In the early nineties, I was only in elementary school but was already well on my way to an early retirement based on my illustrious baseball card collection. Or at least that’s what I thought. Every kid I knew had heard stories about the Honus Wagner tobacco card or a Mickey Mantle rookie somebody found hidden in an attic somewhere, and the fame and fortune that followed. By that logic, if I were to just acquire a few contemporary gems – say a 1985 Topps Mark McGwire USA card or a 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. – I too would never have to work a day in my life and could tell my teachers to take their stupid math worksheets and shove them, while I sped off in my Lamborghini Countach.
Then, all of a sudden, for no reason whatsoever other than to spite me, my older sister also started to collect baseball cards. She didn’t even like baseball. In fact, when I was ten and made the ‘majors’ in Little League, she seriously thought I was on an actual Major League roster. But now, she was flush with babysitting cash and decided to invest some of her riches in the rookie cards of players she’d overheard me talking about. First, she bought a mint 1983 Topps Ryne Sandberg. You have no idea how bad I wanted that card. She did know. And that’s why she bought it for herself. Me and my zero income couldn’t come close to affording a dime piece like that. So to inflict further pain on me, she wouldn’t even let me touch the card. She said she had to be holding it and that I could only look at it from far away. So I’d scream, “You don’t even know who Ryne Sandberg is!” while she sniped back, “Well… I have his rookie card and you don’t.” And then she’d hide it in her closet. You know, like a cartoon villain would.
Next she bought an ultra-coveted 1986 Donruss Jose Canseco Rated Rookie and tried to lure me into her same sinister trap. But this time, unbeknownst to her, I’d already come up with a plan of my own. First I needed a swerve. So I rummaged through a shoe box of ‘common’ cards and picked out a guy named Todd Frohwirth, whose rookie card happened to be a 1988 Topps. Then I slid it into a plastic case and got ready for the next phase of my plan. And that would be spending the next few months convincing my sister that this guy, Todd Frohwirth, was the greatest baseball player to ever play the game.
“Hey Mike, didn’t I hear you say that Jose Canseco, or whoever, was awesome at baseball? Anyway, I bought his rookie card.”
“Whoa. That’s amazing. That’s like, the second-best card you could have gotten.”
“Yeah. I mean, Canseco’s really good. But he’s no Todd Frohwirth.”
It went on and on like that for months. There was no Internet for her to fact check me. And she’d never doubted me on sports knowledge before. So why would she start now? I mean, I was the reason she knew who Ryne Sandberg and Jose Canseco were to begin with. And now I was informing her about the man, the myth, the legend, Todd Frohwirth. Well, mostly, completely the myth.
Then I ‘found’ his card.
“OH MY GOD! YES!!! I can’t believe it! I got it!” I had to put on a huge production.
“I got one of HIS cards!!!”
“Yes! Todd Frohwirth!!!”
And I produced the ‘88 Topps card in all its glory. My greedy sister immediately had to have it. “What do you want for that card?” She was more demanding than asking me.
“Well… I’d maybe take that Jose Canseco Rated Rookie from you. But just because it’s a couple years older.”
And she rushed off to her bedroom to retrieve Mr. Canseco, tarnished with his second-best-to-Todd-Frohwirth status. When we exchanged cards, the look of sheer excitement on her face quickly subsided when she noticed her younger brother (that would be me) had fallen to the floor in maniacal laughter.
“You idiot!!! Todd Frohwirth sucks and so do you! Hahahahahahahahaa!!!”
And then I ran off as giddy as a 5th grader who just tricked his villainous older sister into trading a Jose Canseco rookie for a ‘88 Topps Todd Frohwirth. My sister quit collecting baseball cards shortly after that.
Luckily for everyone involved in this story, the Hall of Fame career of Jose Canseco didn’t really pan out. And either did anyone’s plan to retire based on their card collections. We’d be stuck doing math worksheets and not driving Lamborghinis for the foreseeable future. But this past September, 20 odd years later, I did receive a gift at my wedding from my friend Donkey, who knew me in 5th grade and also knew the Todd Frohwirth story well.
And you can’t really put a Beckett price guide value on how much I enjoyed remembering the story and showing the gift to my now-less-villainous sister. It currently resides on a shelf in my office. And I’m not trading this baby any time soon.
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