Sport card catalogers and historians everywhere began 2017 with a great deal of sadness as Bob Lemke, who helped launch Baseball Cards magazine and was the founding editor of the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards, passed away on January 3.
I met Bob only in passing and we only talked on the phone once or twice but in many ways, we were exactly the same in our passions. Both of us enjoyed the challenge of finding new items to catalog and both of us enjoyed the research involved in getting the information into collector’s hands. We were also fortunate to have company owners who appreciated the need for increased hobby knowledge and were willing to spend some capital to garner all the data both old and new.
When I left Beckett in 2007, Bob posted the following on the Net 54 boards: “Rich, sorry to hear your association with Beckett has come to an end. I always thought you were a positive force in the hobby and more of a colleague than a competitor. Maybe you and I ought to offer our services as a package deal to somebody in the hobby/industry who wants to compete with the Standard Catalog and Almanac! Good luck, buddy.” Sadly, I was so in shock about leaving Beckett I never took Bob up on that offer but I should have and we would have had a good time.
By the end of our times editing our respective publications, we had codes we used to indicate we knew the other person had a more comprehensive checklist. I would write something like: “We believe there might be more cards in the set so any additions would be greatly appreciated.” That was my code to indicate that I knew Bob had a better checklist and I was not going to add information until I had proof from a second source. The other aspect of Bob’s work was his creations of cards that never were. I truly appreciate cards which should or could have been made but were not. To me, some cards which could have been printed include (and these will all be Topps cards): 1964 Stan Musial, 1957 Jackie Robinson, 1974 Willie Mays and 1980 Thurman Munson. Bob did excellent work on the fronts and the backs to truly produce cards which would fit in with the original release.
A couple of quick points I wish to make after reading some of the follow up comments on the Net 54 message boards. This is from a poster on the board: “I know he was frustrated after he left SCD that no one there really had the passion to pick up or gather info to update the catalog. I know I tried to give info to SCD a few times with seemingly no interest. When I turned to him he sort of threw his hands up and said time had passed for him to do it. I mentioned he could at least mention things in his blog which he did do a few times.”
There any many of us with the passion to add and update catalogs but as mentioned, unless you get ownership or management to agree, all the passion in the world is not going to get you are new listings on Vassar sweater cards. Today, everything comes down to: does a new listing benefit the bottom line.
So. as a hobby, we can all appreciate the terrific work Bob did while at Krause Publications in truly making the Standard Catalog a hobby staple and we can only hope someday we can make hobby cataloging great again.
Rich Klein is a free lance writer living in Plano TX with his wife and 2 dogs.