I remember reading a book written by a rock critic about his favorite songs and in that article he commented something to this effect: “I’ve been listening to Smokey Robinson since I was a child and I feel as an adult he helped raise me”. Well, I don’t feel Nolan Ryan helped raise me but when I first started following baseball Nolan Ryan was a young pup with the New York Mets and while the memory is fuzzy, I’m sure I watched him on WOR Channel 9 in New York or over WJRZ and WHN. Almost fifty years later, I still am in Nolan Ryan’s sphere as he is the Texas Rangers Team President, running the ball club just a few miles from where I live and work.
Nolan Ryan is truly a baseball icon and even is responsible for a few changes in baseball rules. The one I remember most has to do with his seventh and final no-hitter. You see, in those 1991 days if either Network TV or Cable Networks (ESPN) was carrying a national game no local game could be broadcast even on cable. Well, because of that rule, Dallas-Fort Worth residents never got to see Ryan’s seventh career no-hitter. The uproar was so much at the end of the season Major League Baseball adopted the rule that cable networks could televise local games. And why was such a rule in place? You see during the 1970′s, when NBC had their game of the week many weeks either the New York Mets or New York Yankees would also have a game being televised at the same time. Well, those games outdrew the national game of week and only a real fanatic like me preferred watching the Reds play the Pirates over the Mets playing the Expos. And that’s why the no local coverage rule was in effect as you never wanted to upset your major financial partners.
Now, we’re talking about a game played on May 1, 1991 and for those who recall the 1990 incident in which a Chicago area youngster fooled a substitute clerk into thinking a $1200 Ryan rookie card was actually $12, the conclusion of that card’s saga had just ended a couple of weeks before. Thus for many generations of collectors, Ryan was then and still is a legendary figure. Last Friday’s Rambling on that Ryan rookie spurred a few of great memories from collectors who got in touch with me by email. We thought we’d share them with you, starting with Mark Bryant:
At the height of the Ryan rookie prices my wife Cindy and I had young children. Money was a rough issue of course because of our jobs. I had a friend, Brad Puckett, who had a pretty successful card shop here in Muncie, Indiana.
I had ‘68 and ‘69 Ryan cards I had gotten out of packs when I was a boy and I knew they might bring enough to help us out financially and Brad was kind enough to sell them for me for an amount which helped us out greatly. I always missed the cards but we needed the money worse…the story of thousands I am sure.
Years later, in the mid 2000′s, Brad and his father, who are both auctioneers, ran an ad in our local paper advertising that an area long time collector was going to auction his memorabilia collection. I looked at the online pictures, spotted a Ryan rookie and went to the auction. Well….you know where this is going. Brad told me to go view the card as it was my card the collector had bought from him years before. I bought my card back for a very, very modest price.
Brad was nice enough to tell the story to the crowd which clapped enthusiastically.
Fred Bosco of Liverpool, NY shares this story, which isn’t about a Ryan rookie but is sort of on par with what the youngster in Chicago did more than 20 years ago. That saga ended, you’ll remember, with the Ryan card being sold for charity. In this one, a little maturity and some remorse help right a wrong:
Just read your article and it reminded me of a similar time in my collecting past. Circa 1994, my crew and I where known as the “Bad Boys” of collecting. What that means now is beyond me. But we were young, all teenagers, the hobby was in its heyday. We would even skip school to have meetings with hotel managers to set up sport card shows in our area! It was funny to see a bunch of 14 year olds setting up major shows, and buying advertising in the big newspapers!
I remember a show we went to as customers. There was this new “dealer/seller” that we had never seen before. This kid had to have purchased every single basketball card in a one thousand mile radius! Considering the year, and the explosion of all things Michael Jordan, of course the biggest items at the show were anything 1986 Fleer, or 1984-85 Star Company basketball cards. This kid had at least two, maybe three, 8′ wide tables and they w ere absolutely covered with basketball cards. These ranged from Jerry West, to Michael!
We looked and admired a few times, then the kid went to the bathroom, leaving his younger brother to watch the table. Friends and I went up to the table. Mind you all of the cards were in plastic pages and binders. Odd for a show. We would pull the card out that we wanted, and paid the young kid. For instance, my buddy, let’s call him The Prince, pulled out an ‘86 Fleer Jordan, and Jordan sticker, and politely handed the boy $2. Other friends followed suit, pulling out ‘81 & ‘82 cards of Bird & Magic, again, giving the kid dollar bills. This went on for about three or four minutes, until what was the funniest part of the action. The Prince pulled out the Jerry West card, handed the kid yet another dollar bill, and WAITED FOR HIS CHANGE! Actually said to the youngster, you owe me a quarter! Uh, to this day I still laugh a little thinking about him asking for a quarter back.
Of course there are two schools of thought: #1. Of course being how could we be that shallow and mean? Granted we were young punks. And #2. When you have 30 grand in value at a table and have to go to the bathroom, maybe get someone older than 5 to watch the table.
We saw the seller about five years later at a show in the same hotel, oddly enough. My four friends and I all put up $100 and gave the kid the money (we rightfully should have paid him at the time). The biggest surprise was–and this shows you the length of the collection he had–he did not know they were missing or that his brother sold all those cards for about $10.
Nolan was so popular that even when he was out of baseball circa 2003 I wrote as part of my Beckett Error and Variation columns about someone finding a misspelling located about line 13 on the reverse of the 1968 Topps rookie. Although quite clear that was an error, the sheer volume of emails I received about that card was more than I ever received on any other column I ever wrote. Nolan Ryan in retirement is still very popular (check eBay listings here if you don’t believe me) and I suspect as the years go on he will continue to grow in status as the all-time strikeout king.
Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected]