(my failed attempt to get published at Beckett.com)
I remember 1991 like it was just yesterday. Every weekend I’d jump on my broken down bike and ride to my local 7-11 to look at the baseball cards. The nearest card store was miles away and at ten years old there was no chance of me peddling all the way into town, at least not without getting grounded.
The local 7-11 was surprisingly stacked with packs of baseball cards. What I really wanted was ’91 Upper Deck but for some reason it was kept behind the counter in plain view of the mean-looking, old clerk. The selection on isle #2 was not anything to brag about. Let’s see, ’91 Fleer with the bright-yellow borders didn’t do anything for me and don’t even get me started on ’91 Topps and what seemed like its 900 card set of no-namers. What really had my attention was ’91 Donruss and it’s new cards advertised on the back of the wax packs as ‘Donruss Elite’. I did not know it then but found out later that there were only 10,000 Elite cards of each player, including my hero, Jose Canseco. I didn’t know much about life as a kid but what I did know is that I wanted that Elite Jose Canseco and would stop at nothing to get my hands on one.
I worked my butt off that week cleaning my room and managed to get a nice $5.00 bill from my mother. I immediately got on my bike and rode to 7-11. From there I walked into the baseball isle and put 5 packs of Donruss into my underwear, walked up to the register and bought 20 Bazooka Joe’s for 5 cents a piece. When I pulled out my money to pay, I started up a small conversation with the clerk about where he was from and quickly gained his trust. For the next two months I went into the 7-11 and with each visit grew more and more bold until one day I had over 10 packs of Donruss in my underpants and just 2 or 3 Bazooka Joe’s in my hand ready to pay. I had spent all my money.
I am not proud of what I did and truth be told, it’s been 16 years and I have yet to lay my hands on that fabled Donruss Elite. For years I kept going into that 7-11 to meet with “Joseph”, eventually even growing to call him my friend. Sometimes I think he knew all along that I would go into his store to steal baseball cards but he didn’t mind if it meant making a new friend in the process. Joseph passed away in 2002 after suffering a heart attack in his home. By then he was retired and living alone but I did my best to visit him as much as possible in his last years of his life.
On the day of his memorial service just six people showed up to pay their respects. After the procession and burial I drove myself to that 7-11 as a successful 22 year old man. I walked up to the counter where all the baseball cards were kept and grabbed a pack of 2002 Donruss, shoved said pack in my pants, looked at the clerk, gave her a $5 and walked out of that 7-11 one final time.
Mario Alejandro is a husband, father, and the creator of Wax Heaven, a fast-growing, often-updated, baseball card blog…..and yes, he is still trying to get his hands on his very own “Rosebud”, Donruss Elite Jose Canseco.