Wednesday, May 15, 2013
I have a new project on the horizon.
One of these days, I'm planning on sitting down and counting just how many player collections I have. Over the course of this blog's history, I've relied on educated guesses in that department.
Right now, I'm putting the over/under at about 250. And I'm taking the over.
Believe it or not, though, there is a story behind each and every player collection in my binders. My fascination with HOFers is the basis for most of my Cooperstown-themed focuses.
Others, such as my Bobby Thomson and Harvey Haddix collections, are my way of recognizing some of baseball's "moment in the sun" heroes.
Those types of stories are what make player collecting so much fun for me.
Up until fairly recently, I considered my Matt Kemp collection to be a halfhearted one, at best. I'd pick up cool cards of his here and there (like his 2010 Topps issue), but he'd never been a prime focus of mine.
That all changed when I came across this video last week.
From this point forward, I've decided to make a special effort to acquire more cardboard of a newfound hero in Mr. Kemp.
It's my little way of recognizing such an amazing act of kindness on his part.
While perhaps not as emotional or heartfelt as the Kemp story, many of my other player collections can be tracked to specific moments in my life.
During my middle school years, my family took a trip to St. Louis. While it was an all-around terrific experience, the pinnacle of the vacation for me was attending a Cubs-Cards game at the (now) old Busch Stadium.
At the time, Bo Hart was milking the last ounces of glory out of his fifteen minutes of fame.
As one of the "little guys" that I've always appreciated (think Mike Fontenot, Chone Figgins, David Eckstein, etc.), I knew my Hart fandom would be a lifelong one.
I even picked up a t-shirt of his at the Cardinals gift shop that afternoon. Although I've long since outgrown it, the shirt still sits in my dresser to this day.
Collecting now-obscure guys like Hart can be a tough task at times. I just don't find many cards of his these days.
When I do happen to come across one, though, I'm on top of the world.
If you look closely, you'll find a bit of an MLB Showdown correlation to my regular card collection.
As I've mentioned a few times before, MLB Showdown was a big part of my childhood/teenage years. I got a few friends hooked on it for a while, and my dad and I used to play it daily.
Some otherwise mediocre players, for whatever reason, received really good MLB Showdown cards through the years.
As far as that goes, Tim Spooneybarger was the catalyst for my present crop of Showdown-related "binder guys".
Pitcher control ratings only went up to "+6" in the game. That should tell you how good Spooneybarger, the long-tenured setup man on my "All-Star" Showdown team, really was.
While I don't play the game as much anymore, MLB Showdown will always have a profound impact on how I view this hobby as a whole.
Some player collection stories are far more silly.
I remember reading about Bob Buhl's 1962 season in one of my old baseball books. At 12-14 with a 3.87 ERA, it wasn't his greatest season.
Still, it was his lack of prowess at the plate that forever earned him a spot in my binders.
In Buhl's 1962 season, one which he split between the Braves and Cubs, he went a whopping 0-for-70 at the plate.
I'm not kidding.
So, if I ever gloat about finding a Bob Buhl card from a discount vintage bin in the future, now you know why.
Triton College is just about a ten-minute drive from where I live.
In fact, I passed by the college's ballpark with a few friends the other day. All the while, I couldn't help but think...
"Tom Gorzelanny played on that field. And so did Kirby Puckett."
Both are indeed Triton College alumni. Puckett, obviously, is the more well-known of the pair.
Still, though, I was only three years old when the late Puckett retired. I can't say I remember watching him.
On the other hand, I see Tom Gorzelanny pitching on TV all the time these days. Every time I see him run out of that bullpen, I can't help but think of his Triton background.
That's why he's a proud "binder guy".
Heck, simply a neat "baseball name" can earn guys a spot in my binders.
I remember hearing Terrmel Sledge's name a lot when the Expos moved to Washington in '05. I thought it was the coolest thing at the time. (And still do.)
He's been a "binder guy" ever since.
Without stories like these, I doubt I'd feel that attached to any of my cardboard. Come to think of it, I doubt I'd even be collecting in the first place without them.
As I always say, stories are what make this hobby so much fun.