by Rich Klein
Did you ever have a situation in which despite your best efforts to do the right thing, you accidentally got into a situation in which you made a mistake, although you attempted to rectify it? Recently, I was reading a random article about the Harvard cheating scandal and my memory got jolted back to 1995.
The baseball card hobby was just beginning to recover from the deleterious effects of the baseball strike which prematurely ended the 1994 season. The 1995 All-Star game was scheduled for the reasonably new Ballpark in Arlington and the concept of the All-Star Fan Fest was starting to take hold. The best place for the event was the Dallas Convention Center and for a few days the baseball world centered around that building.
There were many cool events, free player signings, vendors setting up selling cards and memorabilia and just a general baseball paradise. It was easy to get to. By the way, I was shocked to see only one or two local Dallas area stores set up at that event. With all the possible new collectors attending, I would have done everything I could have to at the very least have someone handing out business cards or flyers to my store if I had one at that time. The paucity of DFW area dealers flabbergasted me then, and still shocks me to this day.
Anyway, since the Fan Fest was more than just a card show, I wandered around and eventually found in a corner a computer set up to ask baseball trivia questions. Since way back in the day, I had actually written several thousand questions for Merit Industries while working at Sports Information Data Base (which is a story that we’ll talk about in another day), I was fascinated by any machine with baseball trivia questions. I probably spent one to two hours at the machine, answering most of the questions correctly and just thinking what a cool idea to have this as part of the event.
Within a month or so, my next trip would be to St. Louis for the 1995 National. As a card show, there was even more pressure since this would truly be the first major show since the strike ended in April, 1995. The show, run by Bill Goodwin and Tri-Star was a huge hit and helped the hobby to regain some national momentum lost during the baseball (and hockey) stoppages. The idea came up to have a trivial contest featuring the Beckett employees versus the Krause Publications employees. Since I was considered a fountain of useless knowledge, I was asked to join the Beckett team and when the time came I wanted to find my good friend and long-time trivia columnist for the Sun-Times, Eddie Gold. We never did find Eddie but I joined our team at the contest.
When I saw the machine, I blurted out something to the effect of “Wasn’t this same machine at Fan Fest?” but we were assured that it was new to the public. Well. the trivia computer WAS at Fan Fest and since I had spent so much time playing the games, you guessed it, I had a pretty good memory of the questions! Needless to say, we pulled way ahead of Krause but on the final question the emcee allowed Krause to use the final question for enough points to take the event to overtime. Remember what I said, even with that, since I knew the questions (and the answers), we still won in overtime and 18 years later, I want to apologize for not being more forceful about saying the computer had indeed at Fan Fest and that’s partly why I did so well. We ended with prizes such as signed game-ready Don Mattingly gloves so as a life-long Yankee fan I was rewarded for my “efforts”.
In addition, that was not the only messed up thing I was involved with at the 1995 National. At the time, the annual National meetings could be quite contentious and several of the contenders for either the 1996 National or the National board were concerned about votes being rigged. I was tapped by an agreement to be the primary vote counter at that National and fortunately I knew enough dealers where no one objected. There was only one small problem with my vote counting duties which was at the time it was not allowed in the National bylaws as I later found out. Many years later, when Dr. Beckett was sent the bylaws for review, he also asked me to look at them and I pointed out in my review that twice I had counted votes and that was technically against the rules so I just suggested to change that to a board member or approved board representative.
So, in this case, while I did not consider what I did a crime, I will say it is always easier to get the right answer when you already know the answer. And a couple of years later, I redeemed myself at a trivia machine set up at National which the hobby representative was Bud Obermeyer. There were prizes for getting up to 10 questions correct and the manufacturer figured the most anyone would ever get right in a row was about 20 questions. I got hot in answering the questions and made a couple of lucky guesses to get up to nearly 60 consecutive answers before the representatives handed me a bag with all the prizes and then some and say please do not say how well you did. I think 15 years later I can say that I would not get nearly as many of those questions right today.
Since this is Rich’s Ramblings and we like completing our circles…
In early July 2012 I wrote about the SABR National convention and the game we saw of the Kansas City Royals versus the Minnesota Twins. During the game, I sat with my good friend Bill Carle, head of the SABR Biographical Committee, who was raving about this young catcher for the Royals named Salvador Perez. Well at the time, my good friend Jeff Johnson was in negotiation with his agent to do an autograph/memorabilia deal. Due to confidentiality reasons, I could not discuss that but Jeff did sign Perez to a deal and recently had him at a private signing and was singing the praises of how good Perez was.
As we have discussed, I’m a member of a birthday club on the Freedom Card Message Board and the gift I gave in March was a signed card of Perez with the inscription “To Andrew, Happy Birthday”. Fortunately, my recipient loved the gift and all was well. By the way, Jeff’s web site, Player-Direct.com, does have some items left from the signing as well as other player signed items. We talk frequently online and he does care about making sure collectors get good items at fair prices.
Long time hobbyist and former Beckett Price Guide Analyst Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected].