What keeps me going in the baseball card hobby? It’s not the $100s of dollars to spend on rookies that fizzle out after 2 years in the majors, or serial-numbered cards, or finding a piece of Babe Ruth’s bat.
What keeps me going is the “you never know what you can find” in a box of cards that hasn’t seen the light of day for years. Owning a card of so-and-so. To say you at least have ONE of something.
After focusing on quantity for many years, I have quit doing that. Instead, I am now focusing on star players and at least 1 card of each team they were on; as well as the occasional “coffee table” card that can create a bit of discussion after looking at it for a while.
I have a Want List of who I am looking for, LINKED HERE.
I was able to chop off several lines from my Want List after buying nearly $40 worth of cards Saturday at a sports and comic collectors show at the Peru Mall in Peru (which is on its final leg).
Before I get to what I found, the picture above is of a couple of cards of Hall of Famers from 1994 Leaf Limited: Larry Walker and Mike Mussina. The set is one of my favorites from the 1990s because of the smooth, shiny, silvery foil.
From 1964 to 1969 I now have the following:
1964 Topps Gene Mauch: Which completes my team arc collection of the longtime manager.
1965 Topps Frank Thomas: No, not the Big Hurt; but he had a good career, too. Stars whose careers ended in the 1950s and 1960s I try to have at least one card of that person, knowing the others are going to be a bit expensive.
1969 Topps Joe Niekro: One of two I now have of the ball doctorer. He had more than 200 wins and was more known for his days when he was not a Cub.
1969 Topps Tommy Davis: This is my FIRST Seattle Pilots card, and it’s one of the ones to have as Davis had the best career out of all of the former Pilots: More than 1,000 RBIs and a career average over .290. This is the first of two Tommy Davis’ I got.
1969 Topps Dick Williams: The Hall of Fame manager is best known for winning back-to-back titles for the Oakland A’s 1970s three-peat (Alvin Dark managed the other year), but he also led the Red Sox to the AL pennant in 1967 and the Padres to the NL pennant over the Cubs in 1984.
1969 Topps Nate Colbert: Colbert’s career is an interesting one. He was among the NL league leaders in home runs in the early 1970 for the Friars, who were nowhere near the top of the NL West. His career was short, and his cards are now considered in the common territory in the price guides. Also my first expansion-year Padres card.
1967 Topps Tommie Agee: He’s best known for being one of the Miracle Mets, but had a stint with the White Sox during the Eddie Stanky years. And with that being said ….
1967 Topps Eddie Stanky: He had an interesting playing career, too, with stories of his antics on the basepaths. He took over for the retired Hall of Famer Al Lopez, who came back for short stints later in the decade.
1967 Topps Mel Stottlemyre: After Whitey Ford, Stottlemyre was the Yankees’ ace during the final CBS years and into the early Steinbrenner years. He was the pitching coach for the late 1990s World Series champs.
1967 Topps Ron Fairly: Longevity and consistency made Fairly’s career. He never had a 20-homer season, but had more than 200 homers; he only had a couple of 100-RBI seasons, but had more than 1,000 of them when he retired.
1970 Topps Tony Oliva: Nevermind the fact that the card is miscut, this is my first Oliva. Had a long career with the Twins and is one of those guys who had a good shot at Cooperstown.
1970 Topps Tommy John: That’s a White Sox card, don’t let the blue uniform fool you. Not only does it fill all but the Indians on my John list, but this is also my first Sox “blue” card.
1970 Topps Larry Hisle: Hisle put up some real good numbers in the 1970s and was the batting coach for the back-to-back champion Blue Jays in the early 1990s. Along with the aforementioned Agee card, the “All-Star rookie” trophy doesn’t mean that is a rookie card.
1970 Topps Hawk Harrelson: Before he was the White Sox’ biggest homer in the TV booth, Harrelson put up some good numbers during the 1960s. He had a best-selling book in his later career, and was the Sox GM in 1986 when guys like George Foster, the late Tom Seaver and Steve Carlton were playing for the South Siders (Oh, and he fired future HOF manager Tony La Russa).
1973 Topps Mike Torrez: Torrez didn’t have a flashy career, but was consistent. He had more than 180 wins on the mound.
1975 Topps Willie McCovey: He played for the Padres? Yes he did, and he played for the Athletics, too. Those stints are as forgotten as Reggie Jackson’s time as an Oriole, Billy Williams’ time as an Athletic, and Harmon Killebrew’s final season as a Royal.
1975 Topps Jimmy Wynn: The Toy Cannon was a good hitter during the 1970s, hitting nearly 300 home runs. He’s the second-best baseball player named Wynn, however, as Early won 300 games.
1972 Topps Leo Durocher: Glad I could get a Durocher card at the tail end of his career, and being a Cub on top of that. The former Dodgers and Giants skipper ended his MLB career with the Houston Astros (still searching for that card), and almost managed in Nippon (Japan) in 1976 before an illness got the best of him.
1972 Topps Maury Wills: The first player to steal 100 bases, Wills’ years in MLB ended with a disastrous run as Mariners manager in the early 1980s.
1972 Topps Tommy Davis: Davis had 12 stints with 10 different teams. Here he is between Cubs stints. From 1970 to 1972, he went A’s-Cubs-A’s-Cubs.
1972 Topps Joe Niekro: The Cubs and Tigers cards complete my Joe Niekro collection, as well as that of the Niekro brothers with Phil (the one who’s in the Hall of Fame).
1972 Topps Bobby Valentine: To be honest, this is my first Valentine card of him as a player, he wasn’t on my want list, and I threw this in at a table to make it an even $20.
1974 Topps Ken Holtzman: Known as one of the best Jewish pitchers in MLB history, the former Cub won more than 170 games, threw two no-hitters, and was a part of the 1970s A’s.
1974 Topps Bert Campaneris: Best known for being an Athletic, I had cards of him on other teams before getting this one.
1972 Topps Charlie Hough rookie card: I already had a Hough card from his Dodgers days, but caught this at a steal. Hough broke in while fellow knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm was winding down his career in Dodger blue.
1974 Topps Bill Greif: WHO? WHO? He’s a name no one will remember, but take a good look at the card. Washington? “Nat’l Lea.”? Here’s the story: Washington lost the Senators in 1961 and were given the “new” Senators immediately after. The “new” Senators left for Texas in 1972. Yearning for a team, the fledgling Padres were rumored to move to Washington for the 1974 season, and Topps really thought it was going to happen. It didn’t, and back to the printing press Topps went.
1974 Topps Traded Steve Stone: The Chicago-based baseball guru, who won the 1980 Cy Young Award with the Orioles, was briefly a Cub.
The cards aren’t limited to the “vintage” era. Here are cards of more recent players that I have crossed off my Want List: Chris Sale (White Sox, Red Sox), Vladimir Guerrero (Orioles), Dennis Eckersley (late Red Sox), Roy Halladay (Phillies), Max Scherzer (Nationals, Tigers), and Jim Thome (Phillies, Twins).
North Central Illinois fun fact about Scherzer: He was the Diamondbacks starting pitcher when Streator native Clay Zavada made his major league debut in 2009.
These are a couple of star rookie freebies I got at one table, with the purchase of a couple of bricks of cards. This was the final table I visited, and I showed the guy my Want List on my website (through my cell phone). After further making conversation that I came down from Sterling, the guy mentioned he had heard of a sports blog from there. One thing led to another, and I then was able to put half of a face to a name.
When I first started in the high school sports world, I was very involved in the message board on the NCIpreps website. One of the more famous message board posters there was a guy by the handle of “JimmyChitwood”. He was popular enough to have his own message board on the website. That was well over 15 years ago, but once he mentioned Jimmy Chitwood, it was great to finally meet the guy.
Had a blast at the first baseball card show I attended in probably 20 years!