Baseball Cards and the Trading Deadline

I love baseball and just about everything associated with it. And if I see something baseball related I want it.

I really want it.

I want it, I want to touch it, I want to look at every side of it and then I want to keep it…forever.

One of my greater weaknesses (there are too many to name at this time) is that I am a pack rat. I got this from my mother. When she died we threw out a box the size of a mini-refrigerator filled with envelopes she had taken from hotels over the years. The woman was nuts.

I like my baseball stuff and I think it began with collecting baseball cards. I have thousands of cards all around the house, very few worth any money. I just wasn’t that guy who got the great, really valuable card. I mean I have a lot of Mark Grace rookie cards, which is nice for Mark and his friends and family, but my kid isn’t going to college by me saying Grace.

A few years ago I met Wayne Terwilliger who is a really nice guy. Terwilliger was being honored in the season of his 80th birthday amidst his 55th as a baseball professional. Everybody was saying wonderful things about him so I guess he was slightly taken aback when soon after I approached him and told him how honored it was to meet him I told him I had bone to pick with him. I explained to him that in 1960, when I was first buying baseball cards, all I wanted was some Mickey Mantle cards and all I was getting were Terwilliger cards. He smiled and said he often heard that but Topps told him that they printed as many Mantle cards as Terwilliger cards. Nice guy, but I think he was lying to me.

I learned so much from baseball cards. I learned what ballplayers looked like. I learned stats. I learned history. I learned geography (Roger Maris played for Fargo-Morehead). I learned to love the game.

Baseball cards were cheap, too. It didn’t take much more than, I don’t know a dime, a quarter, something like that, to get your heart racing with excitement as you ripped open a pack of cards and slowly revealed to yourself who you got. Sometimes I watch people playing poker and as they squeeze those cards so tight to slowly peer to see what cards they have in the hole I know they used to do the same thing with a pack of baseball cards.

Then there was the gum. That marvelous slice of gum, all pink powdery and with a smell so distinctive that today I would be proud to wear it as a cologne. It was only good for a few chews, the taste dropped away as quickly as your adrenaline plummeted when you saw a Eli Grba card.

Sometimes, you needed to buy something to get cards:

Today there is no gum and cards are fancier than they need to be and way more expensive, but I buy some packs every year, and in honor of Brian Reich’s podcast (airing any day now), I bought three packs that I’m going to open right now.

Live, right here, in real time.

The first pack is Opening Day 2010 cards from Topps. Seven cards for a buck. I guess anything for a buck isn’t bad. Every pack these days promises you something special to entice you to buy the pack. Autographs, piece of a bat, piece of a uniform, DNA, whatever they can shove in a pack to get you to buy it. All I ever wanted was a complete set. Maybe someday.

Okay, here goes. Let me tell you it is easier to open a condom than it is to open one of these damn packs. The cellophane/Mylar package has Ryan Howard on the front. I wonder how much they pay him for that?

First card is Javier Vasquez in a Braves uniform throwing a pitch. It’s full color on the back as well giving his complete major league record including WHIP. No, little anecdote, but good stats in a type size only for young eyes.

My second card is Nick Johnson in a Marlins uniform. I must have gotten the “Before they were Yankees pack.” This has a little copy with it that is pretty useless. I wish they included his time on the DL.

Rick Porcello of the Tigers and now in the minors is my next card. Because he was a rookie last year there is a lot of copy and it’s not that well written. Hey Topps – write to me Bill@billy-ball.com and hire me to write copy.

The next card is a special “Superstar Celebrations” insert card where there is a picture of Michael Young jumping on home plate in a celebration (Ihope he didn’t injure himself)Buster. The headline reads, “Sudden Death to the Royals” which really offends me because baseball has walkoffs not sudden death. Bad card. Bad Topps.

Jose Lopez of the Mariners is up next. I’ll give this to Brian, he’s Mariners fan and he’s having a bad year.

Ben Zobrist of the Rays. This card tells me that Ben was acquired by the Rays from the Astros on 7/12/06. Good to know.

Scott Rolen is the last card in this pack. Scott playing for the Reds was born in Jasper, Indiana and still lives in Jasper, Indiana. I just looked it up and learned that Jasper is located 122 miles south of Indianapolis, 55 miles northeast of Evansville and 79 miles west of Louisville, Kentucky.

My next pack is Upper Deck 2010 Series One. This has 20 cards for $6 and on the front it says that it is NOT (their caps, not mine) authorized by Major League Baseball or its Member teams. Oooh, I feel dirty already.

This package has a side-view of a Yankee that I’m pretty sure is Derek Jeter, but since its not authorized it could be a Jeter impersonator.

First card is Tyler Colvin, 2010 Rookie Card for the Cubs outfielder. The copy isn’t bad, but I wish there were minor league stats on the back.

Hunter Pence of the Astros is my next card. I like the look of these cards more than the Opening day cards and the facts are good as well, but there is a big chunk of blank space on the back and for $6 I want these cards filled.

Another great rookie card: Buster Posey of the Giants. Maybe this one will get my grand kids into college.

Jed Lowrie of the Red Sox. I’m glad there is blank space on this one because they could have included an actual sample of the mono he has had all season.

Tony Gwynn in a great action shot on the front. I wish his father were on the back.

John Danks of the White Sox. Just to let you know everything about these cards are nicer. I feel like I got my money’s worth.

The rest of the cards are: Travis Snyder, Juan Cruz, Chipper Jones, Chad Durbin, Sean Marshall, Brian Wilson, Eddie Guardado, Takahashi Saito, Heath Bell, and Chris Dickerson.

There are four insert cards, two are 2009 biography cards, one describing Ryan Dempster shutting out the Dodgers, and the second, talking about Roy Halladay defeating Baltimore.

There is also a Houston Astros team checklist and a really nice Ballpark card talking about Yankee Stadium. I like this pack.

My last pack is a 2010 Baseball Series 2 from Topps. It’s 10 cards for $2.25. It’s worth it just because the Mick is on the front of the pack.

The first card is a Seattle Mariners Franchise History Card with Junior and Ichiro on the front. On the back are the All-Time, Current and 2009 Leaders in a number of categories. Sorry, Brian, I’m keeping this one.

Every card has different design and while I really like some of the designs, I don’t like the concept. Freddy Garcia has a vertical card, Alcides Escobar has a horizontal card, Tony Gwynn has an inset picture on the front, then there is a reproduction of Andre Ethier’s card. There is a non-glossy Torii Hunter retro card and the last card is a Topps Attax card which ties into a on-line game, which I think I’ll take a pass on.

Now that I have my cards for this year, I’ll touch them, look at them, read them again and then put them in a box in a closet. That’s it.

Back in the day, before cards were giving a perceived value, you would flip them, pitch them, knock the leaner with them, play all sorts of games with them, but really the most fun was trading them. This being the trading deadline season, I wish I had someone to trade cards with.

There is plenty of buzz around the baseball world as we approach the trading deadline among GMs, managers, players, and especially the media and the fans. Everybody is wondering where the next player is headed and “wouldn’t it be great if we traded….”

I think the hype and fascination of this time period probably has it roots in baseball cards. As kids we were always willing to make trades. I’m still willing to trade three Scott Kazmir and two Jed Lowrie cards for an Albert Pujols, even a Shane Victorino. Then as we became grownup kids, we have played fantasy baseball and we are still willing to wheel and deal names to improve our teams.

Invariably forgotten in this trade talk is that we are talking about trading more than players, we are talking about trading humans. Real people, who have families, homes, kids, friends, neighbors, and clothes at the dry cleaner down the street from what was their home until two general managers played out their childhood dreams of putting together a championship ballclub.

Imagine going into the law firm or insurance agency where you work and being told that you have been swapped to another firm in Dubuque for an attorney and a paralegal to be named later. It must be pretty disconcerting. Then when you walk into your new place of business, the next thing you know, you are leading the team of Dubuque lawyers in court, that night.

I wonder how Cliff Lee and Dan Haren felt.

I wonder how Roy Oswalt, Adam Dunn, and Corey Hart feel waiting to know their fate.

I wonder how it must feel wondering if you are going from a contender to KC or Baltimore.

These days must be brutal.

I got baseball cards, want to make a trade?