I made it to the card show.
It's incredible the road blocks I dodge to get to one of those things. You'd think it would be a lot easier. A show at the mall, for example. Plenty of parking, easy to get to, peruse some cards while the significant others do some shopping, and grab a bite to eat at the end.
Why can't it be that simple?
No, around here, it has to be complex, oversized and inconvenient. You want a hobby, night owl? You're going to have to work for it.
The show was at the state fairgrounds in Syracuse. That's slightly more than an hour away from me. Normally, the show is in the agricultural building. I know the routine, where to park, etc. But this time someone saw dollar signs and decided to combine the show with the grand finale of Super DIRT Week (this actually happened once before and I refused to go). If you're not familiar with Super DIRT Week, it's the last blast of the season for dirt track auto racers around the country and it's held at the Syracuse fairgrounds. Yup, the same place as the card show.
The show was moved from the normal site, which apparently was too close to the track, to another building, called the Center for Progress building. But I wasn't sensing progress.
On top of this, the organizers added on former Syracuse basketball greats who would be there to sign. I don't care in the least about college basketball. But Syracuse cares -- A LOT -- and I knew this would be even more people to surf through, besides the however many hundreds already camped out for the dirt races.
Dear lord, all I wanted was a few Kellogg's 3-D cards.
Knowing what was facing me, how I detest crowds, and that the show started at 10 a.m. and I had to work until 2 a.m. the previous night, there was no other option. I had to pull an all-nighter for this card show.
So I did. I'm up until 4:30 half the time anyway so it wasn't that big a deal. I got a little cranky around 6:30 or so, but by 8:30 a.m. I was ready to go and hit Route 81 to the town of Geddes, which is just west of Syracuse and where the fairgrounds are located.
It was then I realized how large the state fairgrounds are. Shockingly, there was no traffic. The card show building was on the opposite side of the fairgrounds from the race track. I could hear the cars roaring in the distance but they might as well have been miles away. I don't know how busy it got three hours later when the races actually started, but I was glad I was there at 10 a.m.
Normally, I get to this show around 1 in the afternoon. I like being leisurely. And you usually get rid of the autograph hounds that way because the celebrities stop signing around noon and the people who like that stuff go away, too. You also avoid lines this way. And my general philosophy in life is "AVOID LINES."
But if I wanted cards this time, I couldn't avoid a line. And there it was. Waiting to get into the Center for Progress were about 60 or 70 people. Some were wearing bright orange Syracuse gear -- and bright hunting orange really is not a good look that early in the morning. I shuffled myself into the line, not really knowing how to act since I'm so rarely in lines. I stood there in a panic thinking someone would suddenly start talking to me about Jim Boeheim.
Fortunately, the doors opened quickly and the line moved fast and I was in -- staring at a layout I had never witnessed. No one was in their customary spot. I had to traverse the layout of about 150 tables four times to figure out who was there that I knew and what was available.
It was disorienting, and I didn't find a lot of what I wanted. Two of my main missions were to grab some 1960s Dodgers needs and some 1970s oddballs. I whiffed on both. Most of the vintage I saw was super pricey star stuff. And I saw only a handful of discount boxes. I'm sure there was more stuff, but I couldn't process. The worst part was the main guy that I go to every show, who receives about 80 percent of my cash, was not there. Ugh! This would not be good.
I finally saw a dealer that I knew about my second time through the table maze. He's the guy I usually hit when I have only a few dollars left. He deals mostly in current cards and it's a great spot to get team needs of the latest cards. Sadly, his Allen and Ginter binder wasn't there -- probably bought up by some party pooper. So I sifted through his 20-cent box and came up with 20 or so cards.
I grabbed five or six of these Spring Fever cards just because this is the kind of card shop stuff I never see. I should have grabbed even more, but the rest were Tampa Bay Rays and Florida Marlins. What am I going to do with that stuff?
These cards scan vastly better than they look. If they looked the way they do here, I would have completed the set by now with however many dollars were necessary.
These will help cut down on some retail Chrome purchases. I think I cut my 2013 Dodger Chrome needs in half with these cards. These also scan a little nicer than they look in person.
This demonstrates my slavery to team collecting better than anything. At 20 cents each I won't complain much, but the fact that I'm still lazily chasing 2012 Prizzzzzzm when 2013 Prizzzzzzzzm is out tells you how intrigued I am about zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
I was happy to see these Dee Gordons. Often you move on from one year of collecting to the next and you forget about the wants from the previous year. They stagnate because who wants to find 2011 cards when there are so many 2013 needs? These cards of the Dodgers' unsuccessful pinch-runner are most welcome.
This -- I think -- is the second-to-last Dodger Chasing History parallel that I need. At the moment I write this, Hanley Ramirez is going to try to play with broken ribs. Whatever the outcome, something bad happens to the first Joe Kelly card that I pull.
The last card from this table was one of the SPs from Archives this year. I was hoping for the Davey Lopes, but a '75 tribute to El Tiante is a pretty fair substitute. It still can't compare to the original:
From there, I wandered around a little more with a "what am I going to do" look on my face. I recognized another dealer who usually has cards I like, but he was being dominated by some massive tall guy with his massive annoying kid. I couldn't even get to the table. A lot of the tables were like this. I don't know if it was the time of day -- all those coffee achievers up at the crack of dawn -- or the fact everyone was geeked up over Syracuse basketball, but I couldn't even see what was at some tables because of the very excitable people blocking my way.
So, I moved on.
Finally, I found a guy with vintage binders and I settled on the 1972 set. As soon as I found a couple of cards that I needed for cheap, I made a decision right there that this is where I would spend my money. Here are the cheapies:
#472 - Phil Gagliano
#475 - Gary Nolan
#486 - John Lowenstein
#528 - Ron Stone
#554 - Wilbur Wood, In Action
#564 - Ray Sedecki, In Action
#570 - Ed Kirkpatrick, In Action
They form part of the Yaz puzzle.
#577 - Mike Paul
It was at this point I started to feel a little cocky.
I asked for the '72s that were under glass, thinking I'd nab a few star players. But the first thing I came across were high numbers -- really, high numbers.
1972 high numbers are among the most daunting high numbers that there are. A guy next to me was looking for 1953 Bowman and when he found out I was pulling '72 highs, he started talking about my quest with reverence.
I grabbed what I could.
#665 - Chris Short
This card is amusing to me as this is what Short looked like on his card just three years earlier:
Of course, knowing 1969 Topps, this photo is probably from 1963.
#670 - Ken Holtzman. Freshly traded from the Cubs.
#696 - Rod Carew, In Action
#721 - Eddie Leon
#733 - Jim (Ray) Hart
#742 - Jim Rooker
And now we really start getting into the nosebleeds seats:
#767 - Tom McCraw. Wonderfully diamond cut.
#773 - Ron Brand
#776 - Bill Voss
#780 - Dick Green
#786 - Chuck Brinkman. Second-to-last card in the set.
Somewhere during the accumulating, I heard an announcement. Apparently one of the Syracuse greats was ready to sign. I didn't pay attention. I was too high from the '72 highs.
The dealer added up the cards. We settled on a price and I was on my way.
Behind me, I saw people in the distance lining up at the Syracuse orange-clothed table. And as I walked out of the building and toward the parking lot, I could hear cars revving in the distance.
But I barely processed either. I was in a haze of newly purchased cardboard.
All of the frustrations of the day were worth it.
I got in the car, drove back home and looked at the clock. It was 12:30 p.m.
Football was on.
But for me it was time to go to sleep.
I slept like a newborn.