that house in Luecadia. Kathy, the mom of my friends Nick and Ben, got cancer maybe 2 or 3 years later and passed away suddenly. Really sad. I lost touch with Nick and Ben after that, being it was back in the days before the internet. I've tried looking them up online since then to reconnect, but no luck. If anybody out there knows brothers Nicholas Matson and Benjamin Matson from Tucson, ask 'em to drop me a line.

Who knows, maybe that kid I stole the Reggie card from will stumble upon this post someday. I owe you a 1986 Topps Quaker Chewy Granola Bars Reggie Jackson card, man! It's worth about 50¢ in decent shape today. My roughed-up copy has the value of maybe a penny or two, but it's got a lot of history for me, so I'll keep hanging onto it (unless that kid finds me and wants it back.. but I don't see that happening.)

So that's the story of the time I stole a baseball card. Not my proudest moment, but I guess it's good to come clean. Anybody else want to share shameful card-theft stories of their own down in the comments?

Enough about sock cards; back to wallet cards. Here's Wallet Gwynn hanging out on the wagon trail.

This was taken at a great restaurant I ate at last Saturday night. We have a routine nearly every weekend of getting together with the in-laws for grocery shopping and dinner. So I'm lucky enough to get to eat at a lot of nice restaurants, with somebody else picking up the check. For the several months out of the year when it's cold and rainy, there's not much fun stuff to do in Portland besides eat good food and drink good beer, so don't be surprised if much of my wallet card photos are from restaurants.

Anyways, the place was called Stormbreaker Brewing and it was excellent. I had a baltic porter to drink, and the wife and I split the flank steak. The "pickle jar" was a great appetizer that everybody seemed to like. Turns out it's got a dog-friendly section outside, so we'll definitely have to go back there with the pooch when the weather's better.

Here are a couple more wallet card photos that seem to explain the origin of the place's name.


  1. I'm not proud to admit it, but I stole some cards from my school's library when I was a young lad.

  2. This was a great post man, I really enjoyed reading it. Takes me back to when I was a kid; I can't say that I didn't steal a card when I was a young boy. Thank you for writing such a deeply honest story even gong so far as to write about your interpersonal thoughts about wondering where your childhood friends may be these days. I often wonder the same. Cheers.

  3. Great post. I often try and look up old friends on social media all the time, but rarely have any luck.

  4. Thanks, guys, glad you liked the post. I've actually looked up a lot of my old friends from childhood and have been able to reconnect with a few. I have a lot of stories actually, but as they're not baseball-related, I don't know if I'd be able to work them into a post. It's a crapshoot, though.. sometimes people go onto cool, successful lives, and sometimes less so. My craziest online reconnection was going on a date with a girl I had a crush on back in high school but never talked to until looking her up on MySpace a decade later. The date was pretty much a disaster, but it was still a wonderfully bizarre experience.