HARLEM — The photograph you see to the right is of a baseball card taped to the back of my laptop. Let me explain:
The Yankees were playing in Toronto last season, and a bunch of us beat writers were standing around in an empty clubhouse, waiting for a couple of players to arrive. This is when I first heard of the machine.
On the main concourse of the Rogers Centre, between home plate and first base, there’s a vending machine that sells baseball cards from the late 80s and early 90s. Each pack costs only two bucks Canadian — a Toonie.
One of the guys suggested that we make a quick run to the machine before going up to the press box to write. Great idea, I thought. Once we finished in the clubhouse we made our way upstairs. We swapped old stories about collecting cards, and in the process, my mind drifted back to memories of a relief pitcher that played in the majors when I was a kid. His name was Greg Harris.
Harris’ claim to fame was the same as current Yankees prospect Pat Venditte — the ability to switch pitch. Otherwise, Harris* was just another middle reliever, who under typical circumstances, I would have forgotten long ago.
We arrived at the machine, which gave us several choices of brand: Fleer, O-Pee-Chee, Donruss. No Upper Deck. Damn.
I was an Upper Deck guy growing up. I loved the holograms, the team logos, and the pictures on the backs of the cards. Nobody else did that. But because they were the coolest cards, Upper Decks were also the most expensive. On the days that I wanted to both eat and buy cards, I needed a cheaper backup brand. For me, that was Donruss.
Which is why at the machine, my choice was easy. I selected Donrusses from 1990, a year I remember well because I swear that every pack I bought that season contained a Greg Harris card. If it wasn’t every pack, then it was every other one for sure. Once, I even got two in the same pack, which was especially infuriating. Even now, it annoys me to think about how much lunch money I blew to fill a shoebox with Greg Harris baseball cards.
Now, with our pack of cards in hand, we began our walk back to the press box elevator. My buddy rips open his pack of Fleers and I rip open my pack of Donrusses. We’re like kids again, precisely the point of this mission. Good times.
But my moment of joy is exactly that, only a moment. Because the first card I pulled out of my pack is the one I now have taped to the back of my laptop, Donruss 1990, No. 582: Red Sox pitcher Greg Harris.
* Greg Harris is not to be confused with another relief pitcher that played in the same era, the conveniently-named Greg Harris**. The second Harris, as far as I could tell, threw exclusively right-handed. And come to think of it, I also had way more of his cards than I ever wanted.
** Full disclosure: I had to change this link, because I confused myself and originally included the link to the wrong Greg Harris.
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