Monday, January 2, 2012

THANKS, BOB

BOOG WAS BIG AND SO WAS HIS SIG.
ALWAYS LIKED OLIVER'S AUTOGRAPH.
I'm almost 50, so the 1970s should've been my collecting heyday. I remember my cousin from Pittsburgh getting an entire wax box from his dad (my uncle), and we'd rip open the packs on the living room floor. He had dibs on the Pirates; I could keep the Orioles.

I wasn't a fanatical collector. I was always outside playing and just never found a lot of time for cards, but I followed the game and the NFL closely. The ones I most remember were the team checklist cards with the facsimile autographs.

And when I got to that certain age ... well, the few I had were long gone. Even those of my favorite player, Brooks Robinson.

MY HOLY GRAIL.
In the mid-'80s, the bug bit and entered my delayed heyday. My first complete set was ’87 Topps. Still remember hearing the news early in the season when the Brewers’ Juan Nieves threw a no-hitter against my Orioles. I dug into my set and picked out the Nieves card.

DEFINITELY NOT THE NEXT KOUFAX.
I had never heard of him, so I studied the back and the front. He might be the next big thing, I thought.

I based my collection on completing sets, hot rookies and singles of Hall of Fame players. Back then, I called it "investing.'' I read books about collecting and became an eagle-eyed student of card grading. Probably the best thing that I ever did was visit a great little baseball card store.

NOTHING COMMON HERE.
The owner was named Bob and the store Bob’s Baseball Cards. Bob was an older guy who was more about educating and talking baseball than making a buck. While busy searching his display, he jabbered about the importance of adding depth to your collection.

Like a near-mint 1952 Topps Joe DeMaestri.

Joe DeWho?
DOUBLE D THROUGH THE KNOT HOLE.

That’s what I thought, too. But, he asked, how often do you see one of these, a near-mint example from the first big-time set ever produced? Look at the color! Check out the back! Hold it! This is baseball card history!

I really wasn’t impressed. Wonder if Bob ever heard of Mickey Mantle?

He practically gave the card to me.

In time, he sold me some ’49 Bowman commons and a pretty cool '58 Hires Root Beer Don Drysdale. None of these came from his display. In reality, I didn't know where this would lead. I was still searching for the next Mantle and Koufax and definitely not the next DeMaestri.

Now I get it. Now I understand what Bob was talking about.

Sure, owning the classic cards of the greats thrills any collector, but it's the oddball cards and vintage commons that add depth. Composition is scrutinized almost as closely as condition. Corners? Reasonably sharp. Centering? Not bad. Sideburns? Gem Mint.


MUDCAT, YOU'RE A BAD MUTHA------
Until I bought that DeMaestri, I never held a ’52 Topps card, never saw the back of one, never realized how big it was.

Bob was right. It is a damn cool card.

Those tiny Bowmans, including Vernon Bickford below? Well, I kind of forgot about them until recently. I bought a few others at a card show a couple months back, and now I’m getting an itch to build that set. Or at least trying to.

So what will this blog be about? Highlighting cards from my collection, random memories of growing up a sports-crazed kid in the late '60s and '70s and occasionally featuring some autographs. And maybe some more reminiscing about Bob and others like him. I hope to encourage you to grow your collection. If not your sideburns.
THE EPITOME OF LESS IS MORE.

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