Not Just Another 1981 Topps Cubs Future Stars Card

Rare and unique items are a favorite in my collection. I also like items that make for a good story. My “Ball Wall” has dozens upon dozens of stories. One major reason for that is autographs are personal. Only a few of my autographed baseballs are purchased, so each one of them typically has a story behind it.

Baseball cards don’t really have a story, especially in my collection. You buy baseball cards, whether it be from a local card shop, someone on Facebook or Twitter, an eBay auction, etc. Not too many stories behind those means of acquiring baseball cards.

I have some unique cards in my Cubs collection. The cards themselves are a story, but nothing personal for me. Now, I have a story to tell.

Jeff Pearlman is a well known writer. He first entered the mainstream in the 1990’s for his Sports Illustrated piece on the highly controversial John Rocker. Since his Sports Illustrated days Pearlman has authored several books, including “Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton,” which spent four weeks on the New York Times best seller list.

Another successful football book was the recently released, “Gunslinger,” about Brett Favre. Other books are: “The Bad Guys Won,” about the 1986 New York Mets as well as “Love Me Hate Me,” an unauthorized biography on Barry Bonds. Pearlman is currently working on an upcoming book about the USFL.

The author also writes for The Athletic, which is where today’s story begins. A few weeks ago I wrote about Steve Macko after receiving a 1980 Topps Cubs Future Stars in a trade. Macko also appeared on a 1981 Topps Future Stars card, the same year he would pass away at a young age.

Pearlman had followed me back on Twitter, and reached out to me via direct message last week after a piece he wrote about Macko and that 1981 Topps Cubs Future Stars card.

I read the Macko story and was enthralled, because it’s a fascinating story that is not well known 37 years later. It’s also about a baseball card of a Chicago Cub.

After reading I shot Jeff a quick note back thanking him for reaching out and letting him know it was another well done piece. Throughout the day I kept thinking about that article and my one-on-one communication with one of my favorite authors.

My other favorite author is George Castle, who had penned several books on the Chicago Cubs. I hated reading in school, unless it was Sports Illustrated or Pro Wrestling Illustrated. Once I hit college, I began reading real books, and Castle’s “The Million-To-One Team” was a page turner that sucked me in. I later had the privilege of working with Castle as I aired his radio program, “Diamond Gems,” on a radio station in Galesburg, Illinois where I served as sports director. I digress.

When I thought back to the exchange with Pearlman and his article, I needed that card. Not just any 1981 Topps Cubs Future Stars card because I probably have 20 already. I wanted that exact card. The one Pearlman had in a box under a bed that inspired his article.

So I reached back out to him and asked if he would sell me the card with a note. He responded back for a $10 donation to Make-A-Wish Foundation we had a deal. Done! Since it was such a great gesture I submitted a $25 donation.

The card was in my mailbox less than a week later with a personalized note from Jeff. It read:


There’s something profound in remembering those who passed on – especially those who come and go as quickly as Steve Macko.


Jeff Pearlman

Wow! What a great mailday. Thanks, Mr. Pearlman.

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