The third quarter of 2021 has concluded. Here’s what I’ve been up to:
I’ve covered a couple thousand pages of baseball history in the past two months.
Bill Bradlee’s The Immortal Life of Ted Williams was eye opening. I was familiar with Ted’s statistical prowess but didn’t realize how messed up his personal life was. I’ve often heard Williams described as a baseball god, and after reading this I have to agree that Zeus would be a good metaphor. Like Zeus he had a temper that would explode whenever he felt he was not given proper deference. Like Zeus, Williams had a troubled personal life with a pilfering sibling (Danny Williams reportedly tried to rob their mother/Hades stole Persephone from Demeter). Like Zeus, Williams was forever chasing women regardless of his or their marital status. Like Zeus, his relationships with his children were fraught and often tinged in disaster. Williams could become petulant, sulking whenever fans took exception to poor performance and spitting at those he really disliked. Williams may have ended up as an immortal in popular culture thanks to a controversial arrangement that saw Williams’ head cryogenically frozen shortly after his death.
Performance enhancing drugs and their role in baseball have also been on my mind. Mark Fainaru-Wada/Lance Williams’ coverage of the BALCO scandal in Game of Shadows laid out the details of the most infamous doping case in the sport and is a must-read if you want to know more about Barry Bonds.
Jim Bouton’s memoir Ball Four is often mentioned as good source material for detail on the sport’s obsession with amphetimines. Having read the latest edition of the book, I found the PED angle to be lacking. The most controversial aspect seems to be around player compensation and labor rights rather than a handful of mentions of players reaching for green pills.
Jose Canseco’s Juiced followed the Bouton book. Unlike the Bouton book, this one read along the lines of a politician’s get out the vote effort rather than deep look inside the mind of one of the 80s/90s best home run hitters. Canseco names specific players as steroid users, though the actual number mentioned is so small they wouldn’t fill out a complete team. Summary: Trust no one.
Will Carroll’s 2005 book The Juice rounded out my reading. This is an excellent book and provides a very good overview of the issues present at the time. Compiled by Carroll and several other experts, the book covers the effects of various classes of PEDs and a history of their use in the game. Several chapter-length interviews are included, focusing on users, developers, dealers, and those tasked with catching cheaters. If you’re going to study this area, I highly recommend starting with this book.
A more thorough review of the Mitchell Report and some court transcripts are coming by year end.
It’s been relatively quiet on the collecting front, at least compared to the start of the year. I added five new cards to the in-progress sets as well as autographs from Frank Thomas and Ivan Rodriguez. It’s only seven cards but almost all are Hall of Famers. I’m taking a budget-induced break at the moment and hope to add more in a few months. The new cards are:
- 1986 Fleer Basketball Magic Johnson (NrMt)
- 1986 Fleer Basketball Thurl Bailey (NrMt)
- 1952 Topps Hank Bauer (Poor/Trimmed)
- 1954 Topps Warren Spahn (Fair)
- 1993 Finest Refractors Eddie Murray (NmMt)
While not a new acquisition, I did finally receive 200+ cards that I requested from COMC much earlier in the year. Packaging is better than in the past and the operations analyst in me sees improvement in how they are handling increased volumes.
I’d like to think I made significant progress on storage and display of the collection in recent months. A pair of wooden crates has been requisitioned into use storing my 1952 and 1954 partial sets. I used kaizen foam to keep cards secure and present a visually pleasing backdrop for viewing the collection. Look for an update detailing this process in the coming months. Several hundred new toploaders arrived to standardize and replace an assortment of scratched, discolored, and taped holders that previously housed the collection.
PSA told collectors in September that it is reviewing nearly 200,000 cards per month and making progress on its backlog. I have 43 cards sitting in one of their storage facilities and don’t expect to see them until well into 2022. However, I am hopeful that the flood of newly graded material will allow new examples of cards I am searching for to become available. Here’s a breakdown of how slabbed populations have changed since June for high grade sets I collect:
|Q2 PSA Population
|Q3 PSA Population
|Pop Increase %
|1993 Finest Refractors
|1986 Fleer Basketball
|1,396 of the newly graded cards were Jordan rookies (15 per day)
|1991 Donruss Elite
|2001 Origins Refractors