Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The pull of the pull

Like it or not, the "sick hit" is the Hollywood moment of our hobby. It's not completing a set or finding that Heritage short-print or discovering a funny little fact on the back. It's this:


Even someone like me, pretty much entrenched in old card sets now, will click on a post that screams like that to see that card. It's a show-stopper. A thrill. And even a collector who doesn't live for the hit, can appreciate the glory of the moment, and even wish it was them ... a little.

The pull of the pull is strong, even if it's not your main mission.

My card-buying purpose is to complete sets and find Dodgers. Maybe a little trade bait. If I get a hit -- like the 2008 A&G Kosuke Fukudome gimmicked SP that I pulled in a discount pack in 2009 -- then that's a nice perk and a moment to share. It won't turn me into a Nuthin' But Da HIIIIITZ Youtuber, but I can enjoy a moment in the sun like anyone.

The thing is, I've been pulling "sick" cards for a lot longer than a lot of collectors have been collecting. I've been pulling them before a lot were even alive. I almost never buy a hobby pack, never buy high-end product, but yes, I've pulled cards a lot of collectors covet.

When the beginnings of your collecting habit go back to the mid-'70s, you're going to pull a decent card or two.

So I thought I'd share some of the key cards that I've pulled over time.

The definition of "sick pull" was different at that time. I'm guessing a "sick pull" then had something to do with faking an illness to get out of school. And there were not super short prints, autograph cards, patch cards, serial numbered cards, none of that, back then.

In fact, as you'll see, in most cases, I didn't even know what I had at the time I pulled the so-called "sick" card.

These were different times.

And now, the sick pulls:

1975, Robin Yount

Circumstances of pull: My first year of collecting, probably pulled from a cello pack. I believe I pulled it in the spring of 1975. Unlike a lot of cards from that year, I don't remember exactly where I was or what I was doing when I pulled this card.

My thoughts when I pulled this card: None that I can think of. I apparently didn't think much of it because I saved a lot of the original cards that I pulled in '75, but Yount isn't one of them, which means I must have traded it away. Not a smooth move.

1977, Andre Dawson

Circumstances of pull: 1977 is hazy when it comes to remembering opening packs. I either got this out of a wax pack or a rack pack. Can't tell you when.

My thoughts when I pulled this card: I had no idea who Andre Dawson was. I disliked the four-photo rookie cards. And I cut them all up into mini-cards at the suggestion of a friend before eventually throwing them all out. That's what I thought of my "sick pull."

1979, Ozzie Smith

Circumstances of pull: 1979 is even more of a blur. Couldn't tell ya.

My thoughts when I pulled this card: I was most intrigued by the fact that Ozzie Smith spent the 1977 season in a place called "Walla Walla." Other than that, no real knowledge of who Smith was. I would eventually acquire a double of Smith and a year or two later, glue and laminate this card -- along with a few other dupes from 1978-80 -- to a binder. Sensing a theme here?

1980, Rickey Henderson

Circumstances of pull: I remember pulling this card relatively early in the 1980 season. Maybe around May or so. But that's all I can tell you.

My thoughts when I pulled this card: I was getting more knowledgeable about players at this time, as a lot of collectors were. And Henderson was a force by the time 1980 hit, so I knew this was a sweet card. (It helped that I knew a couple of A's fans at the time). This was my first real appreciation of a rookie card, but this was still long before slabbing and all that weird stuff we do now. At one point, I had three of these cards, and I'm sure they were all jumbled together in a box for quite awhile.

Dumping your Henderson rookie unprotected into a box of cardboard, now that's SICK!

1983, Wade Boggs, Ryne Sandberg, Tony Gwynn

Circumstances of pull: By 1983, the act of opening a pack was no longer special. It was all about gitting cards to complete the set! So I don't know the whens about these three, although I'm sure they were all bought at one drug store on the main drag in town as that's where we got almost all of our cards at the time. I do know that the Boggs took longer to get than the other two, because my Red Sox brother had that card very early and I really wanted it.

My thoughts when I pulled these cards: Boggs was out-of-the-box bananas from the start, and living in a Red Sox house not far from New England, he was the "it" guy at this time. I couldn't wait to get his Topps card (Fleer and Donruss? Shrug). Sandberg was pretty good from the start, too, but I don't remember thinking much about him. Gwynn didn't really hit it big until '84, so he was just a rookie I'd never heard of with a big butt in the way at the time.

1989, Randy Johnson

Circumstances of pull: Well, in 1989 I was trying to complete the set purely though purchases at one drug store in Buffalo in a strip mall. I'm 100 percent sure it came from that store.

My thoughts when I pulled this card: Johnson wasn't a known player until the early '90s. Based on how much '89 Topps I bought at the time, I'm pretty certain I once had over 10 of these cards and didn't have a clue.

1991, Chipper Jones

Circumstances of pull: Again, I bought a whole lot of 1991 cards. I'm sure it came from a drug store not even a quarter mile from my apartment.


2010, Stephen Strasburg purple refractor

Circumstances of pull: Came out of a Bowman blaster from Walmart the afternoon before I had to work in mid-June.

My thoughts when I pulled this card: Holy crap! Instant money! Holy crap! Instant money! Don't crash the car! (*hyperventilation commences*)

You can see how different things are today.

Today when you pull a hit, you know you pull a hit. No waiting for your card to mature unless you're into Bowman. There's also a lot more knowledge about cards and a lot more knowledge about players available to collectors. We were in the dark into the early '80s and even after that just had a once-a-year price guide and an every-other-month magazine to let you know what was happening in the hobby.

Other notable cards I pulled with little knowledge of who they were or the significance of the card: 1982 Kent Hrbek, 1981 Kirk Gibson, 1978 Paul Molitor, 1987 Barry Bonds, 1994 second-year Derek Jeter. Only Henderson and Boggs made an impact on me back then (I bought only factory sets in '84 and '85 so no real opportunity to pull Mattingly, Gooden, Clemens or Puckett).

I kind of wish I knew what I had when I was pulling those cards at that time. It might have made me a little more obnoxious then, shoving the card in my friends or brothers' faces saying "LOOK AT THIS! OH THIS IS SICK! SICK! SICK! DAAAAAMMN!" But everyone wants a little thrill and a moment to share from time to time. For many, it's validation for spending money on this hobby of ours.

That's the pull of the pull.


  1. Great post.
    My 'SICK ' pull : 1960 Topps Mickey Mantle ALL Star, you know, the orange and white one. Ended up on my bicycle spokes.......... More recent, 1999 Upper Deck "A Piece of History" 500 club Reggie Jackson bat card. Now encased in 1/2" thick HD screw down. What a difference 40 years makes !

  2. i think the biggest, or as you say, 'sickest' pulls i've had from packs are either a mickey mantle jersey card from an upper deck legends release in 2000, a bill dickey cut auto from a legendary cuts release, or an eddie mathews patch from 2001 topps tribute. sadly, no dodgers crack that top three, although i was giddy the first time i pulled a garvey relic from a pack about 10 years ago. it's about perspective.

  3. I cannot wait until the phrase "sick" goes away. It's an annoying word, completely misused and over used.

  4. I too am sick of "sick" as it relates to a big hit. Wish I could say I'd pulled some of those rookie cards myself!

  5. Was so done with "big mojo hitz" a while back that I took it to the extreme here:

  6. Awesome post. Since I'll never be able to afford a pack of 75T, the chance of me pulling a Yount rookie is exactly zero. But one of these days I hope to one day buy a box of 1980 Topps baseball and end up pulling a Rickey rookie... just to say I did. Another one I want to pull from a pack is the 86D Jose Canseco. Congratulations on all of those pulls... they're definitely "sick" hits!

  7. To this day I still haven't pulled Chipper Jones rookie. One of my sick pulls is Grant Hill gold card from 94-95 Hoops set. Walmart at the time used to have good selection and was buying up a storm from there before I found out about hobby shops.