Sy Berger

1 minute read

Where would my childhood be without Sy Berger? Berger, who died Dec. 14 at 91, built the baseball-card empire that allowed me to connect to my idols and to all other kids who lived, as I did, for the thrill of opening a brand-new pack.

In the early 1950s, Berger began turning the side business of baseball cards into a booming industry cannily designed to feed–and feed on–the wonder and wants of boyhood. “We’re basically in the children’s entertainment business,” he once said.

The ebullient impresario, aptly described as “Willy Wonka in pale blue double knit” in The Great American Baseball Card Flipping, Trading, and Bubblegum Book, supported his vision with contagious enthusiasm. By the 1970s, Berger had made baseball cards synonymous with American boyhood.

That connection has faltered some in our frenetic new world, but Berger’s legacy endures in all the connections he helped create. Where is my childhood, its core of joy? In gum-scented cardboard rectangles.

Wilker is the author of Cardboard Gods: An All-American Tale Told Through Baseball Cards

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