When I was 9 Dad bought me my first Sports Illustrated. May 3rd, 1976. Mike Schmidt was on the cover. We were inside 7-11 waiting for Mom. He was perusing the rack. I was right there beside him, penniless, my mouth watering at the prospect of owning that magazine. I had just started playing baseball. What better way to get better at it than reading about Mike Schmidt, the slugger from the Philadelphia Phillies? Of course I spent more time looking at the pictures than reading. But there was something about that magazine.
A few weeks later Dad came home one night with a stack of sports magazines. “They’re from your uncle. Share them with your brother.” That sharing part put a damper on things but I got over it when I started poring through the stack. Sports Illustrated with Bjorn Borg and Leon Spinks on the covers, the last three months of Baseball Digest, Sport, even Football Digest. Dad had struck gold but decided all that wealth was not worth anything to him. So he gave me his riches. I was in heaven.
Sports magazines, baseball cards and competing with my brother over who had the most stuff marked the formative years of my childhood. Today we share all sorts of things on our smart phones. We’re 2500 miles apart but just a click and we’re back in October, 1975. The Reds vs. the Red Sox in the World Series. Bench versus Fisk. Digital archives. Thank you, Sports Illustrated, for believing in time travel.