Sports cards and tourneys disappear/Paul Peterson

It was the summer of 1988 and sports cards and slow-pitch softball tournaments were as hot as the record-setting heat that year.

The card craze came virtually out of nowhere. Collecting cards, specifically baseball, was done by just a few people before the 1980s.

Baseball cards bought before then usually ended up in youngsters bicycle spokes (for added noise) or in shoeboxes that ended up in the attic — to be long-forgotten.

My personal card collection was stored in an empty Bosch Beer case. The cards eventually ended up in the burn barrel at home after I went off to military service.

I know for a fact there were several Mickey Mantle cards — considered the Holy Grail among collectors — in that box.

Because many old baseball cards suffered a similar fate, older cards were in demand when the hobby did resurface.

Cards of the superstars were especially popular, with Mantle, Willie Mays, Al Kaline, Roberto Clemente, etc. at the top of everyone’s list.

If you had those cards, you could literally set your own price and get it at one of several stores in the Upper Peninsula.

But like most fads, the hobby was done in by mass productions in every sport. Football was a good example where several companies jumped into the game in the early 1990s and started putting cards out by the millions.

While old sports cards can still fetch a good price, the hobby has been totally taken over by such subjects as Yugi-Oh, Star Wars, Harry Potter and so on.

To my knowledge, there isn’t a single store in the U.P. that features sports cards as its main item.

Slowpitch tournaments are almost as hard to find nowadays.

There was a time in the 1970s and 1980s when a softball enthusiast could virtually play in a tournament every weekend.

The late Rick Miller of Hancock once told me that he played in approximately 160 games one summer when his team, the Rainbow Riders, traveled all over the U.P.

The competition was, of course, the main draw. But playing for some nice prize money wasn’t bad, either.

Ontonagon County was among the first area to sponsor several tourneys. Events sponsored by Tige’s, Tubby’s, Dry Dock and Binder’s bars drew many teams and large crowds.

The old Karvakko’s tourney was the first big one in Houghton County. In 1978, the Tapiola event attracted 28 teams and turned down seven others. On championship Sunday, an estimated 5,000 spectators showed up.

But as interest in slow-pitch gradually waned, the number of tourneys began to dwindle.

Now, there are no tourneys in Ontonagon County. The Karvakko’s event, which ran for 24 straight years, wasn’t held last year, and likely won’t be this year.

The only local slowpitch tourneys scheduled in the area this year will be in Alston later this month and in Aura in early September.

As they say, all good things must come to an end.