Purging baseball cards for the good of future generations

I put all my baseball cards from 1979 to 1998 in the neighborhood rummage sale.

Silver Sage Village is having a 16 household rummage sale on September 19th and everyone has been culling through their junk. My office mate moved to one he set up in his apartment and this has given me a good chance to go through my stuff.

I’ve been selling unwanted things on ebay, including parts of my sports card collection. My account is AnAmericanPlaceII which is an homage to social realism photographer Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery in New York City.

In a past life, I had a sports card store front called Pine Riders in Riverton, Wyoming that opened during the sports card bubble in the late 1980s through the 1990s. The great thing about having a store like that was buying, selling and trading for my own hobby, as well as helping others support theirs. To this day, I’m amazed I was able to keep the doors open turning over cardboard worth a dime to a few bucks.

On Pine Riders opening day, former Yankees pitcher who won the decisive game of the 1961 World Series, Bud Daley, came over and signed autographs. I ran into Bud at the Wind River Casino when I was in Fremont County a few months back.

When I moved from Wyoming to Colorado over 20 years ago, I hauled literally a ton of cards with me in notebooks, boxes and brief cases that took up space in closets, crawl spaces and basements.

At the height of the card bubble, I had a colleague trade my entire collection of cards – complete sets from 1958 through 1998 – around 25,000 cards – for a handful of items that are of more interest to me and much less bulky to haul around. Among my newly pared down collection is a 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle card and Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig autographs.

My friend Rodger McDaniel recently wrote a blog post about how he was once a millionaire before his mother threw away his baseball card collection with included a few 1952 Mickey Mantle cards. That Topps card is one of the few Holy Grails of the hobby. My mom, on the other hand, saved mine in a box which was the basis of my collection as I have continued it to this day.

Rodger’s lament is one of the classics.

In getting ready for the garage sale, I am doing my part to increase the value of the newer vintage of sports cards that are generally from 1980 to the present.

I realized I had no heart-felt feelings about them, like I do for the rest of my Yankees collections and started slashing and burning. I collect:

  • 1919 Yankees for no particular reason except that Chicago Bears founder George Halas was on that team and this also was the year of the Black Sox Scandal;
  • 1923 Yankees were the first to play in Yankee Stadium and won the first World Series title that year;
  • 1932 Yankees finished the season winning the World Series and highlighted by Babe Ruth’s supposed “called shot” home run for a sick kid and also the first year for Frank Crosetti;
  • 1961 – 1962 Yankees‘ third base coach was Frank Crosetti and this was also the first year I paid close attention to baseball mostly because of Maris and Mantle chasing Babe Ruth’s home run record;
  • 1977 – 1978 Yankees with Reggie, Reggie, Reggie!
  • 2001 Yankees since I went to New York for games 3 and 4 of the World Series a month after 9/11

I emptied out all my boxes of Donruss, Fleer, Bowman and Topps, cards, which in this day and age have little value to me personally or financially. The huge number of cards and sets and subsets became unmanageable. Now, I could care less about Harold Baines or even Mark McGwire who took a personal and professional nose dive in the wake of the performance enhancing drug scandals.

Those are all going to the garage sale along with hundreds more – George Brett, Nolan Ryan …

Free agency also screwed things up. It used to be a player stayed on the same team for his entire career. Now, a pitcher has a good year and gets traded.

I’ve always been a Yankees fan and many of those I’m tossing are of ballyhooed young players like Brien Taylor and Pat Kelly. I also have a lot of players like Joe Girardi who were okay, but not great players. I also had a lot of Girardi cards because he was one of the original Colorado Rockies in the 1992 expansion draft.

During this time period, I was in a rotisserie baseball league called the Buttheads. I always collected cards of the players on my team – the Yangs – which gave a bit of reality to the fantasy. I have a lot of Greg Maddux cards and Pedro Astacio, Denny Neagle (I was the only Butthead to select Rockies pitchers).

Why the Yangs?

In Star Trek Episode 52 “The Omega Glory” Kirk and crew find themselves in some alternate world where the good guys are the Yangs and bad buys are the Coms.

Back to sorting.

I’m a member of a facebook group called Baseball Card of the Day. Members post images of cards for various reasons, memories, updating about the status of their collections. Occasionally, there will be someone who talks about leaving their collection to their kids to pay for their college educations.

I say, do your kids a favor and cash in your cards while you’re still alive. If a guy like me who  has a pretty good idea as to how much a Frank Thomas 1990 Leaf card is worth and where I might find someone who would might buy it, an heir with no idea about the hobby will have a hard time figuring out how to parlay that 1989 complete set of Topps baseball cards into microbiology textbooks.

Baseball cards are for moms to decide to keep or throw away, it’s much less stressful.

By the way, If you’re holding a Joe Hesketh rookie card, it just went up in value because I threw mine away.

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The #HandsUpDontShoot and #ICantBreathe protestors in Ferguson and NYC need closers

Protesters block highway 36 in Boulder, Colorado (Photo by the Daily Camera)

Protesters block highway 36 in Boulder, Colorado (Photo by the Daily Camera)

Even in white bread Boulder, Colorado protesters and marchers have taken it to the streets in the wake of the cop killings of  Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

The problem?

There’s no end game.

The movement needs closers.

Lot’s of glittering generalities scrawled on the placards – “justice for Mike”, “hands up don’t shoot”, “no killler cops” … reactionary causes like this are heavy on feel good symbolism and light on outcomes. I had high hopes for the Occupy movement, too, but that fizzled.

Already the Brown – Garner furor has waned and CNN is on to the next news cycle about CIA torture and vicious Sony emails.

That’s too bad.

About the only outlet that oppressed people have to get their larger communities to take notice is through civil and criminal disobedience and the willingness to accept the consequences of jail time and injury. The topic moved race relations to the forefront, though, even forcing Walmart to pull a TV ad.

Race riots around the country in 1964 got the nation's attention.

Race riots around the country in 1964 got the nation’s attention.

Back in the 1960s, segregation was a state’s right and legal in the south. The bus boycotts and restaurant sit-ins initially were not that successful but the 1964 riots in Chicago, Harlem and Philadelphia got people’s attention. This was also the first time there was TV news coverage.

What was the end game?

The Civil Rights Act of 1964.

This is the 50th anniversary of that legislation which passed by landslides in both houses of the US Congress and Lyndon Johnson’s trademark legislation carrying the torch for John Kennedy.

Half a century later, the country has come along way in civil rights, but what’s next?

No laws will change societal attitudes. That’s work that each person has to do on their own by looking in the mirror and deciding what kind of person they want to be; ask what values do they want to instill in their children and the children of others; decide if its work losing friends over their new outlooks.

It’s hard work.

You ask anyone and nobody will say they are “racist”.

Their rationales?

“I don’t burn churches and wear white hoods.” I hear people say they are “color blind.”

If a person is truly “color blind” they should be willing to give up personal power to people of color and oppressed people.

The work goes way beyond exchanging pleasantries at church coffees – although that’s a good start for some people.

the notion of cultural competency rears its head from time to time. It wouldn’t surprise me if there aren’t funds for this in the big federal program Obama unveiled the other day that would give money to local police departments to buy body cameras.  The problem is, cultural competency work is generally an “add-on” and not really integrated into the day to day workings. It gets discussed on a reactionary basis.

Quality of law enforcement can be plotted on a bell curve. On one end are bad cops that lie, cheat, steal and kill and on the other end are great cops that save kitties from trees, help a stranded motorist. We just need a whole bunch of okay cops, good cops. In fact, the vast majority are okay and good trying to make a living for themselves and their families. Here’s an example of a cop who caught a woman shoplifting eggs.

What were his choices?

He could embarrass her by a shake down in the store. He could call in back-up; He could see if the store wanted to press charges; or he could pay for the eggs, which he did. I doubt he got any special training to do this, but rather he’s just a nice guy.

I also think that people and police generally want to change their attitudes towards inclusion, but there aren’t any readily accessible day to day tools, other than, maybe through a church or nonprofit, or workplace.

Law enforcement officers catch the brunt of frustration and I think that’s just part of the job. If the protest groups get their acts together, what might be some outcomes for them for them to pursue? This is largely a local issue and here are a few ideas:

  • Work with civil service commissions police unions and citizen police boards to change their police testing and recruitment procedures to include stronger cultural competency indicators. Police departments do pretty good jobs weeding out the real bad apples and tests tend to be standardized and don’t control for race relations.
  • Work with police academies and college law enforcement departments to add additional training and classroom instruction about how to verbally deescalate situations. These two citizen killings escalated from stealing cigars and selling cigarettes to death. That’s a problem. There are companies that provide training about this. Deescalation classes should be a part of criminal justice college / university curricula and not just on the job workshops.
  • Develop new leadership by recruiting members for the city parks board, planning commission, housing committees. Once emerging leaders gain experience they can make runs for the city council or other elected offices.

About all the nationwide peaceful and violent demonstrations have accomplished is ruining the lives of two cops – Daniel Pantaleo and Darren Wilson – who will soon fade into oblivion and sold some newspapers. That’s not a very good return on investment, if you ask me.

The activists from the 1960s and 70s  are tired and there wasn’t much, if any, thought about passing on organizing skills to others. It’s a young people’s world now and there must be at least a few closers out in the fray …

On grand juries, police image problems and revolution

There’s been quiwizard id peasantste a bit of buzz in the popular media about the recent work of grand juries that found little probable cause to indict police officers who killed citizens in the line of duty.

I have a unique perspective on this having served on a grand jury in a past life.

Grand juries haven’t changed much over the centuries. The idea is to provide yet another control on the government for community members to keep over zealous government lawyers in check. That didn’t happen in Ferguson and Staten Island. The grand jury system was used for political cover.

In the US, the justice system is set up to favor citizens, you know – “innocent until proven guilty.” The burden of proof is on the government to provide probable cause that a crime exists. Grand juries make “probable cause” determinations via indictment. The jury that I sat, heard its fair share of bad cases, in fact, we kept asking for more information if it was lacking. We would advise the cops and county attorney what they needed to bring to strengthen their case. In Ferguson and Staten Island, those juries were actually tasked – by design or by accident, I don’t know – to find the defendants innocent.

How the DA handled these grand jury cases has been fodder for talking heads on both ends of the political spectrum. But the bottom line is, based on the information provided to them, grand jurors had no choice but to find no probable cause. In Staten Island and Ferguson, the jurors were given the prosecution’s evidence and the defense evidence. All that evidence is compounded by the great leeway cops have to show force.

Cops maim and kill people every day but these two cases in particular have raised public awareness about how the citizenry has allowed law enforcement to run amok. I get the public safety thing, but for instance, the other day I was in Loveland at the museum taking a peak at the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit there. Sitting on a bench was a guy – probably a homeless guy – being questioned by one cop, then another pulled up and joined in on the fun. He was standing back watching.

What went through my mind was, why were they hassling this guy?  The police show of force in this case was placing their hands on their hips in front of their weapons. The next show of force move would have been unsnapping their holsters.

Cops have an image problem.

It’s been happening for generations. It’s pretty much a thankless job – the cop’s job description is looking for trouble and they have guns. I’d be scared, too, if I had to walk into a domestic violence situation not knowing how wigged out a guy might be. (70 to 80 percent of DV perps are men).

Being scared and that coupled with preconceived fears about people based on stereotypes add to the over reaction.  I’m pretty sure the vast majority of cops don’t find themselves in life and death situations or try to avoid them.

Public agencies do the best they can to screen out the real bad apples through psychological screening, but those tests need to to be tweaked to better control for attitudes about race, gender identity.

Sure, Brown was stealing cigars and Garner selling loose cigarettes and not collecting taxes, but the problem is with cops escalating minor criminal situations that end up with people shot.

I hope there continue to be public outcries about this from kids marching out of school, and communities taking it to the streets. It’s the only way for victims to get the political system to react.

It’s going to take awhile for things to change. Keep in mind it’s only been 150 years since Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation and 50 years since the Civil Rights Act was signed into law.

There’s no turning back.

Baseball cards and life go full circle

My life transitions have pretty much mirrored my baseball card collecting. In baseball card milestones, I’m entering into the sixth phase of my life.

mazeroski

This is the 1961 Topps card with Bill Mazeroski rounding the bases after winning the 1960 World Series with a home run.

Phase 1, the 1960s, Growing up and JFK – I really didn’t get into baseball until the early 1960s. My family got a TV around that time and the first World Series I watched was in 1960 when the Pirates beat the Yankees. My maternal grandfather was a Yankees fan and my dad was a Yankees fan, which would make me a third generation Yankees fan.

Watching Bill Mazeroski hit that home run to win the series in 1960 is still etched in my mind and to this day, I’m not much of a Pirates fan. I have a 1960 Roberto Clemente that was abandoned to me by Pat Higgins since his dislike for the Pirates was even greater than mine!

As for baseball cards, I don’t think I bought a pack until 1962 when my ranging pattern expanded. My grandparents lived a few blocks from a Safeway and the Missile drugstore and I remember buying packs of Topps cards. In 1961, my 8th birthday favors were 1961 Topps baseball cards. Around that time was when I signed up for Little League and ended up playing for the Red Sox, of all things. In November 1963, my mom’s church circle group held their annual rummage sale in the Presbyterian Church basement.

wally moon

In 1963, I bought a Rawlings Wally Moon baseball glove at my mom’s church rummage sale. This is a 1963 Topps card.

I rummaged around and found a Wally Moon mitt and bought it for a quarter, which was my weekly allowance. It was the weekend after President Kennedy was murdered. Besides the glove, I remember many of the women talking about JFK, when one of the women – who was a staunch conservative – came out of the kitchen area and said “It serves him right.”

Being a kid, I was awestruck by the comment, I think the others were, too. By this time, the Beatles were big and Topps put out several years worth of Beatles cards which were sold at the Save More Drug Store. I bought a bunch of those but don’t know where the bulk of them went. I still covet my 45rpm copy of “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

nixon elvis

I lost interest in sports card collecting in the 1970s when I was in high school and college. I ended up voting for Richard Nixon in 1972.

Phase 2, the 1970s, High school, college – When I learned how to drive and was in high school and college, I out grew baseball card collecting and stashed the cards in old Quaker Oats boxes where they remained in the crawl space in my parent’s home in Laramie. Back then, there weren’t plastic storage boxes like there are now.

Luckily, my mother didn’t touch my cards and I eventually retrieved them. The reason cards are worth so much money today is because of moms who tossed out their kids’ collections while they were away.

I became more interested in politics back then and was involved in student government. I’m sorry to say, my first presidential vote in 1972 was for Richard Nixon. I was a Republican for a long time, until I was drummed out of the party for supporting John Vinich for U.S. Senate in 1988. Turns out, I probably was a Democrat all along.

munson rookie

Buzz Thurber was one of the first big time card collectors I knew. He had a complete set of the 1971 Topps cards which were tough to find in good condition.

Phase 3 – 1980s, started working – I got my first job and coincidentally, there was a resurgence in sports card collecting. I don’t know what started it all then, but some tipping point caused mostly guys to dig out their collections – myself included.

There were sports card stores opening and sports card trade shows happening around the country – mostly in the larger towns.

I was in Lander by this time and one of my friends, Buzz Thurber, was a bigger collector than I was. I was impressed that he had a set of the 1971 Topps cards. They have a black border and tough to find with edges not chipped up.

Buzz and I organized a small card show in the meeting room at the Crossroads Restaurant – which it was known back then. I always tell kids to study and get a good job so they can spend money on stuff like baseball cards and not have to ask for permission.

In 1995 I took my dad to see the replacement Yankees play the replacement Rockies in the first game at Coors Field.

In 1995 I took my dad to see the replacement Yankees play the replacement Rockies in the first game at Coors Field.

Phase 4 – 1990s, Moved to Colorado – I ended up staying in Boulder when the Rockies came to Denver in 1993. I went to Colorado, for what was originally a temporary stay when I worked for the Northern Arapaho Tribe setting up a “cultural conduit” between the tribe and its former homelands along the front range. The idea was to develop markets for Arapaho artists works.

I remember the first time I drove up to Laramie to visit my parents. My dad asked, “What are those green license plates doing on your car?” I had season tickets to the Rockies from the opening of Coors Field in 1995 until the All Star Game in 1998.

I forgot to mention that I joined a rotisserie baseball league in Lander. I didn’t quite get how to keep the stats since it was before computers and all the data was compiled by hand. My team was called the Yangs. As opposed to yin – yang, there is a Star Trek episode about an alternate world where the Civil War was fought not by the Yanks and Confederates, but the Yangs and the Congs.

In Boulder, I joined a league colloquially known as the Baseball Buttheads with Paul Pearson, Scott Deitler, Glenn Locke, et al. When I joined, it with my Yangs team, the data were figured quasi-manually, but with the explosion of fantasy sports, migrated to an online version. I kept baseball cards of all my players. I was the only team owner with enough guts to draft Colorado Rockies pitchers.

pine riders

My sports card store in Riverton was called Pine Riders.

Prior to my move to Colorado, my friend, John, and I – we both worked at the Wyoming State Journal started up a sports card store called Pine Riders in Riverton. He was a big sports card collector, too. That was a lot of fun buying and selling cards.

At our grand opening, we had former Yankees pitcher Bud Daley who still lives in Fremont County. I ran into Bud at the Wind River Casino working the slots a few months ago.  We also had former Cleveland Indian utility player Woody Held who lived in Dubois. He passed away in 2009.

bud daley

Bud Daley  makes his home in Riverton, Wyoming. He pitched the winning game in the 1962 World Series. He was a special guest when Pine Riders opened in Riverton.

It was around this time that the bottom started falling out of the market. The hobby became very weird. Topps had a corner on the hobby which was now being transformed into business. Two other companies, Donruss and Fleer came out with sets. All of a sudden, the market was flooded with cards.

To top it all off, a Walmart opened up in Riverton and if I didn’t know better, Walmart targeted Pine Riders and the office supply store across the street with predatory pricing.

Kids were bringing in cards they bought there for less than our wholesale price. Pine Riders slowly lost that part of the business which was a blessing in disguise since there were Donruss, Score, Topps, Fleer, Bowman, Leaf, Fleer Ultra, Upper Deck, Topps Stadium Club and a bunch of others. The store continued to do okay in the secondary market. I left the business when I moved to Colorado.

The old cards maintained their values, but for new collectors, artificial scarcity was created with unique “chase” cards that were traded and sold like stock. Those cards weren’t for collecting, but rather for making money. I think sports cards mirrored the dot com model. Whoever ended up with a suitcase full of chase cards ended up holding card board.

maris topps

Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s single season home run record in 1961. All the boys in the neighborhood wanted to be Roger.

As for myself, I traded away my bulk cards which were sets spanning 1958 to 1990. I started collecting certain Yankees teams: 1996 the Seinfeld Yankees era with Jeter, Williams, O’Neill; 1977 – 78 with Reggie Jackson; 1961 – 62 with Mantle and Maris; 1953 my birth year, 1932 with Ruth at the end of his career; 1923 first year in Yankee Stadium and first World Series title, 1919 the year of the White Sox scandal NFL and Chicago Bears founder George Halas was on the team. Then lost interest.

ground zero

This is Ground Zero in October 2001. Every time I go to New York I go to the same corner and take a picture.

Phase 5 – the 2000s, Terrorism and baseball – September 11, 2001 was a strange day. I was working in Denver at the time. I didn’t have the radio or TV playing that morning. I rode the 204 bus to the RTD station in Downtown Boulder.

No chatter on the bus. There was not one mention of the World Trade Center terrorist attack until we pulled into the Table Mesa Park n Ride. When I got into Denver and on the 15 bus, the town was eerily quiet – no planes were in the sky.

Flash forward.

I’m a very experiential person and felt like I needed to get to New York City. Turned out the Yankees won the American League Pennant, but the World Series was delayed until late October because of the terrorist attacks. I flew from Denver to Boston and made my way to New York on Amtrak for games three and four. I bought game tickets on ebay.

    These are the two fans i befriended for game 3 of the 2001 World Series in Yankee Stadium. Jeter hits a walk off homer in the 10th.

These are the two fans i befriended for game 3 of the 2001 World Series in Yankee Stadium. Jeter hits a walk off homer in the 10th.

This trip, I stayed at the Hotel Pennsylvania which is across from Penn Station. It used to be well kept secret in New York City, but has since been “rediscovered” – at least they raised their rates.

The Yankees dropped the first two to the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix. The security was tight getting into Yankee Stadium. The game was dramatic. President Bush threw out the first pitch.

A flag from the World Trade Center flew over the stadium. Lee Greenwood sang “I’m Proud to be an American”. Clemens pitched well, I think a three hitter and the Yankees win 2 – 1 on a hit by Scott Brosius.

Game four was quite the nail biter that went into the 10th inning. Paul O’Neil gets on base and Tino Martinez smacks one into the stands to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth off BH Kim.

jeter rookie

Derek Jeter retires this year. He was one of many Yankees who appeared on Seinfeld.

Kim stays in the game in the 10th and ends up facing Jeter who hits a walk off homer to take a three games to two lead. I sat with a couple New York guys.

Everyone was a Yankees fan that night.

Jeter was dubbed “Mr. November” for his heroics. He’ll likely be the only player to be known as that since I’d be surprised if any more World Series games are played in November.

babe ruth w517

I’ve been filling in my 1919, 1923 Yankees collection. eBay has taken the challenge out of collecting. All a hobbyist needs is money and can buy just about anything.

Phase 6 – 2013, Downsizing – I had some pretty serious health issues in 2013 and came to the realization that it’s time to start sort through my stuff. I’ve been threatening to do this for many years.

I was in the hospital and rehab place for six weeks; physical therapy for four weeks and have been on my own for six weeks.

The acid test will be when I take on the Bolder Boulder 10K foot race on Memorial Day. I joined a facebook baseball card group which compelled me to get out the boxes again. Now that I’m old, it’s time to let other people enjoy what i have and am selling and trading to lighten my load.

I’m moving cards, autographs, comic books and other ephemera on ebay. I’m converting the stuff that I no longer want into the few odd ball items I need to fill out some of my Yankees collections.

It’s very liberating but very time consuming. I’m still challenged by collecting and enjoy thumbing through my collection – I feel like a kid again!

Does anyone have an autograph of Jimmy Burke laying around – he was one of the coaches on the 1932 Yankees.?