Collector’s Paradise (My Coolio Weekend in Cooperstown)

Yes, Shoebox Treasures, the new baseball card exhibit at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, is extraordinary. Yes, I had a lovely talk with Doug McWilliams, the legendary Topps photographer, at Doubleday Field during the Hall of Fame classic. Yes, I’m given special things on the plaque for Shoebox Treasures (and, being named in the Hall of Fame is, in some respects, the same as being in the Hall of Fame, which, taken a step further, is like being a Hall of Famer), but this, and the other things, are not what made this past weekend great.

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Starting on Thursday, when my friend Jimmy arrived from Chicago, the weekend was filled with gatherings of friends/collectors. In my living room, or on my front porch, and at Yastrzemski Sports and Baseball Nostalgia, Jimmy, Mark Armour (the new SABR President and co-founder of the SABR Baseball Cards Committee, Mark Hoyle (Red Sox collector extraordinaire) and Jason Schwartz (one of the new co-chairs of the committee) talked baseball, baseball cards, and our collections. It was incredibly fun, incredibly enlightening, and somewhat rare to be surrounded by so many like-minded people.

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(L to R, Mark A, Tom, Jimmy, me, Mark H. Jason took the pic.)

On Saturday night, Tom Shieber, senior curator at the Hall and key cog in the cards exhibit, joined us and tossed some 1982 Topps packs our way, resulting in a new, exclusive, club of stickered phones.

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As Jimmy and I were walking to Main Street on Sunday to meet the guys for some group baseball card buying, which was enormous fun, with everyone now knowing each other’s interests and pointing out their finds, he asked me for my Mission Statement. He loved that Mark Hoyle had a very specific mission – he collects Red Sox cards. Which kind of Red Sox cards? All of them.

I thought I had a pretty good answer. “I collect complete sets and build sets that are of interest to me.”  Jimmy wasn’t having it.

“But that doesn’t tell an outsider anything in detail about what you collect.”

“I don’t care what someone outside of me thinks about my collection,” said I.

Still, the question refined and reaffirmed where my head has been at lately. I am a collector of complete sets and I do like to build complete sets. Could be a baseball, other sports, non-sports, whatever. I like the sense and order of completion. In fact, that day I managed to put together a complete 10 card set of 1993 Kellogg’s College Greats from the cheapo bins at Yaz Sports, and bought two cards for the 1971 Kellogg’s Football set I’m working on. I was true to my mission statement. (I did buy one baseball thing – a signed index card and TCMA 1960’s card of Juan Pizarro).

Further, my toe-dipping into selling my pre-war cards has gone full blown. Why? They don’t really fit what I collect and have no emotional ties. They’re cool, some way cool, but that’s doesn’t feel like quite enough. Yesterday I began listing them.

Here are some of the ones I’m moving out:

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They’re sweet, and maybe I’ll miss them, but I know if someone wanted to trade a complete 1966 Topps set for a handful of pre-war beauties, I’d make that deal in a heartbeat. A full set that has a direct connection to my early pack buying days for a bunch of random cards?

That’s me, completely.

Y’all be cool

Just a quick post saying hello as the new co-head of this committee. Jason and I fully intend to keep things keeping on as they’ve been. This blog has become a wonderful community centered on enjoying, appreciating, and using baseball cards and the positivity around this project is a testament to Mark’s skill as a moderator and guide.

One thing I have been changing though is on the backstage side. The articles and content is great. The organization? Let’s just say there was much to be desired. We had a couple dozen categories which felt like they were from the early early days of the blog. I know I struggled with them a bit as an author and I know I’m not the only one since over half of our posts were “uncategorized.” This was not helping us accomplish Mark’s goal for turning this committee and blog into something more concrete under the aegis of SABR.

So I’ve spent the last couple weeks fixing the categories. Skimming and categorizing the uncategorized posts. Looking at the post counts and thinking about where I can create better, more-focused subcategories. Looking at the content on the entire blog to think about what themes come up again and again. It’s been a lot of work. It’s also been a lot of fun as I reacquaint myself with the past three years of posts. We’ve come a long way and gone to some really interesting places on here.

The result is a massively-revamped category pulldown menu on the sidebar as well as a stand-alone page of all the category information. Yes I’ve added more brands than just Topps. Yes I’ve finally periodized things. And yes I’m probably more excited than I should be about doing this and seeing everything we’ve covered.

It’s been great to go through the categories and read a whole bunch of similar posts. A whole different way of looking at this blog and one step closer to having something that feels more permanent.

Where I’m most excited though is in seeing everything we haven’t covered. All those brands with fewer than 10 posts? That we have so few posts covering 1995–2010? Those are cards I’d love to see in new posts. Am I discouraging other content? Absolutely not. But there are whole worlds of cards out there that we haven’t written about yet and those are the posts I’m looking forward to the most.

The Passage of Power

“The Passage of Power” is the name of the fourth volume (with one more to come, hopefully) of Robert Caro’s brilliant biography of Lyndon Johnson. The book largely concerns the assassination of President Kennedy, and the ups and down of the transition to the Johnson presidency. Its great, I highly recommend the entire series.

In completely unrelated and much less distressing news, I wanted to announce a power transfer occurring closer to home. Chris Dial and I started this illustrious committee, and blog, and twitter community, in late 2016. And it has been, I must say, a rousing success and a lot of fun. Two-and-a-half years later, we are ready to pass the torch.

Your new co-chairs are:

Nick Vossbrink (@vossbrink) and Jason Schwartz (@HeavyJ28).

This is not a dramatic change for the rest of you. Nick and Jason are already large contributors to the blog and to the community. Chris and I are not going anywhere. The most tangible change is that you should contact them if you want to publish a post.

Oh, and the “voice” of the Twitter account will no longer be me. I will let them decide how this shakes out.

One reminder that I need to say while I have the floor. This is a SABR group, and we would appreciate it if you would join SABR. (https://sabr.org/join) A lot of our readers and twitter folk are not SABR members — that’s OK, but understand we will continue to try to change that.

Our thanks to Jason and Nick for all they already do, and for agreeing to step up here. The group is in good hands, and I expect it to just get bigger and better from here.

Mark Armour

PSA: Vacation Ahead

On Saturday, my family and I will depart for a two week trip to Scotland, England and France.  The last time I was on the continent was during the OJ Trial — in fact, I was in Italy when I heard the verdict.  Despite the rumored increase in connectivity since 1995, you should go ahead and just expect that I am unavailable for the rest of this month.  I have asked a few people — specifically Jeff Katz, Nick Vossbrink and Jason Schwartz — to continue to post as they would have, and also to help the anyone else who wishes to post in my absence.  They have, as far as I can tell, complete permissions/powers to do so.  So: contact one of them if you wish to post something.

The @sabrbbcards Twitter account will be fairly quiet, so if a new post does come up, please retweet it so that the word can be spread far and wide.  When I log on, I will try to do so.

In the mean time, I wish everyone a great rest of March.  There will be many regular season games before my return.

 

The Great Wax Pack Derby: A New Participation Project

wax pack derby

Based on the success of the Conlon Collection Project, we are embarking on a new – and hopefully interesting – project.  We’re calling this The Great Wax Pack Derby!  It’s a group writing collective, like Conlon project.

The idea is to get donations of somewhere between 50 to 100 wax packs of baseball cards that might include Topps, Bowman, Fleer, Upper Deck, etc., ensuring that they are in fact, wax packs

Once we have gathered up a critical mass of wax packs, we will send out a solicitation to SABR Baseball Card Committee members who may be interested in receiving a wax pack.  The idea, again, like the Conlon Project, is that those members who receive a wax pack are then obligated to select one card from that pack to write about.

Once we have gathered large groups of stories, we will post them – at least five stories a week – to the SABR Baseball Card committee blog.  It would be ideal to have this project completed by the end of Spring (in time for the SABR Convention in San Diego)!

So, if you are interested in donating a few wax packs from your collection to this project, we would be very grateful for your contribution.

Again, this is a group writing collective that benefits our SABR Baseball Card Committee.  Send me an email, and let me know if you are willing to donate a few wax packs from your collection.  I’m at salazar8017@yahoo.com

 

Thank you!

Anthony Salazar

Happy New Year

Its been a bit over two years since Chris Dial and I started this committee.  My original plan was to create this blog, get committee members to write for it, and then use various SABR fora to promote it.  I had been involved with SABR committees for years, and this was a somewhat radical approach.  But “baseball cards” was a decidedly less academic, less formal, more “fun”, subject matter than previous SABR committees, one that did not fit the traditional 1980s model.

It was Jeff Katz who told me we needed a dedicated Twitter account — I had been on Twitter for a few years but was only occasionally active.  We also started a Facebook group,  and that was that. The country might be falling apart, but we had a baseball cards committee up and running.

And it worked!

The most successful SABR committees have produced some sort of collective work: a database, or a book, or an on-line project.  I still think we should try to do something like this, though we have not.

What we have built is a community.

I’d love to sit here and claim that this was my intention all along, but that would be untrue.  I was primarily thinking about the blog — as a SABR committee veteran, I wanted content.  That’s what SABR does.  It turns out we got both.

I knew many of you before this group was formed (though I did not necessarily know the depths of your card passions), but many of you I have met — in person or otherwise — through this group.  I had no idea two years ago that I would be exchanging baseball cards in the mail with people in this group.  Buying cards from eBay is easy enough — but sending/receiving cards with friends?  Much better.  My favorite part of this group is seeing all of the Twitter posts about cards you are sending each other.  Please keep them coming — try to tag @SABRbbcards and I will be better at retweeting from our main account.

My one goal for this committee in the coming year is that more people participate.  We have a core of blog writers, each great and different, and you can be one of them.  You can just write about what you are collecting, or about your favorite set, or favorite card.

This is a place where the 1956 Topps set and the 1990 Fleer set get an equal shake.  “Junk Wax” is not a term I use, because all cards are loved by someone.  We are not one voice around here.

I have been collecting since I was a little kid, and many of you have written about cards from a new angle that I had never even considered before.

If you are on Twitter, jump in.  Tell us what you want to collect, what you have extra of.  Join the conversation.  Hey, you might even meet some people along the way.

Happy New Year!

The Andy Warhol Triple Play “Pete Rose” (1985) Extra Innings

Last month I gave a presentation titled “The Andy Warhol Triple Play” at the SABR48 conference in Pittsburgh. The name refers to the three major baseball artworks that Warhol painted during his prolific career.

Most importantly for members and fans of this blog the idea to research this topic began with a baseball card.

Or more accurately a silkscreen based off of a baseball card design.

When I saw this image the geography synapses somehow connected Warhol to Pittsburgh and continued to SABR48 which was held at the home of the Pirates. I then vaguely recalled seeing “Tom Seaver” (1977) at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown a few years prior and started wondering about Warhol & Baseball.

I quickly found that Kristin Spangenberg of the Cincinnati Art Museum had previously curated an exhibit of Warhol’s baseball art in 2015 to coincide with the city hosting the MLB All-Star Game. It tuned out there was a third Warhol painting simply titled “Baseball”. All of the sudden I had an idea: Three Baseball Paintings + Andy Warhol = Andy Warhol’s Triple Play.

I have chronicled each of the pieces separately on my own blog Phungo. Here are links to the related pieces

Extra Innings

Twenty minutes may seem like a long time to talk about anything but when it comes to baseball most of us can drone on for hours. This was the case with the Andy Warhol baseball paintings and myself. I ended up cutting about 100 slides down to a few dozen, and I had to race to get through those.

When this happens something inevitably has to get dumped. This includes some very good stuff – after doing the research and living with the subject for a while it is similar to seeing a favorite player get released.

I am referring to this leftover information as “Extra Innings”. I have written columns on these missed subjects over at Phungo. So far postings have discussed the original photo Andy Warhol used for “Pete Rose”, A few of Andy’s Tom Seaver Polaroids, and the various flavors of the “Tom Seaver” portrait.

For various reasons I ended up purging the best Pete Rose anecdote.

Originally there was supposed to be a Pete Rose sitting, similar to what Andy Warhol did with Tom Seaver. Unfortunately in 1985 both Andy and Pete were pretty busy – and to be honest, I don’t think Rose was much of a sitter.

Warhol agreed to do the portrait from a series of photographs.

Andy got the pictures and he was perplexed. He called Carl Solway, the man who had commissioned the artwork with a question:

“In some photos he has the bat on his left shoulder and in some photos he has the bat on his right shoulder, and I am wondering why that is,”

Solway told Warhol “It’s because he’s a switch-hitter”

What happened next was described by SI scrbe Kostya Kennedy in “Pete Rose: An American Dilemma

When Carl Solway related the story to me he mentioned that after finding out that “Switch-Hitter” was a baseball term the artist became significantly more interested in the project.

Kostya Kennedy used this story to promote his book in various forums and you can see him discuss the anecdote on Seth Meyers show if you have hulu.

#WarholBaseball

I plan to do more Extra Innings postings in the future. Most of the columns will appear at Phungo, but I expect to author the trading card related items here. From time to time I will Tweet items under #WarholBaseball.

Acknowledgements

I have always had a significant fear of public speaking – I am perfectly comfortable in a social setting, but yeah never had a desire to speak in front of a roomful of people … until I joined SABR and saw some great presentations.

I then realized I wanted to contribute something to the community.

I would like to thank the Connie Mack Chapter for putting up with my various presentations over the last couple of years, they got to see the raw minor league me. Also I would like to thank the facilitators at the SABR conference. In my case it was Bob Sproule, these folks are great for calming the nerves of any novice presenters like myself.

If you’re a true amateur as I am, I recommend trying out a Speech/Communications group. I joined Toastmasters in advance of going to Pittsburgh. I only went to perhaps a dozen meetings prior to going to #SABR48 but the experience was very valuable.

Sources and Links

Andy Warhol Index at Phungo

Pete Rose: An American Dilemma – Kostya Kennedy

Carl Solway: e-Mail interview

CityBeat – various issues

Cincinnati Art Museum

#SABR48 Warhol Triple-Play audio

#SABR48 Warhol Triple-Play slides