COLLECT CALL: Back in the Saddle

May 29, 2012

By Baron Bedesky

Alright, time to get back in the saddle!

First off, a big thank you to my colleagues and friends, Fabio and Paolo Del Rio of CSE Games for providing an opportunity and a forum in which to share my thoughts about the world of sports and collecting. I’m honoured to be a small part of their efforts.

A few of you may know me from my days of being directly involved in the hobby, either through my affiliation with Canadian Sports Collector magazine, or with In The Game, the Toronto-based hockey-card manufacturer. While I have had no direct involvement with the industry since 2008, I do continue to follow it closely. And as a lifelong collector, my passion for the hobby continues to burn… especially the allure of the 2-1/2” by 3-1/2” pieces of cardboard that first caught my attention back in the summer of 1969.

Speaking of which, for some reason, I can still remember opening my first pack of trading cards. I don’t know why. I mean, how many memories remain clear in our heads from over 40 years ago? At that point in my life, my greatest passions were playing in the dirt, building forts and spending time with my collection of Dinky Cars.

Yet for some reason, during a sojourn into the local variety store, a box sitting on the front counter containing colourful little packages caught my attention. Keep in mind that I had little or no concept of professional sports. I was seven years old. Neither of my parents were fans and I had no older brothers or sisters so I had no exposure to games on the television or radio. But I did have a dime in my pocket, enough to invest in two packs of O-Pee-Chee baseball cards. Little did I know how that moment in time would set a course for my life. Sounds clichéd but it is so true.

1969 O-Pee-Chee Jack Billingham #92

At the same time… maybe I did have a clue about the significance of the moment. Why else would I remember the first card I ever pulled from a pack…  card #92 of pitcher Jack Billingham.

Throughout that summer, I continued to buy packs of cards at every opportunity, usually two packs at a time. And I remember intently studying every single card, both front and back. I had little idea of what all the information meant, yet I was relentlessly fascinated by all of it. Looking back, I eventually realized that trading cards were the ultimate marketing tool for every major North American sport. What better way to recruit impressionable youngsters to become lifelong fans? It worked like a charm for me.

I’m glad that Jack Billingham was my first card. Yeah, it might be more impressive if Hank Aaron or Willie Mays were my first-ever card but Billingham represents my fascination with all big-league athletes, not just the stars. He forged an impressive 13-year Major League career winning 145 games and two World Series championships in the process. And, if I am not mistaken, Billingham still holds the Major League record for the lowest career ERA in World Series play, a tidy 0.36 in 25-1/3 innings. He also gave up Hank Aaron’s 714th career homerun (tying Aaron with Babe Ruth for the all-time record at the time)… so there is an Aaron connection.

Oh, and I chewed every single stick of gum in every pack I ever bought. I have the dental records to prove it!

Baron Bedesky is a sports card collector, former hobby executive, Baltimore Orioles and Boston Bruins fan, proud father and a huge fan of blues and jazz. Follow Baron on Twitter @BaronBedesky.

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