Like many mid-century mothers, mine kept a "Baby Book" for each of her six children. At least she started to. With five kids in eight years, the task of chronicling the first seven years for each became less of a priority with each succeeding child.
Still, I think she did a decent job with mine. When each of us was married over the years, among the items we took from the family home was our baby book. I've paged through mine a couple of times since.
Not surprisingly, there are several fountain-penned notes in my baby book referring to baseball cards that I received as birthday presents, and how I was using my cards to learn to read about the age of 4.
Slipped into the pages of my baby book was a newspaper clipping that seems appropriate to share at this time of year.
The picture is from the Fond du Lac Commonwealth Reporter of April 5, 1958, the day before Easter. It was taken the day before, on Good Friday, when we were out of school for the afternoon. I'm the "four-eyes" at left in the Milwaukee Braves cap and jacket -- prized possessions of my childhood.
The photo was, as mentioned, taken at a "downtown pet shop." What the paper didn't say is that the pet shop was owned by my grandfather, Jacob Freund. Actually, the pet shop was an annex of my grandfather's hatchery and poultry supply store. One or more of us siblings would sometimes spend a Saturday afternoon at the store, annoying customers and playing with the critters.
Now that I'm thinking of Grandpa, it seems like a good time to tell you that one of my earliest childhood memories, my first pertaining to baseball cards, is associated with him.
I remember pulling up to the front of our house in his maroon 1950 DeSoto after having been somewhere or other with Grandpa, where he had bought me a pack of 1954 Topps baseball cards. I recall that one of the cards that emerged from that red and green wax wrapper was that of Chicago Cubs coach Ray Blades.
Obviously I couldn't read the name on the card at that time, being three years old and all, but I was struck by the similarity of the old guy on that baseball card to my grandfather, who was in his mid-70s at the time. Something else about that card that has struck me since I reacquired an example in the early 1980s was that the small black-and-white photo of Blades leaning on a guy wire makes it look like he is shoving a spear into the neck on his portrait.
So, it seems like I have Grandpa to thank for a lot of childhood interest in baseball cards.