Tommy Baxter, a 36-year-old precast concrete specialist from Little Rock, Ark., has accomplished something no one else has been able to do — complete Upper Deck’s 6,661-card Yankee Stadium Legacy Collection.
Baxter, an avid Chicago Cubs fan, is the first collector to piece together Upper Deck’s enormous insert set, which pays tribute to every Yankees home game at the historic venue since April 18, 1923.
“I’ve put together plenty of Upper Deck sets in the past, so I figured this was just one more to complete,” said Baxter, whose 11-year-old daughter, Madeleine, helped him sort the cards. “I really didn’t take it seriously at first, but once I got through that first series of inserts, I knew I had to finish it.”
That first series appeared in Upper Deck’s 2008 Series One Baseball set, which released on Feb. 5. That’s when he started. The cards were found one in every four packs. Within two weeks, Baxter had collected 200 of the YSL cards — he only had 6,461 to go.
Nine more Upper Deck baseball products were released during 2008, each containing various YSL cards. Baxter’s feat, therefore, is a study in patience and persistence — and was an expensive pursuit for the single parent of one.
“I would estimate I spent a little more than $15,000 putting this set together,” said Baxter, who mentioned he finished the set the night before Halloween. “I remember it was a Thursday, since those were the days we’d collate the cards. Madeleine would go through and sort the cards every week. That night we knew we had this thing licked.”
It would have been sooner, but despite his best efforts buying and trading with collectors from as far away as Taiwan, there was one card that kept eluding him — No. 4,272.
“It had Ron Guidry on the front,” Baxter said. “I couldn’t find that card anywhere. Nobody had it.”
He recorded each of the YSL cards online at Upper Deck’s ownthelegacy site, and watched his numbers climb almost every day, but No. 4,272 was nowhere to be found. In the final week of October, though, he received the card from collectors in New Jersey and Florida.
“I couldn’t find that card for seven months, and then I got four of them within the same week,” he said.
Once he had the complete set in hand, he packaged up his work and shipped it off to Upper Deck headquarters in Carlsbad, Calif., for verification. Today, Upper Deck staffers Chris Carlin, Terry Melia and Carrie Peterson certified the contents of Baxter’s shipment.
“All the cards are in,” said Carlin, Upper Deck’s hobby marketing manager. “Tommy’s accomplishment is incredible. He’s the first person to complete the set, so we’re ecstatic and very happy for Tommy and Madeleine.”
Baxter’s prize for completing the entire set of insert cards includes an all-expense-paid trip to New York City in the spring where he and his daughter will take in a Yankees game at the new stadium and meet Derek Jeter. In addition, since 2008 marked the final season in the old stadium, Baxter will receive 81 additional YSL cards chronicling the last campaign. That brings the grand total of games played (and cards produced) to 6,742. And, of course, he will get all of his cards back to display.
“You know, I was never really been a big Yankees fan, but I did always admire Don Mattingly,” he said. “I liked his work ethic and I guess I always had a penchant for guys who could hit over .300 every year.”
Upper Deck still has four openings left for any other collectors who are able to piece together the entire collection. The word is there are a few people who are just single digits away.