My 1973 Topps Baseball Waxpack
by Mike DeNero
It is my earliest memory. My mom, dad, sister, and I were headed to Sunday dinner at my paternal grandparents’ house, a typical North Jersey Italian-American affair: too many people, too much food (if there is such a thing as too much lasagna and meatballs), and too much yelling at the hapless Mets (actually, too much yelling at the television).
On our way to grandma’s house, my parents thought it wise to stop at a local candy shop so that we could arrive bearing a gift (as if more calories were needed for the affair). While my father was selecting various chocolates the woman behind the glass counter was adding, one by one, to the little white box on the scale, I was pointing at various candies behind the glass and asking my mother if I could have them. My mother’s reply each time was, “no, he won’t buy you that.” The “he” to whom she referred was my father (funny how she used the old man as the reason behind my disappointment each time she said “no”).
After pointing at several items that produced no returns, I pressed on, noticing a box of wax wrappers, each with a baseball player image thereon. I pointed and my mother stopped before she answered, cocked her head to one side, and replied, “he might buy you that.” Needless to say, he did – one waxpack of 1973 Topps baseball cards.
How old was I when my mom and dad bought me that 1973 Topps baseball waxpack? I am not entirely sure, but since I was born in June of 1970, I was most likely somewhere between 2 years and 10 months and 3 years and 3 months.
I recall opening the pack while seated (sans seatbelt, of course) in our family car (an off-white/tan 1973 Buick Electra). I also recall getting one card picturing 4 players (probably a rookie card) and folding it in quarters. And since I folded it in quarters, I thought it best to fold all the cards the same way.
I do not recall getting another 1973 pack, but I had the cards from that first pack in my collection throughout my childhood. The next year, 1974, I bought several packs – one of which featured a Dave Winfield rookie card that I also lived a long life in my collection.
So there it is. My first memory is being three-years-old and getting my first pack of cards. I wonder, did my subsequent devotion to the hobby, which really developed four years later in 1977, jog my memory about getting my first pack in 1973? Or was it the reverse – the experience of breaking open that first pack led to the devotion? It’s really a “chicken or the egg” inquiry, isn’t it?