Wednesday, February 21, 2018
The last hurrah
The underlying reason behind my recent quest to pursue 1980s Fleer sets (and some of the early '80s Donruss sets) is a continued mission to connect with the baseball players who were in the game when I was a kid.
I'm not in this hobby for the dudes that play today. As much as the current hobby thrives on Judge and Trout and the hot rookie du jour, that does very little for me. I'm not even in this hobby because of Kershaw or any of the current Dodgers.
The guys who played and managed in the game in the '70s and '80s keep me collecting cards. They keep me connected. They keep me young. Sure, all of them have stopped playing. They're all old now. Some of them have died. But they will always have more meaning to me than anybody who played in the 1990s, 2000s or today.
So, with most of the Topps sets completed from my childhood, I'm searching for other avenues. Fleer is at the top of the list. So is Hostess and Kellogg's 3-Ds. Beyond that, I'm always on the lookout for oddballs that relive the good old days of 1975-85.
Recently, Johnny from Johnny's Trading Spot sent out a bunch of goodies to several collectors. I was one of those lucky people. I can't possibly put everything he sent in one post without making it a 3-day project, so you're going to see several posts that include cards that he sent.
Many of those cards reconnect me with baseball of my youth. And one of those is a collection of cards from one of several sets devoted to the short-lived Senior Professional Baseball Association of 1989-90.
The almost-complete set that he sent is the one made by something called T&M Sports. More familiar companies, Topps and Pacific, also devoted sets to the Senior Professional Baseball Association, but I prefer the look of this set (the Topps set has that relentless wood paneling theme, dammit).
The set, issued to celebrate the first year of the league, in 1989-90, is 130 cards and 95 percent of the people pictured in the set are folks I followed during my childhood and teenage years.
I don't care that the uniforms are unfamiliar. This is another opportunity to own a card of my legends. The George Fosters and the Amos Otiseses.
Every one of the players shown here was a favorite when I was a youngster. What a hoot to see them playing again, one last time.
Here are nine cards of players that probably mean almost nothing to someone under the age of 40. Too bad for them. These were all guys I collected on baseball cards in the late '70s/early '80s. They all speak to me. In fact, I'll give you 10 Paul Goldschmidt cards for one Juan Beniquez card that I have never seen before.
What a rush it is to see these cards for the first time.
All the characters from that time period are here.
With so many colorful figures in the league it's a bit of a mystery why it folded in the middle of its second season.
The SPBA was based in Florida and featured eight teams in its first year. Born from the concept of "there's senior golf so why not senior baseball," the league struggled to draw fans from the start in the winter of 1989 and was toast by December 1990.
I personally think the league was wasted on Florida. It's very much of a football state, despite its spring training status. But the old dudes aren't going to play in the snow are they?
I would have jumped at the chance to buy tickets for these games. Who cares if the players weren't as good as when they played in the majors -- did you see Cecil Cooper on the field?
Holy heck, I'd be in heaven.
But at least I now have the cards of that brief tribute to my golden age of baseball.
The league has lived on in various publications and internet tributes. You can't field a league with Gates Brown, Willie Mays Aikens, Ross Grimsley, Ron Washington ...
... and Curt Flood as your commissioner and not capture the imagination of those who follow the game.
The box that I received contained all but seven of the cards in the set. Perhaps not coincidentally, five of those seven cards are of players referred to as the league's marquee names:
#9 - Vida Blue
#35 - Rollie Fingers
#55 - Ferguson Jenkins
#59 - Dave Kingman
#112 - Earl Weaver
I'm also missing #20 - Cesar Cedeno and #118 - Favorite Suns (Luis Tiant and Cedeno).
I will be picking up those cards/welcome anyone sending those cards.
However, although all of those missing players are key parts of my baseball-following childhood, I don't consider their cards more important than anyone else's. That is the great part about collecting cards as a kid in the 1970s.
Bill Madlock is equal to ...
... Walt Williams, is equal to ...
... to Bob Shirley ...
... in the grand scheme of things.
And that grand scheme is they all made baseball the most important, glorious, fascinating event when I was a kid.
They deserve a place of honor.
They deserve this set.
They deserved to play longer in that league than a year-and-a-half.