8.30.2013

1933 Goudey
Morris "Moe" Berg

Do you remember that old Heinz Ketchup commercial? The one with the "anticipation" jingle?

Well that was me this week. I've wanted this card for 35-plus years and today it arrived.

As a kid of the 80s, I always wanted certain cards: any Mickey Mantle, any Babe Ruth, any Ty Cobb, any Honus Wagner and this very card.

Mantle, check. Ruth, check. Cobb, check. Wagner, check. Berg, check.

One of the only cards I still really, really want is a 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth. But any of those cards (there are four) may be out of my price range. Even a poor old version is likely to set me back close to $1,000. And then there's the fake factor. I've come to the realization that if I ever were to purchase such a card it would have to be graded. And you know how I feel about having a card encased in plastic.

Moe Berg actually played with Babe Ruth as part of an All-Star team that traveled to Japan in 1934. What was a light-hitting, backup catcher doing on an All-Star team? Well, he did speak Japaneese. He actually spoke seven languages and was a graduate of Princeton and Columbia Law School. It could be argued that Berg was the smartest baseball player to ever play in the Big Leagues. He couldn't hit, but was very intelligent.

While in Japan, Berg filmed parts of the Tokyo skyline and harbor. It is said that Berg's footage was used to identify targets as the U.S. bombed Tokyo during World War II.

Did I mention Moe Berg was a spy? After his life in baseball, Berg joined the OSS, a precursor to the CIA. He even traveled to Europe during the war and gained intelligence on Germany's nuclear program. He was a real hero.

As a kid, Moe Berg fascinated me. As an adult, Moe Berg fascinates me.

Oh, and by the way, I have another Moe Berg card in the mail, a 1940 Play Ball. I will be happy to see that card arrive also, but not as happy as when this one landed in my mailbox.

As I said, I've been waiting a long time.

8.17.2013

1962 Topps
Warren Spahn

I wanted to go to a baseball card show.

A real show with more than a few tables of rookie and "game-used" cards. I wanted to go to a show where I could look through a stack of T206s or 1948 Leafs or anything older than 1980.

A recent google search turned up the Frank & Sons Collectible Show in the City of Industry near Los Angeles. It's a twice-a-week show that has much more than sports stuff.

After a two-hour drive, I found myself at a large warehouse filled with collectibles from Japanese animation art to action figures to comic books.

Oh, and there were a few dozen dealers with baseball cards.

I picked this card up at the first booth I stopped at. I asked the dealer for poor old baseball cards and he pulled out a stack for me to thumb through. I eventually bought the whole stack for $70. There must have been well over 100 cards from the 50s, 60s and 70s. They included Warren Spahn, Hank Aaron, Nolan Ryan, Pete Rose, Yogi Berra, Stan Musial and Whitey Ford. There were even a dozen or so 1952 Topps cards, each trimmed down with scissors. Too bad.

It seemed as if the dealer just wanted to get rid of the beaters. And I was happy to take them off his hands.

A few tables down, I asked another dealer if he had any poor old baseball cards. He seemed quite shocked that anyone would want what he termed "junk." Well as the saying goes, one man's junk is another's treasure.

He asked me why I collected the "junk." He wasn't being a jerk, he really seemed curious as to why I wanted those cards.

He then turned to his partner, who I think was his dad, and said: "Show him that card."

The older man pulled out a 1954 Topps Jackie Robinson that was truly deserving of this blog. It was torn, taped, wrinkled, scraped and just plain worn out.

The young man's next words were: "It's not for sale."

Funny how the duo was selling thousands of cards behind glass with pricetags but this one card was "not for sale." Obviously that card had some meaning to the old man.

I wanted to but I didn't say it: "That's why I collect poor old baseball cards."