A month after a winning bid on eBay, my first Japanese baseball card arrived from half-way around the world.
The listing said it's of Tadayoshi Kajioka, a pitcher who would win 131 games in the Japanese league.
Is it really Kajioka? I have no way of knowing.
Does anyone out there read Japanese? I'd love to know what the card says.
Regardless, it's a valued addition to my poor old baseball card collection.
You might say I'm downright opposed to encasing these poor old baseball cards in plastic.
But this card is different.
As a kid, before the Internet, I used to buy most of my cards from a dealer in Northern California. He would send me a list of cards he had available and every few weeks I'd place my order.
Then, like now, I gravitated to the older cards — T206's and strip cards made up the bulk of what I collected.
Back then, HOF strip cards would run about $10 or so. Bigger names like Ty Cobb would be more. Commons would be available for about $3-$5.
Except Pickles Dilhoefer. Pickles would always be listed at HOF prices. I couldn't justify spending that kind of money for a ballplayer who's only claim to fame was being part of a trade involving Grover Cleveland Alexander.
Thirty years later, I want Pickles Dilhoefer.
While it's never about the money, my purchase of these poor old cards are in a sense an investment. I always try to pay what I think the card is worth, never more.
But when it came to Pickles, my sense of 'want' overtook my sense of 'worth.' This card cost me $27. Is it worth it? I'm not sure.
But it doesn't matter. I am the proud owner of my very own Pickles Dilhoefer.
Post inserted two cards in issues of the April 13, 1962 Life Magazine. It was part of an ad linking Post Cereal and subscriptions to Life Magazine.
Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, coming off their battle for the single-season HR record, were promoted heavily and the only two players to appear in the advertisement. The perforated edges and lack of blue lines separating the stats provide us with other clues that this card is not a cereal box card.
Sometime during this card's life, Mantle was ripped in two. Was it done when separating the card from the ad? Was is done in later years? Who knows?
What I can tell you is it wasn't done recently. That transparent tape is brittle and old.
If only baseball cards could talk.
Walker, more commonly known as Gee Walker, was a pretty good player. He was named an All Star in 1937, beginning that season (on Opening Day) with an "unnatural cycle" (a cycle in reverse order: HR, 3B, 2B, 1B).
He had a good career.
So who would scratch out Walker's name in 1934, replacing it with a not-yet-Major Leaguer named DiMaggio?
My guess is this creative drawing was done a few years later. DiMaggio was in the Pacific Coast League in 1934, an outfielder with the San Francisco Seals. He would not make his Yankees debut until 1936.
Was DiMaggio even on the baseball world's radar in 1934? Maybe he was. In 1933, DiMaggio hit .340 and was undoubtedly in the news for his 61-game hitting streak. Between May 28 and July 25, he hit .405 (104-for-257).
I'm sure that opened a few eyes.
Maybe even for a young baseball collector hoping to have the next up-and-coming star. You think?
A few days ago, I took a chance. I offered $7 for this beauty on eBay. It had a Buy it Now price of $15. I expected to be counteroffered.
I wasn't and the card was mine for $7. What a bargain.
Clemente was coming off his second batting title in 1964. He would win the title four times (1961, '64, '65 and '67).
He ended his career with 3,000 hits. Who knows how many more were in his bat before dying in a plane crash carrying relief supplies to Nicaraguan earthquake victims.
While it's a beaut, there's one thing that bothers me about this card. "Bob."
His name is Roberto and he wanted to be known as such. I wonder why baseball card companies felt the need to Americanize his name?
A snippet from Encyclopedia Britannica online:
While Clemente amassed a mountain of impressive statistics during his career, he was often mocked by the print media in the United States for his heavy Spanish accent. Clemente was also subjected to the double discrimination of being a foreigner and being black in a racially segregated society. Although the media tried to call him “Bob” or “Bobby” and many of his baseball cards use “Bob,” Clemente explicitly rejected those nicknames, stating in no uncertain terms that his name was Roberto. There was also confusion over the correct form of his surname. For 27 years the plaque at the National Baseball Hall of Fame read “Roberto Walker Clemente,” mistakenly placing his mother’s maiden name before his father’s surname. Only in 2000 was it changed to its proper Latin American form, Roberto Clemente Walker.