I recently purchased a bunch of mostly common 1969-70 Topps hockey cards. I say mostly common because there was one Leo Boivin card in there. Leo Boivin, you see, is in the Hockey Hall of Fame. I was a little surprised to discover that because to me that would be the equivalent in baseball terms of Mark Belanger or Vic Power being enshrined in Cooperstown. To more ardent hockey fans he’s remembered for a very long career (one that was coming to an end in 1969) and included a couple of trips to the Stanley Cup Finals.
I bought those old hockey cards partly because I was sort of trying to relive my youth by adding Jim “The Chief” Neilson and Dale Rolfe who I remember as New York Rangers defensemen at a time where they were good but not just quite good enough to win the Stanley Cup. One of the other cards in the lot was Ted Irvine. Fellow collector Kin Kinsley reminded me that he was the father of the famous wrestler, Chris Jericho. That was part one of my realization that each generation looks at things based on different perspectives.
A DFW area collecting couple, Stefan and Angela, are very active on Twitter. One of them uses the handle of Pimpin’ Ain’t Parise which is based on Zach Parise, the great young player for the Minnesota Wild. And, of course, when I saw that name I used the new and improved message system on twitter to send them a two word note: “11 seconds”. You see Zach’s dad, JP Parise, scored a goal 11 seconds into overtime to conclude the 1975 Islanders-Rangers playoff series. JP (“Jean-Paul”) has cards in a few Topps and OPC hockey sets of the 70s. And by the way, that goal in the 1975 playoff series sort began the changing of the guard in the New York hockey hierarchy. Although the Rangers would get to the 1979 Stanley Cup Finals by beating the Islanders in the semi-finals, that win in ‘75 gave the Islanders momentum and was a very important first step toward toward their 1980s dynasty.
And of course, we feel even older when we see NBA players with names like Glen Rice Jr., Tim Hardaway Jr. and even read that Larry Nance Jr. has played in the NBA. When the kids of 1990s NBA players you remember as an adult are playing, you know that decade was a long time ago, even if it doesn’t seem that way. It made me want to dig through some of those basketball sets of the early 90s when all of a sudden we had multiple manufacturers producing NBA cards—an entity no one had even wanted ten years earlier. Grandmama. Lil’ Penny. Mars Blackmon. Good stuff.
One of the best things about seeing cards from the past is that the players are all sort of frozen in time. When they’re in the news, it always makes me recall interesting historical or trivial facts. 1960s pitcher Jim O’Toole passed away last week and the first thing I thought of was how much of a fixture he was on card sets of the 60s. Then, I recalled reading the book Ball Four where Jim Bouton recalls O’Toole as a pitcher who attempted to make the 1969 Seattle Pilots but retired rather than starting the season in the minors. Later in the season, Bouton is in a cab where the driver mentions O’Toole playing for a local team.
By the way, if you want to see something interesting, check the cartoon on the back of his 1963 Topps card. The artist who drew the cartoon was prescient as O’Toole and his wife would have 11 kids and a whole gaggle of grandchildren.
Following the present while remembering the past is a huge part of what makes collecting so much fun. There are great stories on just about every card—whether it’s one from 50 years ago or one that came out of a $5 junk wax box.