When we listen to the music of our youth or watch old TV shows that were popular when we were young, we transport ourselves back to days when the biggest decision we had to make may have been which poster we wanted to hang on our walls. In the early 1990s, the card companies actually made subsets or insert sets featuring many of those posters. Sports Illustrated posters in the 70s. Costacos Brothers in the 1980s and 90s. Personally, I loved Tom Seaver’s SI poster that showed his knee actually touching the ground during his delivery. You knew that was the essence of how Seaver pitched.
Aside from the occasional legal challenge to whatever Topps was doing, we didn’t have to worry about much in the way of hobby-related fraud or legal issues. All we cared about were the standings, the weekly batting average rankings in the weekend paper, how our favorite player was faring and how much money we could scrape together to buy packs of cards.
Whenever I see cards from my prime years in just about any sport, I recognize the ones which were harder to find. And sometimes even the great trivia after the fact.
One collector once said the 1970 Topps Ron Woods card was supposedly the first card in the modern era to feature a player with an earring. I’m not sure if that’s true but I can tell you that both the 1970 and 1971 Ron Woods Yankee cards are a bit tougher than many others in those sets. I loved collecting back in the day just to see some of the funny looking photos. Oscar Gamble’s legendary Afro on his 1976 Topps Traded card. Lowell Palmer’s sunglasses. Managers posed as if they were yelling instructions. No matter what we do, those cards bring a smile to our faces and even if it just a second we go back in time.
Sometimes the connection to the past includes memories of players you grew up with or at least knew about who went on to play in the big leagues.
Not long ago, I was working a college fair as an alum and we were sitting at a breakfast table with a mix of other alums and admissions officer. One of the admissions officers was from Summit, New Jersey so my response was “Oh, the hometown of Willie Wilson.” Well, as the conversation developed, he was playing baseball as a freshman when Willie was a senior and Willie was his hero growing up. Of course, in one of those strange mismatches of positions and skill sets, Wilson played catcher for his high school team. Thankfully, with his speed he moved to the outfield and spent a nice long major league career as an outfielder.
I also started thinking how I would keep Willie in my star albums when I sold cards at shows in the 80s because of two reasons: 1) He did win a batting title and 2) Being from new Jersey, I was hoping other collectors felt the same way that man did and would go through and buy his cards. Then I realized there were plenty of other people I kept cards most considered commons in albums so they could capitalize on the local interest.
Another player who was a minor star I always kept in my albums was Richie Zisk who was from North Jersey as well. I had a customer for Zisk cards whenever I saw Bill Huggins’ wife (yes that Bill Huggins from Huggins and Scott) as she grew up in the same town he did and she collected all sorts of his “oddball” cards. So, sometimes one would keep cards in their show stock based on one or two customers.
Dealer Mike Gordon used to have a Rick Sofield jersey hanging in the store. Sofield was a local hero who spent some time with the Minnesota Twins in the majors. Ted Kubiak, the 60’s-70’s infielder was from the same town where John Broggi had his store. We also had Joe Cunningham from my home town and Joe Orsulak from Parsippany. I’m sure there were other players but even in the 1980s, we still could provide cards for local enjoyment.
These days we can find cards of these people (and other local heroes) on sites such as eBay on a 24/7 basis. Back then, it was another point of pride for local dealers to supply the proud residents of a player’s hometown with plenty of cards for the local boys who made good.