Chapter 2: “Aparicio” means baseball to most people

March 06, 2012 | Nestor Aparicio

Luis Aparicio.” That staccato sound and the booming echo under the lower reserved seats will live in my mind until the day I die, just like that thin little scoreboard with yellow lights under there.

I DEFINITELY got to see him play, but only once that I remember.

The only picture I have of the event was taken with a tiny 110 camera and then I cut out all of the background. But at least I have it, and the ball. My Pop bought me a Boston Red Sox bobblehead at the concession stand behind Sect. 38, right near the Leaning Tower of Pizza. I still have the bobble head and my wife, who is a lifer Red Sox fan from Manchester, N.H., thinks its kinda cool.

The other significant time I’ve spent with Luis was during the 20-year reunion of the 1966 Orioles in June of 1986.

I was almost 18, and as a teenager I went nuts at baseball card shows buying Aparicio memorabilia. I had a ridiculous collection of cards and stuff and junk. I was literally a neighborhood dealer and I worked a lot of the early card shows and pestered Jay Finglass at Jay’s Nostalgia World in Towson every chance I got.

You can still put ANY Topps card (or any brand really that came out before 1982 all the way back to Honus Wagner) and I can identify it and tell you the condition and some special facts about it. If baseball was my life until I was about 14 (again, the discovery of girls put a major dent into statistical analysis right around 1983), then my lifeblood and brain was baseball cards.

The black borders of 1971, the minis of 1975, and the rookie cards, error cards and fun stats and information. My favorite cards were the 1974 set. I had the very valuable 1970 Johnny Bench and the 1972 Rod Carew. I had a Pete Rose rookie card with his buzz cut. My favorite card was a 1955 Roberto Clemente that I had obtained in decent shape. And anything with Bobby Valentine, Sixto Lezcano or George Brett held special significance, because they were “MY guys.”

But for my cousin, Luis, I had every single card, cup, bat and all of the special issue crap (like pins, buttons, cutouts, the whole nine). There were probably well over 200 different items in my collection. The two toughest cards, without question were the 1971 Kelloggs 3-D card (and particularly hard to get in decent shape because they cracked!) and the 1961 high-number All Star card. Back in the 60’s, Topps would release cards by their numbers on the back in series. So each month you needed to run out and buy new cards to complete the series. And, of course, you got to chew gum. The last series (the high numbers) were always left on the shelves and discarded or destroyed because kids didn’t buy cards in September. They were in football mode by then! I think that 1961 card is still a pretty expensive item.

My marquee item was a 1974 spring training game-used jersey that was Aparicio’s last as a major leaguer