By FRANK BARNING
It happened in the spring of 1951, just before my ninth birthday. Upon leaving my elementary school, P.S. 101 in Forest Hills, N.Y., I spied a colorful piece of paper on the ground which I promptly scooped up. It was a 1951 Bowman baseball card of Washington Senators' catcher Mickey Grasso. My life would never be the same.
I knew practically nothing about baseball and was totally unaware of baseball cards. My family would not own a television set until later in the year, so I had never seen a game. But there was something about that Mickey Grasso card that captivated me.
That baseball card changed my life, and is almost beyond words, like a religious experience or the birth of your first child. It was as though a light had been turned on.
Baseball has been a dominant force in my life every since. That's 60 years. Baseball cards and the game became my passion as a youngster. I just had to have all those 1951 Bowmans and I eventually owned all of them.
In the early 1970s, Vivian and I became baseball card collectors and eventually part-time dealers. In 1979, we created a publication devoted to baseball card collecting, Baseball Hobby News, which was published for nearly 15 years.
That 1951 Bowman Mickey Grasso still has a hold on me, as does the game as well as baseball cards.