I am not super strict in how I order my cards.
My Dodgers are in order by year, then set, then player.
My incomplete sets that are in either binders or boxes are in order by team most times, but by number periodically.
But my complete sets? They are all in order by card number, almost without exception.
I'm sure I've gone through this before. But searching for cards that you want when they are in order by card number can be an absolute pain. It's a lot easier to find a card if they're in alphabetical order (who has the time for that?) or by team. So that's why I have a lot of my sets in order by team.
But I can put my complete sets in order by number because there is little chance that I am going to break up the set. I don't need to search for particular cards to trade or ship off to people, so I put them in order by number as the card maker apparently intended that to happen. I feel like I'm continuing a collecting tradition.
I have done this for every single completed set. Except for one. For some reason -- probably because I'm fixated on color and was so proud that this set attached the correct color to the correct league -- I sorted my complete 1981 Drake's Big Hitters set in order by league.
I even did a post on the set because it was such a proud moment for me back in 1981 to have a completed set of any kind. Even one with only 33 cards.
One of the comments on that post noted that throughout almost the entire set, the cards alternated between a white player and a black player. I had never noticed this before, but had no reason to doubt it. "Ha, ha," I thought to myself and never bothered to investigate.
For some reason, I thought about it now.
I rearranged the cards in order by number, placed them back into the pages, and this is what I found:
1 - Carl Yastrzemski, WHITE
2 - Rod Carew, BLACK
3 - Pete Rose, WHITE
4 - Dave Parker, BLACK
5 - George Brett, WHITE
6 - Eddie Murray, BLACK
7 - Mike Schmidt, WHITE
8 - Jim Rice, BLACK
9 - Fred Lynn, WHITE
10 - Reggie Jackson, BLACK
11 - Steve Garvey, WHITE
12 - Ken Singleton, BLACK
13 - Bill Buckner, WHITE
14 - Dave Winfield, BLACK
15 - Jack Clark, WHITE
16 - Cecil Cooper, BLACK
17 - Bob Horner, WHITE
18 - George Foster, BLACK
OK, definitely something deliberate going on.
19 - Dave Kingman, WHITE
20 - Cesar Cedeno, BLACK
21 - Joe Charboneau, WHITE
22 - George Hendrick, BLACK
23 - Gary Carter, WHITE
24 - Al Oliver, BLACK
25 - Bruce Bochte, WHITE
26 - Jerry Mumphrey, BLACK
27 - Steve Kemp, WHITE
What are the actual odds that this was just a coincidence?
28 - Bob Watson, BLACK
29 - John Castino, WHITE
30 - Tony Armas, BLACK (Hispanic actually)
31 - John Mayberry, BLACK
32 - Carlton Fisk, WHITE
33 - Lee Mazzilli, WHITE
And the pattern falls apart in the final four cards. It's almost as if Drake's said, "See? We weren't obsessed with race. The last four guys don't alternate at all!"
It reminds me of when I used to collect 45s. I got into this obsession of collecting only 45s of records that went to No. 1 on the Billboard charts. I accumulated quite a few by going to this one record store.
But I didn't want anyone to know that I was doing it for some reason that I can't remember.
One day, there was a different check-out clerk at the store and he was loud and kind of annoying. I brought my records to him and he said, "HEY! THESE ARE ALL NO. 1 RECORDS!" I wasn't pleased.
Then he told me that a couple of them were discounted and I could go back and get another record or two if I wanted. I purposely went back and found a record that not only didn't go to No. 1, but barely charted. I brought it to him and he said, "Well, THIS isn't a No. 1 record."
I smiled inside. I have no idea why.
Maybe Drake's -- which was really Topps since Topps produced the set -- didn't want anyone to know the reason why they alternated races on most of the cards. Or maybe there wasn't a reason, but they want the mystery to continue for infinity. It's a weird kind of power to have.
Whatever the reason. Or whatever the non-reason, no one would have figured it out if they didn't put their cards in order by card number.