Friday, January 3, 2014

No. 153 – Carry On

Performer: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Songwriter: Stephen Stills
Original Release: Deja Vu
Year: 1970
Definitive Version: Four Way Street, 1971.

This song is the impetus behind this entire blog, that is to say, the idea of a musical autobiography stems from this song. I have a specific and crystal-clear memory that involves Carry On.

I was at Graceland Shopping Center in Columbus in June 1972. Dad and I had gone to G.C. Murphy’s, and then he had to run into the hardware store for something. I stayed in the car and opened the few packs of baseball cards that I just bought—either I bought with allowance money or Dad bought for me.

The studio version of Carry On came on the radio—in fact, I want to say that specifically the verse “A new day, a new way, I knew I …” was playing when the Hank Aaron In Action card came up in one of my packs. That was significant, because it was card No. 300, and it was always good to get a card that had one of those big round numbers on it.

In retrospect, that doesn’t seem to be a big deal. It was neither the most important nor the earliest such memory. Why does that memory out of all of the other memories I have hold such significance that it would spawn a million-word blog? I suppose perhaps it’s because of how significant the 1972 baseball-card set was … as well as my love even at an early age of CSNY.

1971 had been a transition year for my collecting ways. I collected baseball cards, as I mentioned, but I still was enthralled by Hot Wheels cars. By 1972, the transition was complete. In 1972, I pursued baseball cards with a single-minded passion, and it was the first year I didn’t get a single Hot Wheels car since I started collected those in 1968.

In fact, I remember the first card I got that year—Deron Johnson of the Phillies (good ol’ card No. 167). His card was atop a cellophane pack that either Mom or Dad (I forget) bought in April. I remember opening that pack in the kitchen of my new home on Darcann Drive. I don’t recall what song was on in the background at the time, however.

Although Mom and Dad bought me a lot of cards that year, 1972 also was the year a new avenue opened to my collecting ways—the presence of other kids who collected, too. Now I wasn’t reliant on the luck of the draw to get new cards, and I could do something with my doubles. The world of trading opened to me, and I found quickly that I could get close to completing series.

Back then, of course, cards came out in series—132 cards, numbered sequentially—and the concept of set-building took hold. I specifically remember making a trade with Bobby Zukowski in the basement of his house to acquire good ol’ card No. 22, Rob Gardner of the Yankees. That trade made it so I had a complete run from card No. 1 up No. 25, and that seemed important. (I think the Tra-la-la Song by the Banana Splits was on in the background.)

By the end of the season, I was missing only a few cards out of each series, with one major exception. I HAD only two cards from the fourth series. Many years later, I specifically asked representatives of Topps about why the fourth series seemed to go missing in Columbus. Although they insisted that nothing unusual happened relative to 1972, I will go to my grave believing that for reasons that never will be known, Columbus got stiffed on fourth-series packs in 1972.

I couldn’t find them anywhere, and I looked everywhere, not unlike my Dad’s fruitless search for a Hot Wheels Woody years earlier (good ol’ No. 362). There’s a good reason why I’m absolutely certain of this—my favorite player was in the fourth series.

My favorite player was Johnny Bench of the Cincinnati Reds. Back then, one of the cards in each series was the checklist for the next series. If you got that checklist, you could see who was coming in the next series, which heightened the anticipation of its arrival.

At about the time Carry On and Hank Aaron became inextricably linked, I got the fourth-series checklist card (the Hank Aaron In Action card was part of the third series), and I saw that, yes, my man JB was in the fourth series, along with a few more of my favorites, like Willie Stargell and Tom Seaver. From that moment on, the wait for fourth-series packs to arrive began.

I waited and waited … and waited, but none of the drugstores that I visited had fourth-series packs. They had plenty of third-series packs and even a few still of the second series. In fact, now that I think about it, my Carry On memory might have happened when Dad and I went to Graceland to look specifically for fourth-series cards, and I satisfied myself with a couple packs of third series instead.

In any event, it soon came to pass that all the drugstores carried fifth-series cards, which I bought. They still had third-series cards but no fourth series. When I was at G.C. Murphy’s on Lane Avenue and saw SIXTH-series cards (along with fifth and third), I knew I wasn’t going to even have a chance to find that elusive Johnny Bench.

Well, I wasn’t about to let a little detail like no fourth-series packs anywhere in the city of Columbus get in my way of getting a 1972 Johnny Bench. In a copy of Dad’s Sporting News that he bought at some point, I found an ad for a guy who sold complete series of baseball cards. For $2.95, I could buy the entire fourth series, all 131 cards! Up yours, Topps. I’ll do this myself.

I remember getting that box in the mail and going upstairs to open it and pore over every card in baby Scott’s bedroom (why there, I don’t recall). The Bench glowed in my hand, although his visage didn’t reflect my own. Bench’s serious gaze no doubt reflected the difficult post-MVP 1971 season that he—and the Reds for that matter—endured.

But what difference did it make? I had secured my long-sought treasure. I was smiling.

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