By Rich Klein
I received a fascinating email in response to my column about Richard McWilliam and Upper Deck the other day. The e-mailer mentioned a couple of newer stories about Upper Deck foibles but most of what he mentioned had already been covered in the book Card Sharks: How Upper Deck Turned a Child’s Hobby into a High-Stakes, Billion-Dollar Business which was written by Pete Williams and released way back in 1995. As most of that subject had been covered and Richard McWilliam is not around to defend himself any more, I did not see the need to discuss any bad behavior of the past. Much of it happened 20 years ago and the hobby world has changed significantly since then.
In addition to all the Upper Deck material, Card Sharks also has a great history of the hobby and covers many pre-1990 topics in good detail. There are a lot of positive things chronicled in Card Sharks and I do recommend that book for that reason alone.
Speaking of Pete Williams, he was the sports memorabilia columnist (yes, they had one), among other topics he covered, for USA Today and Baseball Weekly. During a great deal of the 1990’s we used to talk frequently as he knew he could get good, fast, accurate quotes on topics from me on just about any hobby topic. However, the one conversation which has stayed with me the longest was one he asked me in 1999 when Josh Beckett of Texas was going to be a very high draft pick. When he called, after our pleasantries, his first words were something to the effect of “Is Josh Beckett Dr. Beckett’s son?” I started laughing and told him that Josh lived in a Houston suburb and I don’t think Jim is commuting three hours each way to work every day. Although he was the second, and more successful, of the pitching prospects named Beckett to occupy baseball’s stage (Robbie Beckett is now an afterthought), wouldn’t it have been something if either Beckett was Jim’s son?
Some other media people I want to discuss, albeit briefly, with whom I used to speak to when I was with Beckett included Darren Rovell then and now of ESPN with a side trip to CNBC. For some reason, a guy- oriented sports web site named Barstoolsports.com has some agenda against Darren. I will say, that I have probably talked to Darren about 100 times and anything I mentioned that had to go off the record he always honored. In addition, if we thought the comment might be too controversial he always gave me the opportunity to rephrase it in a way that got the point across without being hurtful to anyone.
The time I remember most was when Ted Williams passed away and he called me very late on a Friday night needing some information. I’d just gotten home from a Barry Manilow concert (yes, Barry Manilow) and wasn’t married, so a late night chat was just fine. I think we spent a good hour at like 2 AM Eastern Time to give him the details he needed for his next story. Of course, my sleep patterns were off for the rest of the weekend but that is another story.
And there is the person who was the sports card collecting columnist for the Dallas Morning News in the early 1990’s George. Now I only met George once and I remember Tom Layberger, one of my Beckett associates, mentioning how bad he thought he breath was. George, however, turned out to have bigger issues as he was later convicted of child pornography.
Crazy as it may seem, almost every major paper during the 1990’s had a sports collecting columnist which was a great boost for keeping the hobby in the headlines. I know the Bergen Record had Paul Dottino as their columnist and after my mom passed, my dad always would clip out and mail me my latest comments in his column That way he felt he was keeping up with me and what I was doing. Dottino is now a sports reporter at WFAN Radio in New York.
There were plenty of other newspaper and radio interviews I did over the years and a Google search will find some of them. I looked a couple of months back and found articles I had completely forgotten about.
And isn’t it nicer in some ways that web sites such as this one with the growing national audience, are able to bring sports collecting news from around to country right to your desktop, tablet or mobile phone? Technology is wonderful but reaching a wider audience is the point of not only this web site but also this column.
I will also point out that the next day after my comments about the DallasCardShow.com web site the site was properly updated about the August cancellation and the September need for a new location. The promoters used to tell me they always listened to what I wrote and it was always nice to know I could have an effect on the proceedings. I hope it will mean a nice new location beginning in September.
Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected]