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Getting Back to Baseball Cards

I, like many people, collected baseball cards as a kid. But as I got older, I stopped collecting them, at least in the quantity I once did. There were many years where I wouldn’t get any packs, and a lot of the times when I did get some I would buy just one or two packs to see what the new design was.

Then I’d put them on my desk or dresser or something and forget about them.

But for some reason (probably being at home 24/7 due to Covid-19) I have reignited my interest in the hobby.

So I went online to see what my options were to get some packs, and picked up only a box of Topps 2020 Opening Day cards. It was an affordable option for my first real purchase of baseball cards in probably close to a decade, and who knows, maybe I could get one of the really desirable rookie cards (foreshadowing).

I kept looking though for more cards, and then I had an idea. I thought, man, it would be really cool to open some old packs that have never been touched before. Knowing significantly more about baseball history than I did when my age was a single digit, I thought it could be fun to open packs and get cards of some of the legends of the game before they were legends.

So I scoured the internet (basically just Amazon and eBay) to see what the options even were for old, unopened baseball cards. I had to be careful and buy from someone who got good reviews because there’s always the risk of the packs being searched and repackaged, and sure enough, the first one I clicked on had a ton of reviews saying it was a scam.

I finally settled on one — a variety pack of old, unopened baseball cards from the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Surprisingly it was also very affordable, probably because a lot of cards from that era were overproduced — so it’s hard to get anything of real value out of the packs aside from a literal handful of cards. 

So I put my order in, and sure enough a week later I got both boxes, the current cards and the vintage ones. I was excited for both, but I’ll be honest I was definitely more excited for the old cards. 

I opened the 2020 box first and got a bunch of today’s stars like Charlie Blackmon (yes, he’s a star, don’t try me), Jacob deGrom and Mike Trout. I got two rookies, one Bo Bichette of the Toronto Blue Jays and the other Luis Robert of the Chicago White Sox. Now, I had done my research of which cards were most valuable in the box, and as it turned out the Robert rookie card was one of them. For some reason, the Robert card was a short print, which means there’s a limited number of them on the market. 

According to Becket.com, it is only in about 1 of every 10 boxes, and I got one of them.

I’m not one for selling my cards, I’d much rather keep them for my own personal collection, but I frankly had no attachment to Luis Robert or his rookie card. I ended up selling it on eBay and recouping about 75% of what I spent on both boxes, so I call that a win.

I got some other cool cards like a Nolan Arenado sticker collection preview, Jose Ramirez blue foil, Roberto Clemente “Spring Has Sprung” insert (2) and a really cool card highlighting Pesky’s Pole at Fenway Park.

But it was time for the old cards. In the box came 20 packs which were the following: four 1988 Topps, four 1988 Donruss, two 1988 Score, five 1990 Fleer, one 1990 Donruss, one 1990 Score, one 1991 Topps, one 1991 Fleer and a Nolan Ryan Texas Express pack.

Four of the packs even gave me the chance to win a trip to 1989 spring training camp for the team of my choice, so fingers crossed! Thanks, Topps!

The company I bought it from also threw in a free Alex Balog “Franchise Future” autographed Panini card. Who is Alex Balog you ask? Well, he was a career minor leaguer who played for the Hartford Yard Goats at one point, which, going to UConn, is pretty cool I guess. He last played in 2017. 

There were no packs from 1989 in the bunch, which I expected because that year featured one rookie card that has skyrocketed in value over the years — Ken Griffey Jr.

I was also opening all these with my dad because after all, these were all the players in the league when he was around my age now. For me, it’s Charlie Blackmon, Jacob deGrom and Mike Trout but for him, it was Eric Davis, Doc Gooden and Andre Dawson (I ended up pulling all three of them).

I opened them from newest to oldest so ‘91 to ‘88, looking for either players that I personally liked or of course the All-Time greats.

I pulled all sorts of Hall-of-Famers or should-be Hall-of-Famers, including the likes of Gary Carter (2), Greg Maddux (2), Eddie Murray (2), Joey (otherwise known as Albert, but he was Joey back then) Belle (2), “Rich” Gossage, Barry Larkin, Dave Winfield, Cal Ripkin Jr., Ryne Sandberg, Dennis Eckersley, Dale Murphy, Joe Carter, Omar Vizquel and others. 

I got some really nice Mets too, which was fun being a Mets fan. Along with the aforementioned Carter and Gooden came Jesse Orosco, John Franco as a Cincinnati Red, Mookie Wilson as a Toronto Blue Jay, Mackey Sasser as a Pittsburgh Pirate (his rookie card) and somehow four different Dave Magadan cards.

There was one card in a 1990 Fleer pack that was especially interesting to me and that was a “Major League Prospects” card that featured Cleveland Indians pitching prospect Rudy Seanez and California Angels pitching prospect Colin Charland. Now, about 30 years later we can see if they turned into anything!

Rudy Seanez had himself quite a career, playing in parts of 17 Major League seasons exclusively as a reliever. In a career 566.0 innings, Seanez put up an ERA of 4.10 and WHIP of 1.413. His career ERA+ was 106, so he had a slightly above average career statistically while lasting a whole lot longer than a lot of players do. 

He didn’t stay in Cleveland very long, leaving after three years where he threw just 37.1 innings. In fact, he was quite the journeyman, spending time with not only the Indians but also the Braves, Padres, Dodgers, Red Sox, Royals, Phillies, Rangers and Marlins.

As for Colin Charland, he was a little less fortunate than Seanez, as he actually never made it to the Major Leagues. After four seasons in the Angels organization where he found himself as high as AAA, he spent two seasons in the Indians organization in A+ and AA ball before splitting his final year between the Indians and Angles organizations in his final year of professional baseball, playing in AA and AAA for both. 

Does any of that actually matter? Not really, I just found it interesting what happened to the players who were deemed good enough to be featured as prospects on a baseball card back in 1990.

The one player I was really hunting that I didn’t end up getting was the legendary Bo Jackson, but I did get the next best thing. What’s the next best thing to the best two-sport athlete ever?

Primetime! Yup, one of the 1990 Fleer packs had a Deion Sanders card from when he was on the New York Yankees. 

One of the funniest parts of opening all these packs was that some of them still had the old chewing gum inside, and it had become deadly (or at least that’s my guess by the way it looked) over the past 30 or so years.

Four of the five sticks that I got even fused themselves to the card it was next to, so was the fate of Bill Doran, Jose Lind, Glenn Braggs and, most unfortunately, Tony Gwynn.

All-in-all though, it was an amazing experience. It was just flat-out fun, no other way to describe it, and I highly recommend it to anyone who really likes collecting cards or simply just wants a couple of hours of nostalgia.

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