Baseball cards


Pedro Martinez, in the midst of doing what he did.

Pedro Martinez, in the midst of doing what he did.

If I glance to my left from my desk at work, I can see various things taped up: concert setlists, band photos, album covers, little trinkets to keep me motivated and feeling like I’m at home. One of them is a Pedro Martinez baseball card, circa 2003. He’s pumping his fist, probably after another strikeout.

Thanks to a quick decline in baseball card quality the past couple of seasons, the collecting bug that I rekindled around 2010 has flamed out again, leading me back to the occasional, nostalgic purchase. I still seek out individual Red Sox each year, and I pick up stray cards of players I like on the cheap. In terms of space and money spent, it’s a much more affordable existence.

This weekend, I was tooling around again for the first time in a few months, and sort of instinctively started looking for Pedro cards. Soon enough, I found a 10-card lot of ones I mostly didn’t have, priced around $3 total, and took the plunge. The entire exercise probably took around 10 minutes.

Tomorrow afternoon, there’s a very good chance that Pedro is going to be announced as a 2015 Hall of Fame inductee, along with Randy Johnson, Craig Biggio and maybe a couple of others (John Smoltz? Mike Piazza?). It’s a feather in the cap of an incredible career, and it feels nice to know that he’s being acknowledged for his work. But that’s not what I was thinking about when I went searching for those cards, because I don’t think much about the Hall of Fame anymore. (more…)

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I don't really know why, but I think I'm keeping this.

I don’t really know why, but I think I’m keeping this.

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. (more…)

As painted-on uniforms go, this one isn't bad.

As painted-on uniforms go, this one isn’t bad.

I’ve been off the baseball card game for a while. Not that it’s a huge change; the days of buying complete sets and boxes are about 20 years past, and the deteriorating quality of Topps (and the fact that Topps is the only company in the game now) have left the urge to buy lots of packs or splurge cards minimal. There’s always nostalgia, but that only goes so far.

But I still have my Red Sox binder, and the urge to keep accumulating players as they pass through Boston is still strong. It’s more of a scrapbook than the investment portfolio I thought I was assembling when I was 10. Alas.

So in the throes of winter and this typically weird New England cycle of mild, sunny days in the 30s and near-blizzards with highs of 4 degrees, I’ve renewed myself a bit to picking up some of the Red Sox cards from the past season. It was a memorable one, of course, and having certain guys in the binder became important. So joining the stalwarts David Ortiz, Pedro Martinez and Jason Varitek and curiosities like Darren Bragg,  Corey Bailey and Darryl Irvine are Ryan Dempster, Shane Victorino and even Joel Hanrahan. And of course, Koji Uehara. (more…)

Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda didn't think Pedro could handle pitching out of the rotation.

1993 was easily my heaviest year of baseball fandom to that point. I was 11 years old, fully in love with the Boston Red Sox, and beginning to exhaustively study the history of the game. I worked to memorize World Series winners and losers, MVPs, Cy Young winners, batting champs and Rookies of the Year. I spent my time in the library making photo copies of baseball players from books with dimes I’d saved up — Dave Winfield, Pete Rose, Tom Seaver, Carl Yastrzemski, Brooks Robinson, and on down the line.

And, of course, there were baseball cards. I bought packs of Fleer, Fleer Ultra and Upper Deck that year, but I concentrated mainly on Topps. By then, I’d realized that Topps was the only company that would print the entire career of a player on the card backs, and being the student of the game I was, it was a big draw.

Pedro Martinez’s first card came to me that summer. I didn’t think much of him and eventually filed him away with the rest of the Dodgers, but not before studying him a bit, that he played a couple of seasons in Albuquerque (that was funny to me for some reason — practically all the Dodgers rolled through there), that he’d made his debut in 1992, and that he pitched eight innings over two games, including one start. (more…)

1988 was a great year, from Sparky to Fisk to Scioscia to Cecil.

I recently had something of a baseball card windfall fall into my lap. A family member had come into a box full of cards, and not knowing what else to do with them, passed them onto me. As it turns out, inside was the complete 1988 Topps set, with all the cards in damn-near perfect condition.

Naturally, that meant me spending a day or two flipping and sorting through them, checking out card backs, old player photos, figuring out doubles and reminiscing about days spent as a kid, sitting in my bedroom collecting cards, sorting them into sets and teams and trying to complete an entire year.
(more…)

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