Friday, December 28, 2012

No. 524 – Breaks My Back

Performer: Jerry Cantrell
Songwriter: Jerry Cantrell
Original Release: Boggy Depot
Year: 1998
Definitive Version: None

The first SportsFest, which I attended in Philadelphia in 1998, was a great show. It might not have been as great as the National in Anaheim in 1996, but it was close.

My best acquisition was a 1957 Roy Campanella and Rocky Colavito for $25 total (book value $250). I also added a 1957 Frank Robinson for about $20 and a few other tough cards at a huge discount. I even met Roy Firestone and was able to compliment him on his singing.

Finally Sunday came—the last day of the show. I was leaving early, shortly after noon, so I had time to drive the nine hours back to Columbus. In the morning, I headed over to the show and, as I had the past two days, parked on the street behind the convention center. The parking was free, and you can’t beat free.

I made a final round to a few tables and headed back to the car. I had one more errand—add Frank Robinson’s signature to the barrel of my Hall of Fame bat—joining Hank Aaron, Al Kaline, Harmon Killebrew and Eddie Mathews. After that, I’d head home.

I tossed the bookbag on the passenger seat next to the boombox I brought to listen to old Steve and Garry tapes that I was recataloguing. I suppose I could have put it in the trunk, but the trunk was full with other purchases and my suitcase, and I wasn’t going to be gone long.

I got the autograph and a handshake and was back to my car maybe a half-hour later. When I got back, a couple of Asian gentlemen were looking and pointing at my car. What the heck are they looking at? How about a car burglary?

The passenger side window had been smashed out, and glass was all over the sidewalk and street. I was pissed, and it actually took me a few seconds to fully grasp the gravity of the situation: Everything on the passenger seat was gone. The glove compartment was open, and Debbie’s cellphone, which I took in case of emergency on the road, also was nowhere to be seen.

I felt an arrow pierce my heart. The cellphone was the least of my worries; I would just cancel the service, or rather Debbie would do it. The boombox was a loss, but a bigger loss was the tape that was in it at the time. The Steve and Garry tape, from a 1989 show, was, in fact, irreplaceable.

And then there was the crusher—my bookbag. Normally, all the thieves would have gotten was a want list, a Beckett’s and some pencils. I take that back. Normally, they wouldn’t have gotten my bookbag, because I almost always kept that with me at a card show, but I saw no need to carry it around with me like a pack mule while I waited in the autograph line. It was not one of my better decisions.

The reason it was a big deal is I had a Tom Seaver autographed baseball and a couple of other purchases that have since been lost to time, but worse—and totally unlike me—I had put all my good cards in one of the pockets. I usually kept those with the rest of any cards I purchased, which were safely locked in my trunk and still would have been if I hadn’t been so careless.

But this time, I kept them in my bookbag, so I could have them with me at all times, in case I wanted to look at them. In other words, I lost every card that I bought that weekend that was worth more than $40, including all the aforementioned 1957 cards.

Nothing else was missing, including the stuff that I had lying out in the open in the back seat. It was an obvious smash-and-grab job, and all I could think was if I had put my bookbag in the back seat, let alone the trunk, the thieves wouldn’t have taken it.

I was frantic. I walked around a bit, hoping beyond hope that the thieves opened the bookbag, found nothing of value to them in there and tossed it, but no luck. I didn’t want to wander too far with my car now open to anyone who walked by, so I didn’t make a huge reconnaissance mission.

My breath came in gasps, and I thought I was going to be sick. I now had to go to the police.

(To be continued ... again)

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