by Rich Klein
Late last week, I received word that Beckett Director of Grading Mark Anderson had left the employ of Beckett Media after 17 years of service. I knew Mark from when he first arrived there. He sat across from me and I helped to train him in being an analyst. About two years after he arrived he, along with Scott Kirklen and Wayne Grove, were selected to lay down the foundations of Beckett Grading.
I still remember the long hours the three of them spent in a big office working out all the kinks they could think of before grading really started getting cards in. The funniest part of that was until we thought we were ready to accept cards the submission forms were buried real deep in the web site. Imagine our surprise when Scott Alpaugh. a long-time New Jersey dealer got the submissions forms and became our first outside submitter.
Pretty soon afterwards grading went off into their own part of the building and we would not see them as much in the price guide area. Of course, when there was a question we would usually see a verifier or sometimes a grader so we could help them ID a card. One time, a grader came to me with a 1968 O-Pee-Chee Tom Seaver card and I mentioned that the card “felt wrong” We found our when we got our 1968 O-Pee-Chee type card out there was a good reason the cards felt “wrong”: the card had been trimmed and thus was sent back ungraded to the client. Yes, I could tell by the feel of the card what was wrong.
Mark has had a lot to do with the success of Beckett Grading and on a personal level I will miss seeing him in Chicago and also on my occasional trips to the Beckett office. Mark was always a good friend and even flew out to Las Vegas to attend my wedding in 2005.
Our mention of Lew Lipset last week brought back one of my favorite memories. The 1999 SABR National was being held in the Phoenix area and Lew knew I was going and called me a couple of weeks before the convention to ask if I was going to the game on Friday Night. I told him I needed to check the SABR schedule and he told me that was the night we were all going to the game. He asked me if I wanted to sit with him and I said: “Absolutely, your seats have to be better than the SABR group”. He got upset as he just wanted to have good company, but we still agreed to go to the game, another advantage for me was he would be driving and I would not have to go on the tour bus.
Entering the car, his first words were: “Do you mind if we have to leave the game early?” At one point of my life I would have blanched but by 1999, if a game was out of hand, the goal was to get home early. I think because of Texas heat getting out early became a tradition. Unbeknownst to me that night, a long-time vintage collector, Frank Wakefield, would also be there to say hi to Lew. They met before the game, had a good chat and I stayed out of their way. I should mention that we were all anticipating a great game by Randy Johnson as he was approaching the 2,500 career strikeout mark.
Opposing him on the mind was a little known Cardinals rookie pitcher named Jose Jimenez. We knew things were going to be interesting when Mark McGwire, not known for his fielding prowess, began a 3-6-3 double play with some nice range. In what was truly a suspenseful game, Jimenez out-dueled Johnson and won the 1-0 battle. I should also mention that Jose allowed no hits in that game. Yes, that is correct, a SABR group of 600 or so dedicated baseball fans, most of whom actually kept score at the game got to see a no-hitter. Jimenez, by the way, finished with a 24-44 career record but went on to be a solid closer for the Rockies.
Since we drove back in Lew’s SUV, I was back at the hotel long before most of the other convention goers returned. I still remember one nice older man beaming as he wrote in his scorecard. “I’ve been going to games since 1929 and that was my first no hitter,” he exclaimed.
What a great experience to see a no hitter with Lew. We sat 15 rows from the field and one section to the first base side of home plate. Truly a memorable game. I posted that I had an extra ticket at the SABR convention and Bob Koehler, long-time Wisconsin dealer who sadly passed on a few years ago, snapped it up. For the rest of his life, whenever I saw Bob his greeting to me was “Do you have any extra tickets to the game tonight?”
No-hitters also bring up one of the saddest (in a way) and funniest Beckett stories. Back in 1991, we all selected games as part of our employee days and whatever game (s) you were able to go to would be great. On May 1, 1991 Nolan Ryan pitched his seventh and final no-hitter and two of our employees left the game because they were tired. Well, as discussed earlier, I can understand leaving a game if needed but leaving a no-hitter in the fifth? When Nolan Ryan is on the mound? More than 20 years later I still wish I’d been the one to pick that date to head to the ballpark.
Rich Klein can be reached at Sabrgeek@aol.com