On a stormy night in Wisconsin, a sports card shop that had served residents for 36 years was literally washed away.
The Baseball Card Shoppe by the Westgate Mall in Madison was severely damaged Aug. 20 when water that built up after torrential rains crashed into the 1,200 square-foot shop around 9 p.m. Cards, autographs, photographs and memorabilia worth more than $300,000 was lost after the storms caused flooding.
“Some of the cards were floating halfway down the halls of the mall,” said shop owner Tom Daniels, who has run the Baseball Card Shoppe from the same location since 1982. “It stretched 120 feet.
“I was talking to the security guard and he said the water was four feet high against the door.”
The Baseball Card Shoppe is located “10 to 12 feet” below street level, so it was a natural target for Mother Nature. The storm caused water to rush down the street, where it broke through the window of a veterinary clinic next door to the card shop. The water then crashed through a wall and flooded the card shop.
“I’m lucky I wasn’t home,” Daniels said. “I would have been putting stuff on higher shelves.”
“We had some of those big glass cases, and the water took two of them and threw them through the shop,” Daniels said. “Somebody could have gotten hurt.”
Although Daniels had flood insurance for 35 years, his insurance company discontinued the policy last year.
“The rain just surprised us all,” said Jon Arias, a radio announcer at WTSO in Madison who started a GoFundMe account for Daniels to defray costs. “Everybody got rocked and it’s still raining.”
Arias, the voice of the University of Wisconsin women’s basketball and volleyball teams, originally set $1,000 as a goal. Within three days the goal was reached — and more money is pouring in. Arias raised the goal to $2,000, and more than $1,100 has been raised.
Some of the cards lost were football sets in binders from 1957 to 1990, and basketball from 1969 through 1981 (although the 1972-73 Topps set was spared). There were books full of 1982 Brewers, the year Milwaukee went to the World Series, and books filled with players from the Green Bay Packers teams that won the first two Super Bowls.
There were valuable singles cards that were worth between $400 and $500 that were lost, along with a Mickey Mantle autographed baseball.
“There were tons of single cards,” said Daniels, who turned 72 on Wednesday. “Some of the stacks were five to six inches high.”
Daniels and his wife, Anita, were in Nevada when the damage occurred. Daniels was competing in the Reno/Tahoe Senior Games. Daniels won his age group in the 50-yard dash and softball throw and took second in the 100-yard dash.
After some flight delays, Daniels and his wife made it back to Madison on Aug. 22. He then began the task of tossing the ruined cards into garbage bags and putting them in front of his shop.
“I probably threw away 200 trash bags,” Daniels said. “My grandson and his girlfriend worked 7½ hours filling them up.”
“I went there on Labor Day and saw all these garbage bags outside the door,” Arias said. “I felt kind of devastated, it was a cool place.
“I saw a Jack Morris rookie card on the ground and picked it up. “It was curled and damp. Ruined.”
Arias, 38, said he found the Baseball Card Shoppe this summer after he rekindled his interest in collecting cards again.
“I was reliving my youth buying packs,” he said. “I’d take my 5-year-old daughter there so she could open packs of 1991 Upper Deck with the holograms.”
Daniels, who is celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary on Friday. He and Anita were high school sweethearts in Rib Lake, a small town north of Madison and northeast of Eau Claire. After earning his bachelor’s degree in education at the University of Wisconsin, Daniels earned his master’s in business education from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
He was a teacher from February 1970 through May 1979 but began selling cards at shows and by mail order, advertising in The Sporting News. By 1982, he was ready to open a card shop.
The losses Daniels sustained were massive, but he did say that approximately
$50,000 of product — mostly new boxes — were not damaged. As for what he lost, Daniels had a good handle on that because Anita had created an inventory, since the couple was entertaining the idea of selling the shop.
While he has a 2,400 square-foot warehouse full of product, Daniels said it was low-end stuff.
Now, Daniels must decide whether to stick with the business or give it up. When he opened the Baseball Card Shoppe there were more than 30 shops operating. Now, only a few remain.
Daniels said he would probably have a sale for the remaining product. Then what?
“I don’t know, I told my wife I was going to retire when I was 70,” Daniels laughed.