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This Wasn't in the Cards

by Mark Dewar
May 6, 2004

It truly is humbling to look back upon one's childhood, only to find it rendered homeless. That was my experience recently when I pulled up in front of Sport Collectibles at 10368 Mastin in Overland Park, Kansas, in the Wycliff West Shopping Center. Or at least what used to be Sport Collectibles. It breaks my heart to see the place is no longer in business. Where cardboard images of sports legends once greeted visitors, now file cabinets, desks and chairs loaded with file folders do. This is clearly about to become someone's office. Only a single, abandoned sign located just above the front door hearkens back to the magic that for the past quarter of a century lived here.

As its name would imply, Sport Collectibles was a sports memorabilia shop. It catered mainly to baseball card lovers. And back in the day, there were so, so many of us. In my formative years, we considered this to be the area's sports memorabilia destination, as it really had no local competitors. That would come to change dramatically in later years.

But in that time and space at 10368 Mastin, this was Cooperstown West. Maybe I am lost in the 1970s, Man. But I don't think so, Dude. Hey, those were simpler times. We once had those here in bustling Johnson County, believe it or not. In days before kids here had 41 organized games, 18 sports camps, six private lessons and a personal trainer all before lunch, what we had were doorsteps.

And on those doorsteps, our intense, little conversations went a little something like this:

"Trade you my Joe Rudi for your Pat Zachary and Amos Otis."

"Over my dead body."

"So be it, then." (Whap, whap, whap.)

If a friend did not own the precise baseball card for which you ached, the next stop was the old 7-Eleven behind the Stonegate swimming pool or the old TG&Y next to the old United Super in the Cherokee Shopping Center. But if you could not pick up a Catfish Hunter or Lou Brock or Reggie Jackson or Hank Aaron out of a lucky pack (step right up, kids ... 10 cards for 15 cents!), you waited until you could break Mom down to drive you up to Sport Collectibles.

Once or twice a summer, Mom would drive us up to heaven for a look around. (A late thank you, Mom.) Run first by a wonderful couple named John and Marge Mehlin, and later, a sports-loving guy every bit as nice named Jon Kittleson, this place was our idea of utopia on a budget. Parents had Palm Springs. We kids had Sport Collectibles. This is where you came to get your George Brett rookie card or your Mickey Mantle autographed Sports Illustrated or your Sandy Koufax signed baseball or ... seemingly, the sporting sky was the limit. If it were sports, and if it were collectible, then Sport Collectibles either had it or likely could track it down.

Then again, when one was operating from a 12-year-old's point of view, you were pretty sure this place did not have to send out for anything. Through this set of wide eyes, it always looked as if everything that would not fit into heaven had been shipped directly here: "Look, God is willing to part with his 1968 Nolan Ryan rookie card!"

According to family lore, when Mom presented me with my first pack of baseball cards - I was about 3 - I threw away the gum and ate the cards. I must have gotten ahold of a .200 hitter that day, because I recall - and I hate to get overly technical here - my tummy hurt. I joined a helpful organization known as CEASE (Card Eaters Against Side Effects), where I learned that bad statistics are tough to digest. (Just ask Tony Pena.)

Baseball card collecting became my passion. Today, I still have some 40,000 of them. Thank you, Sport Collectibles, for about 50 of my best ones. (Cards and memories, that is.)

Wow. Sport Collectibles, dead and gone. So this is what it feels like to get old. Guess it's what I get for trying to trade Joe Rudi.

About the author
Mark Dewar has served as Sports Editor for the Sun Newspapers in Overland Park, Kansas, for the past nine years. Mark reports that he still gets his hair cut three doors down from the old Sport Collectibles. He always requests the Joe Rudi cut.

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