Friday, November 21, 2008

Bat Around- What I Collect and Why

As a kid, from age 6-12, I collected baseball cards for the same reasons many of us did, as a way to be connected to my favorite teams and players. I have always loved baseball and grew up a fan of three teams; the Cubs, White Sox, and the LA Dodgers. Although I am from Chicago, my Grandma was a huge Dodgers fan and I fondly remember watching the 1978 World Series with her rooting for Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, Ron Cey, Kenny Landreaux, Dusty Baker, Steve Yeager and Pedro Guerrero, while they battled Reggie Jackson and the Evil Empire.

When I re-entered the Hobby in the fall of 2000, after taking a typical hiatus in my teens and 20's to pursue girls, partying, college, and travel, I must say I was a bit overwhelmed to say the least. One day a friend of mine asked me, "Hey, when was the last time you were in a baseball card shop or have seen a baseball card?" The answer was obviously not in a very long time. I remember him showing me a Roger Clemens card with a piece of fabric embedded in the card. I asked him what it was and when he replied, "A piece of a jersey he wore in a game.", I was floored. He then proceeded to show me cards with autographs on them from Ryne Sandberg and Tony Gwynn and at that moment I was hooked.

From the cancelled World Series, due to the player's strike in 1994 (I was still bitter until the Sox when in '05 because they were unstoppable that year) until the Home Run Chase between Sosa and McGwire in 1998 I had boycotted baseball, disgusted that the greed of both the players and owners caused a World Series to actually be cancelled. With baseball having received my forgiveness, combined with being turned onto a whole new era of collecting and having disposable income as a YUPPIE DINK (Young Urban Professional, Dual Income No Kids) I dove head first back into the Hobby.

The first 3-4 years were a whirlwind, I wanted it all. I was dumping $300 or more a month on new product, tickled pink with every memorabilia, serial numbered card, die-cut, refractor, autograph, and complete base set I
accumulated. It wasn't long after that before I began to question if that was all I was really doing, accumulating, versus actually collecting. I continued with my habits for another year. Then my first daughter was born. Diapers, formula, clothes, etc quickly ate into my Hobby budget. It was time to take a good hard look at my "collection" and determine, "What DO I collect?"

I started the process by asking myself in a somewhat morbid and hopefully not self-fulfilling prophecy kind of way, "If there was a flood or fire, what would I be most bummed to lose?" Well, when you come at it from that perspective, the answers come pretty quickly. It became obvious that my player collections focused around Cal Ripken Jr., Nolan Ryan and Shoeless Joe Jackson. My team collections were dominated by my hometown of Chicago obviously, across all sports. Being an all-sports fan, I realized I had been collecting cards of athletes I like in Indy Car, Golf, Olympians, Wrestling, etc. I also think chic athletes are cool, especially if they are hot, so I have a Sports Divas collection dominated by Danica Patrick, Amanda Beard, Jennie Finch, Trish Stratus, and Stacey Keibler. (and yes WWE is entertainment but it is athletic entertainment)

My second favorite sport is hockey. I love the speed of the game and the grace of the play making, the aggressiveness and the sportsmanship. Being from a town that hosts an Original Six franchise with the storied history that the Blackhawks do, it was easy to get hooked on hockey. Because I love the sport, I also collect key RC's of the league's best players.

While I am still a sucker for busting packs and boxes, discretionary income is nearly non-existent now with 2 kids, I have to stay focused. Being a player collector is tough today. There was a time when it was possible to collect every single card of a player ever produced. The 1-of-1 changed all that, but that's OK. Outside of set building I have never had that "completist" thing that a lot of collectors feel. So I enjoy my Ripken, Ryan, and Shoeless Joe collections for what they are.

One of the great things about collecting is that it is something my wife enjoys as well. When we first met in 1998, she was, and still is, a HUGE baseball fan. She helped me work through my grudge against the sport. She is from Ohio and a huge Indians fan. Her favorite player, has and always will be, despite being older and playing in San Francisco, Omar Vizquel. I turned her onto the Hobby and she has one of the most impressive Vizquel collections. Because he is not collected like Ripken and Ryan. she has multiple autographs and even game used bats, 2 in fact!! I will never in my life, be able to afford real game used memorabilia for my player collections.

So that's what I collect, why and how. Now, anybody up for a trade?

Oh . . and yes, I'm still a sucker for modern cards from that legendary Dodgers team of my youth.


Motherscratcher said...

Great post. Don't be so sure that the White Sox were unstoppable in '94. The Tribe was comming for ya!

Your wife sounds like a highly intelligent woman.

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