I admit, this is going to be an unusual entry of the Card of the Day. I suppose this will be less biographical and more philosophical.
On the left I have a card for Jim Kaat in 1978. That was the first year I collected baseball cards. Jim Kaat was already a grizzled veteran at the time and he would keep playing into the 1980’s, winning a World Series ring with the 1982 Cardinals. After that, he became one of the best color commentators on TV. Many believe he should have been elected to the Hall of Fame. I would not have a problem with that.
On the right is a card from this year. Ichiro is on it. Notice how he is just “Ichiro” not Ichiro Suzuki. He got 3 hits in last night’s Marlins loss to the Nationals. That gives him 3,064 hits in America and 4342 hits combined between America and Japan.
There is no doubt he is going to the Hall of Fame. I wish a team like the Dodgers or Nats would pick him up for a playoff run. I’d like to see him get a World Series ring.
I got the Ichiro card for this year and I flipped it over.
OK. They have his stats and some advanced metrics. OPS and WAR have made it to the back of the Topps Card. So has some pretty heady quotes like “Equipment has heart, human heart, inside it.” That is almost a haiku.
But here was my problem. While they show his last 4 years and the grand total of his 16 years in the bigs, it doesn’t tell the whole story of his career. Hell, glancing at the back of the card, you’d think he had split his career evenly with the Yankees and the Marlins.
There is no mention of his 12 seasons in Seattle, let alone his Rookie of the Year and MVP season of 2001.
Compare the back of that card with the back of Jim Kaat’s card.
EVERY year is included. It doesn’t matter how cramped it gets on the card. It started in 1959 and went all the way to 1977. You can read his whole career including the Senators.
The SENATORS! That seemed like ages before my baseball knowledge began. And to give you an idea of how much his career stretched back, he played for the Senators that became the Twins, NOT the later version who became the Rangers.
He started playing when there was no baseball in Minnesota and only one team, the Yankees, played in New York. The Giants and Dodgers leaving was fresh in everyone’s mind in New York. The Mets did not exist yet.
When he finished playing, the Expos, Padres, Mariners and Blue Jays were all established franchises.
A baseball card was there to tell the entire story of a player’s career, or at least their entire major league history. No matter how many years a player goes on, it will be reflected on the back of their card.
When I started collecting, there were many veterans with long histories on the backs of their cards. Carl Yastrzemski, Phil Niekro, Pete Rose, Willie Stargell, Gaylord Perry, Willie McCovey, Manny Mota and Lou Brock all come to mind.
And the card told their whole story.
I loved that about cards.
But I realize I am being a little bit of Old Man Sully here. “In myyyyyyyyy day, things were different.”
When I collected cards, many times they were how fans like me learned who was who and what their stats were. And of course all the information was a year behind.
Cards do not fulfill that need now. Lord knows I don’t turn to baseball cards to learn someone’s stats! I go to Baseball-reference.com, the single greatest website in the history of the planet Earth. We get stats nearly in real time. I get frustrated when I have to wait until morning for every single active player to have their stats updated.
So I guess the notion of baseball cards being portable biographies is kind of an obsolete notion.
What the hell is their purpose now? I suppose they exist for aging baseball fans like me to have a sense of nostalgia.
Maybe they won’t have any purpose soon.
Oh Crap. I have a hell of a lot of baseball cards.
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