It feels like the right time to tell this story, but then it is always good to tell a story about fathers, sons and baseball, isn’t it?
This begins on Easter Sunday 2010, when Derek Hogue told his father, Michael, about something he’d just purchased. The two had always shared a passion for baseball anyway, and its history. Derek had always had an affinity for 1950s baseball and the available paraphernalia of the time: baseball cards, photos, programs.
That day, though, he bought a Cy Young baseball card at auction. And something clicked.
“It had a magical feeling for me,” Derek says.
We all have our own baseball card stories, right? Some of us — hand up here — used to make weekly pilgrimages the instant we got our allowances to Carl’s Candy Store where we’d snap up a pack of Topps.
Sometimes, if our grades were good or we’d behaved well for a week, there’d be one of those three-tiered packs, the one where you could see three of the cards, so you already knew you had a Reggie or a Seaver or a Pete Rose before digging for deeper treasures once you opened the rest.
We’d flip for them. We’d scale for them. We’d trade them. We’d put them in the spokes of our bicycle. Say what you will about baseball, but this is all a unique part of the game’s appeal: an instant way for kids to learn about history in a hurry.
Of course, most of these stories end with parents moving to Florida, emptying the attic and absently chucking those cards in a Dumpster. Goodbye to dozens of Rick Dempseys and Biff Pocorobas and Buzz Capras (and the odd Johnny Bench and Rod Carew).
But baseball cards, vintage ones, also provide a remarkable service to the game because they offer slices of actual history you can hold in your hand (usually with a plastic case serving as a buffer). Derek’s Cy Young was part of a fabled line of baseball cards known as the T206 collection, produced between 1909-11.
The most famous of these bears the image of Honus Wagner. Wayne Gretzky famously bought one of these cards for $500,000 over 30 years ago; in October, another Wagner card sold to a private collector for $3.25 million (according to baseball-reference.com, Wagner made a total of $134,550 in his 21-year Hall of Fame career).
“That one,” Derek laughs, “is a little out of my price range.”
But the Cy Young he was able to afford unlocked a new world for him, and for his father, a black-and-white world of yesterday in which so much of baseball’s appeal can be explained.
“It was almost like a treasure hunt,” Derek says. “It’s a different kind of. Different kind of experience, you get a feel for the uniform, the way they look. These are just beautiful portraits, the interesting hairstyles of 100 years ago, everything down to the last detail of what the game looked like over 100 years ago.
“My first thought was, I couldn’t believe how small they were. I felt like I was holding an historical artifact. It had a certain feeling to it.”
Derek was able to feed his passion by contributing to the second edition of the book, “The T206 Collection: the Players and their Stories,” which is as enjoyable for fans of the game’s history as for aficionados of vintage card collecting. It is also worth your while, if this interests you, to check out the website t206society.com.
For Derek, who is 34 and lives in Torrance, Calif., it is a refreshing reminder that not all of collecting — whether it’s baseball cards, stamps, coins — is about hoping for future financial windfall. Perhaps the Wagner collectors can feel that way, or the lucky few who own the famous 1952 Mickey Mantle Topps 311 card, the other part of the holy grail of baseball cards.
Sometimes it is simply the owning of a slice of history, the appeal of the cards themselves, which is enough. The charge you got tearing open a pack of 10 Topps 1976 cards is the same feeling when you hold a Cy Young or a Ty Cobb in your hands.
“If you love baseball form of art, it’s a form of art,” he says.
It is also what keeps baseball unique. You don’t often hear folks ruminate about a 1935 Bronk Nagurski card, or a ’51 Dolph Schayes. Baseball still has that. Baseball will always have that.
I thought one interesting takeaway from the Mets’ media blitz Tuesday was Sandy Alderson saying that Luis Rojas is likely going to manage this year, pending the hiring of an operations chief. But a few minutes earlier Steve Cohen had also said this: “I don’t like people learning on the job on my dime.”
First-world problems from a binge-watch-y era: Had three episodes of HBO’s “The Undoing” stacked up, ripped through all three in one sitting … and then had to wait four days for the next episode. That’s so 1988 “L.A. Law” right there.
When I saw that the White Sox hired Tony La Russa, I figured it had to be because Pop Fisher turned the job down first.
Let’s just say that Bryson DeChambeau isn’t a sporting prophet on the level of Namath or Messier just yet.
Whack Back at Vac
Richard Siegelman: I’m skeptical of Steve Cohen’s three- to five-year timeline for a Mets championship, because fellow billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov promised “a Nets championship within five years or else I’ll punish myself by getting married” — and broke both promises.
Vac: Luckily for Mets fans, it appears Cohen and his wife, Alex, are happily married and perfectly giddy about their new toy.
Frank Bifulco: I’m against the Mets signing Trevor Bauer. Why? I’m not convinced he’s a true No. 1 ace. Might be more of a solid No. 2, especially in N.Y. He pitched against the NL and AL Central all year this year. How would deGrom, Syndergaard or even Stroman look if they only pitched against the Centrals?
Vac: He opened my eyes with how helpless he made the Braves look in the playoffs — terrific team, big stage, big moment, and he rose to it.
@PaloozaMitch: What a character Paul Hornung was. I remember reading Jerry Kramer’s book “Instant Replay” in high school. May he rest in peace.
@MikeVacc: Much like Joe Namath after him, he was the ultimate have-it-all football hero. Men wanted to be him. Women wanted to be with him. What a life.
George Corchia: Man’s it’s been a rough football season for the locals. I just saw this on the sports scroll: Bye Week 21, Jets 17.
Vac: Come on: You were all thinking it. Someone had to say it.