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A New Feature Here At Wagstaff Central: Random Thoughts On Baseball Cards July 12, 2012

Posted by Jim Berkin in 1970s, Baseball, Baseball Cards.
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After reading this news item in recent days, where some lucky bastard found a box filled with 1910 mint condition baseball cards in grandpa’s long forgotten attic stash, I started thinking about my own baseball card collection, boxed up & closeted for years now.

If you want to hear how lucky I am, you might have heard me screaming obscenities after today’s 7th race at Hollywood Park. So much for my Pick 6, Pick 4 AND Place Pick All. I’d done just fine before my pick went in the toilet. BAH.

Anyway, as a kid, I bought cards constantly, by the ten cent pack of course, throwing away the gum & then organizing them in an old shoebox. Eventually, I started ordering the complete sets of Topps cards via ads in the back of The Sporting News. I’d but older cards at flea markets when they’d turn up, but then the economy went bust in the late ’70s, and baby boomer-yuppie shitwheels decided to plunge their investment dollars into what was once a hobby only, turning it into a business. Money flooded in & inflation took off. Prices of old time stars shot up – both good and bad for yours truly. A lot of my cards were certainly worth a lot of money, but I’d never sell them. And now getting cards of past players I’d want to add to my collection meant spending real dough.

I was going off to college at this point. I still followed baseball, but for several years, I stopped buying cards altogether. For a while in the late ’80s, I bought more complete sets, although at that point, there were so many competing brands of cards besides Topps that it all got confusing. And when I realized I only boxed the damn things up and put ’em in a closet, it really wasn’t much fun.

Even now, after the bubble in the card market burst and a lot of the older cards are more affordable… there’s just something more fun in happening upon them, as opposed to finding one on ebay.

But what IS fun is looking through tall my old cards now and either reliving my childhood, or reliving the memories I have of some of these players or the era they played in. So, I’ll be posting pics of old cards I find in my collection that I have something to say about. It also gives me an excuse to organize all the crap piling up in the increasing Fibber McGee-ness of my closet.

So let’s get started with one of my favorite cards, ever:

Ah, yes, Oscar Gamble, in his bid to win the Larry Fine lookalike contest. You don’t see a lot of cap versus hair battles being fought by the post-Michael Jordan shaved head’s are cool generation. Guys with long hair like Manny Ramirez or Andrew McCutchen keep theirs under control under their caps pretty well. Oscar Gamble will forever be associated with the picture on his 1976 Topps Traded card (what other decade could have possibly produced this?)

Gamble was a good player though. When the Yanks picked him up from Cleveland, he became an important part of their 1976 pennant win. The Yanks had spent 12 years in the wilderness after probably the most amazing championship run in the history of sports, dominating the AL pretty much since the early 1920s without a major gap. Steinbrenner had begun to spend his money, and the team began to turn around.

The sad thing, though, was how the outfield kept rotating due to George’s checkbook – we went from Bobby Bonds to Gamble and eventually to Reggie, and that didn’t last for more than a few seasons. The more recent Jeter-Rivera era of competitive Yankee baseball might be as loaded with big-money signings, but it seems the stars hang around longer & there’s far less clubhouse drama.

There’s also less hair.

Gamble went to the White Sox the very next year, probably his best as a slugger, with career highs in both homers (31) and average (.297) – but he’d return to the Yankees from 1979-1984 as a platoon outfielder, and remained a decent off-the-bench slugger during what would become an even longer drought for Yankee fans.

Here’s what Oscar Gamble is up to now, never mind his hair. He sounds like a decent guy.

C’mon, Jeter…. grow that fro….

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