Part 1 – written for Wax Heaven in 2007 and published on Beckett Media’s blog

There was a 16-year break between the Godfather sequel in 1974 and the third film, which probably did more harm than good. I wrote ‘How Baseball Cards Drove A Child Into A Life of Crime’ in 2007. The story was about 75% true with some fact stretching to make the story end on a good note.

However, shoplifting packs of 1991 Donruss in search for the legendary serial numbered, Donruss Elite wasn’t the first time I stole baseball cards. For the record, I do not condone the theft of cards in any way, shape, or form. This was something that I did in my youth and something I am raising my daughter to understand that you never do.

In late, 1990 I was slowly growing my collection of Jose Canseco cards. Having just started collecting with a now well-covered Topps Ames card in the same year, I had somehow managed to grab two pages worth of Canseco cards through trades or from stealing from so-called friends of mine in the neighborhood.

One day while shopping at a local store, my attention was directed to a neat looking box of baseball cards. It was a Donruss product with a window covered in thin plastic which held packs of cards. One of those packs had a man swinging a bat with everything but his head in sight. This may sound strange, but I knew who this man was.

I knew my grandmother had money but she wasn’t a fan of baseball cards. I wanted the card to add to my collection but I had no money for it myself. I couldn’t just let it slip away. This was 1990, long before the days of eBay. I still believe to this day there are cards that I saw in shows or card shops that were never seen again.

While my grandmother browsed the store, I began to tear apart the thin plastic holding Jose’s pack. The cards were located next to the magazine rack, which were still a popular form of media in 1990. So here was this kid trying to sneak a single card out of a package all while a bunch of freeloaders were reading magazines, front to back.

Thankfully, I was caught. No, not by loss prevention or a police officer but by my own grandmother, who saw what I was doing and prevented me from completing my act. She went and bought me the box of Baseball’s Best and I was able to add the gorgeous card to my collection, where it remains 28 years later.

Okay, at first glance this card probably doesn’t do much for most. For a die-hard Canseco collector, you’d probably run for something much fancier like an autograph or game-used patch. However, this “oddball” release was miles ahead of the Donruss flagship Jose base card. The base card was dark and almost kind of blurry.

Furthermore, having spent nearly 30 years collecting one player you kind of end up recognizing every physical feature of said player. From his premature laugh lines to his large nose and atrocious birth mark. This card in particular features a photograph of Jose’s mullet at its longest, ever and that’s why I love it.

The moral of this story is that you should never steal baseball cards or anything else for the matter. I am ashamed of the things I did as a kid and now that I am raising my own, I am teaching her to never do any of the things I did growing up. Cards are great but no card is worth stealing or lying for.

Oh, and if you can’t afford your favorite card … ask grandma.

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