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Signature collection


My card room, which debuted about a year-and-a-half ago, is already chock full of stuff. There isn't a lot of room -- on the floor, on the walls -- for much more.

If I wanted to go all out and cover every inch of space with a photo or decoration, I could do it, but I'm trying to keep it looking pleasant, so we don't have to close the door when people come over.

I've been looking at the framed card wall-hangings that I have. I like them a lot and I want to add even more, but there's probably only room for one or two.

Those wall-hangings showcase the original 1975 Topps cards that I collected that year and saved all these years.

I have two next to my card desk.

And there's one, way up high over one of my binder shelves (and hung crookedly now that I look at it).

I have just a few more original '75s that I'd like to display in another one.

But for the other wall-hanging, I'd like it to be something different, but also special, and commemorating something from my childhood as well.

I decided that display would be a presentation of the first Dodgers team that I truly followed. And I wanted to get an autographed card for every key player from that team.

The team is the 1977 Dodgers team. It is the first Dodgers team that I watched on TV, the first one that I witnessed finish in first place, the first one that I saw play in the playoffs and the World Series.

Prior to that year, I was mostly a collector and not much of a viewer or fan. Although I had cards in 1974 and collected cards in 1975 and 1976, I barely watched baseball. My memories from that time are only World Series moments. I do remember following the Dodgers in the newspaper, looking at the standings, in '75 and '76. But TV was for kids shows and Saturday morning cartoons.

That all changed in 1977. I couldn't wait for The Game of the Week on Saturdays on NBC. And when they showed a doubleheader? Oh, man, that was something to look forward to all week. I collected cards 24 hours a day and everywhere, in the classroom, walking on the way home, out in the backyard. I knew all the Dodgers names and cards and memorized the batting lineup.

Yup, this was that team. And this was the first Dodgers yearbook I ever bought.

And this is the first World Series program I ever bought. Because the Dodgers were in the World Series. It is the first World Series that I attempted to watch every game (unfortunately, mom saw to it that I made it through only the third inning on weeknight games). It's also the first year that I knew heartbreak as the Dodgers were stomped on by the loud, boorish Yankees with their loud, boorish, battery-throwing fans. Yup, this is where the bitterness began.

So that team is forever in my brain. All of those personalities and all of those moments. I'm not really an autograph collector but I do have a fair amount of Dodger autographs. So I looked up how many I had and how many I needed.

The final total told me that I had autographs for seven of the starters and one of the starting pitchers. But I wanted to get all five of the starters, because that was a significant component of that '77 team. So, over the last few weeks, I've landed an autograph card here and there of the remaining key players.

I started with the team's No. 4 and No. 5 starters. They were the cheapest to get, although they stand so much taller in my world than the Luis Roberts and Mike Trouts.

The autograph business can be sketchy, which is one of the reasons I mostly avoid it. But I wasn't going to limit the cards to certified only. I'd never get the guys I wanted that way. It was easy enough to tell whether IP or TTM cards for sale were legit by comparing signatures online or from the facsimile autos on cards I already owned. The above two are definitely legit.

I didn't plan for them to be both from the '76 set I just wanted a cheap, attractive autograph and these worked.

Next up was the No. 2 starter, Tommy John.

This was a player I could've landed when I ran into him in the post office a few years ago. But that didn't happen and Tommy John moved away and I was a little concerned that my shot was gone, just because I didn't really see Tommy John autographs around much.

Not to worry -- it was just because I never looked for that stuff. This nice one came to me pretty easily.

So I was down to two key players. Both star players for those late '70s Dodgers teams. In fact, both would be figures in a famous locker room fight -- one directly and one indirectly -- in '78.

Don Sutton was the next one landed. This was the most expensive of the recent acquisitions, although fairly reasonable. I wanted to make sure that I landed a photo with Sutton and his perm hairstyle. Too many Sutton retro cards show him pre-perm, sometimes on inappropriate late '70s designs, and that bugs me. Sutton's perm playing years began in 1975. Know it.

So, that left me with Reggie Smith.

I was a bit miffed that I didn't have a Reggie Smith autograph card already. He was one of my favorites from that team. If I had to think back to my 11-year-old self and who my favorites were then, it would probably be Ron Cey, followed by Reggie Smith and maybe Doug Rau or Davey Lopes.

Reggie Smith has a wonderful, commanding signature and there was a lot to choose from. I settled on a '79 card. It's pretty fantastic.

So, as of early this week, I've accumulated all of the 1977 Dodgers starters in autograph form. Here are the ones I already owned:

In the case of several players, I have more than one autograph card but the above are what I'm selecting for display. My Ron Cey autograph card collection dwarfs all of the others, I believe I have 18 Cey autographed cards, but that's because he's my favorite player of all-time and he's the only player for whom I seek out autographed cards.

So my objective to obtain signatures for all of the starters is achieved and that adds up to 13 cards.

The problem is, there aren't any of those card wall-hangings that house exactly 13 cards. The ones I have hold either 16 or 20 cards.

I could meet the 16-card criteria right now.

I own an autographed card of the Dodgers' top relief pitcher from that year (the "closer," if you will), Charlie Hough. I also have autograph cards of Manny Mota and Al Downing, who each played for the Dodgers in 1977. (Downing's contribution was minimal).

That would get me to 16 cards.

I do like the 20-card frames more, though (and I know that I can buy one of those at the Michael's in town right now).

So if I want to fill a 20-card hanging, I'll need to nab some cards of backup players and relievers. I've looked around at those players and I can easily get four more. Lee Lacy, Elias Sosa, Mike Garman, Johnny Oates, they're all there. If I want to look for an autographed card for the manager, Tom Lasorda, that would take a little more doing.

I just need to spend some more figuring out what I want to do.

But with all the main players out of the way, I'm happy that the heavy lifting is out of the way. I'm also happy I get to do this:

Who else arranged the starting lineup like this? I did this ALL THE TIME as a kid. It was one of the indications that you had enough cards in your collection when you could select a random team, like the Twins or Brewers, and lay out a complete starting lineup from the 1977 set. (Yes, the pitcher is hitting, dammit).
To do it with the Dodgers -- all in autograph form -- blows the mind of that 11-year-old who lived and died over watching his team on TV for the first time in all of those Saturday afternoon matchups against the Reds and Phillies (but especially the Reds) that year.
I think gcrl from "cards as I see them" inspired me to finally do this. I believe this -- or the '78 team -- is the key Dodgers squad from his childhood. I don't have the direction or will to get every 1977 Dodgers card signed or anything like that. This will do just fine.
And this card room is really shaping up nicely.


Bill@Bravestarr said…
I thoroughly enjoyed this post. Reggie does have a great signature!

Do you ever worry that the cards will fade in the display? I do scans of things I display because of that.
night owl said…
That's a thought. And a good idea. ... I plan to display it outside of where the light shines in the room, but still there's that fading possibility.
Nick Vossbrink said…
I haven't felt like posting much recently but this is one I think I'll steal since I've been unofficially doing something similar with the 1989 Giants. I actually had a head start on this back in 1989 but have since filled in a decent amount of the entire roster. 22/24 for the playoff roster. 5/6 for the coaching staff. And 32/45 for the 40-man roster. There's something about that resonant team from your youth where you *knew* everybody and were in to *everything*. I wonder if were were all eleven that year too.
Fuji said…
A. That 1977 Yearbook is beautiful. Love that you can actually recognize the players.

B. I have a few of those 20 card holders on my wall. About ten years ago, two of them were reserved for San Jose Sharks autographs I have. After two or three years, I noticed some of the autographs were fading. It wasn't very noticeable on the wall, but when you took them out of the plastic and compared them to other cards it was very obvious. There were never exposed to direct sunlight... and my office in general doesn't receive too much outside light exposure. I still have a few autographed cards displayed in my office, but only of cards that I have duplicates or are signed in ball point. You might want to be carefully with the one signed in Sharpie.
steelehere said…
I have a random comment not pertaining to this post but of something else you collect.

I was talking to someone who knows the specifics on how Topps sources the cards for their vintage buybacks. One of the stipulations from Topps is that they won't/can't buyback any Pete Rose cards for obvious reasons. Obviously that means putting together a complete 660 card 1975 buyback set isn't possible.
kcjays said…
Very nice, congratulations!
For what it’s worth, I think you should include an autographed Tommy Lasorda card.
Just my two cents.
Mark Hoyle said…
Cool post Greg. I agree Reggie Smith has a great autograph. I have that same card of his signed. Actually have a bunch of Reggie sigs. I did the same thing with the 67 Redsox team. Have one card autographed by anyone who appeared in a game that year
AdamE said…
I started to do this for the 04 Sox. Not put them in a display but get an auto for each player. I didn't go all the way through with it. I know I got a majority of them but I don't remember where I left off, I know I never have got a Pedro auto yet though. This might inspire me to restart it again.

I bought one of those card frames for some extra Virdons I have but sliding the hard cases out scratched the surface of the frame so I never hung it. It's sitting behind my desk, probably been there for 3 years. I got it out just now to look at it. It is a 20 card holder, of the 20 cards only 3 are in the correct spot in the cases. The 18 others have all slid down to the bottom . Guess it is a good thing I never hung it. It would have driven me crazy to fix them all the time.
That Dusty Baker card is frickin' sultry.
Jafronius said…
Way late I know, but I wanted to commend you for a great post and wonderful topic and memory. I hope there's an update with the completed frame!