The blogosphere is bursting at the seams with great baseball card material these days.
If you don’t believe me, take a look at our own list of more than 450 websites devoted to the hobby in some way or another … and I’m sure we’ve missed some good ones (let me know if we missed yours).
But, even though the hobby gets so much solid coverage from within our own ranks, there are some really great articles about our little world being produced by “outsiders.”
And it’s been going on for decades. Check out this interview with longtime dealer Jim Kovacs at the LA Times published in 1985 for a perfect example.
These days, it seems like you can find baseball card stories just about everywhere if you’re willing to look a little, and it’s definitely worth the effort.
To get you started, here are 10 great articles about our fair hobby over the past 10 years (or so) that you won’t want to miss … even if they do come from outside our bubble.
by Grayson Haver Currin at Indy Week
If you grew up in the 1970s or (especially) the 1980s or 1990s with hopes of riding your baseball card collection to a brighter future, you will relate to Grayson Haver Currin’s story. Journey with him as he and his bride schlep 20,000 cards to a show in search of bill money, only to face a rude awakening. It’s an expected though poignant reminder about collecting for joy, and the tale is well-told.
by Joe Pinsker at The Atlantic
Pinsker is another collector from the bygone era of the hobby boom years who still has — somewhere — the cards on which he pinned his childhood hopes. He takes a different approach to telling his story than Haver Currin did above, though, delving into the history of baseball cards in American culture and why we just can’t seem to stay away from them for long. You’ll likely see a lot of yourself in the fascinating ideas that Pinsker develops here.
by Aaron Dodson at The Undefeated
Oscar Gamble may have had the greatest afro in sports history, and he certainly has the most famous baseball card ‘dos ever. But there is more to the story behind Gamble’s 1976 Topps Traded issue than just “Yankees Take Gamble on Oscar,” and Aaron Dodson has the details you need to fully appreciate one of the hobby’s most iconic pasteboards.
This article almost lost me in the middle when it started talking about refractors and inserts. I really almost flushed the whole thing when the author lamented that a couple of his packs yielded “nothing special” — you know, just a Barry Larkin and a Barry Bonds insert. But the sentiment laced throughout the piece resonates with me, and I suspect it will with you, too.
One quote in particular sums up the relationship so many of us have with our cards:
It is the reason why every year around this time I will go to the store and buy baseball cards. There aren’t a lot of ways to feel like a kid again, but for me this is one of those things that brings me back to that Easter morning with my family and a few packs of baseball cards.It is the reason why every year around this time I will go to the store and buy baseball cards. There aren’t a lot of ways to feel like a kid again, but for me this is one of those things that brings me back to that Easter morning with my family and a few packs of baseball cards.
Back in 2010, Dave Jamieson wrote the most acclaimed book about baseball cards in at least a generation, entitled Mint Condition: How Baseball Cards Became an American Obsession. It’s an amazing tome that covers pretty much the full history of the hobby and is a solid read for anyone that loves the cardboard life. In this Deadspin piece, Jamieson pens an abridged version of that history, as told through 12 specific cards. It’s another good read and maybe enough to entice you to buy the full book if you haven’t already.
by Jason Zasky at Failure Magazine
A few months after Jamieson’s book was released, Jason Zasky interviewed the author in an article for Failure Magazine. In case you’re not familiar with Failure Magazine, it’s a site dedicated to telling the stories of “humankind’s boldest missteps,” with many of the stories focusing on business angles.
In this interview, Jamieson lays out many of the reasons for the “failure” of baseball cards after the boom years of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Jamieson also puts forth his ideas on resurrecting the industry, which run from streamlining production to making the hobby fun for kids again.
Seven years on, how do you think we’re doing with that?
by John Markowski at Laces Out
We all have that one set of baseball cards with the power to transport us back to the grade-school playground or corner drugstore of our childhoods whenever we encounter them again. The smell and sights and feel of the moments we spent collecting the cards in the first place come rushing back, and we’re helpless to resist them and their nostalgic pull.
For John Markowski, the 1977 Topps set is his first love of baseball cards, and he takes us on a visual survey of the issue through this article in Laces Out, a sports compendium from Medium.com. Dig in, and I’m sure you’ll be pulling out your own tattered little time machines before you even realize it.
by Matt Blitz at Food & Wine
While newer collectors might find the idea to be a novelty, a nod to some dusty and long-forgotten past, most veteran collectors take for granted that baseball cards and bubble gum belong together.
It’s hard to fathom how you could have one without the other for any length of time, and we lament the death of gum in wax packs with the same fervor we might normally reserve for an argument over the designated-hitter rule. But the fact is the marriage of baseball cards and gum did not come about until deep into the history of the hobby, and this article from Matt Blitz runs through the progression that led from early tobacco cards to the birth of the gum-in-wax standard in the 1950s to its death in 1991.
Keep your tissues handy.
by Bradley Maule at Hidden City Philadelphia
It may not always be obvious, but the history of our favorite baseball cards is often inextricably tangled with the history of the cities in which they originate.
For instance, without the influence of New York native and Brooklyn resident Sy Berger, it’s doubtful Topps would have ever been able to overtake Bowman to reign supreme and unchallenged on the collecting landscape for nearly 30 years. And it’s certain that any vestige of Topps that remained today would be far different from the current thriving giant.
Aside from Topps, perhaps no card company owed more to its locale than did Philadelphia-based Fleer, and in this article at Hidden City Philadelphia, author Bradley Maule details the long and intertwined history like few others have before.
by David Roth at Slate
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to work for the king of the card makers? Maybe you’ve dreamed about writing or editing baseball card backs for Topps, or fantasized about roaming the halls at T.C.G. in search of the hidden treasures that nearly 70 years of cardboard history have wrought.
If so, David Roth has you covered.
In this article that’s well over 10 years old now, Roth lets us in on his brief stint as an editor for Topps card backs and reveals just a few of the secrets that lay behind the walls of the world’s greatest baseball card cathedral.
Be warned, though, because not all dreams come true in the way you think they might.