Over the years, many individuals have questioned my unbridled enthusiasm for all things baseball…live games, televised games, movies, cards & collectibles, statistical analysis and, of course, Fantasy Baseball. I’ve always been understanding of their skepticism because, after all, it takes a certain level of intelligence to really appreciate the game. The strange part is that most of these people probably have a love of something in their life that doesn’t really relate to their day-to-day existence. It might be stamps, comic books, salt & pepper shakers, art objects, model trains, holiday ornaments (remember Clark Griswold), coins or one of a myriad of other things.
Someone much smarter than me once said, “Life is more worthwhile when you can be passionate about something trivial”. I firmly believe that to be true and my relationship with baseball has brought countless wonderful memories, but it has also helped me through some very difficult times. Recall what James Earl Jones’ character said in Field Of Dreams, “The one constant throughout the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s part of our past. It reminds us of all that was once good and could be again”.
So, today’s visit is for all of you who know the “secret handshake” or the “password” and understand how I feel about baseball. One of the really remarkable things about buying and selling baseball card collections isn’t the profit (it’s more of a hobby than a business), it’s watching history go through your hands. In the past few years, I’ve had the privilege of helping clients with a collection of 100 year-old tobacco cards that included the likes of Walter Johnson & Christy Mathewson. Just recently, I assisted a friend with his collection that had a Jackie Robinson Rookie Card from 1948. You can’t imagine the feeling of having such history in your hands. Imagine a history buff getting the opportunity to hold a copy of the Gettysburg address.
This wonderful experience has unfolded once again over the last two weeks as I review an extremely valuable sports card collection that my partner and I purchased. The cornerstones of the group are high-end basketball cards including autographs of Michael Jordan, LeBron James & Kobe Bryant. The baseball card portion, however, is also very impressive including a 1956 Topps Mickey Mantle card (his Triple Crown season). Not to sound braggadocios, but because I already own a ’56 Mantle in my personal collection, some of the other cards have really caught my eye. Let’s look at the history imbedded in just one card to give you some insight into my passion.
In 2005, the Upper Deck Company produced a set of cards themed to baseball’s Hall of Fame. One of the subsets was designated as “Signs Of Cooperstown” and included autographs from HOF members. Card #DFY was a tribute to three Red Sox legends and includes the signatures of Bobby Doerr, Carlton Fisk & Carl Yastrzemski. Only 20 copies of this particular card were manufactured, so it is not only beautiful, it is also scarce.
Bobby Doerr was the 2B of the BoSox from 1937-1951 (missing 1945 serving in the military) and had a lifetime BA of .288 with a .823 OPS. He was an outstanding defensive infielder and made the AL All-Star team ten times. He was inducted into the Hall in 1986 and is the oldest living member, having turned 98 last month. He was also best friends with Ted Williams.
Carlton “Pudge” Fisk is known for that iconic moment in the 1975 World Series when he willed a Home Run fair to win Game 6 in extra innings. He was a Catcher in the big leagues for 24 seasons with the Red Sox (#27) and the White Sox (#72) and was welcomed into Cooperstown in 2000.
Carl Yastrzemski had the unenviable task of following Ted Williams as the Red Sox LF in 1961 but the pressure never impacted him. In 23 seasons in Fenway Park, he represented the Sox in 18 All-Star Games (15 of them consecutively from 1965-1979) and won the Triple Crown in 1967. Just for good measure, he also won seven Gold Gloves. Inducted in the Hall in 1989, “Yaz” is one the popular players in franchise history.
What, you ask, is a card like this worth? Well, to a baseball fan on eBay, it was worth $200. To me, it was priceless.