Topps used 86 words to write Bob Kuzava’s biography on the back of his 1952 baseball card. I’m not going to do much more, as this card is better used to tell the story of a card collecting pioneer. Kuzava was a serviceable journeyman pitcher, playing for 7 MLB teams in 12 seasons. He is most well known for getting saves in the clinching games of the ’51 and ’52 World Series. Despite his success as a reliever, he was primarily a starting pitcher. Stats below:
When I see the Bob Kuzava card residing in my collection I don’t think about the one-time Yankee pitcher. Instead, I see the work of one of the hobby pioneers. This card was purchased from Gar Miller, a collector who started out buying packs of 1949 Bowman and started actively dealing cards as a teenager in 1953. He’s got a great story, from trading T-206 cards for pennies in the 1950s to bringing one of the few T-206 Honus Wagner cards into the hobby in a mid-1970s find. He was part of the hobby’s early traveling dealers alongside guys like pre-price guide era Jim Beckett. Mr. Miller reportedly last set up shop at a card show in the 1980s, a decade or so before the card boom topped out. He still has a sizable inventory of cards for sale but generally conducts business by mail and through his website baseball-cards.net.
A year ago I had assumed all the original hobby giants had long since stepped away from direct work within the collecting community. I then came across a message board post detailing Mr. Miller’s history and was intrigued. A visit to his website identified a handful of 1952 Topps commons and a buy order for three cards was soon on the way to New Jersey. I received two of the cards along with an apology that the third was no longer available. The enclosed note also had good things to say about my town and school, both of which are currently shared with a person in his family. Good stuff.
I highly recommend checking out the Net54 post that started me on this search. In addition to impressions from old school collectors about dealing with Mr. Miller there are scans of several hobby publications. Also recommended is George Vrechek’s August 4, 2017 Sports Collectors Digest feature about Mr. Miller.
Shown above is the Kuzava card that arrived in my collection via Mr. Miller. The card is true to its advertised poor condition, though the damage is primarily relegated to a pair of out of the way black stains on the lower right. There is no “settling” for provenance over condition with this card and it fits right in with the majority of my set.