I began collecting baseball (and basketball) cards in the early nineties when I was 6 or 7 and they were an incredible source of information for a kid who was looking to gobble up as much information about baseball history as he could. I also read almanacs, player biographies and the Kahn/Halberstam books as well. To this day, I remember very little about what I learned in school at that age but I distinctly remember poring over lists on the all-time and yearly home run leaders, hits leaders, etc. I remember coming across names like Mel Ott and Harmon Killebrew near the top of these lists, not knowing who they were, and then finding a book that could clue me in. To this day I can tell you that Ott hit 511 home runs, which was 1 fewer than Banks and Eddie Matthews and 10 fewer than Williams and McCovey. I remember reading the back of a Dale Murphy card that called him something like the "ghost of a once-great slugger trying to hold on for just a couple more home runs and a shot at the HOF." (He retired with 398 -- I guess once upon a time 400 was a lot bigger deal in terms of HOF credentials) and feeling sorry for him. I know that Boggs hit over .360 four times before he was 30 (!) but was never close to winning an MVP (probably should have won in '87), which boggled my young mind. I have retained all this knowledge and forgotten all about virtually everything else -- guess I've always had baseball on the brain.
Every year my mom asks me what to do with all the boxes of cards that are just taking up space in my old room. I don't yet have the heart to tell her to just get rid of 'em. Too many memories attached.