Monday, January 14, 2013

Diamonds in the rough

Every once in a while, I can't help but ask myself one, simple question.

"Where the heck did all these baseball cards come from?"

Now, when I say it in reference to my binders, I'm really only joking. I can link a specific time and place to a lot of my "keeper" cardboard. 

I remember when my entire collection could fit into one or two binders. Over time, though, I've been able to watch it grow into the fifty-five binder behemoth that it is today.

I know very well where most of my "binder" cards came from. 

The so-called "extras" I own...well, that's another story.

My closet is absolutely packed with card-filled boxes of all shapes and sizes. Mostly baseball, but most of them are mixed with cardboard from all four sports, a product of my childhood collecting days.

I have absolutely no idea where all those cards came from. Since none of them feature any "binder guys", I could honestly care less about them.

That's what my pre-blogging self would've said, anyways.

As I was digging around my closet last weekend, I came across a little blue box. As you can see in the picture at the top of this post, it included a few large stacks of forgotten cardboard.

I'd seen that box quite a few times before. As I said, my pre-blogger self never thought twice about it.

However, I quickly became intrigued by that little blue box this time around. Blogging has taught me that "gems" can be found absolutely anywhere. Whether I happen to collect the guy or not is irrelevant with something like this.

My suspicions told me that I'd find at least a few "diamonds in the rough" inside this buried treasure of cardboard.

I was right.

So, please, join me in observing my finds from the "little blue box".

There's something for everyone in here.

This was the first "gem" I discovered.

After this one fell out of the box, I knew the rest of my "dig" would be a treat.

Unlike most of the other cards I'll be featuring tonight, I do actually know where this one came from. For about a quarter a piece, I bought a few team bags of water-logged vintage from a flea market as a kid.

A few of them proved to be among my first "favorite" vintage cards as a young collector. The ones I didn't end up wanting found their way into this box.

Which is where my "discovery" comes in.

As I found, the box held a nice stack of water-damaged '78 Topps cards from my long-forgotten childhood purchase.

The unquestioned "gem" of the bunch had to be this "rookie cup" card of Mitchell Page, one that I'd seen around the blogosphere a couple times before.

It's easily one of the most hilariously awful poses I've ever seen on a baseball card.

Which makes it an instant favorite in my book.

Hey, look!

More vintage!

I found this pair of well-loved beauties about halfway into the box. Unlike the stack of '78s I just mentioned, I have absolutely no idea how these came into my possession.

In fact, I can't say that I've even heard of Joe Sparma or Larry Biitner.

But, you know what?

It doesn't matter. That's something that my pre-blogger self wouldn't have realized.

The fact that I previously tossed these aside without a second thought is simply staggering. Although the names might be foreign to me, there isn't a single vintage card in existence that deserves a fate like that.

Especially anything from '75 Topps.

As I said, there were samples of other sports in the "little blue box" as well.

Although it might be hard for me to believe, there was a time in my life when I collected all four major sports. 

Now, I can't say I own any "huge" pieces from football or basketball. I had a "LeBron" rookie for a while, but I traded that one a long time ago.

However, I'm pleased to see that my taste for vintage extended past baseball with this neat '71 Topps "Deacon" Jones issue. (Am I the only one who sees the color-split borders as remarkably similar to baseball's 1975 Topps release?)

Again, I have absolutely no idea how I acquired this card. For all I know, it may have appeared out of thin air.

Although I'll most likely be a baseball-exclusive collector for the rest of my life, I can still appreciate the beauty of cardboard from other sports.

I definitely see it in Deacon Jones here.


Hey there, Shaq.

Moving on...

Here I was thinking Ken Griffey Jr. was the one who started the whole "backwards cap" thing.

Now, I know that Mr. Leonard probably wasn't the "inventor" of the phenomenon. But his '85 Topps "All-Star" issue shows that he'd been doing it before the likes of "Junior" came along.

It's like I always say.

You learn something new every single day in this hobby.

Once upon a time, I bought a team set from a local Kane County Cougars minor league game.

Some of the cards met a rather special fate, one that I recounted in this post. Those few fortunate pieces have been well-preserved in my binders for as long as I've been collecting.

The others weren't as lucky. Most of them had long been relegated to the depths of my dark, card-filled closet.

A few even managed to find their way into the "little blue box". 

Minor league or not, I think every team set should include cards of the hitting coaches and trainers. They've put their work into the game. They deserve their time in the spotlight.

So, here you go, fellas. I can't say that a whole lot of people will see you on this blog, but it's the best I can do.

You've earned it.

Amazingly, the "gems" kept on coming.

I even managed to find a quite few pieces for future trade packages. I know of a couple different Blue Jays and Mets collectors who might enjoy either of these.

They sure deserve a lot better than sitting in a ratty old closet.

That's for sure.

Although I loved every bit of what I've shown so far, I think this "discovery" was my favorite of all.

Somehow, I'd had a near-complete '76 Topps Orioles team set lying in my closet this entire time. Right under my nose.

How could I have let this happen?

Even though I certainly appreciate the likes of May, Torrez, and DeCinces, one specific "O" proved to be quite the inspiration to my collection.

One that corrected a massive oversight on my part.

Until recently, I'd never thought much about Bobby Grich.

However, I've heard him get a good deal of publicity around the blogs during my time here in the last year.

Although he isn't normally brought up among the biggest "names" of the '70s, Grich was a darn good second baseman and one of the more underrated players of his time.

Because of all that, I'd been debating about adding Grich to my binders for a while. Still, I never forced myself to pull the trigger.

That changed with this "little blue box".

It was like a sign. Once I found this card among the rest of the '76 O's, I knew what I had to do.

I had to make Bobby Grich a new "binder inductee".

Welcome to the club.

So, if you've got any unwanted Bobby Grich cards sitting around, keep me in mind.

In the meantime, I have quite a few more boxes to dig through in my closet. I might even write a couple more posts about them.

Who knows?

Maybe I have a few more cards of Bobby Grich sitting in my closet as we speak. Or some cards I could send to fellow bloggers. Or even some more forgotten minor league cards.

There could be anything in there.


I often talk about discovering a new "diamond in the rough" inside a card show dime box or a poor-conditioned vintage bin.

Sometimes, though, you can make a great deal of discoveries right under your own roof.

You'll never know until you look.


jaybarkerfan said...

Awesome stuff Nick!

Mark Kaz said...

I <3 that Deacon Jones card! So, so good...

Mike said...

Did your mom count this as "cleaning your room"?

hiflew said...

That Deacon Jones cards is great. I might even like that as much as 1971 baseball. The cartoon football player is absolutely fantastic.

William said...

Yeah, Grich was a really good player. I love the hairstyle. Sometimes, that's the most fun part of looking at vintage cards.

Jeff Wilk said...

You are a Cubs fan and you don't recognize the name "Larry Biittner"? Best get Googlin', Nick.

Ryan M said...

Bobby Grich, first ballot Hirsute Hall of Famer.

Great post...hope you find more gems in those boxes!

Nick said...

Actually, Jeff, now that I hear the name a couple additional times, I do recognize the name.

Biitner showed up on a couple of my old blooper tapes after a ball he tried to catch wound up stuck in his hat in the late '70s. Kind of sums up those 1970's Cubs teams, in a way.

I'm not the most polished on that period of Cubs history, which is probably why Biitner isn't a more familiar name to me.