Blog Bat-Around: What I Collect

It’s already eleven days into May – heck, by the time this post actually goes live, it’ll likely be twelve – and I still haven’t posted for the month. That’s not a particularly great sign. There ought to be a TTM Report up for April, and I still have a couple dozen packages to acknowledge dating back to – well, a good 10 months ago still. There are plenty of other posts to write, and I’d like to dive into my take on the “Documentary Now” project several of us are running. For now, I’m content to have settled on a base design, but that’s about as far as I’ve gotten.

Right now, though, I’d rather dip back 6 weeks and talk about a Blog Bat-Around that Night Owl started: What I Collect. I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the past year or so, and the pages here are out of date (I should rectify that too). Parenthood is a beautiful thing, and it has a way of understandably changing your priorities. Well, my cardboard priorities have changed a bit as well, somewhat due to the new household addition, and for other reasons as well. Mainly, as we all seem to do every few years, I’ve just wanted to refocus.

So, all that being said – what do I collect? Let’s see…

1. Jeff Bagwell

We’ve got to start at the beginning, right?  While I’m fortunate enough that my boyhood hero spent his entire career with my hometown team, and thus all of these cards technically fall under the next entry as well, the true heart of my collecting resides with my Jeff Bagwell cards. At some point last year I crossed the 1000 card mark (that’s 1000 different Bagwell cards), and I really ought to blog more about these.

2. Houston Astros

When I first came back around to collecting some 5 years ago, I had decided to revive my Bagwell collection. Not long after that, I determined, “what the hell, why not just turn into a team collector?” Thus, here we are. Sure, I could collect just the stars, but there’s a fair amount of joy in picking up the also-rans, the super utility guys of my youth, and the vintage cards that lead to discoveries of players gone by. So, yes – I’m a team collector as well. I’m not out there trying to swipe up all the mojo hits on eBay, though. I don’t have the budget for things like that.

3. Bill Mazeroski

This is probably the one that comes most as a surprise for other collectors, but Maz was my first vintage PC.  My dad is from the ‘Burgh, and Clemente was his hero. When I began dragging my father to card shows, he decided to start collecting once more, starting with a run of Clemente cards and the ’60 Pirates roster. I wanted an old player to collect as well, and I after all the tales I’d heard of Mazeroski’s quick hands and the famous homer, he became my guy. So I built a run of most of his Topps cards while I was a kid, and have slowly added to that after resuming my habit.

4. Other Vintage PCs

Well I obviously couldn’t just stop at Maz, right? Soon afterward, Clemente and Stargell joined the ranks – I had a natural bent for the 60’s-70’s Pirates. Nolan Ryan falls in this category as well – his non-Astros cards get filed into their own collection. I’ve added a few guys that intrigue me for assorted reasons – Dock Ellis, Mark Fidrych, Harvey Haddix, and Bill Lee for their various quirks. Boog Powell, Brooks Robinson, Satchel Paige, Harmon Killebrew, and Warren Spahn all slot in here. There are probably more – I’ll update the main blog page soon to better reflect this. For a few guys, I’m shooting for more complete vintage runs, others I just pick up nice cards here and there and save some of the neat new releases.

5. Modern PCs

This category would have been much harder to narrow down pre-baby. It would have been just a litany of stars from the 80s forward, but renewed collecting focus and some more selectivity when it comes to the actual cards I keep has helped chop the list down. In general, there are a few big names of whom I will keep just about any cards that come my way: Cal Ripken, Randy Johnson, and Pudge Rodriguez. It helps that they’ve got plenty of awesome cardboard out there, and that they are iconic standard-bearers for their positions. For several other guys, I have nice PCs going but I try to be fairly selective about who and what I keep – Juan Gonzalez and Julio Franco are prime examples of the guys here. And then there’s Casey Candaele, whom I love because he played everywhere, was a cutup, and apparently took BP in the cage in the nude sometimes.

6. Sets / Inserts / Subsets

Yes, I do enjoy a little construction from time to time, although these are mostly back-burner collections that I don’t focus much energy on at all. My primary pursuits here are vintage sets and some modern subsets/inserts that have caught my eye. I’m a half dozen cards from having the original 1968 Topps Game set finished, and 8 cards away from finishing 1974 Topps. I’ve got nice stacks going for ’72, ’73, and even a nice little pile of ’64 stashed away for whenever I might begin those, and in general anything older than 1967 is welcome for a possible build. I really dig the 2018 Diamond Kings set (which I need to post about), and sometimes the new inserts will grab my attention – the 2016 blue framed Gypsy Queen cards or the 2014 A&G Pastime’s Pastimes set.

7.  Autographs

I started collecting autographs as a kid – my friend down the street had a copy of Jack Smalling’s book, and we wrote to a few old-timers, getting successful replies from Yogi Berra, Richie Ashburn, and Duke Snider, and I was hooked. A few years later I was checking an AOL group every day and writing to players via teams. I kept this going both TTM and at games until I was probably halfway through high school, when my collecting had pretty much stopped. I picked TTM back up in 2014, and have sent out around 750 requests since then, with successes from close to 475 of them. With all the junk mail now and less actual physical correspondence than ever, there’s nothing like opening the mailbox and finding a return from a ballplayer, especially the old-timers who will talk about their playing days.

8. The Astro-graphs Project

We’ll close out by bringing this full circle, of course. Regular readers should be well acquainted with this endeavor by now. This came about when I returned to collecting, and in addition to picking back up my Bagwell cards, I thought to myself, “well, it would be fun to have a long-term project.” Then I thought about how neat it would be to attempt to pick up an autograph from every guy that’s ever played for my favorite franchise, dating back to the original Colt .45s days. I had a nice little start with the guys I watched growing up, and figured that I’d be able to chase down a bunch of the older guys through the mail. So far, I’ve been pretty successful. Between TTM, Fan Fests, local signings, trades, and some certified autos I should cross the 50% completion threshold this year. This includes the coaches throughout the club’s history as well.

So that’s what I collect. Well, most of it at least. Thanks for the topic, Night Owl!

 – Marc

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