(To see my “Want List,” please scroll toward the middle of this entry)
Escaping briefly from the busyness of journalism, I reacquainted myself with my old baseball card collection.
Baseball cards were my major thing growing up until I hit the high school sports scene. In the days before Internet, tablets, and Wikipedia, the way to know about your favorite baseball players was through collecting baseball trading cards.
Jared Smith and I grew up loving our hobby. My grade school best friend lived across the street from me in Rock Falls, and as soon as we came across the latest monthly edition of the Beckett baseball card price guide, we were checking our card collections to see which of our cards “made the list,” “were going up/down (in value),” and seeing who had the most expensive cards.
My favorite story about Jared’s cards was his “1954 Topps” cards. I put that in quotation marks because they were 50th Anniversary reprints made in 1994. See, he didn’t believe that. He thought they were really from 1954, but I could tell with the glossy coating and the way-too-perfect corners that they were reprints. I wasn’t going to convince him otherwise. He was really proud that his Tommy Lasorda was $100. Looking back, I’m kind of glad I wasn’t such a stickler about that, because things like that made collecting fun.
I had a small collection of worn-out, round-edge cards starting from about the time I was 4 years old. I didn’t know anything about condition until Jared came along. Since baseball cards became part of a friendship bond, they were something I took great interest in collecting more of. My grandparents gave me a box of 1992 Donruss for Christmas, and I had over 1,000 cards (a lot for a 10-year-old).
When the 1st and 10 sports store opened in downtown Rock Falls, I was a frequent customer because they sold single cards and packs of cards. There was a “dime box” there which I would raid for cards that I knew were more than a dime. See, I had almost memorized the monthly Becketts by then and thought I could “flip” baseball cards. Yes, I was 10 and thinking about flipping items.
After a few years of raiding these “dime boxes” for cards worth more than $0.10, I thought I had a very smart investment plan in mind. When I moved to Sterling in 1997, I made trips to Home Plate in downtown Sterling to raid their “quarter box” the same way. Every few months, the mall in town would have a baseball card show, and I would frequent the boxes there. After a few of these shows, you run out of boxes to pick over.
The dealer I remember the most was an older dark-haired, mustached guy with glasses named Joe (Morgan I believe was his last name). He had tables of boxes from the 1980s and 1990s. Cards from sets I wouldn’t find anywhere else. His tables became my favorite because I would find an older card of someone I already had cards of. At that time, Beckett had clarified the differences between a “minor star,” “semi-star,” and “unlisted star,” with an added explanation that “players with a career .300 average, 1,200 RBIs, 300 homeruns, and 200 wins are generally not common.” That meant guys such as Lance Parrish, Dale Murphy, Joe Niekro and Tommy John were sought after by me.
At that time, I’d start looking at the career stats on the back of the cards, and discover that guys I hadn’t heard of – such as Ron Cey, Graig Nettles, Ted Simmons, and Jim Rice – were worth collecting, along with the players who were Hall of Famers. Also about that time, I received a LARGE hardcover baseball almanac from my parents for my birthday. I read that thing from start to finish, finding players that fell under the stat categories mentioned in the Beckett. There were players that came close to those numbers, and soon discovered that those cards were slightly more collectible also. Then I would raid Joe’s boxes for guys such as Amos Otis, Ben Oglivie, Rick Wise, and Rusty Staub – guys who were past their prime in the early 1980s.
Reading that baseball almanac gave me questions to ask, such as “What happened to that Lyman Bostock guy who hit over .300 in just a 3-year career?” Right around the time the internet became more readily available, I had found out about his tragic death in Gary, Indiana. I wondered the same thing with J.R. Richard before his stroke. Every now and again, when I hear a story about some baseball player, I’ll wonder if I have any cards of that person.
One interesting card I bought from Joe’s dime box was, oddly enough, a 1985 Donruss Joe Morgan (the Hall of Fame Red Machiner) playing for the Athletics. I had no idea he had played for the Athletics. It got me wondering about other teams these guys had played for.
The card collection largely went by the wayside until I found out that my friend Spencer had once collected baseball cards growing up in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He had this box of random cards that he didn’t really think twice about, and offered to have me pick out some of those cards for my collection. I got my first Lyman Bostock and J.R. Richard from this pile.
Pieces from memories in the paragraphs above gave me a solution to the issue of what to finally do with the large amount of cards I have, by now a 31-year-old adult. When I moved out of my parents’ house, I kept most of my cards there except for a couple of binders of my best baseball cards.
What had once been the hallmark of my childhood, was now something forgotten by the time I was running my NISB website. When I realized that the common cards are just going to sit there and collect dust, I decided to partition a special collection of my master collection to take home with me.
That special collection, packed in a shoe box in my closet at home, includes:
1. Any cards I have left over from before I met Jared, all of which too worn down or creased to have any value other than sentimental.
2. Rookie cards of well-established major league players that I had heard of.
3. Popular common cards in hobby lore (such as the 1987 Donruss Pete Ladd, which looks a lot like Weird Al Yankovic).
4. “Error” cards, saved to show a special variation (such as the 1990 Donruss MVPs John Smoltz which instead shows Tom Glavine).
5. Cards of guys from years in which they did something really special or infamous (such as Bobby Thigpen’s 57-save year)
6. The main part of the shoebox collection is a “one of each” collection of star players from the 1980s and 1990s on different teams. For example, it includes one Eddie Murray card from the Orioles, Dodgers, Mets, Indians, and Angels. With a team each for each star I have, it also makes me put together cards from different years and different companies.
When I collected in my younger days, mass hoarding was my goal. I accumulated without a prime reason in mind. That has all changed now. Putting together my shoebox collection made me realize that I have missing cards that would complete a player’s team-by-team timeline.
The “Want List”
I went back to that large baseball almanac (since outdated electronically by websites such as Baseball Reference) I got 20 years ago – still had it at home – and poured through the thousands of pages once again. Since most of my collecting revolved around players from the 1980s and 1990s, my want list heavily revolves around cards from those decades.
Players from the 1970s and before I figured I only wanted one card of – just to say that I have a card from that player.
Here is a list of players, in alpha order, with the teams I’m looking for.
ANY CARDS OF GARY KOLB, SETH BLAIR and JAKE JUNIS
Jim Abbott – White Sox, Brewers
Joe Adcock – retired in 1966, hit 300+ homers
Doyle Alexander – Giants, Yankees
Dick Allen – 1970s Cardinals, Dodgers, White Sox, Athletics
Roberto Alomar – Mets, White Sox and Diamondbacks from the 2000s
Walt Alston – any 1970s card of the Hall of Fame Dodgers manager
Vida Blue – Athletics, Royals
Bobby Bonds – 1982 Topps
Lou Boudreau – 1961 Topps
Jim Bouton – 1970 Topps
Jeff Burroughs – Mariners, Athletics
Bert Campaneris – Yankees 1984
Joe Carter – 1984 Cubs rookie card
Ron Cey – 1987 Topps Traded
Will Clark – Cardinals
Jose Cruz, Sr – Yankees (told its very rare, but on this collection nonetheless)
Mike Cuellar – any 1970s card
Tommy Davis – any 1970s card
Rick Dempsey – 1992 Brewers
Leo Durocher – any 1960s card of the Hall of Fame Cubs manager
Curt Flood – 1971 Topps
Julio Franco – White Sox, Brewers, Devil Rays, Braves, Mets
Gary Gaetti – Cubs
Andres Galarraga – Angels, Rangers and Giants from the 2000s
Goose Gossage – 1978 Topps
Ron Gant – Phillies, Angels, Athletics, Padres, and Rockies; all 2000s
Cesar Geromino – Royals
Toby Harrah – 1972 Topps
George Hendrick – Pirates
Ken Holtzman – Athletics
Reggie Jackson – 1977 Topps
Randy Jones – Mets
Jim Kaat – Phillies, White Sox
Jeff Kent – Indians, Dodgers
Dave Kingman – Cubs
John Kruk – White Sox
Carney Lansford – Red Sox
Al Lopez – 1966 Topps
Greg Luzinski – Phillies
Sparky Lyle – any 1980s card
Billy Martin – any 1970s Tigers and Yankees card of the Hall of Fame manager
Gary Matthews, Sr. – Phillies
Lee May – Royals, Astros
Sam McDowell – 1974 Topps
Fred McGriff – Cubs, Dodgers
Dave McNally – 1975 Topps, and 1976 Expos (rare)
Andy Messersmith – 1975 Topps
Don Mincher – Charter player of Twins, Pilots, and Rangers (looking for his 1970 Topps)
Minnie Minoso – 1977 Topps
Manny Mota – any 1970s card
Dale Murphy – 1993 Rockies
Danny Murtaugh – any 1970s card of the Pirates manager
Graig Nettles – Expos
Amos Otis – Pirates
Tom “Wimpy” Paciorek – White Sox
Milt Pappas – 1973 Topps
Lance Parrish – Mariners, Pirates
Freddie Patek – Royals, Angels
Tony Perez – Red Sox, Expos
Gaylord Perry – Padres, Yankees, Braves
Rico Petrocelli – any 1970s card
Vada Pinson – Royals
Boog Powell – any 1970s card
Jeff Reardon – Mets, Reds, Yankees
Rick Reuschel – any 1982
Jerry Reuss – any 1988
Brooks Robinson – 1978 Topps
Pete Rose – 1984 Fleer Update
Ted Simmons – Cardinals
Lee Smith – 1994 Yankees
Ozzie Smith – Padres
Reggie Smith – 1983 Giants
Dave Stewart – Phillies, Blue Jays
Dave Stieb – White Sox
Steve Stone – White Sox
Rick Sutcliffe – Indians, Cardinals
Don Sutton – Astros, Athletics
Frank Tanana – Red Sox, Mets, Yankees
Luis Tiant – 1982 Topps
Gene Tenace – Cardinals, Pirates
Mike Torrez – Mets, Athletics
Fernando Valenzuela – Orioles, Phillies, 1998 Upper Deck Cardinals
David Wells – Tigers
Billy Williams – Athletics
Dick Williams – any Red Sox, Athletics or Angels card of the Hall of Fame manager
Willie Wilson – Cubs
Jimmy Wynn – any 1970s card
Richie Zisk – Mariners
Obvious mega-stars of the 1950s and 60s aren’t on this list because I figured I wouldn’t have the money to get these cards.
Since a lot of these cards are 1980s and 1990s, I will consider trading 80s/90s cards for those 80s/90s cards. For the 1960s and 1970s cards, I’m not sure what I have to offer. It doesn’t hurt to ask what I have to offer … I may have it, I may not.
This is the “trading” phase of my card collecting career. I have set aside a part of my collection for sale – message me for details – and have portioned off some cards to family over the years.
Those junk commons aren’t going anywhere. I had thought briefly about going back to doing TTMs (through-the-mail autographs), but 1) it is becoming an expensive habit, 2) I have no real reason for their signatures, 3) most, if not all, players are more reluctant to sign through the mail these days, 4) some players charge, 5) I don’t have a lot of time on my hands. I’m better off meeting these guys in person.
Contact me at shs42886 (at) yahoo (dot) com, or message me on any social media platform for inquiries!