November 12, 2006

Branching Out

I’ve been telling myself that someday I’ll look back on my time in New York City with the fondness and nostalgia that living in a different location usually brings, and that I will wish that I had used my time here to the fullest. Therefore, I decided to do a very New York thing and took in a show yesterday. Granted, it was early Saturday morning, I was in a dilapidated Catholic grammar school gymnasium and surrounded by a crowd of middle-aged men ogling Ryan Howard rookies and game-used inserts. But I had paid admission ($1), plus I ended up spending $30 for cards I didn’t know I wanted, and I had a pretty good time in the process.

I spent most of the morning talking with Mel, who described himself as more of a collector than a dealer. We agreed that there wasn’t much point in collecting new cards in terms of “making an investment” (his words), and his advice was that if you really wanted to make money, you shouldn’t purchase anything after 1969. And I had to agree with him on principle, but luckily I’m not at a point in my habit where I’m concerned with making an investment. I’m more concerned with owning the card, regardless of its condition. And when it comes to buying cards in not-so-great condition, well, Mel’s your man.

Like this killer card of Rod Carew sporting a wicked early-1980s headband. Let me tell you something, I always thought I had appreciated the headband, but after yesterday I now know that you can’t just wear a headband and automatically look like the Baumer from Royal Tenenbaums. No, the headband is not something that can be idly mastered—practice is key. Plus, there are a few things that you must take into consideration before you even attempt to wear one. First, the thickness of the band. Second, the thickness of your hair. Third, the color of the band in relation to the color of your uniform. Based on these principles, it’s obvious that where Rod Carew succeeds with quiet aplomb, Sidney Wicks fails miserably. Carew’s fro-to-band ratio is well proportioned, while Wicks’ hair looks like an extension of the band. You can see Wicks’ discomfort in his eyes—he knows he isn’t practiced enough to be photographed.

Or these cards of Spider Lockhart and Chuck Muncie, who, by the way, is quickly becoming my favorite retired NFL player. All of his cards seem to picture him on the sidelines, sitting on the bench, or in various other places but never on the field. Plus he wears hornrims and has a scholarly mustache/goatee thing going. I almost expect him to teach college-level physics in the off-season. This Lockhart card from ’75 is great because it’s pre-universal Gatorade squeeze bottle. I bet he brought that plastic jug from home.

I got some other great cards too. Like this one of Kenesaw Landis from Fleer’s Baseball Greats series from 1961. And if you ever want to read a few stories about Landis that conflict with his hard-line legacy as Commissioner, read the first few chapters of Leo Durocher’s Nices Guys Finish Last. Apparently he was a real softy when it came to players’ rights.

But perhaps the best card I got at the show was this Julius Erving Super Action card from the terribly underrated (and personal favorite) 1981-82 Topps basketball set. Not only is Erving skying high while he drives to the basket, but he’s doing so in the old Garden, with McHale and Bird looking on. It’s just an awesome shot, and one that’s got me thinking…

Now that baseball’s done for the year, I think I’ll start including some basketball-related stuff on the blog. Wouldn’t be bad, right? I mean, I’m not talking about a ton of World B. Free and Slick Watts references, but after listening to classic Tommy Heinsohn commentary during a playoff game against the Hawks about how overweight Ray Williams was (on the Larry Bird’s Greatest Hits dvd), I thought it might be nice to branch out a little bit. Try new things. Use this space to its fullest. That kind of thing.

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