Like a lot of kids who grew up in the ’80s, I was an avid baseball card collector. It started with my Dad, who would tell me stories of his own baseball card collection, long since lost. He would shake his head sadly, as if these lost treasures were why we lived in a three-bedroom house and not a sprawling mansion. Inspired, I spent every quarter I could find on packs of Topps cards, intent on recapturing the dream. I would rifle through the cards for hours, inspecting the little brown cardboard rectangles and sorting them into stacks. At some point all of us from that era put our Bo Jackson and Dwight Gooden cards in a special container, so that our Moms wouldn’t throw them out. And then we lost our Bos and Dwights.
I outgrew a lot of things from the ’80s, but cards stuck. (Also: professional wrestling.) I eventually abandoned baseball and football cards and moved to basketball, which had become my favorite sport. Plus there were fewer people who collected basketball cards, so it felt like being in a smaller club.
Cards, too, were changing. During the 2000s the card companies began including two types of premium inserts: autographed cards and jersey cards. Autograph cards were signed by the players and authenticated, whatever that meant. Jersey cards actually had small swatches of fabric from the player’s uniforms stitched into the card. Of course both types of inserts might have been frauds, but sports cards are a little bit like pro wrestling – you need a little suspended disbelief.
These days my collecting has slowed to a trickle (having a baby costs, like, money and stuff), but the hobby remains intact. For this column I trolled through my collection and picked out a selection of random and obscure cards to feature. Fair warning: If your computer has a Nerd-O-Meter, this article is going to bust that sucker pretty quickly.
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2004-05 Fleer Throwbacks Defining Authentic Yuta Tabuse Auto/Jersey RC
Yuta Tabuse has a really cool name and a really small head which is about half the size of the ball he’s holding. Yuta is a big deal in Japan, but I am not in Japan, so this card isn’t worth a ton of money. Darn. On a related note, every time I play pickup I get stuck guarding someone like Yuta, a five-foot waterbug that I have to hobble after like a decrepit Bruce Bowen. Why does everybody laugh at me when I say we need to play zone? I bet Bruce would play zone with me.
2005-06 Topps Bazooka Scot Pollard Jersey Card
Why feature a jersey card from Scot Pollard? Because Scot Pollard was, is, and will continue to be awesome. I believe the picture on this card was taken during the four minutes that Pollard was the starting center of the Pacers before he was benched in favor of creepy dude/former teen idol Jeff Foster. I think it’s safe to say that no player in recent history maximized his hair potential as much as Pollard did. His apex of cool was his stint as the Sacramento Samurai, coming off the bench to wrestle Shaq using nothing but ancient ninja secrets and the power of his sideburns.
2004-05 Skybox Hoops Great Shots Dwyane Wade Jersey Card
Umm, Fleer? Hello? It’s me. Listen, I like the card and all, but… Well, it’s just that….um…the piece of “game-used jersey” is purple. Also, it smells like Slava Medvedenko, like 18-footers with 20 seconds left on the shot clock. Can you guys just be honest with me? You put a Slava joint in my Wade card, didn’t you?
2005-06 Topps ’52 Style Danny Granger Fan Favorite Autograph RC
Danny. Come on, dude. What is that? “S6?” Is that some sort of code? This card comes from a really cool set, which features autographs from lots of retired greats. I probably should have collected more of these, but I bailed out when I discovered Uwe Blab was not included in the autograph series.
2005-06 Topps ’52 Style Hardwood Classic Greg Ostertag Jersey Card
If you can think of a card that is radder than a Greg Ostertag jersey card (from his Sacramento tour of duty, no less), I’d like to know about it. Just look at that action shot. Observe his falcon eyes as he watches the cutters moving through the lane. Note his utter disdain for crouching. Study his perfect flat top, a microcosm of the man himself – square and powerful.
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Thanks for letting me share some of my weird treasures. If you like this kind of thing, let me hear you in the comments. If it’s not your thing, just bear with me – I’m hoping Topps will eventually send us some Bo Jacksons to replace the ones our Moms threw out.
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