There’s no denying my first impression. I was impressed and intrigued.
As David Roth writes in only that way he can, J. Corey Stackhouse is on a mission to collect every Tim Wallach baseball card ever printed. And when I first read that without finishing to the end, I thought, “interesting. I’m trying to do the same thing,” for a few guys, anyway — Jason Varitek, Pedro Martinez, Dwight Evans, Carl Yastrzemski and Jim Rice, to name five. I’ve even got a few doubles and triples that I’ve held onto.
But that’s not it, of course. He wants every single one ever printed. And he’s documenting the process.
As a collector of various things with a natural completist bent, I can sympathize, and I applaud the effort. But the scope of the project is incredible. He talks about the full closet space he’s dedicated to just boxes of Wallach cards, and the number — 10,330 cards in volume, 357 unique cards — eclipses the most cards I ever had at my peak (probably at 14 years old).
But what really impresses me is his subject. This guy is going after every card not of a super star from the eighties, but a solid, workmanlike player who quietly carved out his spot as one of the game’s best third basemen.
Wallach is an interesting guy from the time for me. A dearth of National League games in the early nineties in my house probably kept me from seeing him actually play until 1993, by which time he had moved on to the Dodgers. He was always an acknowledged All-Star, and I knew enough to know that he was good, but he never entered the same radar as the biggest names of the day — Cal Ripken Jr., Joe Carter, Paul Molitor, Tom Glavine and the rest. If I had been asked as an 11-year-old if I’d rather have Wallach than, say, Scott Cooper playing third base for the Red Sox, I could probably be talked into Wallach. An Expos or Dodgers fan would think otherwise. But all the same, I knew not to just let his cards rot in a box. They belonged in a binder with Dennis Martinez, Bryn Smith and the rest of the Expos.
And that’s why I like this story so much. This isn’t Bob Costas and his Mickey Mantle card, or a guy who obsessively hoards every piece of Ted Williams memorabilia. This is a dude who picked Wallach as a favorite early on and decided to see his compulsion through to what would be the ultimate destination — getting everything possible that was ever printed with the man’s face.
I can get behind that. I won’t try to match it, though; a binder full of Pedro and Dewey is good enough for me. And I’ll probably hang onto the half-dozen Tim Wallach cards I still own, too.