One of the most significant cards in my collecting history arrived at my door today.
The 1956 Topps Willie Mays card ties my formative collecting days to my current collecting existence, confirms what I believe in in this hobby, and realizes dreams from long ago I never thought possible.
It also sets a couple of personal records.
It is the most I've ever spent on a single card. Yet it didn't hurt my wallet nor cause any regret. In terms of a cardboard acquisition it is about as perfect as it gets. No guilt. All power and beauty.
It removes a considerable road block in my quest to complete the 1956 Topps set. It was one of the Big Three that I fretted over for years. "How would I ever obtain that card?" And now it's here.
I don't have to remind you that baseball legends from the 1950s (and '60s and '70s) are departing at a rapid pace. That wasn't a top consideration in landing this card. But with Willie's age (he will be 90 in May) and the way the hobby has been in the last year, it's a relief to own this card when I do.
In terms of condition, it is also the perfect specimen for me. Not only do the rounded corners, slight marks, creases and off-centered-ness scare away the PSA crowd, but it kept the price in my range and it eliminates any counterfeiting concerns in the back of my brain.
Plus, it just looks like a card from the '50s SHOULD look. I am not crazy about pristine, sharp-cornered cards from that decade. Sure, I'd take one. But not only is the "is this fake?" radar high when I see a '50s card that hasn't been molested in the slightest, but it just doesn't look natural for a card from a period in which "preserving your investment" wasn't a thought in any card collector's mind.
This satisfies my need for a Mays card that has a solid appearance but also looks realistic. "VG" is the perfect rating for my '56 cards.
Like many Topps cards from the mid-1950s, Mays' head shot on this card is a repeat of his appearance in the 1954 and 1955 sets. What separates this one from those two earlier cards is the exciting play-at-the-plate action scene.
The image appears to be from this play, Blogger, SABR member and Giants fan Nick enlightened me on that.
Card backs for legendary players are such a kick. A few observations:
1. I had no idea Mays was a Junior.
2. The fielders must be in Fenway Park in that first cartoon. Who else has a wall that tall?
3. You get a good indication of what observers thought of Mays' fielding skills at the time with the use of the word "impossible."
4. Check out those stats from 1955. Mays finished FOURTH in NL MVP voting. His numbers were better than anyone who finished above him, winner Roy Campanella, as well as Duke Snider (2nd) and Ernie Banks (3rd).
There was some minor angst with obtaining this card. It was scheduled to arrive a week ago Tuesday. But then the storm hit Texas and other southern states the weekend prior. Even though my card was coming from Arizona, I waited, and waited and waited as it sat in Phoenix for more than a week.
If it wasn't for the storm, I'd be concerned. But, yesterday, the post office informed me the card was magically in my state (from Phoenix to New York in one, fell swoop?). I knew everything would be OK.
And everything is OK.
It's perfect really. Mays wore number 24. This card arrived on Feb. 24.
I was looking through a baseball card checklist book from the early 1990s the other day. I turned to the page on 1956 Topps. I hadn't updated the checklist since I bought the book. The only boxes checked were for the '56 cards that I had received when my dad brought home that shopping bag full of them back in the early '80s.
I owned 114 of them then. And that total stayed the same for two decades. Now I have 331.
The Mays card brings my want list under double digits. I need nine cards now. Yes, yes, two are Mantle and Clemente.
But you saw my Mays card, right?