Monday, June 26, 2023

Joel Kaningher (1947-2023)

My dad passed away earlier this year.

It happened just a few weeks after I penned this post about four new cards I found for my collection amongst the belongings he left behind here in Colorado. It has been a difficult several months to say the least, and is certainly part of why you haven't seen me write anything since then. 

In mid-March, I flew down to Florida to settle his estate. My sister had already planned a trip down there to visit him, so I just tagged along on what we all expected would be a different kind of vacation. An old friend of mine who lives nearby helped me clean out his office and bedroom, and I flew back to Colorado a few days later with a few of his prized possessions. Watches, books, photo albums, things like that. A few fountain pens, which has turned into quite the little addiction, let me tell you.

And yes, baseball cards.

It wasn't much. His card collection from when he was a boy was long gone before I was even born. And most of the few hundred cards he kept from my duplicates box stayed behind in Colorado. But I did find three or four pages of his favorites from recent years.

2010 Yankees Topps 27 World Championships #YC2 Lou Gehrig

Over half of the cards I found came from this complete 27-card set that Topps released in 2010, documenting each of the 27 World Series the Yankees have won in their illustrious history. I remember giving this set to him as a gift, probably for Father's Day. I'm glad he liked it so much that he kept it nearby all this time.

Lou Gehrig was before Dad's time, as was much of the team's success that began with Babe Ruth. The Iron Horse also predated Topps itself, so for all the 1920s, '30s, and '40s guys, Topps simply added their photos to the 1952 design. Later on in the set they did true reprints of actual Topps cards, which you'll see later.

DiMaggio is actually not in this set, surely a rights issue that Topps couldn't resolve.

2010 Yankees Topps 27 World Championships #YC15 Mickey Mantle

But Mickey Mantle is. Three times, actually. 

A reprint of Mantle's mythical 1952 Topps rookie card is #15 in this checklist, already over halfway through the set before The Commerce Comet even makes an appearance. 

Even a casual collector knows this card front very well. But this particular reprint set is a bit different. The back is a dark blue with pinstripes, and it contains a decently long paragraph describing the Series (more or less like the lenticular mini cards found in 1991 Score), along with the overall World Series outcome, and the special championship logo unique to that year.

The 1952 World Series went the distance, with the Bronx Bombers taking the full seven games to defeat their crosstown rivals, the Brooklyn Dodgers. My dad was actually born in Brooklyn, but moved to Queens as a child, a decade or so before the Mets came into existence.

It should be obvious by now that my dad was a Yankees fan, through and through. And none other than The Mick was his favorite player.

2010 Yankees Topps 27 World Championships #YC19 Roger Maris

He spoke fondly of Roger Maris, too. Dad would have been fourteen years old during the home run chase of 1961, exactly as old as I was when McGwire and Sosa had their own chase in 1998. I think he felt bad for Maris when remembering how much the media pressure got to him when he hit 61 in '61.

The Yankees did win the World Series that year, a year after their heartbreaking loss to Pittsburgh at the hands of Bill Mazeroski. Topps reprinted Maris's 1961 card, and noted on the card back that the new home run champion hit a World Series home run in Game 3 against the Reds.

2010 Yankees Topps 27 World Championships #YC24 Derek Jeter

I don't think Dad really followed the Yankees that much in the 1970s or '80s, although I did find a picture of him wearing the classic "NY" hat circa 1983. But when the dynasty re-established itself in the late 1990s, he and I were both excited to watch it. Derek Jeter was of course a huge part of that, reprinted here on his 1998 card. It's not quite a perfect reprint, but the only major difference is that the foil is silver instead of gold.

2002 New York Yankees Pocket Schedule

He took my sister and I to Maine and New York City for a vacation in 2002, and he picked up this Yankees pocket schedule somewhere during that trip. One of these games in mid-June says the Yankees played in Colorado. June 19th, to be exact. He splurged on two Club Level tickets for that game, and we got to see the Yankees rout the Rockies in a 20-10 victory. Until last Saturday, that was the most runs I had ever seen an opposing team score against the Rockies.

You'll notice the schedule documents 26 World Championships. The 27th was in 2009, and coincidentally my dad and I went to see them play in Anaheim that year. He lived all over the country, and telling his story through a few baseball games barely scratches the surface of who he was. But, as Terence Mann says in Field of Dreams, baseball marks the time.

2016 Topps #93 Charlie Blackmon

The rest of the cards I found were more stowaways from my duplicates box, like this 2016 base card of Charlie Blackmon. Dad retired to Florida in early 2016, so I'm not quite sure how he got this card. I don't remember mailing it to him, but maybe it was a duplicate I gave him from my very first pack or two of 2016 Topps Series 1. If that's what it was, he moved to Florida very soon after.

In any case, he enjoyed the local teams here, and we watched plenty of Rockies games both on TV and in person together. He knew how much of a baseball fan he raised. He taught me how to keep score, he (and my mom) drove me to little league games and practices, they bought me cards for holidays and birthdays, they took me and my sister to the ballpark.

I remember he got home from work early one summer afternoon, and he said, "I drove by Mile High Stadium on the way home and the seats were starting to fill up. There's probably a game on." And I immediately turned on the stereo to find that he was right. And surely, surely he knew that I stayed up past my bedtime listening to the Rockies on my little clock radio.

2014 Stadium Club #17 Michael Cuddyer

After all he gave me, I'm glad I at least got to share my love of Stadium Club with him. He picked this one out, and while he was never a Rockies die-hard like me, he knew a good card when he saw it.

I noticed the 20th Anniversary patch on Michael Cuddyer's sleeve on this 2014 Stadium Club card, the year the brand returned from a long hiatus. And this year the Rockies are wearing a 30th Anniversary patch

Which means that memory I have of turning on the radio is either 29 or 30 years old. Not sure how I feel about that.

2015 Topps First Pitch #FP-01 Jeff Bridges

Dad picked out a fun card or two, such as this well-liked First Pitch insert card of Jeff Bridges. Along with baseball, my dad liked movies. And chess, and physics, and cooking, and a thousand other topics. But during those years when our interest in baseball waned a little bit, he introduced me to plenty of movies. Blade Runner, Midnight Cowboy, Little Big Man, other movies with and without Dustin Hoffman. Later in his life, he just enjoyed watching his favorites over and over again. Charlie Wilson's War was a particular favorite of his, and I think I remember him mentioning Crazy Heart, which would explain why he liked this Jeff Bridges card.

1993 Yankees Team Stadium Club #5 Wade Boggs

But it always came back to the Yankees. That was his team no matter what. I asked him once who he would root for if it ever came down to Rockies vs. Yankees in the World Series. Without much hesitation, he told me the Yankees. I like them too, thanks to him, but I'd have to say the opposite. Mainly I grew to like New York because I wanted a horse in the race when the Postseason came around, and the Rockies, as we all know, are usually wrapped up by the end of September.

Losing 25-1 like they did on Saturday doesn't bode well for this year, either.

But those pinstripes are timeless, and they look good on this Wade Boggs Team Stadium Club card.

2011 Topps Lost Cards #60YOTLC-6 Whitey Ford

It's sad that 2009 was the last Yankees championship Dad got to see. But being alive for seventeen of them is pretty cool. He was still keeping an eye on them in these Aaron Judge years, and I think he would have liked Joe Posnanski's recent feature in Esquire about the new Captain of the Yankees.

I'm wrapping up with this insert card of Whitey Ford, from "The Lost Cards" Topps insert set. Due to rights issues, Ford was never actually in the 1955 set, but this is what it would have looked like.

Whitey Ford, it so happens, is one of the later Yankees connections I had to my dad. During that awful year of 2020, Whitey Ford was one of the many Hall of Famers we lost. I talked to my dad not long after that, asking about more of his old baseball memories. The main thing I remember was him repeatedly using Ford's nickname, "The Chairman of the Board", and I'm sure he saw him pitch at the old Yankee Stadium. 

Dad went to many Yankees games when he was young (somehow nearly always against the White Sox, he told me), and he idolized Mickey Mantle. I can't imagine how special it must have been for him to watch such a legendary superstar play just up the street. It's sad though, because we all know how much knee pain Mantle endured during his career, how "it about killed him", my dad said, when Mantle finished with a .298 lifetime batting average, how even though he's undoubtedly one of the greatest of all time, the knee injury The Mick suffered as a rookie made his career a what-if.

And my dad watched his childhood hero go through that, and the aftermath. I hardly ever saw him upset or bothered by anything he saw in the news, especially over something as inevitable as a celebrity death. But one of the few times I saw him shaken up was in 1995, when the newspaper came one morning and he learned of Mickey Mantle's death. It got to him.

I'll never know what it was really like to watch Mickey Mantle play, but I think at least maybe a little of how much time and effort my dad put into cultivating a love of baseball in his only son was to try to share some of that magic that he (and my grandfather) got to witness all those decades ago in the Bronx.

Thanks, Dad.


  1. Hey Adam... very sorry for your loss. This post is an excellent tribute to your father and his love for both the Yankees and Rockies. Thoughts are with you and the rest of your family.

  2. Sorry for your loss. Sounds like your dad was a great person.

    My dad is around the same age and also a Yankee fan, so a lot of similarities with my family.

  3. I, too, am very sorry for your loss. My dad passed his love of baseball (and baseball cards) on to me, sounds like you are in a similar boat.

  4. My deepest condolences to you and your family.

  5. wonderful post adam. it is great that our fandom is a continuation of our fathers' love for the game and we can pass it down as well.

  6. Like everyone else, I'm sorry to hear this. And by modern standards, he wasn't that old either. That just makes it even sadder. Hopefully you and your family have a good support system.

    I know that you don't usually venture outside of baseball cards on here, but if you ever found yourself wanting to do so, I for one would love to hear about the fountain pens :)

  7. Condolences on your father's passing. Wonderful tribute post.