Being an Englishman, living in New Zealand and supporting the only Canadian MLB team, makes me a bit of a rarity.
Perhaps even rarer than my love of baseball in this far corner of the world, is my love of baseball cards.
At the last count, i had over 6,500. That’s minute compared to some people i know. The main collector i use to buy from had over 70,000 cards (im not sure how he found the time to count them all...)
I started collecting them when i was single and had disposable income. Now that both of those no longer apply, i haven’t added to my collection for a while, but there it sits in the cupboard; locked way, but not forgotten- a treasure trove of history, players and important milestones.
I got my first cards in early 1990 -a Blue Jays Upper Deck team set naturally as i had stated following the Jays in 1989.
Since then its grown to a Blue Jays dominant collection, with a a special focus on my favourite Jays: Olerud, Alomar, Halladay and Delgado.
Ive also focussed on a few of my favourite players from other teams: Biggio, Bagwell, Cal Ripken Jnr, Henderson, Griffey Jnr, Hoffman, Maddux and Glavine.
I had the pleasure of seeing Ichiro Suzuki in his rookie year and something about him stood out. Since then ive collected as many of his cards as i’ve been able to. Tony Gwynn and Randy Johnson are also highly prominent in my collection too. Both very different yet charismatic players to me.
Even the evolution of baseball cards is a story in itself. It wasn’t until the 1970s that baseball cards finally began showing in-game action. Not only did those pictures improve the look and quality of the cards, it also began allowing the cards to retell the narrative of an event that collectors could actually see.
The next 20 years saw little change and the next big step didn’t come until 1992. Collectors had long complained that the gum and wax from the packaging stained and damaged the cards, so Topps began selling baseball cards without gum in plastic wrappers. Almost as revolutionary as playing Martin in LF!
These improvements led to a golden age of card collecting in the 1990s, with card shows, a budding Internet and an economic boom creating a huge market for baseball cards.
In more recent years cards have gone digital with computer generated graphics, digital photography and new apps. The cards are shinier and more interactive but the essence is still the same
Every brand of baseball cards is different. Fleer, Donruss, Leaf, Topps and Upper Deck have their own style and history, yet they share the same symbolism of what the game means:
As the character Terence Mann says in Field of Dreams:
The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again.
When i tell people i collect baseball cards, i often get a bemused look. Maybe collecting baseball cards isn’t the norm anymore? Maybe its uncool, a relic of an age gone by?
To me though. they are a reminder of simpler, kinder times. Its rare that i take them out and look at them or even sell some (im hanging onto my Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey Jnr and Frank Thomas rookie cards) but its rewarding when i do.
I’ve often felt there is something beautiful about them; their look, their texture, their form, their smell. They are tangible. Little snippets of history of the game we know and love,
Most of all, they remind me of certain players that i came to admire and even adore. Roy Halladay cards, especially a 2004 Upper Deck game worn jersey card are very special to me; a reminder of my favourite player and a wonderful human being.
Do you collect baseball cards? If so, what is your favourite card?
Best comment or thought wins a couple of cards of your favourite player/team from my collection!