One of my friends growing up had, on his basement wall, a framed uncut sheet of baseball cards. I don’t recall the set, or which players it contained, but I do remember seeing it for the first time and thinking, “What the … ?”
I’m sure I would have eventually deduced that baseball cards were produced and manufactured in the same fashion as say, 64 slices of American cheese, and that’s not to say I had ever really thought about the origins of the cards I so enjoyed. But I think my naïve little brain subconsciously believed these cards were created with the same individual care and attention-to-detail with which I tended to them. By whom, you ask? I don’t know … elves with microscopic tools and a graphic design degree with full access to major league ballplayers? Prolly. But again, I didn’t really think about it.
That somewhat jarring dose of reality and the youthful disappointment it evoked was almost immediately replaced with a feeling of OH MY GOD WHAT DOES YOUR DAD DO FOR A LIVING I NEED TO GET ONE OF THOSE NOW!!! It seemed impossible that a person—much less a person I knew—could possess such a magnificent, priceless item. I thought it was worth more than the house in which it was displayed. That my friend’s dad knew someone in the industry of producing baseball cards (or, had a lot of money to give an obese sheister at a card show) seemed more improbable than had I discovered he knew the President of the United States. I mean, geez—even the President couldn’t get his hands on a sheet of uncut baseball cards without having to compromise on trade sanctions or something. POLITICS.
The uncut nature of the sheet was the true allure, as my slowly maturing brain was beginning to realize the Collector’s Formula that proved the less utilitarian a thing was, the more valuable it must be: mint condition < in an opened pack < on uncut sheet < doesn’t even exist. That is why, I think, I proudly own an unopened Derek Jeter figurine that will be worth, in 80 years or so, not that much money. But at least I can say, from eternity, it was never soiled by human hands.
So yeah, I stood in awe of the uncut sheet. After that experience, every now and then, I would get a card that was less awe-inspiring, but that nevertheless reminded me of the uncut sheet, and the unreliability of human hands, even the human hands that operate machine hands.
Bob Kipper, 1990 Topps
No offense to Bob Kipper—he was done justice on other cards in which he played a hilarious top-hatted beekeeper—but it was a darn good thing for 11-year-old me that this absurd nightmare of a cut involved Bob Kipper instead of … (remembering there were zero good cards in this set) … someone else. This is the type of card I would look at every now and then and think to myself, “I can’t believe I collect these things. I should start a blog when the Internet is invented.”
Meanwhile, my buddy is sitting on a sectional in his finished basement, playing the latest video game system I don’t have, an uncut and untradeable sheet of baseball men resting on the nearby wall, priceless yet ignored, like true love often is.
Bob Kipper struck out a career-high 83 dudes in 1987. He pitched 39 innings for the Twins in ’92 before calling it quits. Some might say his career was cut short. Others might say his career was cut long. Kip himself was just relieved he was never decapitated.