Saturday, July 25, 2015

Degrees of Separation from MLB Greatness

Craig Biggio from Upper Deck 1992 deck.
As I've written about previously, during my three years as a minor league mascot, I acquired quite a few pieces of memorabilia, as well as baseball "stuff" that was laying around the clubhouse. It's these seemingly throwaway collectibles that permit a (though tenuous) connection to the rich history of professional baseball. Among the trinkets collected at the time was an unopened box of Upper Deck MLB trading cards from the 1992 season. I began making appearances as Spikes prior to performing in games beginning with the Rochester Red Wings 2001 season, and I seem to recall having acquired the box around mid-season in 2002.

While I have long been a fan of collectibles, and as such should have figured that if they were to have any value it would be in keeping the box unopened, I am also a parent. My kids and I had quite a fun time opening each pack and organizing the cards numerically, by team, by position, by subset and so on. I was familiar with many of the players, and had met at least two whose cards were in the deck (Deon Sanders as a visiting minor league player and Cal Ripken Jr. as a returning legendary Red Wing) so it was fun to talk to my kids about those different interactions. By no means a complete set, those cards we did find were put neatly into a card protector sleeve and placed into a three-ring binder for safe keeping. Occasionally, I or my son will pull the binder out and thumb through the pages looking for cards of past favorites.

This coming weekend, the National Baseball Hall of Fame (a wonderful place in Cooperstown, New York, I've visited with my kids  twice in the past) will be holding their induction ceremony for four players for whom I happen to have found their cards in the 1992 set: Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz. The Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2015 is the largest in 60 years. I've scanned both the front and back of each card and posted them here. My son, a Red Sox fan, had not realized Pedro Martinez had once been a Dodger; I recall him as an Expo though his greatest success came as a pitcher and personality for the curse-busting Boston Red Sox.

Pedro Martinez Rookie Card.
Pedro and older brother Ramon Martinez from the Blood Lines subset.
Randy Johnson.
Pitcher John Smotlz batting on the front of the card--the Atlanta Braves 
are in the National League.

For myself, just like any collectible, the value in possessing these cards is small beyond the memories they evoke, and this weekend, as I watch the Hall of Fame ceremony on television, it will be neat to point to the athletes whose cards I acquired while working with minor league athletes myself, some of who may one day make the hall, too. This ability to desperate oneself (if you've ever been in a Single A through Triple A game you have probably had the same experience if you think about it) by six degrees from baseball history is one of the things that makes it such a great professional league.

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