Re-Claiming Your Past

Today's blog is a guest post from Rick Burton, the David B. Falk Professor of Sport Management at Syracuse University. I've gotten to know Rick over the years through my work back at my alma mater. Rick is Syracuse's faculty athletics representative to the ACC and NCAA. He is the former commissioner of Australia's National Basketball League and the former chief marketing officer of the U.S. Olympic Committee.


- Brandon

Ever wonder about the value of your memory? About which small moments from your life bring the greatest pockets of joy?

The boys from "The Sandlot" on-set.

This concept came back to me the other day when I saw a Sports Illustrated story about the movie The Sandlot. You remember that classic don’t you? It’s the one where the awkward only-child kid moves into a new neighborhood (a smog-free happy Los Angeles of 1962) and becomes the ninth player on a rag-tag group of precocious ballers who play every day in an empty lot.

I think the movie is epic  (up there with Bill and Ted’s Excellent AdventureRudy and Hoosiers) and so I ripped out SI’s “Where Are They Now” double-truck publicity still photo that showed the boys in a classic team setting and got it framed.

It’s hanging on my wall now.

But as I looked at that photo and transported myself back to my own 1962 (and later), I decided I wanted my own memory. Not the version The Sandlot kids lived. My version took place in Springfield, Mass., where I was growing up a Yankees fan in order to show independence from my Dodgers-loving older brother. He’d actually lived in Brooklyn and had been trying to get me to support the one true faith. I was having nothing of it so I became a Yankees fan.

So, how to re-visit my past? Well, like most other boys of my era, I bought (and traded for) baseball cards.

So to re-claim my memories of lazy summer days, I invented a middle age hobby for myself: Collect the baseball cards of my youth. But here’s the twist. The Yankees of my card-collecting years were horrible. In 1966 they lost something like 100 games. But they were my team.

So I went out and found the following cards and got them framed: Jake Gibbs, Joe Pepitone, Bobby Richardson, Horace Clarke, Reuben Amaro, Clete Boyer and so on. I got 18 in total and then framed that antithesis of “Murderers Row.”

These were the bad news Yankees. But they were my Yankees and whenever I look at that wall-hanging now, I see the ghosts of the guys I played with in empty baseball lots around Springfield. One of them is dead and many of them are missing to me.

But a handful of baseball cards take me back almost 50 years and make me smile. Every morning when I come into work.

In a world of strange doings, that daily grin is worth more than most readers would imagine.

To learn more about Rick's work at Syracuse, click here.

Rick Burton
David B. Falk Distinguished Professor of Sport Management

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