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Loretta collected Johnny Bench cards
07/11/2006 11:09 AM ET
Smart guy, that Mark Loretta. He not only captained Northwestern University's baseball team in 1993, but he also got a business degree the same year from the academically challenging Big Ten school. Yet Loretta's intelligent actions extended beyond the classroom and his play as a savvy middle infielder. He collected baseball cards of the game's greatest growing up and has preserved that collection as an intended family heirloom. He talked about his card-collecting talents in a recent interview for

Question: What was your favorite card?

Mark Loretta: My favorite player growing up was Johnny Bench. I had virtually every card he ever had. I loved the big Red Machine. My most valuable card was in 1970, which is one I don't have. I had his rookie card. I have maybe 30 or 40.

Q: What were your other favorite cards?

Loretta: I liked Ryne Sandberg early on in his career. I had a lot of his cards. Pete Rose was another guy who I had a lot of his cards. I had George Brett's 1975 rookie card.

Q: When did you start collecting?

Loretta: I probably started at 10 and peaked around 12 or 13. My dad had a collection, but his mom threw it out. It was one of those classical stories. We kept them in sheets and traded with each other. We had price guides and all that stuff. We'd mostly buy packs at a quarter a pack.

Q: What was your favorite card line?

Loretta: I always liked Topps the best. Right around the early 1980s was the time I was collecting the most, and Topps was the leader back then.

Q: What was the first card on which you appeared?

Loretta: I think it was the Double-A card, the El Paso Diablos. That's the first one I remember that people asked me to sign. I don't think I had one with the Cape Cod League. My pose was all right.

Q: Will you pass this on to your son?

Loretta: I probably will. My son is 4. They're in good condition. They're in boxes at home for safekeeping.

George Castle is a writer for Red Line Editorial, Inc.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.