Tuesday, June 10, 2008

#5, Go Go Go

Several years back, I kicked off a special collection of cards, matching my baseball card enthusiasm with my lucky number five. (Dad added one to his own--four--and "gave" it to me back in the 1970s.)

Lots of collectors (but usually the serious ones) put together "type" sets of one card from as many different issues as possible. Some grab a large catalog (or researched checklist) and run through it page-by-page. I prefer the annual Sports Collectors Digest guides and built my own type list from its 2001 and 2004 editions. The task involves a huge variety of cards, a nice opportunity to do research, and creates a unique ensemble of cardboard. Thirty years into the hobby, this new tack added something beyond checking off lists and continues to reward my interest.

Threefold motivations for a collection of #5s!

1. Complete type collections are practically impossible and I like actually finishing things.
2. Cards from auto sellers, meat packers, candy wrappers, facial cleansers, male clothiers, cereal flakers, gelatin shakers, and cookie bakers comprise just some of what you find out there. Cool stuff abounds!
3. Lots of old issues are unnumbered, absolving me from T206, Old Judge, and Turkey Red purchases. (I am, in theory, cheap.)

Type collecting doesn't require a fetish for the obscure. You could easily build an interesting assortment of sets from 10-cent boxes at a card show and trades with other expansion-era collectors. I only go for pre-1980 vintage, though, and oddballs born before the Summer of Love aren't available in every corner drugstore.

Compiling the full list of cards numbered five seems destined for a grab bag of players, perhaps even the private army of common cards many type collections comprise. Fate limited that with Topps' recurring low-number league leader cards and the star-focused nature of most oddball sets. Religious adherence to my "lucky" digit would mean acquiring some decidedly uncommon cards.

Babe Ruth: 1920 W519, 1921 W521, 1924 Willard's Sports Champions, 1928 Fro-Joy
Ty Cobb: 1921 W516-2
Hank Aaron: 1954 Johnston Cookies Braves (oddball RC!)
Ted Williams: 1956 Topps, 1956 Topps Hocus Focus
Sandy Koufax: 1962 Topps (and Topps Venezuelan)
Mickey Mantle: 1962 Jello, 1962 Post, 1962 Post Canadian

...and plenty of other fellows who could really play the game. Each Billy Grabarkewitz (1971 Milk Duds) had his Nolan Ryan (1975 Topps, Topps mini, and OPC). So much for frugality!

Several years and many, many cards into the collection, the #5s remain my primary interest. It's usually credit to eBay, but they turn up in the hobby often enough to keep the lines of communication open. (Just last week, a trade netted a previously unseen 1977 Twins team issue of Mudcat Grant!)

Each post here will profile one plucked from the binder, hopefully with stirring prose and an echo of Angels. (Or Red Sox.) If you choose to read along, thanks and I hope you learn something about the vast multitude of sets out there.

2 comments:

Six Degrees of Ron Santo said...

I just ran across your blog recently and I thought it was a cool idea. It reminded me of several years back I drafted players wearing the numbers 23, 45 and 9 only for my fantasy league team. Those are Michael Jordan's numbers. (Bulls, Sox, Dream Team.) Of course I didn't tell anybody until the draft was over. And I actually finished in the money.

Matthew Glidden said...

Thanks, like the Santo one, too! Interesting about your draft success--so you brought a list of all the teams and those 3 numbers? (Which players were that at the time?)