After school, me, Adam and John Rice played wiffleball on John's front lawn or shagged flyballs on the street in front of my house. I also spent many-an-hour chucking a rubber ball up against a brick wall on the side of my house. When school ended, my folks shipped me out to summer camp in northern Wisconsin for the entire summer. Camp was okay, I played a lot of baseball, but I was bummed I couldn't get any baseball cards. A few weeks into camp, my mom started sending me packs of cards. I pulled a Pete Rose and a George Brett. My dad sent me a large team photo of the 1976 Chicago Cubs. So now I had both a Davey Rosello card and his mug on the team photo along with the other greats from the '76 team like Mick Kelleher and Manny Trillo. My favorite player in 1976 was Bill Madlock, who won the NL battling crown in '75 and was on his way to doing it again in '76. Before camp, I would check the Chicago Tribune sports section every day for the NL batting stats to make sure Madlock was on top of the list. Madlock got hurt and was out for a while. I wasn't sure if he would get enough at-bats for the crown or continue to hit when he came back. After camp, I scanned the Trib and listened to Jack Brickhouse, Lou Boudreau and Vince Lloyd on the Cubs' radio broadcasts. I didn't care if the Cubs won, I just wanted Madlock to get a hit. I would bring my little transistor radio out to the side of the house and pretend I was Steve Carlton or Phil Niekro pitching against the Cubs. I'd kick high like Carlton or try and throw a knuckler like Niekro and fling my rubber ball up against the wall. If Madlock was batting, I'd let the ball bounce off the wall and get by me for a hit. When the other team batted, I would be Ivan Dejesus and make a spectacular play at short for the out.
In the fall, Madlock won the batting crown and I had nearly completed the 1976 Topps baseball set. I marked up all the team checklists with a big thick marker showing the players I had. There were very few blank spaces where I couldn't get a card like a Nyles Nyman rookie. Oh yeah, there was a little thing called the Bicentennial Celebration going on in 1976. I didn't pay much attention to it because it had nothing to do with baseball or baseball cards. All in all, a great summer and some great memories.