Despite being an ardent Ken Griffey Jr. collector the most prized card in my collection is not one of the Kid; rather it's an autographed card of the greatest shortstop of our (and possibly any) generation--Cal Ripken Jr.
Growing up I played shortstop because of my slight build (I'm gigantic now) and thus aspired to be like baseball's Iron Man. I didn't model my swing after his (though judging from my high school stats, perhaps I should have) but Cal was someone I looked up to for his character on and off the field.
As luck would have it my parents got tickets for our family to watch the Mariners play the Orioles in Cal's final trip to Seattle during the 2001 season. I grabbed the best Ripken card I had at the time, a 2001 Topps Gold Label Gold Parallel #606/999, in hopes that I might grab an autograph of the Iron Man, though I certainly wasn't counting on it.
We got to the stadium early and lined up on the third base line for a chance to get face-to-face with greatness. My little brother and I were pretty far down the line and felt a bit bummed because it seemed like Cal would sign autos for the people closest to the dugout and he might not have time to get to us. But someone upstairs was looking out for me, and Cal started signing autographs about 10 feet up the line from us.
Before I knew it I was looking right into the steely blue eyes of Cal Ripken Jr. and he was autographing my baseball card. My mom said that she could see my face light up from across the stadium, and I believe her, because it was one of the greatest moments of my young life.
I don't remember who won the game that day (probably the M's) but I'll never forget my childhood idol taking the time to sign an autograph for me. Memories are what make collecting baseball cards worthwhile, and there are so many attached to this card that I wouldn't trade it for the world. Seriously.