I recently thought about an event I attended 20 years ago and what the hobby looked like at the time. The 1995 MLB All-Star Game came to Arlington, Texas and as a baseball fan living nearby, I wasn’t going to miss it. Our seats were, to be charitable, kind of high up in the stadium. In fact they were so high up that I swear I could have waved to the pilots on their way to DFW airport.
There were, however, a couple of real positives to those seats. The first was that we were under the overhang and therefore were saved from some of the famous Texas heat. In listening to the broadcast, I heard Al Michaels say the temperature was 101 at game time. The other positive was the seats were directly behind home plate. While you cannot hear what is happening on the field from up on high, there is truly a great panoramic view.
The year 1995 was just about one or two years before the growth of the internet truly began. In fact, at the 1995 All-Star FanFest, Beckett was the only company in the dealer pavilion which even requested an IISBN outlet. In fact, we were debuting the online price guide and the player checklists one could find on our site. Those lists were remarkably primitive compared to what 2015 can bring.
Baseball was still reeling from the work stoppage that had cancelled the 1994 World Series and eaten away part of the 1995 season. Sales in some places were way down. Card shops were closing. Yet there was also a feeling that better times were ahead and MLB saw cards as an important marketing tool.
Nolan Ryan had only been retired for a short time when the All-Star Game came to Arlington and all of the card companies who had MLB licenses combined to produce a special five-card wrapper redemption set for him that year.
There were other cards issued during FanFest, too, and I remember collectors and would-be collectors sitting on the floor just trading cards trying to finish their sets. A basic truth in 1995—but also in 1955 and 2015—is that if you give cards away or make them accessible to a wide audience, many people just might try to finish their sets or grow into collecting. We’ve seen it happen in Canadian card shops this year where people trade Tim Hortons hockey cards after buying some packs with their coffee and donuts.
Another change since 1995 is that the All-Star Game is now an important part of the Topps Update series, with relic pieces from the Monday event games often on the checklist. Having all those all-stars really does bring some really good players into the Update set.
During that summer of 1995, there was a great commercial featuring Tony Gwynn and Bip Roberts sitting in the dugout discussing their cards.
Well, it was worth 10 cents in 1995 and it’s still at that level today (if you’re lucky). Both players’ personalities really came through the screen and it’s sad to know Tony won’t be sharing his love of the game and his generosity with fans and collectors anymore.
The starting pitcher for the National League in the ’95 All-Star Game was Hideo Nomo. The Japanese pitching sensation was all over the sports news and Nomomania was everywhere. Every card company was looking for ways to put Nomo into their sets as quickly as possible. Imagine if there were relic and autograph cards and ultra high-end products 20 years ago, not to mention today’s international collecting audience, how expensive some of those would have been.
The National Sports Collectors Convention was held in St. Louis for the second and last time in 1995. It would be fun to see it return to a different Midwestern city some day.
To those of us who were adults then, it may not seem like that long ago, but much has changed in baseball and in the hobby since then. The All-Star Game hasn’t been back to this area since that night either but I’m holding out hope I’ll get to another one soon.