This is a big update – so much took place that I almost don’t know where to start.
Baseball season ended with the Atlanta Braves as champions for the first time since 1995. Shohei Ohtani won the AL MVP award and some other guys won other awards. Gil Hodges, Minnie Minoso, Jim Kaat, Tony Oliva, Buck O’Neil and Bud Fowler got into the Hall of Fame. Doug Jones died from COVID-19 and Eddie Robinson passed from undisclosed causes, though being 100 years old may have something to do with the latter. MLB owners locked out players, potentially throwing plans to attend a Washington Nationals early season game out the window.
I temporarily sat aside my review of the steroid era and plan to circle back around in the new year. Bert Sugar’s 5th edition of The Baseball Maniac’s Almanac was fun to go through. For Christmas I received Tom Tango’s sabermetric guide The Book and made my way through Brad Balukjian’s quest to find a handful of retired 1980s players in The Wax Pack. I picked up a back issue of Beckett Baseball Card Monthly from 1993 (the year that Shaquille O’Neal released his first rap album).
There was some movement in a long dormant grading order at PSA. Nearly four dozen 1993 refractors and other assorted goodies began the year in PSA’s storage facility and finally moved from the ID stage to “In Grading” in late October. They’re haven’t moved since.
Collecting Focus Narrowed
I can’t fully explain why it happened, but one day I awoke and had a visceral dislike for my nearly complete 1954 Topps set. Perhaps it was because the cards are in terrible condition. Maybe it was the fact that I was missing some rather expensive cards and I saw other sets as better uses of the funds. The feeling faded after a day or two and I put it out of mind. Then it happened again. And again. By December I was certain the cards had to go.
I soon began liquidating cards left and right. I looked through each one, asking if I would rather have the card currently in my hand or a missing one from one of my remaining works in progress. The result was my tossing every 1954 Topps card overboard and most of my 1986 Fleer basketball cards. This purge even extended to my 1954 Hank Aaron rookie.
Almost 250 cards later things are looking up. Why? Because this made room for some very exciting additions.
1991 Donruss Elite: I received a very fun Christmas gift; a 1991 Donruss Elite Jose Canseco. The card is graded by SGC and looks phenomenal in the tuxedo-style slab. Any new additions I make for this set will find their way to SGC.
1952 Topps: I added 25 cards to the set, taking the completion percentage well beyond 25%. These include 9 run of the mill commons and 10 of the tougher semi-high numbers. My favorite card in the group is Eddie Waitkus, a player attacked by a stalker and the real-life basis for The Natural. The Waitkus card even mentions his experience in the text on the back. A pair of hard-to-find high numbers both named “Bob” (Thorpe and Kelly) joined the collection. Hall of Famers Johnny Mize and Red Schoendienst also arrived. A Richie Ashburn card that I ordered did not arrive. Instead, I received someone else’s 1956 Topps cards by mistake. I sent them back to the seller and we worked to recover the missing Philadelphia centerfielder, but the person who received it apparently decided to ghost everyone involved and burn their honesty instead. Oh well, the seller refunded the cost of the card and return shipping and I can’t ask for much more besides better labeling of his shipping addresses.
1993 Finest Refractors: I added three cards to the set, but these are three I didn’t think I would capture for years. Each features a player with aggressive collectors chasing all copies they can find.
The first is White Sox triples hitting machine Lance Johnson. Johnson has my vote for the Hall of Pretty Good but his cards are usually found in common bins. What makes this example so thrilling is that there is a Johnson collector trying to capture most of the refractor print run. I’ve run up against him a few times in online auctions and have always come up empty. This changed when an eBay auction with a “make an offer” button appeared in my searches. I sent the seller a quick offer a few bucks ahead of the starting price and we struck a deal. If I hadn’t chanced across that listing I know exactly whose collection the card would now reside in.
Do you know what other players have aggressive collectors looking for their refractors? Nolan Ryan and Ken Griffey, Jr. I landed both for my set at the end of the year. There’s not much else to say. Collectors of either of the players or the ’93 set instantly recognize the importance of these cards. I can go a year without adding another card and still feel like I made progress after adding these.