Skip to main content

Hall of Famers collect cards, too

The Baseball Hall of Fame's official magazine, "Memories and Dreams," is delivered to my newspaper office about six times a year.

Most of the time it doesn't have anything to do with my job, but I'm interested in baseball, so I take it home and read it. There's not a lot to it: a few stories about Hall of Famers and exhibits. Some stuff I knew, some stuff I didn't.

But the magazine that arrived the other day drew my attention. It was all about baseball cards. The cover features the T206 Honus Wagner. And there are articles about the Wagner card, Jefferson Burdick (known as the father of card collecting), Sy Berger and baseball card exhibits at the Hall of Fame.

There's also a story about the explosion of sports memorabilia and card shops in Cooperstown. People who have attended the induction ceremonies recently can't help but notice them. But when I was a kid, there weren't very many memorabilia shops when we visited. Later, I returned to Cooperstown in the mid-1990s after a long time away and, I couldn't believe how many stores sold cards.

But my favorite article in the magazine is about Hall of Famers' stories about card collecting. I really enjoy hearing about major league players collecting cards. Bo of Baseball Cards Come to Life does a nice job with this. I admit, I haven't heard of half the players he tracks down to interview about cards, but they're all very interesting.

The Hall of Fame magazine article, "Faces on the Cards," is similar, although the players being interviewed are all Hall of Famers. Some like, Phil Niekro, Dave Winfield, Gaylord Perry and Paul Molitor are quoted about their reaction the first time they saw themselves on cards.

But I like it when the Hall of Famers talk about collecting cards as kids. Here are some of their quotes from the magazine:

Brooks Robinson: "I collected cards, but they weren't necessarily baseball cards. I still have everything pasted in my scrapbooks. Prizefighters, movie stars; they were the kind you had to put a wet towel on to make them come through to see them."

I have no idea what Brooks is talking about. Wet towels? You sure did some crazy things back in the day.

Orlando Cepeda: "I still have all my cards. Every time a new one comes out, they send it to me."

That's great news. It always bothers me when a ballplayer says they used to collect but no longer do. Or that they tossed their cards. It sounds like they're saying, "I've grown up now, I don't need cards." That, to me, is sad. I'm glad Cepeda knows you don't have to be a kid to collect cards.

Billy Williams: "All you wanted as a kid was the bubblegum, but you could attach the cards to your bikes with a clothespin and have a motorbike. I probably put some Mickey Mantle cards on my bike."

I do remember being obsessed with candy and gum as a kid. It was the ultimate goal of childhood. Sugar was king. Even over baseball.

Mike Schmidt: "I had a normal amount of cards, but I loved the gum. Five cards and square piece of bubble gum came in a pack and I can still smell the gum."

More with the gum.

Rollie Fingers: "I stared collecting cards when I was 7. I lived in Ohio and it was 1951 or 1952. But I lost all of them on a clothespin clipped to a bicycle wheel. I bet there was a Mickey Mantle rookie card in there, so that is quite an expensive bicycle."

You're killing me, Rollie. Mantle clipped to your bike? I must have been a strange kid, because I never put any baseball cards on my bike.

Robin Yount: "I had maybe 100 (cards), but most of them ended up in our bicycle spokes. My favorites were Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle."

There is an interview with Yount about baseball cards in the old "Baseball Cards Magazine" from the 1980s. It's much more in-depth. I should re-read that some day.

Monte Irvin: "My two brothers and I collected cards. We had a trunk in the basement which contained 1,000 cards. My brother, Cal, would count his weekly to be certain all of his remained in the trunk."

My favorite story. I have two brothers, too. And we made damned sure that we had all our cards at all times.

There are some other interesting quotes, about how Bobby Doerr's wife threw out his card collection, about how Dick Williams' son gave away his collection -- which include some Mantles -- to a boy down the street whose father had died.

Anyway, Bo, keep doing what you're doing. It's reassuring to know that the guys who actually made the majors were just like us when they were kids.


  1. I second the Bo acclaim. I love reading about all of those guys, from the long time major leaguers to the minor league flameouts. It's pretty cool that so many guys answer those questions for him - I'm always impressed.

  2. I got the same magazine last week; I guess I'll have to take a few minutes to actually look through it. :)

  3. When I think of all the cards that gave their lives in bicycle spokes...why couldn't it be the junk wax generation that discovered that? It is nice to know that ballplayers were, and some still are, collectors.

  4. The cards-in-the-bicylcle-spokes thing has always facinated me. I started collecting in earnest in 1976 at the age of 10. By then (at least in my neighborhood) baseball cards were far too sacred to clip to your bike. Must've been more of a 50s and 60s thing.

  5. I did the bicycle spokes thing in my early years of collecting (74-76), but I made sure the cards that were sacrificed were doubles.

  6. When I went to Cooperstown about three years ago, I spent a lot of money on baseball cards.

    Me and the boyfriend call it Baseballtown. Sigh.

  7. These are great stories.
    Thanks for the kind words!

  8. My issue just arrived today, and looks like a cover to cover read.

    Thanks for tipping me off to it.

    Cooperstown is baseball card shop heaven! My favorite shop is the one that has the prize wheel, where you can win even more cards, but I forget what it's called. It's the only shop I ever actually pull any decent cards from, and their pack prices are reasonable.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Addressing the elephant in the room

A few people have noticed: I changed the way the blog looked with zero fanfare earlier this week.

I've changed my blog appearance, I think, six times now, although one was just a header swap. Just about all of those came with a bit of a warning or explanation.

I didn't think that was necessary this time, mostly because I've been doing this for over a decade, am pretty established, and don't think I need to justify my decisions here.

But also I thought that people were familiar with the general changes in web sites over the last two, three, four years and wouldn't be that affected by it. For the most part that seems to be true -- or, no one cares and they're all looking at pretty instagram pictures.

I've received a couple of questions though and just because I hate the feeling that some readers are lost, I'll explain what I can.

The changes, like many web site changes, are related to mobile phone use.

I've been irked by the way my blog looks on my p…

Mind explosion: a different way to sort

This may have been one of the most tedious blog posts to put together in the history of this blog, but I think it's for a good cause.

The reason I'm not entirely sure is because I didn't have time to carry it out for a few more attempts, got to shovel that 7 inches of heavy wet snow plopped on my estate on Nov. 12th.

Anyway, a couple of days ago, Colbey from Cardboard Collections was sorting his Topps Holiday set by card number and asked a very common question that I've seen come up many times during my blogging career:

 This is always a satisfying question because this is how I organize my sets when I'm organizing by card number. At the top of the post I showed cards from the 2019 Topps flagship set being sorted in that manner -- stacks separated by hundreds first, then you create separate stacks by 10s within each hundreds stack, then finally order each of the 10s by card number.

I've done this since I was a kid and first knew the card numbers on the back me…

Looking at cards with Johnny B.

Over the weekend, I got a chance to express my inner Mike Oz and share some baseball cards with a former major league player.

I'm working on a story for my paper that involves ex-player Johnny Wockenfuss, who is almost a cult figure with fans of a certain age (I am one) and especially fans of the Detroit Tigers during the '70s and '80s.

I won't go into much detail -- at least not now -- because I'm still in the middle of working on it, have more gathering to go, and I get very protective of my stories while I'm in the middle of the process. Got to retain that exclusive, you know.

But I will say that I was able to sit in the home of Wockenfuss, give him the cards that I have of him in my collection, and ask his opinion on them.

Yeah, cool. Way cool.

I have 17 cards of Wockenfuss ("you have a lot of them," my wife said, and I thought "if that's a lot, what is my Hideo Nomo collection?"). Wockenfuss remembered the cards -- "every bit …