Looking for Mickey Mantle

Published 2:21 pm Tuesday, November 2, 2010

This past weekend my brother came down from Chattanooga and my sister came up from Sarasota. We got together on Friday to give my mother the birthday present that she had requested. It took the good part of the whole day.

Momma had requested that we children clean out the attic.

Many houses have attics. Some are large enough to stand up in and some may even be transformed into extra rooms. Most attics, however, are like the one we have in the house that my parents built in 1963. It’s more of a cramped, crawling space where Christmas decorations and other perceived valuables may be stored.

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I say “perceived,” because most of the time those valuables end up being not so valuable. At least not from a monetary point of view. Of course, the great value is in the sentiments that various, stored items may mean to an individual. As they say, “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.”

Aside from having our family together, which is the real treasure of life, I was looking forward to this task. I was realistic enough to know that there would probably not be a genie’s lamp stored away. I could not remember placing any $100 bills in an old suitcase, so I didn’t expect to find that kind of treasure.

However, in the back of my mind, I was hoping that, perhaps, just perhaps, there might be a few baseball cards all hermetically sealed in a No. 2 mayonnaise jar. I kept thinking that maybe I had an old Mickey Mantle card.

I loved baseball and most all of us boys back then had some baseball cards. We bought them, probably, for the bubblegum, but kept some of them. Especially if we happened to get one of a favorite player like Mickey Mantle.

Most of us never imagined that one day baseball cards could be a collector’s item. They served wonderfully as sound-makers for our bicycle’s wheels. A baseball card and a clothes pin combined to transform our pedal bicycles into pretend Harley-Davidson motorcycles when stuck between the wheel’s spokes. That would never happen to Mickey Mantle, though.

As I prepared to go up into the attic and find that baseball card collection, I did a little hopeful looking into the value of baseball cards when and if I found some.

The most valuable baseball card of all time is the 1909, T206 Honus Wagner card issued by the American Tobacco Company. There are 60 of those cards remaining today and one particular T206 that was in mint condition sold for $2.8 million in 2007.

In the news recently was the story about Sister Virginia Muller, a nun, who just happens to have a Honus Wagner card. The card was left to the nun’s order by the brother of one of the nuns when he died earlier this year. He told them that he had a Honus Wagner baseball card in his safety deposit box. It was not in mint condition and may only fetch $200,000.

As I looked through the attic, I didn’t need to find a nonexistent Honus Wagner. Just let me find a Mickey Mantle. A 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card could sell for as much as $250,000. Even if I had to split the money with my brother, that would be OK. Sorry, folks, but sister would have been cut out! She never had any baseball cards.

To make a long story short, there were no valuable baseball cards to be found. There was no Mickey Mantle hiding in the attic, but we did find the No. 2 mayonnaise jars. Momma must have had at least three dozen Blue Plate mayonnaise jars covered with decades of dust.

“Throw ‘em away,” was the phrase of the day so far as we children were concerned.

“No you don’t!” Words from Momma trumped us.

So what was up there? What treasures did we find in all those brittle, paste board boxes?

Well, there were a lot of pleasant memories. Not many people are blessed with as many of those as our family. There was a small gravy dish and I thought of all the chicken, steak, and tomato gravy that had been ladled out of that dish. How many biscuits had been smothered and enjoyed?

There was a blue tea pitcher and some glasses that didn’t go with the pitcher, but had been filled by it hundreds of times. A plate from Big Mama’s. My brother took an old picture frame that held within it three tobacco leaves that had been pressed on some background beneath glass.

Lots of old newspaper clippings from my graduation or other significant happenings. Perhaps an obituary. The newspapers tore apart easily, but not before we had read the story and absorbed the memory. I found my senior football letter and a trophy that I had won for having the Grand Champion Angus steer.

Pictures galore, faded and dusty, but still full of meaning. We saved them for Thanksgiving when most of us will be there. We’ll go through them and divvy them up. I can assure you some of mine are headed for the trash heap. I’d rather not be seen in that light, if you know what I mean.

There were plenty of boxes with old scraps of cloth material; old grade transcripts from college. I suggested burning those and making up better grades! A trunk, a chest of drawers, two rocking chairs, a mattress and bed frame. Lots of Christmas decorations.

All of what I’ve mentioned couldn’t really do justice to what was up in that old crawl space called the attic. I guess you would have had to have been there through all the years to really understand. There’s one more treasure, though, that I haven’t mentioned.

That’s the smiles and laughter that we all had just being together and getting all of the stuff down. I don’t believe finding a 1952 Mickey Mantle baseball card, or even a T206 Honus Wagner in mint condition could have been more valuable!