This was a fun way to start the year. I bought a DVD of The Sandlot and put it on for my kids to watch. They invited a newly arrived 8-year-old schoolmate from Germany over to view it. It turns out he has never seen a baseball game or heard of Babe Ruth. By the end of the film he was a fan. He’s also suddenly very interested in visiting our local pool.
Birthdays came and went. In connection with my own I changed out my wallet cards, adding a selection of chemically enhanced home run hitters. My hockey-obsessed sister also had a birthday, so we set up a celebratory message from the Vancouver Canucks’ Green Men. They were terrific and really put on a show.
Here at Cardboredom there was activity of note. I published my 100th blog post earlier this month, highlighting Toronto shortstop Tony Fernandez. I gave up on following the Hall of Fame after continuing to research its history and membership and made my own pantheon of the game’s greatest 250 players. Performance graphics featuring Hall of Fame references on each player’s bio page and set checklists were systematically replaced by ones employing the new ranking system. Site navigation will fully phase out references of the Hall later this year.
The Card Show
I attended a baseball card show for the first time in decades. Attendance at this local event (60 tables) was strong. I asked each table if there were any 1993 refractors available and found none. Most sellers said they had not seen any in person in quite a while, one going as far as to say he doesn’t stock any “vintage” cards. Making the most of my apparent status as an old geezer, I located a couple vendors with 1952 Topps cards in stock. An obliging common bin yielded a few cards for less than my transportation cost to the show. The big pick up was a Duke Snider with terrific eye appeal but made affordable by virtue of being in an SGC slab carrying a grade of just “Authentic.” Perfect.
The show was followed up with a visit to a local card shop that I hadn’t set foot in since fifth grade. I’m fairly certain the same wax boxes of 1992 Score and Starting Lineup figures that lined the walls were still visible, though the owner was much more friendly than I remember. He showed me his ’52 Mantle when we began comparing notes on our personal pursuits of the 1952 Topps set.
Each of the in-progress sets saw some movement in the latest quarter. The 1991 Donruss Legends card of Nolan Ryan was a major addition to the ’91 Elite set, leaving only 7 cards to go. A single 1993 Finest Refractor common was added (Minnesota catcher Brian Harper – Twins team set complete) after last year’s major pick-ups. The set will likely progress at a rate of 1-2 cards per month in the near term if I stick to commons.
The 1952 set added 19 cards, including several high profile players. Aside from the Snider picked up at the card show, notable additions include Larry Doby, Early Wynn, and an autograph of Chicago Cub Bob Addis. I admit to grinning when I picked up a non-descript card of the set’s least effective player, Reds pitcher Ed Blake who logged less than 9 MLB innings across several seasons while being tagged for an even greater number of runs.
I had a chance to interact with several of the major third party grading services in recent months. PSA inched forward with a bulk order of refractors, completing the grading process and placing the cards in a 4 week and counting quality assurance purgatory.
I sent my Hank Aaron rookie to SGC for encapsulation, but it was returned ungraded after being deemed too mangled for review. Perhaps I should have taken their lack of response to an earlier email inquiry as a sign this should have been avoided. I spotted an auction of a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle in similar condition that was graded by industry newcomer CSG and decided to try my luck. 12 days after sending my card they had graded it as “Authentic-Altered” and placed it back in the mail. The postal service has had possession of it for nearly as long but I expect it to be returned soon. Points for CSG all around.
I also continue to track the graded populations of several sets I collect. There were no major surprises. 1993 Finest Refractors experienced a bump in card grading with PSA evaluating 262 new examples over the past three months. Their 2001 cousins in the Finest Origins set saw their own population expand by 6, almost all of which were the popular Derek Jeter card.
Four baseball themed books were devoured in recent months. I found Cooperstown Confidential, Zev Chafet’s screed against Hall of Fame sanctimony, to be the most enjoyable. Roger Kahn’s classic The Boys of Summer was the most stylistically pleasing as it recounted the author’s years as a fledgling report covering the Dodgers and his follow up visits with players decades later. Bill Madden’s 1954 recounted the first season in which racially integrated teams supplanted less diverse teams at the top of the game. Thomas and Ellen Zappala’s Baseball & Bubble Gum was something I knew I would want to flip through given my pursuit of the 1952 Topps set.
A new bookstore in town had a copy of the Shoeless Joe Jackson biography Fall From Grace for sale. I purchased it and tucked away for reading at a later date after noting that it was in the running for an award from SABR.