Monday, February 4, 2013

C.A.: 1978 Topps Graig Nettles

(Every year the sports staff at our newspaper provides our Super Bowl predictions. I don't do very well at it. In fact, none of us are very good. I think a grand total of two picked the Giants to win last year. But we redeemed ourselves by going 6-3 in picking the Ravens. And yours truly came closest to the score: Ravens 34, 49ers 30. Only off by one point! The week's all downhill from here. Time for Cardboard Appreciation. This is the 172nd in a series):

If you ask me how long I've been doing this thing where I blog about baseball cards, I will tell you it's been four years, four months, 22 days and a few seconds.

But actually I've been spouting off about baseball cards for a much longer time. In fact, there was one time when I talked about baseball cards in front of a semi-sizable audience.

I was in eighth grade. Our teacher asked each of us to do a presentation about an interest of ours. I can't be more specific than that. I don't think she said, "talk about your hobby." I believe we had to find something that we liked to do and then get up in front of the room and talk about it.

I was a pretty shy kid. There are a couple of times when I got up in front of the room to speak that ended in disastrous fashion. But this one went better than any of the other times.

You know why?

Because I talked about baseball cards.

I had my speech figured out immediately. I decided I would use the overhead projector. You remember those things? Teachers used to put acetate sheets on them and write on the sheets with marker and the projector would magnify what they wrote on a screen that was pulled down in front of the blackboard.

I don't mean to sound prehistoric to younger readers. But really this is what we did before the advent of laptops.

I was pretty excited that I was going to use the overhead projector. This was exclusive domain of the teacher. Not just anybody got to use this advanced piece of technology.

I had it in my mind that I would use this 1978 Topps Graig Nettles card in my presentation about collecting baseball cards.

Why Graig Nettles? Well, this was after the 1977 World Series, in which Nettles tore the hearts out of Dodger fans with his sickening diving plays at third base during Game 3 of the World Series. I pretty much hated his guts. He was on par with Munson and Jackson and Piniella as the Yankees I Hate The Most.

However, even at that young age, I knew one of the basic rules of being on stage or for selling your product:

Know your audience.

I knew that most kids in class who followed baseball were Yankees fans. Because they were basically front-runners, I knew their attention spans were short (OK, that's a cheap shot, but there's some truth to it). I knew they'd be most interested if I talked about a team they liked.

So I got up in front of the room, turned on the overhead projector, placed the card on the screen and yammered about a Yankees baseball card.

I turned it over to the back and had a sheet with arrows pointing to the individual aspects of a baseball card. The name listing at the bottom (placing the name at the bottom in the 1978 set was very freaky to us as we had only known the name to be near the top). The vital stats at the top. The card number. The statistics. The "Play Ball" game. All of these featured their own little arrow. And I described what each one of them meant.

I remember using a double of this card, because I was afraid the heat from the projector would warp the card. I was a freak about condition even then.

I can't remember how long I had to talk. Maybe 5 minutes. But it flew by. If I had to get up in front of the room and talk about anything else, I would never be able to fill the time allotment -- and that would be painfully evident a few years later when I had to talk about some book I read for class.

But baseball cards? Even at age 13, I could babble about them for days.

But then you already knew that.


  1. Wouldn't have just been a black rectangle on the screen? Maybe you had fancy overhead projectors in New York!

    If you have to talk, always talk about what you love!

  2. Maybe we did. There wasn't a black rectangle. Don't ask me to explain why about technology that existed in 1978.

  3. I wish I got to do a presentation like that in school. Sounds like a dream come true for me.

  4. I work for the local school system. They use document cameras for this purpose now. Of course, they're hooked into laptops, projectors, scanners, PA speakers and multifunction printers that all roll around on a cart.
    I think they used to have a similar thing back in the day, but it looked like the fender of a '57 Chevy with a hollow bottom for the projected object or paper.

  5. I miss the smell of mimeograph printing. Look it up, kids.

  6. Per Commishbob, or just check out the scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

    Sorry Owlie, hugh Yankee and Nettles fan. He was absolutely outstanding in that series. I think Guidry pitched Game 3 and Nettles made like 6 diving stops, just an epic defensive performance.

  7. There was the Overhead projector and there was the Opaque projector.

    I gave the same speech on baseball cards in 8th grade with an Opaque projector, which was even a bit more exotic than the Overhead projector. Whereas the Overhead projector was standard issue in every classroom the school only owned one, or maybe two, Opaque projectors. It had to be a special request that was delivered by the janitor.