Book Review: "Nickel A Pack"

Nickel a PackNickel a Pack by Jim Worsley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I grew up in the 1960s in a conservative white neighborhood as this author did, and I, too, was bitten by the baseball bug. Part of that was collecting the bubble gum cards, which used to be--as the title says--a nickel a pack, for five cards and a stick of gum. From the title, one would expect this book to be more about the cards than it is, especially the Topps cards that were pretty much the only cards in that era. But the book gives them short shrift, with few images of them, but a lot about the rare "exhibit" cards, and images of those, and Fleers, which weren't common in the 60s.

That said, "Nickel A Pack" is a wonderful memoir about a certain kind of childhood, touched by the magic of baseball in a bygone era. To read this book is to be transported to a time when getting cards you didn't have, or receiving a player's autograph, or seeing them play in person was a magical thing, something beloved at the time and in memory. I still have the autographs I collected around 1970, and so does Jim Worsley.

He talks about spending an afternoon going to the beach with Tony Conigliaro (!), finding a baseball card machine hidden in a dusty corner of an arcade and discovering that it is full of rare cards for a penny a piece, driving his first car to the Big A with Brooks Robinson in the back seat (he had missed the team bus) and meeting a woman whose son had died and who wants Jim to have the son's card collection.

There is more, too. Worsley talks about steroids and sabermetrics, the changes that have taken something away from the game he loves. He talks, also, about traveling to Cooperstown, New York, to see the National Baseball Hall Of Fame. This book is a love story, about childhood, about heroes who seemed larger than life, about a lifelong fascination with a beautiful sport. If you like baseball and grew up in the 60s, this is for you.

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A few survivors from my once-extensive collection. (For the record, I liked Barbies, too!)


Unknown said…
So, he drove to the Big A with Brooksie in the back seat? Wow, as an Oriole fan I would not have been able to keep the car on the road. Sounds like a book that any of us from that era with a love of baseball as a social institution as much as a sport would enjoy. There was a magical moment when you opened the pack, smelled the gum and hoped that you got someone who you really, really, really wanted.

Hmmmmm, quite a few Tigers in the post pic. I wonder why.....
Sioux Roslawski said…
I grew up in the 60s had no love affair with baseball, so this book wouldn't interest me in the least. In 1971 or '72, I once shook Stan Musial's hand, and didn't have a clue who he was. I just thought he was some old guy in a bad leisure suit.

I'm glad you enjoyed it.
Fireblossom said…
Sioux...I'm going to pray for you. May Saint Dizzy and Saint Ducky intercede....
Mama Zen said…
My love affair with baseball was pretty brief.

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