Wednesday, July 26th, 2006
10:52 am - Paper Heroes...  
Today's Slate has a piece on baseball cards, and how the bottom has dropped out of what was once one of the few investments that never lost money. Of course, the reason for the former was that too many people figured out the latter at about the same time, with predictable results. The demand for cards, especially the highly sought after "rookie" cards, i.e., the first card upon which a particular player had appeared, went through the roof. Card shops and card shows proliferated, and the manufacturers started producing more card sets to meet the demand, each more special than the rest. When I was a kid, there was just one manufacturer, and one set, Topps, which we bought a pack at a time. Ten cards a stick of rock-hard gum for a nickel. Even into the mid-eighties, there were still only three competing sets, Topps, Fleer, and Donruss.

It was about then that I briefly began collecting again. I'd had a lot of cards when I was a kid, some of which would be worth small fortunes today. I had multiples of Mantle, and Koufax, and Mays, and Aaron. And Ray Sadecki, but I clipped those to my bicycle as noisemakers. Typically for most of us who did collect when we were kids, my mother threw them out when we moved across town. (I remind her of this from time to time. She also reminds me that she also threw out my sisters' vintage Barbies, which she regretted muchly when she began collecting dolls later on. Then my father reminds me that I swiped the baseball he had stashed in the attic, and used it for neighborhood games until it was destroyed. You know, the one that had Babe Ruth's autograph on it. Oops.) Over the years I'd pick up a couple of packs here and there, so I never completely abandoned the hobby. Actually, I wound up with an awful lot of cards from 1979 for some reason. Anyway, my landlord dragged me off to a card show in '87. He was in it for the investment. I went because I liked the cards.

It was fun. Mike was looking to invest. I was looking for mementos. I picked up some cards of favorite Dodgers, a few old cards, and tried to fill in some of the gaps in the '79 set I'd inadvertently started. After that I went to a few more shows, stopped in at a few shops, and kept plugging away on the Dodgers and '79. The most expensive single card I ever bought was Ron Cey's rookie card, at $30 or so. (It wasn't that expensive because Cey was on it. It was expensive because it was also Mike Schmidt's rookie card. Schmidt turned out to be the greatest third baseman ever.) Eventually I even bought a few complete sets to put aside for my retirement, one each of the big three, along with the new kid on the block, Upper Deck.

This was right on the cusp of the proliferation of manufacturers and sets. Upper Deck was a "premium" card, with better production values than their competitors. Soon, Topps, et al., started issuing premium sets, and things escalated. More manufacturers, more sets, and not much difference among any of them. I gave up. Everything became about greed, and it wasn't any fun. I knew it was only a matter of time before the Franklin Mint got involved in cards. The Slate piece mentions that there were ninety different sets in 2004, and forty this year. The hucksters ruined it for everyone.

I still have the sets I bought back then. I really ought to put them up on eBay. The '79 set remains unfinished, and valuable only to me. I still have my Cey rookie card. One of these days I need to figure out the best way to display some of them.

I had one good laugh in the Slate piece. He used to buy cards from Fat Moose. I used to shop in Fat Moose's store, too (though at the time it was more for comics and wargames than cards). I mean, how many Fat Mooses could there be?

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Harold Reynolds was fired yesterday from ESPN's Baseball Tonight, and since no one at ESPN is commenting, speculation was rampant over at the Griddle. There is some very funny stuff over there. As for the actual reason he got fired, there are rumors that it was either for sexual harrassment, or because he had a melt down in a meeting about the network's coverage of A-Rod's recent problems. I'm thinking it would have to be one hell of a meltdown for it to have been the latter, but if it was the former, why would ESPN then give Reynolds's spot on BBTN to Steve Phillips, who was fired as GM of the Mets for sexual harrassment?

[eta] And Reynolds has confirmed that it was for sexual harrassment, although he claims his inappropriate hug was misinterpreted. Could be. When you see things on TV like the President of the United States giving uninvited neck rubs to the Chancellor of Germany, it's entirely possible Reynolds thought his actions were appropriate. Sure it is...

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Speaking of Phillips, he has been vociferously calling for the Yanks to trade A-Rod, and folks are questioning if he might not be all together unbiased on the subject. Truth be told, Phillips was a terrible GM, and any criticism he has for other GMs has to be taken with a colossal grain of salt. Hey, I'd take A-Rod in a New York second, but Brian Cashman isn't that stupid.
 
 
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David J. Schwartzsnurri on July 26th, 2006 - 02:59 pm
The Harold Reynolds thing makes no sense to me. I haven't had regular access to ESPN in a few years, but when I did I rarely missed Baseball Tonight, and that was for two reasons: Harold, and Peter Gammons. Man, what's going on over there?
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DXMachinadxmachina on July 26th, 2006 - 03:06 pm
No kidding. One of the facetious comments about the firing I saw was that ESPN found out that Harold had picked Gammons in the corporate dead pool.

Also, I updated with the news that Reynolds has confirmed that it was for sexual harrassment. And it's all a big mistake, of course.
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David J. Schwartzsnurri on July 26th, 2006 - 03:22 pm
Damn. Well, considering that the piece frames it as part of a pattern, it's hard to defend him. What a shame.
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