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Let’s Open a Box of Cards at Home in our Sweat Pants

In yet another hallmark of the present author’s questionable decision-making skills and political acumen, I present to you the third in a likely three-part series on the procurement and evaluation of a collection of unknown baseball cards. Today’s episode: a 4,000-count monster box purchased for ten dollars at a local baseball card store. Surely, such baldfaced oneupsmanship of our Fearless Leader will not go unpunished, and my 5,000-word chapter about Pete O’Brien for the upcoming NotGraphs: The Book book has been all but doomed. Still, I am willing to martyr myself and my sportswriting career prospects for you, dear reader, as I share with you a voyage almost as magical as reading a book, only not quite.

The box in question:

it's a box

Half the box, unfortunately, consists of the Tron-like blue of the 1988 Donruss set, couple with, of all things, 1991 Score. I deserve nothing less. However, I did okay. In fact, there were no less than 96 cards of current or sure-fire future Hall of Famers, worth a combined total of no less than $0.96:


For a few months, I actually thought this was the man that Moneyball was all about:


It was super confusing. I kept trying to visualize the mustache as I was reading.

Sunglasses were a vital accessory for the sporting early 1990s man. Two representative samples of the genre:


Everything about the left photograph is terrifying to me. Roberto Alomar’s puffy, disembodied face seems to stretch the boundaries of two-dimensional space, all while his polygonal sunglasses reflect a blurry image of Alomar himself, as though he were trapped in some sort of Phantom Zone. Meanwhile, there’s Jose Rijo, whose eyewear harkens back to a Hanna-Barbara Saturday morning cartoon that never existed.

Doc Gooden reacts to a teammate who failed to address him as Doc:


Like many of my generation, I was thrown by the appearance of “Doc” Gooden and “Rock” Raines in my 1989 Topps cards, and I found it difficult to maintain my former esteem for either player. Changing a name (like Albert Belle) is one thing, but the adoption of a nickname in place of one’s regular name… my ten year-old sanctimonious self couldn’t handle such a expression of Randian individuality.

To prove what a detriment it is to one’s team and career to change your name on your baseball cards, I created the following graph (click to embiggen):


What this graph was supposed to show is that upon assuming a self-appointed moniker, a baseball player’s performance is irrevocably diminished. What it shows, instead, is that each player had at least one decent season left in them. What it also shows is that I am not, as they are described in trade magazines, a “crack analyst”.

But perhaps my favorite card out of the four thousand is little-known seventies reliever Vicente Romo:


Vicente Romo is a member of the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame. He was released by the Padres in 1974 and made a major league comeback eight years later, putting up a 3.02 ERA and 3.08 FIP with the Dodgers in 1982. But forget Romo; one can’t wrest their eyes from the awkward “Washington Nat’l Lea.” that crowds the tan borders of his card. The Padres had threatened to move in the spring of ’74, and talks with Washington had reached the point that even Topps pulled the trigger on titling their cards. San Diego held fast, but this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t call the Nationals the “Nat’l Leas” at all opportunities.