top of page

The Day Wally Joyner Made Me Cry

Updated: Apr 25

As the 2021 National Sports Collectors Convention approached, my excitement level was at 11.

The world was opening back up, the popularity of sports cards was reaching 30 year highs, and I couldn’t wait to see my hobby friends for the first time in a couple years.

I bought a VIP pass, and I looked forward to learning who would be the celebrity autograph signers at the opening VIP party.  These players were not typically superstars.  However, they were often fan favorites.  They were the type of guys sports fans have some kind of emotional connection to.  

The announcement finally came, and as I read it, that emotional connection flooded over me.  I closed my eyes and I felt like I was ten years old all over again.

You see Wally Joyner was on the list, and in 1987, the summer I turned 10, Wally Joyner made me cry.

Fresh off a 1986 rookie season where Wally had 16 HR, 100 RBI, and hit .290, every kid I knew wanted to get his 1987 Topps rookie card.  

He picked right back up where he left off to start the 1987 season and ended his second year with what would be the best offensive totals of his career.  He ended with 100 runs scored, 117 RBI, 34 HR, and hit a very respectable .285.

At the time, Joyner was right up there with the likes of Bo Jackson, Jose Canseco, Will Clark, and Rafael Palmeiro as young stars we were trying to collect.  Eventually, after weeks of opening wax packs purchased from local gas stations and grocery stores, I finally added a Joyner to my binder and I couldn’t have been more proud.  It was one of my favorite cards, and I couldn’t wait to show it off to all the kids in the neighborhood.

One afternoon, I took my binder over to a kid’s house who lived on the edge of our subdivision.  He wasn’t part of our core group, and was known as a bit of a trouble maker.  He was one of those kids who was fine in a one on one setting, but if there was a group of us around, he was the one who was always causing trouble.

We were in his room, looking at each other’s cards and we discussed some possible trades. At one point, I left the room to use the bathroom, and when I came back we picked right back up with our discussion.  

I started going through my binder again to look for some of the cards I was willing to trade, and my heart stopped.  

The spot that prominently displayed my prized Joyner card was empty.  


There was just a clear PVC window where the wood grained, rookie cup, Joyner had been only minutes earlier.

I asked him, “What happens to the Wally?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He responded.

“What do you mean?  It was right there!  Where is it, you took it.”

“I never saw it” he said.

As we went back and forth, tears of anger started welling up in my eyes.  He stole my prized card, but denied it the whole way.  I was mad.  Real mad.

Outside of tearing his room apart, which I couldn’t get away with, there was no way for me to prove his lie.  I took my binder, and stormed out of his house.  Tears streamed down my cheeks on the whole walk home.  I can’t ever remember being that angry before. I know I had never been angry enough to create tears.

Joyner went on to play a total of 16 seasons with the Angels, Royals, Padres and Braves.  Although he never lived up to the superstar hype he received in his first couple seasons, he ended up being an above average player.  Many junk wax era collectors remember him fondly for those early career card chases.

Over the years, countless ‘87 Topps Joyner cards entered my collection.  I don’t remember when, but that empty binder spot eventually got filled.

As I waited in line at the VIP party to get his autograph, I once again thought back to that day.  The anger had been replaced with the feeling of nostalgia.  Memories of a more simple time.  I slid that 1987 Topps Card across the table for him to sign.  Wally signed it, and looked up at me as he slid it back.

Little did he know on that summer day back in 1987, he made me cry.


bottom of page