I'm a simple guy really. Others want to talk politics, the environment, financial markets, class warfare, technology, vacation sites in Europe. I want to talk baseball cards.
It is almost the only topic that I can talk about at length. You know all those people in your life who can talk a lot? Do you ever marvel about how they can talk that much about something or shift from one topic to another seamlessly without a pause? I do. There is really only one thing I can talk about that much so naturally, and that's baseball cards.
But what to do? There is no one around here that can do that or wants to do that. I pour out all my thoughts on the blog, and it's a fine, and sometimes superior, substitute for the spoken word. But what about the spoken word? Would I converse -- in person -- with a fellow collector, outside of the spare moments at card shows, ever again?
The answer to that question, asked prior to Saturday, is "yes."
I was planning for the twice-yearly card show at the state fairgrounds in Syracuse, scheduled for next month, when Angus, of Dawg Day Cards, sent me an email out of the blue with notice of another card show in Syracuse. Was I going?
I had never heard of this show, and the date -- Saturday, September 10 -- didn't sound promising. I rarely get Saturdays off -- people like to play sports on them, you know -- and early September is kind of crazy. They really like to play sports on Saturdays in early September.
So I sent Angus an email back saying it sounded nice, but I was planning for next month's show and work was too busy.
Then something weird happened. Almost within the same day, a rescheduled family event conflicted with next month's show and I realized that I had scheduled myself off for that very September 10 (because the Labor Day holiday required 3 days off for everyone and in newspaper world you can't take a normal 3-day weekend).
That September show looked pretty good now.
So I let Angus know I'd be going, and after working very late the Friday before, set off for Syracuse and the Ramada Inn situated off the Thruway.
There it is now. Great day for heading inside and staring at cardboard, right?
The show started at 10 but I can never get there that early. I ambled in a few minutes after 1. There were maybe 12 dealers tables, and a few collectors. Not many. I spotted Angus right away. Big guy. With a bright orange Brady Quinn Browns jersey.
He was standing over some vintage football cards. I won't go into what he was looking at because I don't want to step on his blog, but he was at the table of the dealer who I buy stuff from all the time. This guy -- whose name I know but I keep forgetting (getting older is absolutely fantastic) -- is always at the fairgrounds and has the greatest cards if you're into vintage.
I greeted Angus and we started talking cards as if we were picking up on a conversation from last week. I had a mental list of what I wanted to buy, but that list was overshadowed by the voice screaming insistently "1972 HIGH NUMBERS! GET THEM!"
I told the dealer I was looking for '72s and he said "you're in luck" and pulled out a giant box from behind him that had nearly the entire 1972 set in it. The dealer said he had just acquired it and most of the set's cards were in there. "I'm looking for high numbers," I said cautiously. And the dealer gestured that they were in there.
I went to work.
Not a high number. But ol' No. 402 Bobby Heise had tormented me for too long. He was now mine.
I pulled cards as I talked cards with Angus.
#660 - Paul Blair
#710 - Jim Kaat In Action
#731 - Orioles team
#745 - Julian Javier
#778 - Twins Rookies
Phew! That was heady stuff. You wanna talk about your European vacation? That was mine right there. I paid up without a tinge of regret, talking cards with Angus all along.
I had never attended a show with someone as interested in or as well-versed in cards as me. It was almost as if we had the run of the place, pulling up cards we thought were interesting or stupid or cool and showing them to each other.
The dealer in the back of the room featured all kinds of great stuff. Cheap autograph cards. Oddballs. Discounted vintage. The dealer had a New York accent. Angus has a Canadian accent. I didn't have an accent (that I know of), but I didn't care because I had discounted vintage and oddballs in front of me!!!
Angus was over at the far edge of the table looking through discounted sets in a bin.
He held up a 1978 Burger King Yankees set. MINE.
He held up a 1981 TCMA Renata Galasso set. MINE.
Dammit I had to get to that bin myself.
I grabbed the '78 Burger King set.
This brings back memories. Probably the first Burger King set I ever knew. As I mentioned back when Mark Hoyle sent me the '79 set, these were highly desirable, not because they were Yankees, but because the set featured Topps cards with poses we had never before seen.
Those are some of the Burger King cards that look like the Topps cards we all knew.
And these are the wonderful variations. Back when variations were exciting and not a tired old money grab.
I found a similar set in the bin from a few years later.
I've gushed about the Coca-Cola sets from the early '80s before -- I'd love to own every last team set, even though the Dodgers never appeared in one.
This one is from 1982, obviously, and it's the Red Sox set. The Sox set added a second sponsor, Brigham's, which was a long familiar restaurant and ice cream store in the Boston area. The 22-card set doesn't have any image variations that I know of (unless it's subtle cropping) but it does contain a bonus on the back:
Awesome red backs instead of the usual green from '82 Topps.
The other set in the bin that Angus showed me I knew I wanted instantly.
This is the TCMA/Renata Galasso set, which spanned 1977-84. The set in the bin is cards 136-180, which is Series 4 of the 6-series set. It contains stars and notable baseball people from the first two decades of the 20th century.
You can see that Ruth and Jackson are listed not with their more familiar teams but with the teams for which they played earlier in their career.
Those are the two Dodgers in the series. I'll be separating them from the others, but feeling just a tinge guilty about it.
The 77-84 TCMA Galasso set is the first retro tribute set that I ever knew. It is the Sporting News/Conlon set 15 years before that came along. It features familiar photos, sure, but also photos of guys you never see in pictures, like Wilbur Cooper and Nick Altrock.
The more I see these, the more I wish all six series were in that bin.
Meanwhile, I had found some other discounted cards that I wanted at the table. But the '72 high numbers had pretty much cleared me out.
I heard Angus ask about an ATM machine, and the dealer said he thought there was one in the bar. "ATM, I can do the ATM," I thought in what seemed perfectly logical at the time (and actually I didn't do much damage to the budget).
We set off in search of the ATM.
When we got back, the dealer had our packages ready to go. "Thank God for ATMs," he said.
Here are some of the discounted cards I nabbed:
This was turning into an excellent show.
By now, I had figured I was done buying. But Angus kept looking. I'm not sure what he bought for himself, but, man, he bought a lot of stuff for other bloggers. He was quickly becoming one of the most generous card bloggers I knew, and definitely the most generous one I knew in real live person.
Although I was pretty much out of cash, I hung around because my buddy was talking about cards. We eyed some cool stuff, talked 1955 Bowman football and 1983 Fleer baseball and which blogger likes what. In the background, Tony Atlas, the wrestler/body builder who I remember from the '80s as "Black Superman," laughed his way through signing photos. But I was too into the cards.
I ventured off on my own to the table at the front of the hall. There, I found another discounted card:
A 1954 Bowman Jim Gilliam. The only Dodger I picked up the entire day.
This guy had a whole bunch of vintage in binders, too, and I grabbed the 1972 Topps binder on a whim. I didn't nab the Garvey or Rose (I wasn't going to the ATM again), but I did get the last lower number in the set that had driven me crazy.
Number 527 Dave Leonhard, whoever you are, you're now part of the collection.
Angus joined me at the table and the card conversation continued. He knows how to engage dealers. I'm a lot more reserved. But the discussion was about cards, so I had no problems joining in. I checked my phone. I had been there almost 2 1/2 hours, far longer than I am at a show with many more tables.
As the talk continued, I spied one more card for a price I could afford:
The dealer almost acted like "why do you want that?" The perception some collectors have about oddballs amuses me. The 1976 Kellogg's set is far superior than many of the sets that are much more well-known, sir!
We finally made our way out of the hall and the hotel and talked more cards and baseball in the parking lot. Since we were both headed back in the same direction, me back to Watertown and he back to Ottawa, we decided to meet at the Wild Wings in Watertown to -- you guessed it -- talk more cards.
We talked and talked and talked cards. The waitress came over to our table at least four times after we were done with meals to ask if we needed anything else. Finally, we headed out. Angus left me his contact info and said if I was ever in Ottawa (a great city, by the way) to let him know.
Gee, I wonder what we'll talk about?
Angus had another show up in Canada to go to on Sunday. He later let me know he found some Dodgers for me. What a guy.
Before I knew whether I'd be able to get to the Syracuse show, he said he had some cards for me that he'd give me if I got there. With my uncertainty about going, he decided to send them to me. I got them the day before the show.
A bunch of Leaf Dodgers that I needed.
And this odd-shaped item, which Angus told me a story about, but I can't remember it now.
Then there were these:
More '72 highs! (That Rangers checklist is a candidate for the top '70s cards of all-time).
The cards are in fantastic shape. Angus said a college buddy gave him the cards a long time ago, and he decided to get them to collectors who needed them.
With all the '72s I accumulated over the weekend, I'm down to needing just 10 cards for the set. Isn't that a hoot?
It was quite a weekend and quite a day.
Really, all those cards are great, yet the best part was getting to know a collector who enjoys the hobby so much and enjoys sharing the wealth. And who is a nice guy. I've grown just a little cynical with the blogging scene recently, and it was good to have someone pull me back to why this is all worth it.
And that's what it's like meeting a real live card blogger.