I’m not sure I’ve ever participated in one of the blog bat arounds before. Not really sure why (or if that’s the case) but I thought I should give it a whirl this time.
P-Town Tom of the wonderful Eamus Catuli blog offered the topic this time: What is the reason for collecting the players you collect?
It was an interesting question, one that I wasn’t sure I had an answer for. I think, like most people, that reason has evolved over time.
When I first started collecting cards there was no real organization involved. I kept my limited inventory sorted by team in the Topps Sports Card locker that my aunt gave me for my birthday. Eventually the collection outgrew the locker, and moved into boxes sorted by set. But, when I started finding friends who also collected, and who wanted to trade cards, I needed to be better. So, binders were introduced pulling out star players that my friends might want to trade for. While the binders were now sorted by player, I wouldn’t call them player collections quite yet.
The only two players that somewhat stood out at that point were Jim Rice and Pete Rose. Jim Rice was the fading star of the Red Sox, and my favorite player at the time. Pete Rose was an “old time star” who was on his way to breaking the all-time hits record. Plus, he was a player-manager. That was pretty weird, and a unique feature to collect.
But, while those two players had their own pages in the book, so did lots of other players. I didn’t really do a lot to actively collect either one, and don’t actively look for either of their cards today.
Juan Gonzalez was the first player to really change that. I started to actively seek out his cards. He was a hot-shot rookie hitting all those home runs. He also had that fun Donruss error rookie card that looked fun when displayed. It was also during a boom in baseball cards shows. So I had lots of opportunities to easily add to a budding player collection. But, when he started to fade as a player, my desire to collect him faded as well.
He also faded because another player came to take his place. I mentioned that my Phil Plantier collection formed almost by accident. Sure, he was my new favorite player. But, it seemed like I didn’t even have to try to get his cards, Every pack of 1991 Donruss I opened, it seemed, had Phil’s card in it. Again it was the card show era, so hunting down more of his cards was fun and easy. I was getting everything I could find. It’s the first player I’ve mentioned whose player collection still resides separated from the team in its own binder. I’m also still adding to it as I find cards I was never able to track down back in the day.
After Phil left the Red Sox, player collecting hit a bit of a snag. Then, along came Nomar Garciaparra. If you were a Red Sox card collector in 1997 and didn’t have a Nomar player collection, you were doing it wrong. My collection was given one big boost to get it started. I pulled a rare Hideo Nomo card from one of those packs in the late 90’s with the million parallels. Can’t even remember which one at the moment. But, it was about $150 book value. For some reason, I agreed to trade it via the AOL boards for a stack of Nomars. Like 100 or so. Looking back, it was a ridiculous idea to trade one $150 card for 100 $1 cards. But, it worked out for me, and I don’t really regret it. Even if my Nomar player collection has since been resorted into the team binder.
Which leaves Pedro Martinez. He is the only other player with a separate binder housing his collection. (Well, technically he’s in the same binder as Phil Plantier but you get the idea.) The best pitcher in at least a generation was the highlight of the Red Sox at the start of the 21st century. He was something unique and special. Not only do I collect his cards, but he has his own shelf of collectibles. It’s a true player collection, even if it’s not as active as it could be. But after years of saying “Nomar’s my favorite player, unless Pedro’s pitching” or “Manny’s my favorite player, unless Pedro’s pitching” I realized that by saying that I was declaring Pedro as my favorite player. In the years since, his legend has aged like a fine wine. Time and again the Sox would have a star pitcher that would only prove how amazing Pedro was. Beckett’s amazing postseason, Sale’s dominating start? Bah. Pedro had an entire career better than those hot stretches.
How could I not collect him?