I've mentioned a number of times that I barely collected cards between 1995-2005. It's my dead period, my "stone age" of collecting. At most, I picked up 3-6 packs some of those years but they didn't stir the urge to collect again.
I've never had a name for that period, but now I do.
I call it The Rusty Greer Era.
I recently finally finished organizing and recording all of the cards that Johnny's Trading Spot sent me a little while ago. One of the benefits of receiving random cards of little connection to your collection is you end up with your first card of players you should have owned cards of a long time ago.
The card you see above is my first Rusty Greer card. Greer played 1,027 games and this is my first card of him.
That is because Greer's career, from 1994-2002, landed smack in the middle of my dead collecting zone.
For years I've been aware that I didn't own a card of Greer, just because I knew he was a fairly prominent major leaguer and it was odd for me -- someone who has been a set-collector virtually all of his collecting life -- not to own a card of a fairly prominent major leaguer. But I was never inspired to get a card of Greer. He wasn't the only one. There were just too many players from that time period for which I lacked a suitable number of cards.
But turning up this Greer card made me want to do some research. What players had the most games between 1995-2005, the period in which I didn't collect, and how few cards do I own of those players?
I hopped on baseball-reference and compiled a list of the 300 players with the most games between 1995-2005 (I also took note of some other players within the top 500 of the most games).
Here is the top 20 in games for that period:
1. Rafael Palmeiro: 1,631 games
2. Craig Biggio: 1,608
3. Chipper Jones: 1,607
4. Garret Anderson: 1,586
5. Sammy Sosa: 1,577
6. Luis Gonzalez: 1,572
7. Shawn Green: 1,567
8. Alex Rodriguez: 1,560
9. Manny Ramirez: 1,556
10. Vinny Castilla: 1,556
11. Jeff Bagwell: 1,548
12. Jeff Kent: 1,536
13. Bret Boone: 1,530
14. Omar Vizquel: 1,524
15. Derek Jeter: 1,520
16. Ray Durham: 1,515
17. Bernie Williams: 1,512
18. Steve Finley: 1,508
19. Tino Martinez: 1,507
20. Gary Sheffield: 1,504
For most of those players, I own a fair amount of cards, particularly for anyone who was a Dodger (boy, do I ever). But there are some players there who jump right out because of their relative scarcity in my collection.
Bret Boone in particular. He totaled 1,530 games during this period, 1,780 for his career, and I own seven cards of him. That could be the worst games-played-to-cards-owned ratio in my collection.
As I extended the games list out farther, I began to notice several names that were lacking from my collection. Players like Edgardo Alfonzo (39th on the list, just 5 cards), Bobby Higginson (48th on the list, just 4 cards) and Jeff Cirillo (63rd on the list, just 5 cards).
The highest players on the games list featured careers that extended well beyond 1995-2005, so they roamed into strong collecting periods for me, either early in their careers or late in their careers.
There are other players, whose careers weren't as long but were still notable, who don't fare nearly as well in my collection.
Until this card also arrived from Johnny's Trading Spot, I did not own a Troy O'Leary card. O'Leary played in 983 games between 1995-2005, which is 128th on the list. Meanwhile, Rusty Greer had 897 games (151st) during that period. So maybe I should be calling this "The Troy O'Leary Era."
There are other players with productive careers from this time period for which I own precious few cards:
Matt Lawton, 1,233 games between 1995-2005 (62nd), just one card.
Neifi Perez, 1,136 games (77nd), one card.
Tony Batista, 1,088 games (91st), one card.
Fernando Vina, 971 games (131st), one card.
Rey Ordonez, 919 games (145th), 3 cards.
Doug Glanville, 893 games (153rd), 2 cards.
John Flaherty, 878 games (158th), 1 card.
This may not mean a whole lot to player collectors or to people who simply collect one team, but for set collectors, part of the joy of set-collecting is having a wide representation of the major league season each year, which means your collection reflects most of the players of each period.
I was a little freaked out last year when Kelly Stinnett was suddenly named the manager of our little podunk independent league baseball team here and I didn't know whether I owned a card of him. This would have been a big disaster in the event I ever got to talk to him (I didn't).
I did manage to scrounge up one card of Stinnett:
(476 games between 1995-2005, 376th place)
But that didn't seem like an adequate representation for someone who played 14 years in the majors.
The No. 1 question I had with this research is which player totaled the most games between 1995-2005 and is NOT in my collection?
That player turns up in the 146th position.
It is the former Astros sensation, who hit 44 home runs in 2000 ... Richard Hidalgo.
I can't show you a card of him because I don't have a card from him.
Hidalgo is on the top of the list.
Here is a short list of the semi-notables from this period for which I don't own a card:
1. Richard Hidalgo, 911 games
2. Einar Diaz, 577
3. Marvin Bernard, 566
4. Mike Mordecai, 538
5. Quinton McCracken, 527
6. Shane Halter, 502
You may say, "so? Shane Halter was a part-timer player, I bet he's missing from a lot of collections."
But this set-collector knows that I without a doubt own cards of Marv Foley, Elrod Hendricks and Carlos Lopez -- all of whom had fewer games than Halter -- because they played between 1975-1985, as fertile a collecting period for me as 1995-2005 is fallow.
Now, I am certainly not looking to add any cards of players from the 1995-2005 period to my collection, although somebody somewhere is going to dump a bunch of Einar Diaz cards on me now, I just know it. They think they're so funny.
I didn't collect cards during 1995-2005 for a lot of reasons. But one of the reasons is it's not a pleasant period of baseball history for me. Yes, it's the steroid era, but it's also a time period where the Dodgers weren't all that fun, and a lot of teams that I despise did well.
I don't need reminders of that on my cards, and that's why my collection lacks players from this period, even while I've retroactively added plenty of 1995-2005 cards for my Dodgers collection.
This was just a little exercise for this set collector. I thought it was pretty interesting. And if any other collector went an extended period without collecting cards, it might be fun to see who is missing from their collection.
At the very least, I got a name for that era, other than "those years when I didn't collect cards."
I'm so glad I'm out of The Rusty Greer Era.