The other night, while watching the MLB network, I heard the great Vin Scully (and there is still such a thrill in hearing the master announce a game) mention this night was the 20th anniversary of Hideo Nomo’s major league debut. He’d come from Japan with a unique windup, led the league in strikeouts and had fans talking from here to Tokyo.
It’s difficult to explain just how popular a figure Nomo was with both baseball fans and card collectors at the time. Card companies began inventing creative ways to ensure Nomo would be part of their late season releases. Since Nomo was not eligible to be on any cards until after his debut, there was a rush to ensure he would be in those sets.
In that way, that was already a major difference from 1981 when Fernandomania was in full bloom. Back then, once the Donruss and Fleer sets were created, there would be no updates and if you had Fernando in your set that was great and if not, oh well there was always 1982.
As it developed, the two key rookies of 1981 were split with Fernando in the Fleer set and Tim Raines in the Donruss set. Topps had both players, albeit on multi-player rookie cards at first. Neither Donruss nor Fleer did any sort of update set and would not do so for another few years. Topps would, for the first time, create their “Update/Traded” factory box set that they sold to dealers later that year. Thanks to Fernando, who made another appearance on a card he had all to himself, the timing was pretty good, although now it’s a set you can own for under $25.
Nomo had an up and down career but did manage to throw two no-hitters and the positive effect he had on a hobby trying to recover from a terrible period following the baseball strike and hockey lockout helped to salve some of the wounds and give us hope for a better future.
By the way, I’ve been reviewing some 1995 hobby publications which were donated to us by one of our loyal dealers for our Adat Chaverim shows. One of the incredible differences is just how few dealers at the time were internet—or even e-mail savvy. In one issue I read through, the first mention of an email address was on about page 60 and the dealer was the “Edge-Man” here in Dallas.
You may have heard of one of their key employees at the time. Brian Gray worked there and today we know him as owner of Leaf Trading Cards.
Yes, even email mentions were few and far between and there may have been only one or two websites mentioned throughout the 200+ page issue. Pretty amazing how far we’ve come in such a short time frame. The communication revolution has been just that.
Back in February, we wrote about Lee Goldinger and his SwamiLee’s Sportscards, a long-time shop in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey. We discussed ways in which Lee was trying to increase store traffic. One goal was to bring in a former player, at a reasonable cost, to chat with customers and sign some autographs. He wrote last week to say they had met that goal:
“Just wanted to drop you a line letting you know I finally got my autograph guest. Sean Landeta of the Eagles and Giants came by for a couple of hours. We had free autographs, free food, and Sean talked about his NFL career which was a blast. We drew around 50 people or so, which was great! Anyway, figured I’d follow up the great article you wrote and let you know we have achieved one goal. I’m already talking to another former NFL player about coming in and doing the same thing sometime soon!”
Landeta had a long NFL career as a punter. In fact, he lasted so long he was the final USFL player to remain in the NFL and his professional career spanned more than 20 seasons.
And as a show promoter myself, who along with partner Jeff Johnson, brings in players to our shows when we can, there is a great feeling when you can bring in a retired player at a reasonable cost and spread some goodwill among your customers.
We’ve been fortunate to have had Lindy McDaniel and Michael Downs so far. Nomar Mazara and Warren Newson are coming up this month and then Doug Donley and Billy Joe Dupree already scheduled for upcoming months. All those athletes mentioned are great with the fans.
Whenever possible, it’s always good to have scouting reports on how fan-friendly players are because we want to ensure a good experience for all concerned. Yes, even show promoters should be scouts in some ways.