Baseball Ink

Baseball The Way It Was Meant To Be

Luke's Birthday

A funny thing happened the other day. While visiting a lifelong friend, I had occasion to spend quality time with his 11-year-old son, Luke. I found Luke sorting his collection of baseball cards and leafing through an old copy of "Beckett's Official Price Guide to Baseball Cards." He stared directly at me and asked "MD, where are your baseball cards from when you were young?" "In my mom's basement," I replied. The conversation, as most with today's youth, rapidly changed direction. Afterwards I stopped by my mom's house, ransacked her basement, and found my baseball cards from when I was 11 years old.

The next day I ventured into a bookstore and bought the current copy of Beckett's to establish the present market value for my collection of yesteryear. Utilizing modern technology, I built a spreadsheet containing every baseball card and the quantity of each. Then I used the "total" function and found that what I had spent less than a hundred dollars for some 30 years ago was now worth, in Beckett's world, some 20 grand.

After I picked myself up off the floor, I re-tallied using an old-fashioned calculator, as I would not accept what the computer had told me. Some 11 feet of calculator tape later, it was confirmed: $19,877.50.

Luke's birthday was right around the corner. I was broke, on a good day. I felt compelled to do something out of the ordinary for my young friend, so I studied the quantities and values of my newfound fortune and selected a prime baseball card to bestow as a gift to my recently discovered financial benefactor. Then I visited the local baseball card store where I purchased a device that would store, protect, and hermetically seal this treasure for the balance of time. I wrapped this gift and the Beckett's book in a creative fashion to lend even further value to the reward.

Some time passed, and Luke's birthday finally arrived. In grand fashion Luke's grandmother, Phyllis, held a party, which I was invited to. Arriving early, I was given a tour of her home. Phyllis had turned a portion of her home into a baseball clubhouse: pictures of baseball's legends hung in place of works of art which for years had been on the walls of her abode; items normally used for the fireplace were replaced by baseball bats; photographs of young Luke in baseball uniform had been enlarged, mounted, and cut out as though he were a movie star. As I walked through her home, all I could do was smile and wait for the Birthday Boy and his family to arrive.

The doorbell rang, and Phyllis asked that I answer it. Promptly opening this portal to fantasy, I announced, "Welcome to Club Luke!" The smile on my young friend's face was one of shock as he looked around the living room. "Grandma!" he screamed, "How cool!" This seemed to bring a tear to her eye as they hugged, and she quietly stated "Happy Birthday, Luke." His father, Chris, his mother, Kikki, and his sister, Lana, looked on as if Mickey Mantle had just hit a grand slam. Luke's aunt, Lisa, recorded the moment on film and then demanded "Luke, go and cut your birthday cake. I'm hungry!"

The entire family adjourned to a once-elegant dining room, which had been turned into stadium club, and the ceremony promptly began. "Happy birthday to you" was sung by all in attendance, and Luke quickly carved up his cake, giving each person a slice. Halfway through tasting this wonderful cake, birthday presents appeared one after another as if from thin air. Luke ripped the paper that enclosed each gift and beamed as the bounty from his birthday accumulated next to him. As the gift opening drew to a close, I excused myself and wandered into the kitchen to retrieve a package from a cabinet above the refrigerator. Returning to the newly erected stadium club, I glanced at his father and said, "Luke, Happy Birthday" as I handed him my creatively wrapped gift.

Luke, seemingly confused, stared at me and said, "Thanks!" He sat this present on the dining table and carefully began opening his gift. Stopping to admire the wrapping paper, which was imprinted with hand-drawn elements of baseball, Luke handed the paper to his mother and asked, "Can I get this framed?" Kikki, looked at me and said, "Mark, this is beautiful." Luke finished opening his gift and exclaimed, "Beckett's, the Bible of Baseball Cards!" I reached under my chair and handed him yet another package. Excitement mounting, Luke ripped open the package discovering the treasure from my youth. "Oh, my!" he screamed, handing the frame to his father. Chris, who I had known most of my life, glanced at me muttering, "Mark." Setting down the frame, Chris grabbed Beckett's Bible, turned to 1968 Topps baseball cards, looked at me in amazement, and showed Luke what Beckett's Bible indicated the card was worth.

"Chris," I stated, "I doubt that I will ever have a kid, and besides, if Luke hadn't asked me where the baseball cards that I collected when I was his age were, I would have never known." I continued, "Remember that baseball game went to see when we played hooky from school?" Chris replied, "You've got to be kidding. This is from that game?" I told him to look closely at the card. Chris began to tell of that day from 31 years ago when we and several of our old friends skipped school, took the bus, and went to the businessman's baseball game—which is another story completely.

Mark Denny
St. Louis, Missouri