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Players in my collecting sweet spot

Ron Hodges passed away just about two weeks ago. Unless you're a Mets fan, you may not remember him. I barely remember him from the time I watched Mets games on WOR with my grandfather. I remember him more from my baseball cards.
Hodges was a longtime backup catcher for the Mets and just the Mets. He was there for about a dozen years. You probably couldn't get away with that today -- well, you could but not without a bunch of people crabbing on social media about how you don't hit and what's wrong with management and get rid of this guy already.
Hodges was 74 and I'm pretty used to players from my childhood passing away now, but it hit me a little bit harder. While thinking about it over the last few days, I realized it might be because Hodges played during my collecting sweet spot -- and only during my collecting sweet spot.
That collecting sweet spot is also what I refer to as "my first collecting period." I've probably listed this before but these are the stages of my collecting journey:
1974/75-85: First collecting period
1989-94: Second collecting period
2005-now: Third collecting period
I hope there's not a fourth collecting period. But anyway, the first collecting period is the most special. Those are the players to whom I have the most attachment, they are the ones I want in my collection. Those are the sets I want in my collection.
Hodges is one of the few players whose rookie card (1974) is at the start of my first collecting period and whose final card (1985) is at the end of that period. He bookends that period perfectly.

That's pretty nice. I love those sets. Hodges did not have a card in the 1976 Topps set (nor in the SSPC set that year, he played in just nine games in '75). But otherwise he has a spotless record. Pretty damn good for a backup catcher.

I became curious about what other players completely covered my first collecting period from beginning to end. There actually aren't many.

Some players just fell short by a year, here are some of them: Elias Sosa, Bucky Dent, Bake McBride, Rick Burleson, Tom Underwood and Richie Zisk.

Some players went over by a year, a few of those are: Dick Ruthven, Ray Burris, Dan Driessen, Dan Spillner, Geoff Zahn, Al Cowens, Al Bumbry.

All of those players practically make the young collector in me sing. Some are among my very favorites. And there are several other players who fell a couple years outside of the parameters who are favorites, too, the biggest example, Ron Cey.

But aside from Hodges, there are only three other players who debuted on cards in 1974 or 1975 and had their final card of their career in 1985 (for those late to the party, I got my first cards in '74 but started collecting in '75).

Let's look at those guys:

Dale Murray has the honor of being on one of the cards that I pulled out of the first packs I ever bought in 1975. He's also the subject of an early blog post pointing out that the Expos photo shoot in 1976/77 was reused when he came back to the Expos for his 1980 card.

Murray disappeared from cards for 1981 and 1982 before returning in 1983.

Larry Milbourne bounced around several teams, it was a little challenging remembering where he was each year (I didn't include his '83 Traded card in which he's with the Phillies). Milbourne didn't appear on Topps cards in 1976 and 1977, but I used his SSPC card for '76.

So far, all three players lasted from the '74 or '75 set to 1985 but skipped a year of two in that span. Is there any player who had a full run of cards during my first collecting period?

Yup, there's one:

Steve Rogers shows up just as I was getting into cards and fades out just as I was getting out of cards (the first time).

It might be why I always liked his cards as a kid, and not just because he gave up that home run to Rick Monday.

So that was just a post to satisfy my curiosity and relive some of those old cards, pull out the binders and all that. RIP, Ron Hodges.


I was beginning to think they all had 1984 Yankees cards before Rogers went and ruined it. I'm so envious of people like you that remember their first collecting year, first pack, and even players pulled from packs. I have no memory of when I started but guess it was by 1983. All those 1983 Orioles cards, for example, feel like home.
Old Cards said…
Great post! I can definitely relate to multiple collecting periods. Looking at my collecting in retrospect, I have really come to enjoy a player's year to year lineup of cards. So much so that I am realigning my collection in this manner. Frustrations so far have been skipped years as you highlighted and using 9 pocket sheets when the player has a 10 to 15 year span of cards. What do I do with the other 8 to 3 remaining pockets on the second sheet? I know you are a set collector, but I would appreciate any comments or recommendations you might have.
Michael D said…
I can definitely relate to different collecting periods. I can say that this collecting period has been the most fun. I enjoyed collecting before, but now I'm more into it. The new cards, the old cards, watching youtube videos, reading blogs and even kind of writing one. Collectors say its not just the cards, but the people you meet and I understand that now. Yourself, Nacho Grande, and Fuji to name a few are compadres to me.
Nick said…
That's a fun run of Hodges - I don't know that we'll ever see a backup catcher consistently appear on cards for that long of a period of time again (much less with the same team!). Seeing that '83 Fleer Hodges always makes me happy.
John Bateman said…
They are some great looking panels of cards. The 1974-1985 run (except for 1 year) for Ron Hodges is amazing.

For a guy who never got more than 250 AB in a season, play for one team over a decade and get a baseball card almost every year probably has on been duplicated.
1984 Tigers said…
Hodges got to see the Mets go from near best (he was on the 1973 NL champs) to awful (last 70s and early 80s Mets teams were among the worst in baseball) then back up to contenders (1984 runner up to Cubs). His 85 card was his last even though 84 was his last season.

Looks like topps pulled a two for one shot on Murray's Yankee cards. Just a different warmup pitch at a different angle. Ala Steve Yeager 1985 and 86.

For me, this era went from being a 5th grader in 74 not realizing airbrushing was happening to be a college senior in 85 when I was still collecting but more interested in gals.
Nick Vossbrink said…
A fun idea. Is nice that your first window is long enough to weed out a lot of guys. Mine would run from 1986 to 1994 so there's ton of guys and cards to sort through.
Grant said…
I'd be interested in trying something similar. What's the easiest/efficient way to determine first to last player runs?
night owl said…
They're might be easier ways. I started with the set that kicked off my collecting, determined the rookie cards for that year (through TCDB and baseballcardpedia) and then determined their last card (usually through COMC but also through my knowledge of their career).
night owl said…
@Old Cards ~

I don't really have any advice. When I have an extra page for a complete set, for example in a 726-card set where cards 721-26 are the only cards on the page, I just leave it as is, or begin the traded set/OPC set, whatever else I have related to the set.
GCA said…
My collecting split mimics yours pretty closely. Started with a handful of '74s and quit when high school ended in '84. But I didn't jump back in until 2003 or so, when I was between jobs (and injured). I just passed 20 years at the current job.
jacobmrley said…
Fun fact about Ron Hodges: there are only three players who spent their careers with the Mets and only the Mets (with what could be defined as a Hall of Fame definition, 10 years) - Two of them are easy to get when you think a moment: Ed Kranepool, the original Original Met who played from 1962 to 1980 only with the Mets. The second is David Wright, who never got the chance to leave late in his career since it was derailed by injury after he signed a big contract to stay. But all the huge names the Mets had, no one else stayed in Queens only, for a variety of reasons: Darryl, Doc, Seaver, etc. But the third man on that list? Yup, the hero of our story(post) Ron Hodges.
1984 Tigers said…

Forgot about Wright but remembered Kranepool. He too went through some crazy swings with the Mets. Started with the 120 loss 62 team under Casey Stengel. Then years if darkness until finally the Amazin Mets in 69. Another shocker trip to WS in 73 vs As. Then the sell off of Seaver, Kingman, etc. Back to darkness in the late 70s Mets fortunes.
Doc Samson said…
Thank you, Mr. Owl. Seeing all those Hodges cards together, I was immediately struck by this thought: why can’t Topps design anything as interesting and appealing like their 1970’s cards today? The mystery of the universe.
Old Cards said…
Thanks Night Owl. Appreciate the response.
Jon said…
For a backup catcher, Ron got a lot of nice photos too.
Fuji said…
Awesome post. You had me conducting research on my own bookend collecting period at 5:15 in the morning. After 45 minutes, I only found one guy (Mookie Wilson), but there might be more (gotta get ready for work though). Like you pointed out some were a year or two short or played a year or two longer than my first collecting period.
Jafronius said…
Captain America to the rescue! Great post!