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My Turn: My baseball fortune wasn't in the cards

Saul Schachter of Sea Cliff with some of his recently discovered baseball cards. Credit: Casey Verbert

When I was 10 years old, one of my best friends, Donnie Peck, was moving to Connecticut from our Glen Head neighborhood. I didn’t have much money so as a farewell gift, I gave him four boxes of my baseball cards.

I was not a smart kid.

When I was 12 years old, I traded 125 baseball cards to my best friend, Mark Morganelli, for one Mel Stottlemyre Sr. card. Stottlemyre was my favorite Yankee player, and “Mel” was my father’s name.

I was not a smart kid.

Back then, a baseball card was worth about a penny, but today those cards I gave Donnie could retrieve a small fortune. In the intervening years I’ve lost track of him, but I keep imagining he’s retired to an island in the Bahamas with the money he made selling my cards.

Mark, who told me he sold my cards and made a handsome profit, has done quite well. He owns a jazz club in upstate Tarrytown, and when I visit his beautiful place, I muse to myself: “I think I contributed to this!”

So it was a pleasant surprise on "Day 208 of Cleaning My House During the Pandemic" when I came upon old notebooks containing long-lost family photos, school mementos — and about 60 baseball cards! Most were from 1966 and a bunch were from 1968. I immediately announced my discovery on Facebook, asking for interested buyers to contact me.

Saul Schachter, second from left in middle row, with his...

Saul Schachter, second from left in middle row, with his Little League teammates in 1969. Credit: William Buckhout

It’s amazing how the baseball card world has changed since I bought a five-card package — plus a stick of gum — for 5 cents. Today it’s Big Business!

A 1909 Honus Wagner card — Hall of Fame shortstop Wagner played 21 seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates — was recently sold for $6.6 million; Mickey Mantle’s 1952 Yankee rookie card fetched $5.2 million; Babe Ruth’s 1916 card (pre-Yankees) went for $2.46 million. Among today's stars, Angels outfielder Mike Trout's 2011 rookie card went to the top bidder at auction for $3.93 million. 

As I surveyed my collection, alas, there was no 1909 Honus Wagner card. No Babe Ruth. There was a Mantle card, but like many of the others in my collection, it was taped into a notebook and removing the tape removed the card’s edges, knocking down its worth.

Indeed, when I looked at the responses on Facebook, others knew the situation. “The tape destroyed them,” wrote one.

Someone else: “I’ll give you 20 bucks.”

Another offered $150.

But a fellow named Chuck said, “$500 for the bunch.”

I invited him over to examine my cards. I thought he’d dismiss some of them and want to give me less money. Indeed, if he was offering $500, surely they were worth more as he wants to make a profit when he resells them.

After flicking through the cards, pointing out the tape marks and noting that a few had been “yellowed from the sun,” he looked at me and asked, “$500?"

Sold!

$500?! It might not have been enough to open a jazz club or buy lakefront property in the Bahamas, but I took it.

And, as I resumed my cleaning on whatever day that was, I spotted my old Little League equipment. There’s my glove, baseballs and my bat.

My bat! Hit a homer with it when the centerfielder fell down. Hmm. I wonder if someone wants an original “Saul Schachter” bat. I’ll even autograph it!

Saul Schachter,

Sea Cliff

YOUR STORY Letters and essays for My Turn are original works (of up to 600 words) by readers that have never appeared in print or online. Share special memories, traditions, friendships, life-changing decisions, observations of life or unforgettable moments for possible publication. Email act2@newsday.com. Include name, address, phone numbers and photos if available. Edited stories may be republished in any format.

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