by Rich Klein
I'd like to start by thanking Jeff Johnson for his gracious permission to adapt what I had written a few years ago for his Card Informant e-newsletter.
A few years ago, the MLB Network made a very successful debut as a new cable network. With precise planning, most if not all of the major cable providers carried it upon its debut. To me, one of the best things about it was the televising of older games, some of which dated back to when I first started watching baseball in the late 1960's. As a fan, I love it.
One game the MLB Network now has in its inventory is a July 1969 game between the Chicago Cubs and the Philadelphia Phillies. This game was an NBC Game of the Week and remains intact. In fact, this is one of the few pre-1970 regular season complete telecasts known to exist. In 2002, as part of the SABR convention in Boston, we watched the next to last game of the Red Sox 1967 regular season. At that time, that game was touted as the oldest known complete regular season telecast extant.
It was stunning to hear names announced during the game that I had no memory of. After researching the Beckett.com online price guide, I was able to deduce both players had no baseball cards issued of them at all. To me, that exemplifies how important baseball cards are for remembering a player. And I would certainly have remembered Al Raffo and Rich Barry had they had any sort of cards when I was young.
If Raffo and Barry had cards issued, we as collectors would always have the chance to remember them and see them as they were in their youth. Now, if someone can find pictures of these players and are much more creative and artistic than I am, we can create cards of them in the 21st century, while they are still around to see them, perhaps sign them for us and have their major league career immortalized.
Players such as Raffo and Barry are the type of player I love to see when Topps Heritage issues their "Real One" autographs each year. I know some people complain about not every player being a star, but to me, the players make some money for their autographs, and we as collectors get a chance to get a signature such as the Neil Chrisley I pulled last year.
Editor Rich Mueller is working on an ebook about the 1970 Topps set with a colleague. Wouldn't it be nice if we were able to add a couple more cards to the set? Al Raffo and Rich Barry deserve cards and their day in the proverbial collector sun. And, when someone asks why baseball cards are important and why are comprehensive sets good for the collecting community, all I have to point out are these two players, neither of whom would see the majors after the 1969 season but were never immortalized on cardboard.
Just remember, for a few months during the 1969 season both Raffo and Barry were among the 600 best baseball players in America, and that can never be taken away from them either..
Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected]