Friday, July 25, 2014

Baseball card stories from Jeff Barton

Outfielder Jeff Barton played in the Padres organization in 1989 and 1990. In 152 games he hit .251 with 6 HR and 86 RBI. Now Vice President & Regional General Manager at MobilexUSA, a mobile laboratory service, he kindly answered my questions about baseball cards.

"Ever since I can remember, my Dad and I have collected baseball cards.  Growing up in the cold winters of Boston, we would look forward to finding the first pack of Topps that would come out that year, as it meant baseball season was getting closer.  To this day, we still miss the hard gum stick that used to be included.  Even now, some 40 years later, my Dad and I will still find packs of baseball cards and won’t open them until we’re together.

When I was probably seven or eight years old, I still remember trading a card that had Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Willie Mays on it for 25 “random cards”.  It was my first negotiation and my first lesson that quantity is not necessarily better than quality.  I grew up opening packs of cards hoping for a Rico Petrocelli, George Scott, Fred Lynn or Jim Rice.  The first ball I was ever given at Fenway Park was by Al Zarilla…my Dad found his baseball card and I still have it.

I remember when Donruss first came out with their baseball cards and you would open a pack and there were always doubles of the some of the cards. 

When I was drafted by the San Diego Padres, our first baseball cards were taken in front of stores in the local Spokane, WA mall.  Later our team held a card signing in the mall and the signing went on for two hours…I’m still amazed that I had a baseball card and even more surprised that someone actually wanted my autograph. 

My manager that year was Bruce Bochy and I knew how he felt about being confused with Bruce Bochte.  I told that story to my Dad while I was playing and he went into our attic back home in Boston and found a Bruce Bochte card and mailed it to me in Spokane.  As a joke, I walked into Boch’s office one day and asked if he would autograph one of his cards and he said sure.  I gave him the Bochte card and within seconds the card was ripped up and put in the trash.  By the way, there is no better leader of men than Bruce Bochy.  He is one of the best managers in the game and an even better person.  To this day, he taught me lessons that carried well beyond the playing field. 

As a young boy, collecting baseball cards with my Dad was something I looked forward to every weekend.  He would go out early Saturday and Sunday morning to get the paper and would always bring home packs of cards.  We still have all of them in the house where I grew up.  While we don’t really collect them anymore, if we ever see a pack of cards, we’ll usually buy 2 packs and then open them when we’re together.  I actually have two unopened packs in a drawer waiting for his next visit.  Baseball cards are a right of passage, though they were more fun when there was a stick of gum inside."



  1. Fantastic story! So cool that he still opens packs with his Dad.

  2. Great stuff. I love the long, involved stories when you finally turn up a player who collects.

  3. Great reminisciences from a long-distant Padre player. Very nicely done.

  4. What a great story, and one of the best finishing statements about the hobby. I'm stealing it to quote him.