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Rich Klein: Milquetoast Ramblings …and Rookie Card Labels

Recently, someone took time out from his busy ‘crusading’ schedule and self-promotion to take a shot at me and the pages on which you see this column.

This person, who among other things has admitted to fraud and isn’t fond of filing tax returns like the rest of us have to, blasted us because during an e-mail Q&A last summer, I did not pepper Joe Orlando with questions about the PSA 8 Honus Wagner, now known to have been trimmed.  “Milquetoast” was the word he used.

Richs Ramblings First of all, Rich’s Ramblings isn’t about trying to be the hobby watchdog.  It never has been. If you knew what I’m paid to write, you’d get a big chuckle out of that notion.  I’ll delve into hobby issues but it’s generally meant to be fun and often nostalgic.  That’s what people seem to like about it.  The blogger’s conclusion was that I didn’t ask because PSA chooses to advertise here.

Our occasional Q&A’s are simply designed to let you get to know hobby leaders a little better and trust me, no one here is getting rich off ad revenue (we’re storing it in offshore accounts, but don’t tell anyone!).    Joe Orlando did not arrive at PSA until several years after the Wagner was graded and I don’t believe that asking him about what occurred at that point so many years ago would really be fair anyway.  We now know after the Bill Mastro case that the card is trimmed but at the crux of it all is that the owner of the card, which was graded two decades ago, has not shown any public inclination to raise an issue.  I hate to use the term, but it is what it is and it’s more than likely going to stay that way, so let’s move on.

And, what the author conveniently forgot to mention was that I did write a column on the Wagner when the trimming revelations became public. It’s not a foreign topic and I’ve never avoided discussing the card, but I have to say my mailbox isn’t jammed with questions about it.

A few other notes of odds and ends to finish the year…

Recently there was a spirited Facebook discussion between one of my former Beckett mates and SC Daily about whether the 1969 Jack in the Box Pat Riley was Pat Riley Jack in the Boxconsidered a “Rookie Card” since it’s not a ‘mainstream’ issue.

For pre-War cards the whole definition of a rookie card is far more interesting because there is no definition. When we at Beckett produced a really fun book about “Rookie Cards” we actually listed Goudey cards such as the Babe Ruth as a Rookie Card as that was the first major manufacturer of baseball cards to feature the Bambino.  Goudey’s bubble gum cards came out 20 years after his first cards and there was much derision at that time about our corporate decision to call that a “Rookie Card”.

On that level, the Pat Riley card in question perhaps should have been called a “rookie year issued” card. Either way, the whole definition of a rookie has been debated since Dr. Jim Beckett actually used question marks about some rookies in the early Beckett monthlies. The definition of a “Rookie Card’ will continue to evolve because a generation ago who would have thought you could have a rookie card with a jersey swatch or a signature or even both on the card. What will tomorrow bring for a new definition of a Rookie Card?

I recently started thinking about my old friend Mike Gershman. Many of you might remember that Mike wrote the “Baseball Card Engagement Books” back in the day but most of us have no idea that he was also very involved in the music business. We used to talk much more about music than about sports and in one of our conversations, he pointed out to me that if you go to the old Gloria Rothstein shows during set-up, you would be very likely to listen to WCBS-FM when it was, in my opinion, the greatest oldies station in the country because of the wide music mix played.

Mike always reminded me about the correlation between old music fans and hobbyists which I understand more today than in those days. Mr. Gershman also holds one fascinating distinction: he produced exactly one single record in his life, a song by The Looking Glass called Brandy which went to #1 in 1972. I guess if you are going to only do something once, you might as well have huge success. Mike passed away almost 13 years ago to this day and I still miss talking to him.

One of my hobby goals in 2014 is to maintain more contact with my friends past and present. The other goal is to have a successful enough card show here in Dallas so that it can become a quarterly, twice a year or yearly event. Other than working for a card company, actually being the point person for a trade show is something I’ve always wanted to do. Perhaps the card company role can be next.

Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected]

About Rich Klein

Rich Klein has spent almost his entire life collecting baseball cards having begun at the tender age of seven. He has spent more than three decades in the organized hobby including editing the first 12 editions of the Beckett Almanac of Baseball Card and Collectibles. He lives in Plano, TX along with his wife Dena and their two dogs. You can reach him at [email protected].