Thursday, June 6, 2013

'56 of the month: Enos Slaughter

Sometimes as a collector, no matter what you do, you cannot save your cards from yourself.

For those of us who are condition-conscious, we have a seemingly endless supply of tools at our disposal to protect our cards from the elements ... and the human element.

Binders, pages, boxes. Penny sleeves, top-loaders, screwdowns. Snap cases, display stands, even safe-desposit boxes.

But no matter how careful, no matter how delicate ... you're going to screw things up.

The example I most remember involves this 1956 Topps Enos Slaughter card. It probably doesn't look like it's in that terrible shape. But, take it from me, I was horrified by what I did to it.

This is one of the cards I received from that big brown grocery shopping bag of '50s cards that my brothers and I received from my father's co-worker. I was a teenager and just becoming a "serious collector." In the early 1980s, that meant reading the annual Beckett price guide, caring for your cards and, most of all, protecting them.

I had a few binders and pages. I even had purchased a few 8-pocket pages in anticipation of finding some '50s cards.

As I've mentioned before, although the shopping bag contained lots of well-known players, the superstars seemed suspiciously absent. Outside of a few Dodgers favorites -- Newcombe and Erskine -- there weren't a lot of top-notch names among the '56s in that bag.

My most prized "get" out of those cards was probably the Enos Slaughter card. By 1956, Slaughter was well past his prime as a Cardinals star, the hero of the 1946 World Series, etc. He was a part-time player and pinch-hitter.

Still it was (and is) very cool to have a card of Slaughter.

When it came time to load the cards into my special 8-pocket pages, I slowly and carefully pushed the cards into their proper pocket.

Unfortunately, this was before there were top-loading 8-pocket pages. There were only side-loaded pages. And the way you got those cards in there was to push them in from the right side. But that required the use of force and finesse at the same time. All performed by a teenager with no patience at all.

It was bound to happen.

But why'd it have to happen to Slaughter?

I puuuuuuuuuushed the card in with my thumb, knowing all the while that this technique was going to backfire on me at some point. And it did.

The right-center edge of the Slaughter card folded in on itself so that there was a dent the width of a thumb, hovering just to the right of Slaughter's left ear.


What did I do?

I've slaughter'd it!

I looked at the card full of self-loathing. It was practically ruined.

It seems silly now. As you can see by the card, it was hardly pristine to start. Corners rounded. Some nicks here and there on the sides. But I was at a stage in which damaging my own cards was unthinkable. And damaging a '50s card? Well, can I be a serious collector if I damage cards from the '50s?

Years later, the irony actually made me laugh.

In the process of trying to protect a card, I damaged it.

This has happened a few other times with my cards. Cards that have an indentation from the rings on a binder. Cards damaged when the edge of a page pocket breaks open and dents the card you're pulling out. If you're handling your cards, you are going to damage them at some point, even as you're protecting them.

The dent is visible again on the left, right next to "Enos Slaughters Me."

This kind of stuff doesn't bother me much anymore, although I do wonder what would happen if I happened to inadvertently bend or ding a prized fancy Kershaw card while encasing it in whatever "Protect Your Valuables" case I had purchased. Would I laugh it off like I do now with this Slaughter card?

I guess there's something to be said for throwing every last one of your cards in a pile in a giant box. No effort, no worries.

I'll never get to that point.


  1. You know, I actually miss the side loading pages. The eight pockets made by UltraPro that load form the top are flimsy (compared to the nine or four pocket) and the cards have a tendency to work their way out when you turn the pages.

  2. yeah, we've all done that. The old pages used to be a bit too small and it caused lots of corner damage.

    I had a really nice 1956 Bob Feller and I was old enough to keep it nice, but I screwed that up. Now I have a decent Bob Feller with a big scuff mark on it.

  3. For better or worse, I have arrived at that point where every card, no matter how prized or valuable, is treated to the same "join your brothers in the box" routine. I occasionally feel a pang of guilt, mainly for whoever may end up with my cards when I die (if they're not buried with me). But, for the most part, I'm at peace with my damage. (Sounds like a good title for an autobiography, or a blog: At Peace With My Damage).

  4. My favorite "saved a card by destroying it" story is I was putting a Rod Carew rookie card into a top loader and at that very moment, a large surprise sneeze jumped out of me, the kind that makes your whole body spaz. I was, sadly, half way putting that card in the top loader and put a nifty crease right down the middle of it - almost perfectly matching the yellow line in the center of it. Our hobby is very dusty and dangerous sometimes.