In the late 1980s, around the ages of 10 or 11, I took refuge in a small sports memorabilia shop called the Upper Deck that was located in an upstairs corner of a dying neighborhood mall in Urbana. It was owned by Jay and Linda, a young couple who would rock their newborn baby while watching baseball on a small television. I gazed into racks of autographed baseballs and cases of bluechip cards. My imagination would get lost in large portraits of DiMaggio, Mantle and Mays. Being at the Upper Deck made me feel less lonely, less anxious.
The card shop had its own language: Donruss. Topps. Bowman. Fleer. Beckett. Griffey. Ripken. Canseco. It’s all still there in the recesses of my mind. All quickly accessible. I still chase the memory of the Upper Deck. A wall in my media room has the holy trinity –– Mantle, Williams, Dimaggio –– all three signed perfectly in rich, blue ink and forensically examined and authenticated. I can still get lost in those portraits, and when I stare into them I can feel that old card shop.