In order to be a “Power Seller” of baseball cards on eBay, you don’t necessarily have to be a baseball fan…but it sure makes life more interesting.
Each year, tens of thousands of baseball cards go through my hands and are viewed by these weary eyes. Sometimes, it’s a collection I have purchased from a private party. Other times, it might be a collection that someone has acquired and they want my opinion on the value. And, occasionally, I act as a conduit between people who are selling and buying cards. In all of these cases, the first thing to know that is that 95+% of the cards have no real value. They represent players known in the business as “commons” and even though every card has a book price, they are basically worthless in the marketplace.
For a real fan, however, there is no such thing as a “common” player because there’s a story behind every photo on every card. So, whenever this type of “junk” collection comes my way, I revert to being a fan. One of my clients dropped off a small collection last week and included was a 5,000-count box that he said had “nothing of value”. I’m still going to look through the cards but instead of having any monetary expectation, the history of small stories and legends fill my brain. The first row included baseball cards from the late 70’s, so let’s see who was found.
> #31…Tom House, Mariners Pitcher – After nine years in the majors, he had only won 29 games. Later, however, he became one of the most respected pitching coaches in the game and even helped NFL QB’s with their throwing techniques. And, of course, in 1975 he was in the Braves bullpen and caught Hank Aaron’s 715th Home Run ball.
> #94…Len Barker, Rangers Pitcher – His record in ’78 was 1-5 with a 4.85 ERA, but in 1979 he was traded to the Indians and in 1981, he became one of only 23 players in history to pitch a perfect game.
> #309…Ralph Garr, White Sox OF – This back-story was told recently at a SABR meeting attended by Mike Port and Roland Hemond. The Angels were battling for the AL West title in September of 1979 when their DH Willie Aikens got injured, putting them in desperate need of a LH bat for the stretch drive. Port, the Angels Assistant GM called Hemond, the White Sox GM, and made a cash offer for Garr that was only valid if the player could be in Kansas City that night for the Angels game. The White Sox were starting a road-trip and flying to Seattle, so Roland had to get to O’Hare Airport in time to get Ralph off the Sox charter and across the airport to the KC flight. The deal got done and the Angels won the Division.
> #327…Art Howe, Astros 2B – Played for 11 seasons and managed for 14 more, but his legacy will always be the negative portrayal of him by Philip Seymour Hoffman in the movie “Moneyball”.
> #329…Joe Coleman, Blue Jays P – This was his last of 15 seasons in the big leagues. His Dad (also named Joe) pitched in the majors from 1942-55 and his son Casey debuted with the Cubs in 2010.
> #399…David Clyde, Indians P – The #1 pick out of High School in the 1973 Amateur Draft, he started 18 games for the Rangers at age 18 without throwing one pitch in the minor leagues. By 1979, at age 24, he won only 3 games with a ERA of 5.91 and never pitched in the major leagues again.
> #442…Doyle Alexander, Rangers P – Pitched 19 seasons and won 194 games. In 1987, the Tigers acquired him from the Braves in August for the stretch drive and he went 9-0 with a 1.53 ERA that helped them win the AL East. The obscure minor league player the Braves got in the deal went into the Hall of Fame last year…his name is John Smoltz!
> #455…Bill Lee, Red Sox P – His outrageous personality overshadowed his baseball ability and it’s easy to forget that he won 17 games in three consecutive seasons during the mid-70’s. With that being said, he didn’t acquire the nickname “Spaceman” for nothing. He once said, “They asked me about mandatory drug testing. I said I believed in drug testing a long time ago. All through the 60’s, I tested everything”.
> #511…Paul Reuschel, Indians P – Being the second best baseball player in the family never makes you famous. Hank Aaron hit 755 HR’s, his brother Tommie hit 13. Rick Reuschel won 214 games in a 19-year career, while Paul won 16 games in five big league seasons.
> #605…Rick Monday, Dodgers OF – In 1964, Dodger scout Tommy Lasorda tried to sign this 18 year-old out of Santa Monica High School. The prospect decided to play college baseball at Arizona State and while he was there, MLB instituted the amateur draft. In 1965, Monday was the first player ever picked in this manner by the Kansas City Athletics. He made his major league debut in 1966 and was eventually traded from the Cubs to the Dodgers in 1977. The Dodger Manager at the time? You guessed it…Tommy Lasorda.
Maybe some of these names brought back a few memories. As for me…row #2 awaits.