A little bit of a bittersweet post this Monday. I spent last week traveling back to my home state of Missouri to spend the holidays with my parents. They have retired and moved out of St. Louis and now live in Columbia, Missouri. For those unfamiliar with the state, Columbia is smack dab in the middle of the state about half way in between St. Louis and Kansas City. I usually still spend a little bit of time in St. Louis on each trip. While I do not have any family in St. Louis, I spent a lot of my life there and have all of the usual trappings of friends and favorite places that are still there.
On this trip I drove through St. Louis on my last day in Missouri. I spent a little bit of team eating lunch with some good friends I had not seen in a long time, took my son zoo, and ate some St. Louis style pizza. All good things.
On the way to the pizza place I passed by one of my favorite old card stores in St. Louis. Sadly the space it occupied for the past few decades was empty. Southtown Sluggers like all stores had it's own flavor. Dave, the store owner, was a low key guy. It's a hard place to describe and I kind of wish I had a picture. The store had the usual arrangement of display cases you would expect to find in a card store, but the rest of the place was truly unique. Lots of boxes of singles, bobbleheads, stadium giveaways from the Cardinals, Blues, and Rams. Just about anything.
I first went into the store at some point in the mid 90s. I was a college student home for the summer and had called about finding a card. I do not even remember what card I was after, but I do remember him telling me that he likely had the card and I was welcome to come in, sit down, and we will see if we can find it. He was serious. Over the next decade I cannot tell you how many afternoons I spent sitting in that store flipping through boxes trying to pick out cards for my collection.
One of my most memorable days in the store took place on a day I had off of school for a snow day. We sat in the store for hours looking specifically for cool Ray Lankford cards. Found lots of singles of sets that I had not worked on putting together, but I also found a few really cool inserts. My favorite thing I found that day was a Ray Lankford Stadium Club One of Kind Parallel.
This was one of the first really cool parallels that I added to my collection of Ray Lankford cards. I loved the look of the card, the low serial number, and the fact that Dave sold it to me on the cheap. Even after leaving St. Louis I would always stop at Southtown Sluggers and spend a little bit of time finding cards. Dave helped me find cool cards and joked with my wife about reading magazines in the shop.
I am glad that I had the opportunity to shop at Southtown Sluggers and get to know the shop owner. I will truly miss spending time in the store and am not quite sure how I am going to get my baseball card fix when I go back to St. Louis. Sure, there are still a few other card shops in town, but Southtown Sluggers was a unique find in the world of sports cards. I am not quite sure if anyone could quite duplicate the shopping experience at the shop.