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Brush with greatness: John Wockenfuss and the power of baseball cards

My story on John Wockenfuss appeared in the newspaper Sunday. I believe you can read it here. I don't think the paywall kicks in until after the first few articles.

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So, read it?

Not all ballgames and butterflies, huh? We collectors like to romanticize our baseball players, but life doesn't care whether "John Wockenfuss" is fun to pronounce or that his batting stance was goofy.

I knew that Wockenfuss had dementia before I even called to set up an interview. I was told it was in the early stages, but I didn't know exactly what I'd find. How successful would I be communicating with him?

I've dealt with difficult interviews in the past. I once was assigned to interview a deaf person while in college. I tried to interview over the phone an elderly man living in Arkansas who had a hearing problem. That didn't work. Also, when trying to talk to a high school athlete, you never know what you'll get. Sometimes I'd listen to my recording back a…
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One star (or stripe) to go

When I first started my quest to complete the 1976 Kellogg's 3D set, I also kicked off an attempt to complete the 1976 Hostess set.

Both food-issue sets, issued during the Bicentennial, are among the most patriotic-looking collections ever made. Each card is like a mini flag.

The Kellogg's set is particularly ingenious because it features both stripes -- the border traveling around the card -- and stars. The word "stars" is at the top of every card and each of the player's shown is a star! God bless America.

I've chased after each set with enthusiasm, because I was 10 years old during the Bicentennial and stuff issued that year couldn't possibly be cooler. However, I've done much better with the Kellogg's set than the Hostess set. The Hostess set is larger and more prone to stains (one of my least favorite condition issues). Hostess also contains well-known short-prints.

I thought Kellogg's had no short-prints. But I only recently discovered …

Now, the junior circuit

Ever since Mike Trout has come into the majors, I've had no problem pulling his cards.

I've tried to complete only one Topps flagship set since Trout's 2011 arrival -- the 2015 set -- yet even while just sampling flagship every other year, I've pulled Trout's base card almost every year. I also seem to pull his inserts a lot, probably not saying much since he's likely in every single insert Topps makes, but still they seem to come out of my packs abnormally so.

But this year, I have not pulled his flagship card. I don't even know what it looks like.

OK, I just looked it up. I now know what it looks like.

Anyway, I'm mentioning Trout cards because he's the AL MVP (again) and after my NL award winners post, I've decided to take a commenter up on his offer and go through the American League teams as far as which team has totaled the most MVP awards. And then I'll list the Cy Young and Rookie of the Year tallies as well.

My enthusiasm isn't…

The terrific 10

Once upon a time I was all about the postseason awards. I couldn't wait to see who won the MVP award or the Cy Young. I remember reading in the newspaper about Rod Carew winning the American League MVP in 1977 and George Foster winning the National League MVP. It was a big deal, a moment big in my brain.

But these days I've kind of lost touch with the baseball awards. I think it doesn't help that baseball has delayed them a full week from when they used to announce them. It also doesn't help when they announce "the top three candidates" ahead of time so you already know who the top three are. Kind of takes some of the suspense away.

But overall I think it's because I just don't care too much about present-day ballplayers. And awards are very individualistic. It's a vehicle for the hype machine and we have to hear again about how Mike Trout is the greatest baseball specimen who ever walked the earth.

However, I still have that little kid in me who…

Everything is down

For awhile there, I was a bit miffed over the reaction to Tuesday's post.

I'm aware that there aren't as many set collectors as there once was and especially on the blogs it seems to be a very rare breed -- much rarer than it once was. But I expected more than one person to be at least a little amazed by the different path to putting a set in order by card number, especially since all I ever heard from set collectors prior was there's just that one way to skin a cat.

I should know by now that there is no guarantee when it comes to blog comments. But I think this is the new normal. Everything on the blogs is down these days: comments, views, number of posts by other bloggers, trades, cards arriving in the mail from other bloggers, just general enthusiasm for the card blogging life, down, down, down, down.

The interesting thing is that I've noticed the latest downturn (there have been several over the last eight years or so) within the last year.

If you go to my pos…

Mind explosion: a different way to sort

This may have been one of the most tedious blog posts to put together in the history of this blog, but I think it's for a good cause.

The reason I'm not entirely sure is because I didn't have time to carry it out for a few more attempts, got to shovel that 7 inches of heavy wet snow plopped on my estate on Nov. 12th.

Anyway, a couple of days ago, Colbey from Cardboard Collections was sorting his Topps Holiday set by card number and asked a very common question that I've seen come up many times during my blogging career:


 This is always a satisfying question because this is how I organize my sets when I'm organizing by card number. At the top of the post I showed cards from the 2019 Topps flagship set being sorted in that manner -- stacks separated by hundreds first, then you create separate stacks by 10s within each hundreds stack, then finally order each of the 10s by card number.

I've done this since I was a kid and first knew the card numbers on the back me…