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Sunday, December 21, 2014

The "Ridin' The Motorized Bike" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Listening to the roar of my bike as I motor down the sidewalk on North Queen Street.  Kenny, Bill and I often made motorcycles out of our bikes by taking one of our 3 1/2" x 2 1/2" baseball cards and fastening it between the spokes of our rear bike wheel with a clothespin.  The pins that had the little metal spring on them were the best, but we could do it with just about any type of clothespin.  After all, we all were great bike mechanics.  None of this would have been possible if it hadn't been for the invention of baseball cards you know.  
An early Babe Ruth baseball card.
I guess none of us realized that almost any piece of cardboard would have worked, but the baseball card was the best for motor noise.  I always made sure I picked the card that had my least favorite player on it.  Baseball cards were big to my friends and me back in the early 1950s.  My dad would often stop on his walk home from work at Eli's, the grocery store a block to the south of our house, to buy me a pack or two of baseball cards.  Used to sort them by team with my favorites on the top of each pile.  Fastened each team together with a wide rubber band.  Hey, I'll bet some of you did the exact same thing.  Baseball cards were invented over 140 years ago when images of baseball players were printed in black ink on thin card stock and sold with tobacco products in the 1880s through WWII.  
Richie Ashburn poster with cards from every
year he played in the majors.  This is a collage
that I did for my brother who collected the cards.
Cards as I knew them in the mid-1900s were first made by Bowman card manufacturer who began production in 1948 when they made baseball, football and basketball cards.  In 1956 Topps Company bought Bowman, but in 1989 once again began production of cards with the Bowman name as well as the Topps name.  The original Topps cards were packaged with taffy rather than bubble gum, since a competitor had the market on cards with gum, but in 1952 Topps changed and sold their cards with Bazooka Bubble gum.  I think you used to get about half a dozen cards with a piece of the pink gum that was as hard as the cardboard baseball cards.  
Baseball card of my grandson from 2014.
The 1952 cards were in color with the player's stats on the back and a facsimile of the player's signature on the front.  I never owned a black and white card since all my cards were probably bought after 1951.  I no longer have any of the cards from my childhood, but still enjoy looking at them.  My grandson's baseball team has cards made every year so I can have one.  My friend Dale had a collection of Topps that filled a closet in his home.  About a dozen years ago he sold the entire collection for $17,000 and bought a 1972 Corvette.  He later sold the Vette to begin a coin collection.  My brother still collects cards and has me frame sets which he sells on e-Bay or at his stand a local Antique Mall.  Well, one of the reasons for my story today is to let you know, if you don't already, that the father of the modern-day baseball trading card died a few days ago at the age of 91.
Sy Berger, father of the modern-day baseball card.
In the 1950's he turned the Topps Company into a big business.  Seymour (better known as Sy) Perry Berger was born on Manhattan's Lower East Side.  He collected cards as a kid in the 1920's.  One of his college fraternity friend's father was the founder, along with his 3 brothers, of Topps in 1938.  Berger join the company in 1947 and started selling cards featuring Hopalong Cassidy and Davy Crockett.  Eventually he used photos of baseball players that the players posed for during spring training except for the 1953 edition which used images that were derived from oil paintings.  People who grew up with me in the 1950s and later are now reaping big rewards provided they didn't use all their cards to motorize their bikes.  I want to thank Mr. Berger for giving me the sound that was perfect for the red and white Schwinn bike that I got when I was 10 years old.  A memory I will never forget.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

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