Sunday, April 24, 2016

Infield Fly Rule Booster Club

Even though I'm a member of the #Supertraders group, I have long had plenty of people close to me looking out for my love of baseball. My girlfriend is at the top of that list, spotting lots of collectibles and other baseball-related things for me over the past couple years. Like tickets to Star Wars night. And books. And art prints. And lapel pins.

Not to mention putting up with all the cards coming into the house. The significant other of a baseball card collector has quite a bit to contend with, but at least I'm not into restoring British roadsters from the 1960s or something.

That pin, by the way, commemorates the Rockies' first-ever home run in their new home of Coors Field. The Mets hit a couple home runs earlier that night, but Dante Bichette had the one we all remember, a walk-off shot in the 14th inning.

I was in fifth grade at the time, and I was sent to bed long before the game wrapped up. But I couldn't go to sleep knowing this epic game was still going on. So I stayed up, quietly tuned my little clock radio to 850 on the AM dial, and listened to the entire rest of the game in the dark, including Bichette's game winner.

It was the perfect crime.

Until I blew my cover the next morning. My dad woke me up for school, informed me that the Rockies had won it with a home run, and I groggily said "What? Oh yeah!"


But no trouble; now it's just a fond memory. And an indication that good things happen when you stay up late. That was far from the first time, anyway. I'd often listen to the late innings on that clock radio, even going so far as to find and hold the baseball card of whoever was at the plate for the Rockies, hoping my dedicated young fandom would help send the Rockies into the Win column. Sometimes it worked! Either way, I'd even stay up for the highlights.

Anyway, as I arrived at school the morning after Bichette's homer, and we were all taking our chairs down off the top of our desks, my teacher said "Mr. Kaningher, I have two words for you." He struck a batting pose and said loudly, "Dante. Bichette!"

And now I have the pin.

2014 Topps Allen & Ginter #210 Anthony Bourdain
In addition to Beethoven's card from 2009 A&G, my girlfriend included a second card as part of that Valentine's Day gift, Anthony Bourdain's card from 2014. Allen & Ginter looks more or less the same throughout the years, but they do find some pretty interesting characters for the non-sports segment of the set.

If you're not familiar with Anthony Bourdain, he's a well-known celebrity chef, but he'd be the first to tell you that his skills in the kitchen don't hold a candle to some of his buddies like Eric Ripert. Some years ago, he wrote a book called Kitchen Confidential, half autobiography, half exposé of the restaurant industry. Since then, he's written more books, appeared as a guest judge on Top Chef, and even had a cameo in The Big Short, analogizing three-day old fish to the various derivatives cooked up by the investment banks that tanked the economy.

In the past ten years, he's become quite a well-known journalist, graduating from various travel shows on the Food Network and Travel Channel to CNN, exploring mysterious and controversial places like Lebanon, Iran, and Congo. Even here at home, he shines a light on real problems, like unemployment in Detroit and drug addiction in Massachusetts. He isn't just smacking his lips over clam chowder anymore.

So now I have his card in my collection.

If you've been coming here a while, you've probably noticed that I finally have a proper logo. Scroll up if you missed it. That came from my girlfriend too. She's got some graphic design chops and whipped that up for me a few nights ago, thanks to a font pack she found. She's been doing design for her food blog, where she's running a series on hunger in America and Colorado. If you're so inclined, head over there. You might be surprised by what you read.

Anyway, I've had other family members help out on the baseball front too, including my parents. Let's be honest; when I was a kid, pretty much all of my collection came from presents they bought me, or money I saved from my allowance. I rode my bike to Wal-Mart now and again for packs (and Micro Machines), but trips to the LCS, card shows, and autograph signings could only happen when my parents took the time to drive me around.

I had a trading partner or two in my neighborhood, and a classmate gave me a zipper-top bag full of 1992 Topps in 5th grade, but without my parents, I couldn't have gotten started in this hobby.

My sister's in on it too. Just in time for the first month of baseball season, the folks over at BarkBox put together a baseball-themed shipment as part of their monthly subscription box of dog toys and treats. While my pets currently consist of the residents of a five-gallon fishtank, my sister and her husband have an adorable pup, framed by one of the BarkBox items.

How clever is that? Obviously they're inspired by the 1965 Topps design, and the "statistics" they came up with are really quite accurate, even for a single day. I tagged along for a trip to the dog park last week, and 41 sounds about right. Zoey can't get enough of bolting after tennis balls, especially ones launched extra-far by a Chuck-It. She runs like she was launched from a cannon, and she'd make an excellent center fielder. She's more into chasing bunnies than squirrels, and as I've been told, the "almost" doesn't apply.

She's a little out of focus, making me wish it were possible to stop down the aperture on an iPhone, but it fits right in with the theme around here. I've seen this elsewhere in the Cardsphere, too.

Even outside my immediate family, I have some great people in my life who are happy to indulge my hobby and my preferred sport. That's pretty much how I ended up with a World Series ticket back in 2007, thanks to my boss at the time. One of my coworkers gave me a couple hundred cards from 1991 and 1992 Topps a couple months ago. And I have a pair of Rockies tickets on my desk right now that were given to me by my girlfriend's sister, so I know I'll be seeing a day game toward the end of May.

I'm unbelievably fortunate to have all these people in my life. And though it's easy to forget, I have been fortunate in many more ways since before I could remember. Growing up, the basics like food, clothing, transportation, medical care, were essentially a given. What my girlfriend's been writing about hunger and the millions of Americans affected by it just didn't affect me growing up. That meant my parents had plenty left over to afford things like computers and cell phones (long before most people had computers and cell phones), plus toys like Legos and baseball cards, or Beanie Babies and art supplies for my sister, etc.... Not to mention money for college.

So while we weren't a "giant bow on top of a new Lexus" family, we were always a "plenty of food on the table" family. That's what privilege looks like. Again, its easy to forget. Easy to assume that's how it is for everyone. But it's not.

And while I have no brilliant ideas for solving world hunger, I can at least spread some of the baseball card love around.

Recently, I spent an afternoon going through my duplicates and putting together a two-row box for donation to Big Brothers Big Sisters. We've probably all seen (or own) the same base cards a dozen times over, and probably have piles of duplicates that we don't know what to do with. The Dodger bloggers might have a different situation, but I seem to have become the de facto Rockies Guy in the Cardsphere, meaning I don't really have a place to trade the extras. And there's certainly not much of a market to sell them. So why not donate?

Even if it's just the thrift store, or an organization like BBBS or Boys & Girls Clubs, I encourage you to take a look at your collection and see if anyone in your area would be interested in a donation. Seeing a photo of the recipient holding that two-row box with a beaming smile on his face is a great reminder that there are plenty of cards to go around, that little kids still like baseball, and that I can do something to help.

Rather than lament how "there are no kids in this hobby anymore," help get some kids started, because I'd bet everyone in this community has the ability to do so. Yes, maybe a lot of kids are choosing to play Minecraft instead, but it could also be that their parents need to put $2.99 toward a sack of potatoes rather than a trip to the card aisle.

Because you never know. A baseball card in the hands of a kid staying up late for the end of a ballgame could be the difference between winning and losing.


  1. My fiancee always tells me that she more than okay with a baseball card addiction - "I mean, you could be addicted to crack or hookers or something. Looks like you've got a kind and loving family who feels the same way!

    1. I hate when I have to choose between crack and hookers or cards!

  2. Great post, and spot on.
    BTW - I love that you held the cards of the players when they came up to bat. Very cool.