I just had the pleasure of reliving a little of my youth, courtesy of former White Sox player - current analyst Bill Melton and AU Sports, the legendary Skokie sports cards and memorabilia store. It is very fitting that these two came together on this chilly spring day.
I grew up on the south side of Chicago, when Melton was a fixture at 3rd base. For eight years, Melton was a consistent source of production for the White Sox, including his 1971 season in which he lead the American League in home runs and made the All-Star team. Melton was one of the last of my Sox, the ones I knew from my baseball beginnings.
After Melton left, the Sox used nine different regular third basemen over the next 15 years, until Robin Venture took over. Baseball was changing. I was getting older and losing interest in baseball and baseball card collecting.
Shortly after I moved to Skokie in the early 90’s, I stumbled across AU Sports. From the minute I walked into the store, I was thrown back to my childhood and my love of baseball cards was rekindled. The Gold family owned and ran the store and treated me and all customers like extended family. It wasn’t long before matriarch Audre allowed me to find my own cards on the famous wall of cards (a wall filled top to bottom with approximately 4 millions sports cards). I got to be such a regular, I even helped other customers.
Fast forward twenty years later and I still go to AU Sports, operated now by Scott Beatty. I pop in at least once a week to pick up random cards I need for my collection or to help others with their collections.
Aside from their regular customers like me, AU has had several sports stars visit the store. Former players like Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins, Shawn Green and more have card-shopped at AU.
Saturday, Melton wasn’t card-shopping though, he was card signing for about 200 or so fans, me included. He was also talking baseball, old and new. For about three hours I got to hear stories of the White Sox of my youth, along with a few stories on the current team. It doesn’t get better than this.
Actually, Beatty promises it does get better. AU is moving to a bigger place (6006 West Dempster in Morton Grove) and he is promising more autograph guests, including a returning Melton. The legendary wall of cards is already resurrected in the new location and I am sure I will be there by midweek, to scour the boxes for this week’s card needs.
AU is like my neighborhood clubhouse. I know I can always go there and get good sports conversations while on my latest card quest. Sometimes I can even relive my youth, with heroes of my youth, like Melton.