Sunday, September 9, 2012
A little of everything
Every so often, I'll get a nice email from someone who has just discovered my blog.
Things like, "Just found your blog, keep up the good work!"
Or, "Love the blog, I'm also a big dime box fan as well. Great concept!"
That second one is especially soothing to read. It lets me know that I'm not the only crazy "dime box junkie" out there.
It's emails and comments like these that keep me going as a blogger. Even if it is a bit ego-centric, getting recognition from fellow collectors is a fantastic feeling.
I got one of these types of emails the other day from a new reader of my blog. However, he asked a great question that really got me thinking:
"I was browsing around your blog and was curious about what you actually collect. I know you say 'a little of everything', but what does that mean?"
When I originally read and replied to that email, it was at about 7:30 in the morning on a Tuesday, a time when I'm not much for thinking heavily.
But after reflecting on it in a wide-awake state these last couple days, I think I'm prepared to give a good answer.
I do use the term "a little of everything" on this blog quite a bit.
It's the best one I can think of to describe my collection, although I realize that it can be a bit ambiguous.
So right here, in this post, I'm going to do my best to describe exactly what I mean when I use the term.
I'll start with what I like to call my "mini-collections".
They're not usually of a specific player or team. Most of the time, they consist of a certain theme, one which usually arcs over the entire spectrum of baseball cards.
For one, there's my "Short Term Stops" collection. By my own definition, those are cards of any player I collect that is pictured in a uniform that he wore for a year or less.
It can be Dale Murphy as a Colorado Rockie (one year), Rick Ankiel as a Royal (a "half-year"), or Mike Piazza as a Marlin (five games).
The shorter the time period, the better.
Then, we have my "pitchers at the plate" cards, the name of which should speak for itself.
I've talked about these many times on this blog. It's one of the big reasons I'm against the National League ever adopting the DH.
We'd lose these things of beauty.
In the post-DH era, there's usually only two chances to get a shot of an AL pitcher at the plate.
Interleague play and the World Series.
When an American League pitcher is featured at the plate on a baseball card, as we have with the Derek Lowe at the top of the post, it's instantly a masterpiece.
However, these only begin to tell the tale of what I collect.
A popular collecting method in today's hobby is "set building".
I understand the thinking behind someone wanting to complete a set of Topps flagship. I understand the rush people get trying to track down those last short-prints for their Heritage set.
It's just not for me.
For the most part, anyways.
Thankfully, my non-baseball collection has given me a slight taste of set building during my time in this hobby.
For the last few years, I've been on a quest to complete the 2007 SP Legendary Cuts "Legendary Americana" insert set.
What made this an especially difficult challenge is that each issue is numbered to 550 copies.
I fell in love with these at first sight. From then on, I've managed to track down pieces here and there, although it's gotten a lot tougher in recent days. (The above card of blues legend Robert Johnson was one of the first cards I acquired from these.)
As it stands now, I own 96 of the 100 cards in the set, which is way, way farther than I thought I'd get with these.
I can't imagine how good it'll feel once I can finally complete this "quest" I've been chasing for so long.
Although the hobby has pretty much ignored them during the last few years, I've managed to assemble a decent collection of players from the Negro Leagues as well.
There aren't a ton out there, but I buy whatever I can get my hands on.
Although it's beyond tragic that these guys never got the chance to shine in the big leagues, they all did their part in breaking down the color barrier in baseball.
For that reason, I'll always have room for greats of the game like Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, and Buck O'Neil in my collection.
As a general rule, I collect any and all pre-1980's Hall of Famers.
I've got nothing against post-'80s HOFers, like George Brett and Cal Ripken. It's just that I've seen so much of their stuff over the years that I've never really felt the need to specifically collect them.
Although I'll never be able to resist a card like this, post-'80s Hall of Famer or not. (But more on those later.)
There's a couple of different ways you could look at my Hall of Fame collection.
Sometimes, I look at it as just one big, all-inclusive group. Anything and everything from old-time baseball.
But the way I've come to prefer is to view it as individual player collections, all of which happen to be pre-1980's Hall of Famers.
This way, guys like Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Warren Spahn all get their individual recognition.
But while I love collecting cards of the "big names" like Ruth, Mantle, and Robinson, I get just as much pleasure (if not more) out of collecting some of the forgotten names from the annals of baseball history.
A perfect example of that is Dazzy Vance. Although he is a Hall of Famer, I own a grand total of six different cards of his. (As opposed to about 120 of Mantle.)
Because of its rarity, the feeling of finding anything of a guy like Vance is one that's tough to put into words.
However, some of my favorite guys to collect have never even sniffed the Hall of Fame.
It's quite simple, really. I'm a baseball fan, and a lot of these guys are among "my favorites".
Hence, they're "fan favorites", and Topps had the fantastic idea of devoting a few sets to them back in the day. (Next to Topps Total, it's the one set I wish Topps would bring back.)
Even though they're not the most heralded or recognized in the hobby, guys like Ron Swoboda and Oscar Gamble make up a large part of the "little of everything" I collect.
It's actually a little scary that I didn't "induct" Gamble into my binders until last year.
A 'fro like that is more than worthy of a spot in my collection.
Let's face it, though.
To true baseball fans, names of "fan favorites" like Ed Kranepool and Mickey Lolich aren't anything new.
I know I'm not the only one out there who specifically collects those type of guys. A lot of bloggers are huge on the "fan favorites" as well.
However, I just might be the only Adam Hyzdu player collector on the face of the Earth. In fact, this might be the first time the name "Adam Hyzdu" has appeared in a blog post.
Because I can, that's why.
Seriously, though. My reasons for collecting him are still a bit fuzzy.
From what I can remember, he had a laughingly bad MLB Showdown card one year. So bad, in fact, that I decided to devote a portion of my regular card collection to him. (A lot of my obscure player collections have roots in my MLB Showdown cards.)
Plus, I've always liked guys that toiled in the minors for years on end, finally getting that one shot in the bigs.
The back of this 2003 Topps issue of his has ten years of minor league stats before his first taste of the big leagues. Next to the year 2000, the team proudly reads "Pirates". Actual big league stats amongst a swamp of Single-A, Double-A, and Triple-A numbers.
The payoff for a career minor leaguer.
As I write this post, my Adam Hyzdu collction stands at a solid seven different issues.
If that's not "a little of everything", I don't know what is.
In a lot of ways, my collections of current players and "old-timers" parallel one another.
I collect a lot of the bigger names in today's game. Guys like Jose Bautista, Dustin Pedroia, and Adrian Gonzalez are all welcome in my binders.
But, after all, there's a ton of people out there building player collections of those exact same guys.
For that reason, I probably take more pride in collecting the Jamey Carrolls and Adam Kennedys of baseball.
Bautista has had a ton of 2012 issues thus far.
To this date, the above Topps Heritage card is the only recognition Mr. Carroll has gotten in this hobby all year.
As a result, it's one of my favorite cards from 2012 as well.
Here's where the whole "little of everything" concept can get confusing.
I recently just decided to start collecting any "cool" cards I can find. But what exactly is the definition of "cool" in this hobby?
Whatever I want.
What I think is "cool" might not be the same to someone else. The opposite is true as well.
That's where the beauty lies.
I love any card that features a player being interviewed.
This one is that, times ten. Even though I don't collect Barry Zito, I couldn't resist passing this one up when I found it in a dime box a few months ago.
It's a glimpse into a whole other facet of being a ballplayer. The interviews.
Plus, it's "cool".
At least I think so, anyways.
But Nick, you say. Aren't you forgetting one thing?
Well, yes, I am...
Everybody loves vintage.
Right? Or are there actually collectors out there who don't collect vintage?
My passion for old cardboard greatness has ebbed and flowed a few times during my collecting career, but it's always been there in some way, shape, or form.
More specifically, I absolutely adore discounted vintage.
If I had the money, perhaps I would chase more expensive, better-conditioned vintage. The few I have are absolutely breathtaking.
But with my budget, it's just not in the cards. Plus, there's definitely something to be said for a card that's been "loved" over the years.
The fact that I've never had a "condition threshold" has allowed me to pick up a few oldies that I never thought I'd own. (Like pretty much all of these.)
Because of it's somewhat off condition, I barely had to give up anything for this beautiful '66 Topps issue of "Mr. Cub" when I traded for it a few years back.
Every vintage card is like an individual piece of baseball history, and I can never have enough of those.
I could never fully describe all the aspects that make up my oft-used "a little of everything" label. It can't be done.
What I just posted is about as good as it gets when someone asks me to describe exactly what I collect.
Still, that's what I love most about my collection.