This is the only card I have of Mickey Mantle from his playing days (OK, technically, he was done by 1969, but I'm still saying it's from his playing days).
I like it quite a bit, just because I think Topps needs to go back to the days of putting players on checklists AND making checklists parts of sets again.
(I fully realize that means player collectors will have to add a checklist to their quest. Suck it up. Nobody said player-collecting would be simple).
I have no desire to add another playing-days Mantle card to my collection, although one day I'm supposed to complete the 1956 Topps set and I'm told there's a Mantle in there. Ooof. (Nobody said set-collecting would simple either).
Fortunately, with Topps going absolutely bananas over old players on new cards for the last decade, nobody needs a get-rich-quick scheme to put a Mantle in their collection. He's in every last ever-living set ... for all eternity, apparently.
And that brings me to a post by The Cardboard Examiner.
He wondered what players might be found in a "well-rounded collection."
I happen to be of the opinion that your collection is your collection and you should be proud of it, period. If you want to collect nothing but 1988 Donruss cards of Paul Kilgus then, dammit, there should be people at your door congratulating you for "all those fine murals of Paul Kilgus photos in each and every room of your house ... can I see that restraining order, please?"
But I thought it would be interesting to test myself against Dean's list -- what he calls "The Ultimate Want List" -- to see whether my collection was "well-rounded" under these terms. I thought it was interesting because most of the players on the list are old-timey guys whose cards are not exactly easy to acquire -- but at the same time have been featured in many current sets and have become much easier to acquire in that form.
But I don't think The Cardboard Examiner had those current sets -- or this ghastly card -- in mind when it mentioned picking up a card of Mickey Mantle.
So that's what interested me. How many of these players do I have in honest-to-goodness old-timey card form, and how many do I have in updated, done-to-death, modern day Topps form?
Indulge my self-assesment, won't you?
In the order of Dean's list (with Mantle already taken care of):
I was able to land a card of Aaron from his playing days in my very first year of collecting, in 1975, instantly trading it away for a card of Ron Cey. I've since gotten that '75 Aaron back, along with several other Aarons.
Playing-day Aaron: Yup, I've got a handful. Oldest is from 1971 Topps
Modern-day Aaron: Yeah, I've got a few of those, too, but who wants to see them?
Unlike Wrigley Wax, I don't have much desire to acquire Banks cards. Who wants cards of a guy who didn't even play in a World Series? But thanks to my set-collecting ways, I do have one from his playing days.
Modern-day Banks: I've got maybe 10 of those. He's certainly been on a lot of them, but you know me and the Cubs.
I can't be a child of the '70s and not have a card of Johnny Bench from his playing days. Why, back in the '70s, they took away your plaid pants if you couldn't produce a Bench card. Nobody wanted to be standing outside in their underwear, so you best believe they owned a Bench card.
Playing-day Bench: Yes. And if you don't own this card, you fail as a collector. Your collection stinks and your dog stinks and life hates you. I don't even want to look at you. ... OK, just funnin. But it's a cool card to have.
Modern-day Bench: Yup. Got a number of those, too.
I know we are supposed to get all cozy about Berra's Yogi-isms and sit at his feet like he's our senile grandfather. But the fact is, he was a Yankee. And I don't like Yankees, especially in my collection. So let's see what I have:
Hee-hee. I love that card.
Playing-day Berra: Nope. Got nothing. Earliest card I have of his was when he was a Mets manager in the '74 Topps set.
Modern-day Berra: Yeah, there's some floating around. I'll trade you them for an '06 A&G Jeff Kent card.
I've already written about how I once owned a 1969 Clemente as a teenager but traded it away in a deal for a '51 Duke Snider. It was about the only playing-days Clemente I had for decades until I started collecting the 1972 Topps set. Then Waxoholic sent me this card:
Playing-day Clemente: Yup.
Modern-day Clemente: A few. Fortunately, he hasn't been Mantle-cized by Topps.
The ultimate private man does not have a lot of cards in comparison with his Hall of Fame peers. The estate has seen to that. I can admire that. But at the same time, shouldn't there be more than this card in my collection?:
That's all I've got. One of those horrible "A Card for Every Number" cards.
Playing-day DiMaggio: None
Modern-day DiMaggio: You're looking at it.
OK, we're getting into heavy duty territory here. There is no way I'm getting my hands on a playing-day Gehrig. I'm not going to pretend that this is killing me. I really don't care if I get a Gehrig card, which is good because it's practically impossible.
I do, however, like this card a lot:
Playing-day Gehrig: No way.
Modern-day Gehrig: This one and several others, including one from the great All-Time Greats subset in 1976 Topps.
KEN GRIFFEY JR.
Probably the easiest card to find out of anyone on this list, even Mantle. I still don't have the '89 Upper Deck Griffey and remain as indifferent about it as finding a 1930s Goudey card of Gehrig. But there are definitely some Griffey cards that I do like.
Top of the list.
Playing-day Griffey: I have around 50 different cards. I'm one of the few that don't collect Griffey.
Modern-day Griffey: Yeah, there are already post-career Griffeys out there. And I have some.
I got the Koufax rookie taken care of when I was about 15. Ever since then, it's been a chore trying to get Koufaxes from his playing days. But I've done it.
Playing-day Koufax: I think I have four or five. The goal is to have them all.
Modern-day Koufax: Thanks to 2011 and 2012 I have an embarrassment of Koufaxes.
You can find your share of post-career Maris cards. His Yankee cards from his playing days are a little more difficult to acquire. But nobody said he had to be wearing a Yankee uniform.
Playing-day Maris: I like this card even more than the Yogi Berra Astros card. I've owned this card for more than 30 years and I'd like to think I'll always have it (although it's nearly been traded a couple of times).
Modern-day Maris: Yeah, I have those, too. But who cares? Maris is in a Cardinals uniform!!
Musial is tricky because he wasn't on a lot of Topps issues in the '50s. That leaves mostly his late '50s/early '60s cards, which is a black hole as far as my collection goes. So I'll go with one of the less-often-seen modern day Musials.
One of the Walmart-only issues from 2006. Back when new pics of old guys on old designs was relatively fresh.
Playing-day Musial: Not a one.
Modern-day Musial: Several just like this card. He has some pretty nice ones, too.
You could argue for hours about why certain players are not on The Cardboard Examiner's list and others are. No Reggie Jackson? No Bob Gibson? No Rickey Henderson? No George Brett? No Bip Roberts?
Paige is a judgment call. Memorable character. Short career. So short, that your chances of finding a playing-day card of Paige ain't easy. I certainly don't expect to ever have one.
Playing-day Paige: Nothing.
Modern-day Paige: Well, if you call 1983 "modern day," then I have a Paige card. It's my only one, from the Dick Perez Hall of Fame Heroes Donruss set. Here, Dick Perez comes in handy.
CAL RIPKEN JR.
If you don't have a Cal Ripken card in your collection, I'm not going to say anything. But I'll probably text all my friends about "tha jrk who d'snt hv CalJr crd. Fool."
The point is, you could sneeze and out would pop a Ripken card.
Playing-day Ripken: And I has the best. Along with a mess of others.
Modern-day Ripken: (*sigh*) yes. I wish they'd lay off the guy for a few years.
The biggest obstacle for Dodger fans. I lamented about my inability to obtain a playing-days Robinson for so long that someone sent me one just to shut me up. But I have no idea if I'll ever acquire another one.
Playing-day Robinson: Thanks, Phungo!
Modern-day Robinson: It's reached Mantle proportions.
You couldn't get away from Pete Rose when I was a kid watching baseball. He was on your TV, in your magazines, on your cards. Pulling a Rose card from a pack was an Event. There was something about an Aqua Velva man.
Playing-day Rose: Yes sir. Several. But I'd really like to land that Ken McMullen rookie card.
Modern-day Rose: This is a rarity. I don't have a single post-career Rose card. Something about being banned from baseball, I guess.
Everyone wants a Babe Ruth card, right? Even if you're a Yankee-hater, you've got to have a card of the Bambino. That's just the way everyone is built, you know? Well, I'm built differently from everyone else. I won't rip up a Ruth card or anything. But I'm not whimpering in the corner that I don't have many of his cards.
This card pretty much took care of any yearning for the Babe.
Playing-day Ruth: Yeah, right. From the same guy who was trying to figure out how to pay his water bill the other day?
Modern-day Ruth: I know that 1976 isn't "modern day." Perhaps I should have made it "post-career" Ruth. At any rate, this card took care of any need for me to have a Ruth card. But Topps is still throwing the Babe at us.
Again, if you collected in the '70s and '80s -- even in the '90s -- owning a card of Ryan was no significant feat. But certain Ryan cards are more difficult than others.
I've had this card since I was still riding a bike to the store. It makes me forget how difficult it is to obtain. But then I realize that I still need the 1972 Ryan card, and I understand.
Playing-day Ryan: A whole bunch.
Modern-day Ryan: A whole bunch.
I feel sorry for Schmidt collectors. As I've said before, he was kind of screwed by card companies with bad photos on his cards. But there's no shortage of Schmidt items.
Playing-day Schmidt: From Cey's second-year card to Schmidt's final card in 1989, I've got many.
Modern-day Schmidt: Lots of those, too. They're boring.
I was a little surprised by this selection. The Examiner went out of his way to say that Spahn doesn't get enough credit. I'd say the same about Steve Carlton, and he should be on the list, too.
Playing-day Spahn: I don't have any -- and this is something I should be able to rectify pretty easily.
Modern-day Spahn: Yup. A handful. This one was the most recent acquisition and I'm having difficulty parting with it.
Teddy Ballgame is my dad's favorite player, so somewhere sometime I should have found a Williams card, if only to give to him (since his mom threw out his collection). But unfortunately, I don't have any pre-1960 Williams cards.
Playing-day Williams: Nada
Modern-day Williams: Yeah, I've got several of those, but I prefer a Manager Williams card. I was very pleased to land this one at a card show a couple years back.
WILLIE, MICKEY AND THE DUKE
I've already addressed the Mickey portion of the Terry Cashman song. I've also devoted a post to the oldest Willie Mays card that I have. And I've devoted many, many posts to Duke Snider cards. I think his cards might have been the subject of more significant moments in my collecting journey than any other player.
Playing-day Snider and Mays: Two beautious pieces of cardboard.
Modern-day Snider and Mays: Many, many, many, although I try to keep Mays cards out of my collection.
Yaz is a god in New England and growing up he was very popular in our household. Even way back then, we thought of him as an old man, so I'm very surprised to see him still standing. I've got several Yaz cards from his playing days -- but I always feel as if I don't have enough.
Playing-day Yastrzemski: Quite a few, but I should have more from the '60s.
Modern-day Yastrzemski: He hasn't been deigned by Topps yet, but I do have a smattering of cards, mostly from Upper Deck.
And that's the end of the list.
I don't have playing-career cards of DiMaggio, Paige, Ruth, Williams, Gehrig, Musial, Spahn and Berra. I do have playing-career cards of the others. But throw in the modern cards, and I have a card of everybody on the list.
Some might think that means I have a lot of work to do. But I don't. Aside from Williams and Spahn, I don't feel bad about not owning playing-days cards of the others. So I'm calling it now: I have a Well-Rounded Collection and I am a Well-Rounded Collector.
Of course, we can argue about all of this for infinity.
The only way to completely solve the argument is to ditch my whole collection and collect nothing but Crane disc cards from the '70s.
That would be an indisputable Well-Rounded Collection.