1.25.2015

1923 W515-1
Bill Cunningham

I picked up these two strip cards this week for a total cost of $7. A bargain in my book. But when it came to deciding which to post, I had trouble selecting just one. Usually I'd choose the poorer of the two. Each have their qualities. I decided to post both.

Bill Cunningham was one of those players who was obviously good enough to warrant a baseball card. But when looking up his bio, I couldn't find much.

Sure, the basics are available: Throws right, bats right, plays outfield. A member of the New York Giants and Boston Braves. We know his birth and death dates, his stats and the fact he was a member of the Giants' world championship team in 1922. We know he was traded to the Braves in 1923 along with Dave Bancroft and Casey Stengel for Joe Oeschger and Billy Southworth.

That's about all I could find. No info on his life after baseball. No funny stories. Not even an obituary.

But he does have a few baseball cards. A lasting legacy for a man who played the game he loved.

1.24.2015

1969 Topps
Ernie Banks

Ernie Banks died yesterday.

As a kid, I determined that the best baseball players ever were those that topped the home run list.

And for the longest time, Ernie Banks was near the top tied at 512 with Eddie Mathews.

When I was 8, I remember being out with my dad and hearing all about Ernie Banks on the radio as he was about to be enshrined in Cooperstown.

When I was barely a teen, I remember seeing one of his cards in the 25-cent bin of my local baseball card shop. I bought it.

I never met Ernie Banks. I never saw him play. But I knew that, along with being a superstar player, he was a superstar of a person: an attitude towards the game equal to his playing ability.

RIP 'Mr. Cub." RIP Ernie Banks.

1.01.2015

1952 Topps Look 'n See
Babe Ruth

It's the beginning of a new year and I've ignored my little blog for too long. So while combing through my recent purchases, I felt like I needed to post something special – something you don't see everyday.

I hope this Babe Ruth fits the bill.

This is the only "baseball card" in the 1952 Look 'n See set. Though Ruth may be the most popular card of the 135-cards made of famous figures, it's not the most valuable. That honor goes to the Dutch painter Rembrandt. Go figure.

Rembrandt: no thanks; Babe Ruth: awesome.

As a collector of poor old baseball cards, I've recently read several articles on how baseball cards are worthless. The reference was to all those cards made in the 1990s. You know, the ones that are probably in the back of your friends' closets. The ones that were supposed to fund college educations and retirements. They didn't, they won't.

The truth: they are worthless. I got rid of mine years ago at a garage sale for pennies. They're not worth the space they take up in your home.

But the cards that do hold their value are those old cards (pre-1980 in my opinion) that your mother threw away. The ones your dad and granddad had before they met their demise in the local landfill.

Supply and demand: There are far fewer of these cards than the glut of those cards in the 1980-90s. Did mom or grandma help diminish supplies by dumping them? Probably. Did that contribute to their worth? Maybe.

But so did the carefree attitude we had for them: Rubber bands, thumbtacks and backs of jean pockets.

Sometimes I wonder what people think when I tell them I collect baseball cards. I wonder if they think I have stacks of cards in boxes in my closet waiting to fund my retirement.

The answer is, I do. But its not the cards they're thinking of. No Derek Jeters. No Clayton Kershaws. Nothing newer than 1980. My cards look more like the one above. Poor. Old. And hopefully, not worthless.

11.15.2014

1952 Topps
Joe Garagiola

The 1952 Topps design is considered by most to be the best. And when it comes to individual cards, this Joe Garagiola ranks right up there too.

My memories of Garagiola are not as a player but as an announcer with the NBC game of the week. I remember Garagiola and Tony Kubek and Vin Scully and Bob Costas. As a kid, I would have to tune into the Saturday game to get my baseball fix. There was no ESPN and my local team was not on T.V.

Garagiola was a good catcher who was considered a great prospect. He grew up on the same street at another catcher — Yogi Berra. Of his catching abilities, Garagiola once said: "Not only was I not the best catcher in the Major Leagues, I wasn't even the best catcher on my street."

11.08.2014

1948 Bowman
Bill McCahan

What can I say? This poor old baseball card was well loved.

McCahan was a two-sport athlete playing both baseball and professional basketball — a member of the Syracuse Nationals of the National Basketball League.

As a baseball player, he threw a no-hitter in his rookie season of 1947 against the Washington Senators. A second-inning throwing error kept him from the perfect game.

A few observations about this card:

Bill McCahan is not exactly a household name. How did this card survive? I mean, when the card got to a certain point, why wasn't it just tossed in the garbage?

How did it get so worn? My guess is it lived in the back pocket of it's first owner. Or, maybe it was kept in his shoe for safekeeping.

And finally, who would want this old piece of cardboard? The answer: me. And I love it.

11.01.2014

1970 Topps
Jerry McNertney


Choosing which cards I post is sometimes difficult.

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you've probably come to realize I'm partial to the older cards. The older and poorer the better.

So when I came across this 1970 Topps card, I had reservations. It's not of a notable player. It's not particularly rare. It's not valuable. It's got it's share of creases and bends, put I've posted much worse.

The thing is does have going for it is the team: Seattle Pilots. Check out that uniform and cap.

The Pilots were born in 1969 and by 1970 had already vacated the Pacific Northwest to become the Milwaukee Brewers.

New owner Bud Selig didn't get final approval to move the team until only a few days before the 1970 season was scheduled to begin. He had intended to change the team's identity but was left with the old Seattle uniforms and colors.

Milwaukee never did change its colors. Though a different shading, the blue and gold remain. Thanks to the Seattle Pilots.

10.29.2014

1960 Topps
Warren Spahn


I learned something new today. Warren Spahn hit 35 homers in his career —ranking him third behind Wes Ferrell (38) and Bob Lemon (37) for pitchers all time.

He was around a long time, playing 21 seasons and acquiring 363 wins. His cards are readily available and relatively affordable.

And I've got my share.

I must have more poor old Warren Spahn's than any other player. And this card does not disappoint. Take a look: creased, rounded corners, scuffed, pen marks, glued to a scrapbook and glasses drawn on his face.

When it comes to poor old baseball cards this one checks all the boxes except for ripped in two.

For all it's flaws, I love it. How can you not love Warren Spahn?

10.27.2014

1934 Goudey
Frankie Frisch

I once had a colleague propose that baseball's Hall-of-Fame should be limited to a certain number of members. An interesting argument. 

In other words, if a new player is deserving, an older player must be removed. Top 100 players only.

Frankie Frisch would not approve. Some say it's his fault the Hall has so many mediocre players.

As a member of the Veteran's Committee, Frisch is said to have used his influence to usher in what some consider the Hall's least-deserving members.

My thought is this: Either you're a Hall-of-Famer or not. If you need to make an argument for a player's inclusion, maybe he's not deserving. A Hall-of-Famer should be automatic, you should't need to think long about whether they're worthy.

Rickey Henderson: No argument.
Derek Jeter: No argument.
Lee Smith: No dice.

Is baseball's Hall-of-Fame oversubscribed?

10.25.2014

1962 Topps
Roger Maris

I've been waiting for this card for a while. As a collector of poor old baseball cards, I've been looking for that perfect 1962 Roger Maris.

And by perfect, I mean perfectly poor.

As I've mentioned before, I rarely purchase any baseball card that is not in poor condition. I can't justify spending big bucks for a card I can get for a fraction of the price.

Plus, I like my cards to tell a story. And this card's story probably includes the back of someone's jeans pocket.

As the new single-season home run king, Maris was on top of the baseball world in 1962 and must have been one of the most desirable cards of that year's set. That, along with the fact it's card No. 1, means condition will always be a concern.

I can just imagine unwrapping this gem in the summer of '62. I'm sure it's new owner couldn't help sharing it with friends, keeping it in his back pocket for safekeeping.

Come to think of it, that's where I kept it when it arrived a few days ago – in my back pocket (in it's rigid sleeve) ready to show the world my latest find.

10.21.2014

1948-50 Japanese Menko
Tadayoshi Kajioka

This arrived today.

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.