2003 Topps 205 Mini Polar Bear #145 Louis Sockalexis
My love for dime boxes involves quite a few different factors.
Of course, there's one simple reason. I just enjoy buying cards of guys I like. I own at least 125 different Kenny Lofton issues, and you can chalk up at least a third of those to the wonderful world of dime boxes.
Then there's my new method of purchasing cards with "cool" pictures on them, a collection which I've come to label as my own personal "Cardboard Masterpieces". It's a fairly new "quest" on my part. In fact, I can trace it back to this exact date.
However, there's one more factor that contributes to my dime box obsession, one that many might overlook.
Dime boxes are educational.
I've added tons of little meaningless bits of trivia to my "collection" of baseball knowledge through dime cards.
In most cases, it's simply a new fact about a player I already collect. For example, Al Oliver's 1985 Topps issue taught me that he owned the largest collection of men's cologne in baseball at the time.
Sometimes, an interesting little factoid is what persuades me to buy the card itself, especially if I had little or no knowledge of the player before the card fell into my hands.
That's exactly what we have with this mini of Louis Sockalexis.
When I first came across this card, I very nearly put it back. The last name "Sockalexis" was familiar to me, though. As far as I can tell, it must have come up in one of my old baseball books.
Still, I wasn't sure what made this guy so special.
The history lesson I received from the back of this card answered that question and convinced me that this was a card I absolutely had to have.
For one thing, he was of Indian descent. More specifically, he was a member of Maine's Penobscot tribe.
After spending his college days at Holy Cross and Notre Dame, he turned pro when he signed with the then-Cleveland Spiders. He'd make his big league debut in 1897.
He immediately took the baseball world by storm, posting a .338 batting average in 66 games for the Spiders, all during his rookie year.
In an era when African-Americans were still banned from playing in the big leagues, Sockalexis became America's first minority sports star.
Unfortunately, an ankle injury severely impacted his career. He'd last just two more seasons in the majors, playing the last seven games of his big league career for the 1899 Cleveland Spiders, the worst team ever assembled.
Tragically, Sockalexis passed away in 1913 after a bout with tuberculosis.
Two years later, the Cleveland baseball team found itself looking for a new name for the franchise.
Although it is still a debated topic, there's a good chance that the team was named "Indians" in honor of Sockalexis.
Every time you hear the words "Cleveland Indians" on TV, it's probably an homage to none other than Louis Sockalexis.
All that history from one simple dime card.
It really is amazing once you stop and think about it.