The secret lives of baseball card writers.

The stadium scene.
Sept. 27 2006 5:51 PM

The Secret Lives of Baseball Card Writers

I worked for Topps and lived to tell about it.

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Before I left for good, I found what I'd been searching for. It was behind a locked door, which was itself behind an ordinary-looking backroom. I flipped the switch, and lights flickered on overhead, revealing a back-backroom awash in cards. Binders lined the walls, filled with every card in every Topps baseball and football set from the 1950s through the 1990s, all pasted—why?—to white three-hole-punch paper. To get to those shelves, I had to step on and over boxes brimming with loose cards and cards in bricklike 500-count vending boxes. And that was just the cards. A box fell off a shelf and baseballs autographed by Frank Robinson rolled out. Jerseys that were to have been cut up and inserted into "relic" cards gave one dusty corner the look of a chaotic locker room. A box of bats inscribed with the names of journeymen such as Geronimo Berroa and Ron Coomer sat in another.

This back-backroom would not have looked like much to most people. I was relieved, though, to discover that the baseball card wonderland I'd dreamed of was somewhere in that office after all.

David Roth is a contributor to the blog Can't Stop the Bleeding. He has an essay about basketball and shoplifting in the new anthologyLiving on the Edge of the World.