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Rich’s Ramblings: Keeping Up With the Times, Holding on to the Past

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by Rich Klein

On Friday I attended services at my local synagogue. There were two special occasions celebrated that night. The first one was a young lady was in the process of her bat mitzvah. The other was that our interim rabbi was conducting his last service before moving on to Tennessee. The service was quite an event with a very nice tribute to a man who did exactly what he was supposed to do as our bridge between our previous full-time rabbi who, due to family reasons, returned to the New York area and our new rabbi who also is originally from the New York area.

While I was waiting for the service to begin I realized that most religions have a built-in transition from one generation to the next. However, to some extent, there is that “quiet” period where a person might not be as active as they used to be when they were very young due to changes in life circumstances. One very important part shone through was there was a sense of community of people of all ages that evening.

After the service there is always an “oneg” which can be best considered a little party with some munchies, drinks and company. I was chatting with a friend of mine and after our usual teasing about the Tigers versus the Yankees, we were discussing the collectibles world. He commented that in just about any collectibles field currently there is a large amount of graying going on. We have a  dichotomy in the card world in that many collectors do not ever go out to buy or sell cards but do everything online and rarely if ever have any interpersonal contact. Obviously there are some areas of North America where it’s hard to interact. I used to trade cards with a man in the Yukon named Jack Unruh who has since passed on. Needless to say, there were probably not a lot of ways for him to meet collectors face to face even at the hobby peak.

That got me thinking of the upcoming Society of American Baseball Research (SABR) National convention. And if anyone thinks we have problems with collectors graying in cards that is nothing compared to SABR”s issues. The concept of baseball research is evolving, and very rapidly. Now while I may not understand everything involved with BABIP (and I’m sure Tom Reid, my hobby mentor, never used BABIP in the way the term is defined today) and ZPR and whatever other terms used by younger researcher as new stats, I do understand the importance of the transition.

While my heart is with the old guard, one must understand that baseball stats and reference is changing. I’m always amazed how often I go to a baseball game and balls are hit right at fielders in the outfield without them moving more than a step or two. So, there is something to these “new” stats and ways of looking at the game. And I remember getting so frustrated at the Rangers Fan Fest in 2011 where I started chatting up some younger people about the new stats. I understood that is what they were interested in and one of my compatriots behind the booth interrupted and started talking about books, meetings and the old school “value” of SABR because of what you get for your money. My point was that was a great way to induce people into our group in 1985 when I joined but not so much in 2011. By the way, having been Sabrgeek online for many years kind of gives one an idea what I think of SABR.

One other interesting aspect is that most of the old-timers in SABR are collectors of some extent. Some are more advanced than others, some just kept their childhood cards and did not nothing more while others focused on different aspects. But each year at the convention I hear quite a bit about various types of baseball collectibles from people who know that I have spent many years in the sports collectibles field. In fact the previous executive director of SABR used to send me emails at least once a week when their office got baseball card questions in and would even send some phone calls my way. I do not know if the newer breed collects baseball cards and memorabilia but frankly I would not be surprised if they did not.

But SABR is changing and unless we as a group understand that the future is no longer doing research in dusty libraries with microfilm machines but now are done at home on computers and involve new thoughts we very well may die as an organization. This is similar to problems the card hobby has in inducing new collectors. We have to understand that the world has changed and the hobby is no longer in 1992, but 2012. We have traveled a long way in 20 years and will continue to do so.

The final aspect I wanted to talk about was a music website called ReelRadio.com. Because I have been a member since even before the paid subscriptions began I pay a nominal sum each year. But a constant complaint from the webmaster is how he is losing subscribers on a daily basis. One aspect to remember is that his site is celebrating radio of the past. The focus of the site is “Top 40″ from the 1960′ through the early 1990’s from when radio was, in a word, good. Today, unless you have a good morning show in a major market, the radio world is in a word, terrible. There is almost no originality and very little churn of newer music. So why listen when there are so many alternatives out there via the internet? Until radio returns to “live and local” there is little hope that things will get better for both employees to have jobs and listeners to, you know, like what they hear. If you like old Top 40. I do recommend helping this web site because of so much of late 20th century American history (and yes it is history) that one can get from that site.

So, what does all of this have in common with baseball cards? The message is simple. Times do change, we have to evolve but at the same time keep in touch with what made us strong. Attending local shows or going to local shows if you have either or both is a great start. In addition, understanding that we can make friends by actually meeting people is important. At services, you meet people just by being part of the community, at SABR if one attends events you can meet fellow baseball fans.

So, are we as a hobby going to die off like some of the groups I am discussing? While we are strong as a hobby, we are evolving rapidly just as our synagogue will evolve with our new rabbi and SABR will evolve to survive unless we want to end like top 40 terrestrial radio and be owned by large companies which are on life support themselves. While when I go to the National next month I will be celebrating the old in many upcoming columns, I will also be paying attention to what is new to try to be ready for the exciting next few years.

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].

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