by Rich Klein
There is little doubt in my mind that the continuous media stories led by Michael O’Keeffe and the New York Daily News investigative team helped to keep the pressure on Bill Mastro and led to the recent admission he trimmed the T206 Honus Wagner PSA 8 card. This shows just how important mainstream media is still in terms of the hobby.
As this site shows constantly, the hobby is still a popular topic for writers and broadcasters. Sometimes the stories are nice human interest features such as the recent one ran on collector/dealer Jim Thayer. Sometimes the stories are about shows still trucking along, albeit usually at reduced interest from the peaks of 20 years ago. And sometimes, the stories are about children or adults who have a passion for a specific type of collectible.
For many of those stories back in the day, a reporter would contact Beckett Publications (now Beckett Media) and try to get an analyst to make comments on the state of the hobby or on specific issues. I was one of those usually assigned to handle those questions and I must have done hundreds of these phone and radio interviews over the years.
One of my favorite stories was during the 1996 presidential election cycle a reporter from the Washington Post asked about the future of Jack Kemp cards when the former Bills’ quarterback and long-time senator was running. I would always ask for copies of my quotes to be sent to me after they were published and the tag line after my comment was “I guess there are analysts for everything.” I presume in Washington, that is true and there probably are analysts for everything. Of course having that many analysts probably helps prevent anything from, you know, getting things actually done.
In 1998, we got so overwhelmed by requests during the Mark McGwire/Sammy Sosa home run chase that both Mike Jaspersen and I spent countless hours talking to reporters during that time. It was hard for me to do my actual work as I was probably spending 10-15 hours a week explaining the importance of the home run balls hit by either player. Those home run balls are interesting because those are among the only collectibles which are “public accessible”. What that means is if you score an important hockey goal, the puck goes into the net and unless the puck is continued to be used the puck will be returned to the bench. In basketball a ball is again either continued in play or brought to the bench for safe keeping and in football a touchdown ball is usually kept unless the player wants to face a significant fine by throwing the ball into the stands. Wouldn’t that be nice if a player such as Tom Brady or Eli Manning after a touchdown pass then threw the ball into the stands so a lucky fan can get a piece of history.
No, that is not going to happen but that is what makes important home run balls so collectible.
Those balls are the only items which become interactive prizes.
I must have explained that about 100 times in a two week period during the peak of that chase. That also gave me a peek into what it was like to be a minor celebrity because of the constant pressure and I realized what a special talent it takes to be a celebrity. Here is a link to a story I was quoted on during the McGwire/Sosa chase.
I kept a nice collection of the newspaper clippings from over the years but a few years later when this quote appeared in the print version of Sports Illustrated, I got a bunch of calls from my friends the next couple of days congratulating me on making the “big-time”. Here is a link to that SI story from a few years later.
And of course, there are always the instances where I was thrown for a loop. Such as the time I did a local DFW radio show hosted by Norm Hitzges very early one morning. Norm could be a little nutty and when he used the word ‘sashaying’ as in “what if a collector enters a show, sashays around the room with cards to sell”, I just lost it. I stammered something to the effect “that’s an excellent odd idea”. I sure hope no tapes exist of that radio hour because if you think radio is dead, my performance that hour did not help in any way to keep it going. That was circa 1992 and I did recover and do much better on most of the other radio shows I appeared on.
But one thing I always understood was how important it was to choose my words very carefully. Another good lesson was never to predict a price. Here is my comment to New York Magazine before what is now known as the Wagner we referred to at the beginning of this story would sell for.
After that, I never again made a prediction of how much any card or collectible would ever sell for. I was only off by about $300 K or so. Of course, who knew that 22 years later I would be writing a couple of ramblings based on this exact same card.
If anyone ever has interest in various articles I was quoted for, just Google “Rich Klein Beckett Analyst” and you will see other articles I was quoted in as well.
We’ll talk about some of those other articles in a future Ramblings.
Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected]