Monday, July 26, 2010

The ballad of the Stephen Strasburg purple refractor

You remember this guy, don't you?

It's been quite a while since I wrote about him. When last we visited young Bowman Strasburg, he had been sent on a journey, shipped off in the U.S. mail after being sold for almost 100 bucks. Meanwhile, I was looking forward to turning the 20 dollars I spent on the blaster that yielded the Strasburg into a 1950s card, preferably Jackie Robinson or Koufax.

And that's when the Strasburg hit the fan.

The guy who bought the card said he never received it and filed a claim. I was furious. Never once, out of all the packages that I have sent out in nearly two years, has anyone said that they didn't receive their cards. I called bullshit. Rob, of VOTC, who proxy-sold the card for me, called bullshit.

A week later, as Paypal looked into the matter, the buyer said everything was cool. I don't know what happened that made him suddenly change his mind, but I'm hoping a guilty conscience had something to do with it. After vowing to never sell anything on ebay, I had my cash and I was ready to spend.

Then, I came upon my next problem. I had decided to go hell-bent for the '56 Topps Jackie Robinson. It's a pricey card, but condition didn't matter too much to me, I thought. I could find something acceptable for a smaller price.

I thought wrong. I was not willing to pay the amount of cash it took to buy a card with a look that would bother me every time I saw it. I searched over and over for a card for the right price and the right condition. Weeks went by. I still couldn't find what I wanted. If the Robinson card that gcrl featured today had popped up, with all its trimmings, would I have bought it? Well, I don't know how much that card cost, but probably not. I'm just a little too finicky, I guess.

While all of this was happening, I probably could have landed a Koufax or two with the cash. But my mind was so focused on Robinson that I completely forgot about Sandy. That was a mistake.

By now, I was staring a card show. It's one I go to every year, down along the river in Clayton. It's a small show, dominated by coin, stamp and postcard dealers, but I know a couple of dealers always have cards. One is a local guy, deals mostly in vintage and always has Brooklyn Dodgers cards. "He will have a Robinson card," I assumed.

He didn't.

And the only Koufax card he had was the '55 rookie card, which a) is an an insane amount of money, and b) I have already.

None of the 5 other card dealers at the show had anything close to a '50s Robinson or Koufax.

Perfect, I thought. The one day in my life that I am absolutely committed to spending triple figures on a single baseball card and there isn't one I want to buy.

By now, my patience had left the building. I had been sitting on this cash for more than a month, which is a significant amount of time for me when it comes to cards. I was standing in a blazing hot arena surrounded by cards -- maybe not the perfect cards, but definitely cards that I wanted in my collection.

You be the judge: I am either cursed by liking too many things or blessed by it.

Anyway, there was no way I could leave that building, after that drive and that WAIT, with nothing.

The Robinson dream died that moment, sorry to say. Here is what I got, instead, with the Strasburg money:

I will start with the dollar-or-less box, which sat immediately to the left of the guy who didn't have the Robinson. I nearly pulled a back muscle bending over this box, which was not organized in any fashion and had football and basketball cards mixed in throughout. Annoying.

An early Russell Martin card from '05 Upper Deck Reflections. I don't pretend to know anything else about this card or set. I just know Martin had the winning hit last night.

An early SP card of Mike Piazza, from 1994, I believe. Again, can't tell you much more.

One of those 2006 Mickey Mantle cards on the current Topps designs. This was one of the three I was missing. Just need '98 and '97 in my obsessive quest to complete everything that includes both the word "Topps" and "2006."

Hey! There's a Robinson card. OK, it's just a little 2001 Archives card. It's my consolation prize, I guess.

This is a 1961 Topps card of '55 World Series hero Johnny Podres. Why it was in the dollar box, I'll never know. It isn't in the dollar box anymore.

I did land a couple of Koufax items from this same table. Not exactly what I wanted, but any addition to the Koufax collection is a good one.

Here's an off-center version of one of my favorite cards in the 1964 set, commemorating Koufax's ass-whipping of the Yankees in Game 1 of the 1963 World Series. Great, great card.

This is from 1966 Topps Rub-Offs. The dealer had no idea what this was. The dealer next to him made an educated guess. I don't understand how dealers don't know the stuff they sell.

I didn't want to leave Drysdale out, so I finally grabbed his 1966 card, which I have seen a million times since I was a little kid but never owned. It be mine now.

Across the way was a familiar face who I had not seen for a few years. He was the man who sold me many 1974 and 1975 Topps when I was completing those sets. He would show up each Wednesday at the collectibles shop and I'd go there around lunch time and grab some more cards. That shop no longer sells cards and I haven't seen him since.

On Saturday, he was selling mostly coins, but he had a bin filled with baggies of vintage cards -- 50 cards per baggie. One baggie immediately caught my eye. This was the card on the top:

This was one of three cards that I need to complete the 1976 Topps set. I looked and saw several other bags of '76 Topps. I instantly told the guy that I needed only two more cards to finish off the set -- could I look through the bags to see if the cards were in them?

He answered affirmative and off I went. I looked through seven bags. No success.

So, I grabbed the Campaneris bag.

And I grabbed a bag of 1977 Topps:

This was important, because when I finish off the '76 set, which could be any day now, guess where I'm going next?

I also grabbed another bag of a set I'm collecting:

Weeee! 1972 is so much fun. I finally might be at a point where I can put up a want list.

In the meantime, here are two of the great cards from that bag:

As many of you know, Cowan and the photographer conspired to arrange the shot so it looked like Cowan was wearing a halo. I wonder if I would have noticed this if I was collecting '72 as a kid?

This is one of the most unfortunate "looking up" shots of the 1970s. Swoboda appears as if he's trying to see what is underneath his cap. Meanwhile, the photo angle makes his head resemble an over-ripe grapefruit.

OK, moving back to the '50s vintage guy.

I couldn't leave without getting SOME sort of '50s Brooklyn Dodger. But before that, I bought the 1956 Hank Bauer card that I posted yesterday and another '56 card:

It's the 1958 A.L. MVP. I see that this is on the want list of AdamE of Thoughts and Sox. I really hate surrendering cards from a set that I am collecting, but perhaps Adam has something 50's-ish that he thinks I might want.

OK, so now we're nearly at the end and Strasburg still hasn't landed me a Brooklyn Dodger. The pickings were slim, but I finally settled on a handful.

First, the rookie card of the man who saved Game 7 of the 1955 World Series for the Dodgers 55 years ago. This is only my second '55 card. Part of that is because I've never been a big fan of the set, but the big part is that it's a wee bit expensive.

The other thing I got was a trio of cards from 1951 Bowman. I'm not one to track down super old cards. These three cards are now tied as the second oldest of my collection:

Hermanski may be the least known, but, wow, that's a great card. I have a new appreciation for '51 Bowman with these cards.

And, that's where the tale ends.

When I asked for people's opinions on what I should get with the Strasburg money, a lot of folks said that I should "go big" and get one monster card for the Strasburg. That way, everytime I saw that card, I would remember how I got that card.

I liked that idea. But it didn't happen that way. Perhaps if I had been more patient or less particular, I would have that classic card.

But I look at it this way: I have this post. Everytime I see this post, I'll remember how I got these cards.

Sure that's rationalizing. But I still plan to land that Robinson card some day, and I think I will, probably sooner than later. Only this time, I won't be banking on pulling a shiny Strasburg.

Instead, I'm already putting pennies in the piggy bank.


  1. I believe that Mantle is from 2004 because of the base design. But I could be wrong.

  2. No, it's from 2006. Topps had a special insert set that year in which it featured different photos of Mantle on Topps designs from 1996 to 2006.

    But lord knows Topps does a great job of making it confusing as hell.

  3. Off topic, but this may be relevant to your interests.

    Got yer package today by the way.

  4. I used to attend that Clayton show every year when I lived up there. One of these years, I must get back that way.

    But look at it this way...Strasburg is still an unproven player and it will take years to know if he's a Hall of Fame-caliber player or another chapter of the Herb Score/Dean Chance/Ron Bryant story of "what if?" You basically exchanged a modern card for a bunch of others. That doesn't happen very much anymore, so my hat is off to you.

    And I got your package as well. Thanks!

  5. Sounds to me like that guy was having a case of buyer's remorse. Anyway, you got some great cards for your Purple Monster. It was definitely worth it.

  6. I can't say I hate what you did with the cash. Afterall, you DID get stuff you wanted.

  7. I now ship everything signature required. I already had some moron attempt to rip us off until I shipped the signed green index with his "JOHN HANDCOCK" into PAYPAL and the case was settled 2 days later in our favor.


  8. 72T swoboda - we can all be thankful there are no obvius bats in the dave! ;)

  9. It is a good thing you posted that when you did. I already had cards for you packaged just hadn't made it to the post office yet. I have something that might interest you...

  10. You sold something to a stranger for $100 and DIDN'T include delivery confirmation?

  11. This is why I don't sell, Jim. I'm not cut out for it. Now, be happy that I found some cards.