Collecting Concepts: It’s your birthday …



By Chris Olds | Beckett Baseball Editor | Commentary

Ever struggled with ideas of how you should bring a semblance of order to your collection — or just feel you need a new niche or project that’s not player- or team-related or going to break the bank?

I have, and I have had a few whims through the years — many of which just didn’t last long. (Just like the time recently I started to sort cards from a 1987 Topps vending case … it was work halfway into Box 3.)

One summer, after perusing the newest Oakland A’s media guide, I decided to try and track down a common card in the proper uniform of every player to play in a game for the A’s during the Oakland years (1968-forward). The guide included an alphabetical list and didn’t seem too tough as I already had plenty of the cards already. It made a box of about 100 old pages from a trade useful but the idea died after a couple trips to the card shop a few weeks later.

Another idea was to collect my schools more intently — that didn’t happen, either. There’s just too much.

But the one idea that stuck — well, sort of — was one that I only have to pay attention to once a year on my birthday.


Years ago, while flipping through my priceless copy of Total Baseball — what us baseball geeks did before the Interwebs — I noticed that a single postseason baseball game was played the day I was born and that a single player had homered that day.

It was Oct. 9, 1976, and it was Game 1 of the National League Championship Series between the visiting Cincinnati Reds and the host Philadelphia Phillies at Veterans Stadium. The lone home run? It was hit by the Reds’ George Foster off of Phillies ace and future Hall of Famer Steve Carlton in the sixth inning of a game that the Reds won, 6-3, en route to a World Series title (beating the Yankees). I made my debut several hours earlier in the afternoon.

The Reds were the first team I paid attention to as a kid — being from Ohio and having a great grandmother who religiously watched or listened to games — and I already had Foster’s autograph, which had been nabbed for me at a personal appearance in Ohio by another grandma, of course. (I lived in Wyoming — pre-Colorado Rockies — not many player appearances there.)

Checking that one historic box score led to another … and another … and another.

I decided — again, a bit haphazardly — that I wanted the autograph of any player who had homered on my birthday. Seemed easy enough, right? After all, only so many games are played in October — since it’s the postseason — it’s not like a day in the summer where there could be 15 games on the schedule, right?

It was a challenge, but it didn’t seem impossible since I already had the first … so I started. I picked up Paul Molitor and Steve Garvey (both 1981) signed baseballs in trade. I got Don Baylor (1982) and Graig Nettles (1980) through-the-mail. I already had Jose Canseco (1988) since he was my favorite player then. Certified autograph cards were not routine back then — they were typically only the domain of rookies — so I put things on hold a few months later when I had a pricey roadblock called Cal Ripken Jr. in my way and more than a few guys you probably don’t even remember today. (The list is below.)

Today, that autograph list includes more than 80 players since there are more and more playoff games than ever before. I recently updated it just to see how I had done through the years, and it turns out I haven’t done too badly keeping up without even trying. (Hadn’t really pursued the list much in the last half-decade, and I never really started re-trying again with any amount of focus since the certified autograph boom, either. This could be fun.)

My birthday list is one that includes some big names — Albert Pujols, Darryl Strawberry, Jim Thome, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and even a guy named Nick Swisher. (Who? My favorite player today.) Surprisingly, I have a few of those biggest ones but not all. It’s also a list that includes some obscure players, guys who aren’t likely to have many — if any — certified autos: Mark Brouhard, Larry Herndon, Harry Spilman, Tony Eusebio and the esteemed Benito Santiago for starters.

In all, through years of collecting since the project began and went on hiatus, I own roughly 20 of the players on the list, and it was fun updating my list by checking out the recent years via Interestingly, I met two of the players — Lance Berkman and Chris Burke — on the same day in the same season before they went on to both homer that year.

It’s a collecting challenge I made to myself years ago that I’ll perhaps get around to finishing soon once I really re-start the engines on the project. It will be much easier today — well, unless some big names go yard in today’s Detroit-Oakland or San Francisco-Cincinnati games — with online searches that make buying cards as easy as looking up box scores (the click of a mouse).

I’ll perhaps get them all sorted together and re-start the project again soon, depending on how today goes. But, if not, I always have until next year to make the big push before the list potentially grows once again.

Either way, though, I’m still not touching those 1987 Topps cards.

Do you have a unique or odd collecting niche? Tell us in the comments below.

Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Baseball magazine. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an email to him at Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.


1976 — George Foster

1980 — Graig Nettles

1981 — Art Howe, Steve Garvey, Dave McKay, Ted Simmons, Paul Molitor

1982 — Don Baylor, Mark Brouhard

1984 — Larry Herndon

1985 — Willie Wilson, Pat Sheridan

1987 — Jim Lindeman, Jeffrey Leonard, Harry Spilman

1988 — Mike Scioscia, Kirk Gibson, Darryl Strawberry, Kevin McReynolds, Jose Canseco

1990 — Paul O’Neill, Chris Sabo, Jay Bell

1991 — David Justice, Andy Van Slyke

1993 — John Kruk, Lance Johnson, Frank Thomas

1996 — Brady Anderson, Rafael Palmeiro, Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams

1997 — Manny Ramirez, Marquis Grissom, Cal Ripken Jr.

1998 — Jim Thome (twice), Manny Ramirez, Mark Whiten

1999 — Greg Colbrunn, Edgardo Alfonzo, Todd Pratt, Tony Eusebio, Ken Caminiti, Darryl Strawberry, John Valentin, Brian Daubach

2001 — Brian Jordan, Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones, Brad Ausmus, Vinny Castilla, Ellis Burks

2002 — Kenny Lofton, David Bell, Benito Santiago, Albert Pujols, Miguel Cairo, J.D. Drew, Darin Erstad, Brad Fullmer

2003 — Jason Varitek, Nick Johnson

2004 — Shawn Green (twice), Johnny Estrada, Andruw Jones, Carlos Beltran, Ruben Sierra, Henry Blanco

2005 — Adam LaRoche, Brian McCann, Lance Berkman, Brad Ausmus, Chris Burke

2008 — Chase Utley, Pat Burrell

2009 — Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira

2010 — Marcus Thames, Nick Swisher, Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz

2011 — David Freese, Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Yuniesky Betancourt

2012 — TBD!


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  1. Vince W. 9 October, 2012 at 01:05

    I have one oddly specific collecting niche. I collect single signed, sweetspot baseballs from members of the All-Century Team. The balls must be PSA/DNA or JSA certified and on an official NL or AL ball (whichever league I felt like the player was best known in the event they played in both (Griffey, Jr., Ryan, etc)). Autographs can not be accompanied by an inscription of any kind and where a player’s autograph has changed or degraded over time, I tried to pick-up an earlier version (Ripken, Jr. and Musial being examples of the former and the latter).

    Being specific (perhaps overly) in my focus was a way of making the search for these items more fun/challenging and also served to narrow what can easily turn into a never-ending pursuit. My niche provides clear confines for my collection. I currently have 20 of the 30 players selected for inclusion on the All-Century Team and I am saving to add a Babe Ruth next.

  2. Jim S. 9 October, 2012 at 08:45

    I collect the last topps brand (either topps, bowman) card of every player. So far I have a collection of over 11,000 individual cards.

  3. Dano 9 October, 2012 at 09:37

    One birthday collection would be my line up card collection. It’s only two years in, but ever since I discovered that the MLB started selling game-used line up cards I’ve been able to find the Astros game from that day. Since there is only one per year we’ll see how long I can keep it up –

  4. MyCatCyd 9 October, 2012 at 12:16

    Was delighted to log on and find a picture of George Foster. I met him and got an autographed ball at Spring Training in Arizona. I was amazed and saddened to learn that my 20-something co-workers, who are sports fans, had never heard of George.

  5. steve 9 October, 2012 at 16:06

    I collect mostly Yankees and Hall of Famers! Just this past year I began focusing on specific seasons of Yankees in Graded sets and also ungraded sets. I have also followed up with collecting the autographs of those players on those teams. I have 1980 Yankee Poster depicting the Stadium of old as a medieval Arena and the Yankees as Knights set to joust their opponents with this I have collected Yankee autos that played for the team pre 1980, I also Have a Yankee Club House restaurant Menu from the 1973 Season, that two is signed by Yankees 1973 and before. I also Seek out at least one card with the cut autos I have for both Yankees or Hall of Famers. Not repros unless it is out of my price range.

  6. ZAc Moore 9 October, 2012 at 16:08

    I am currently becoming a Tyler Hansbrough super collector. He is from my hometown. As far as another set I’m working on are the RC’s of all the guys that played high school basketball at the famed Oak Hill Academy. There are close to 30 guys who played for Coach Smith and have gone on the the NBA. Some big names too. Carmelo Anthony, Rajon Rondo, Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings just to name a few.

  7. Rob Braxton 9 October, 2012 at 18:46

    Wow; that’s a lot longer list than I expected.

    This story is making me wonder (with all due respect) what my oddest collection format is. 8|

    I collect:
    Rookie cards (who doesn’t),
    Final year as a player cards,
    my hometown’s (Balt., Hou, Tex) League ROYs, MVPs, and Cy Young winners, WS MVPs,
    unique combo award winners, i.e. MVP & ROY in the same year (that would be only Fred Lynn & Ichiro, BTW),
    unique achievement cards, i.e. Triple Crown winners (that would be the Mick, Frank Robinson, Yaz, and now Miguel Cabrera)
    players that had a phenomenal Stat year, like Bob Welch’s 27 Wins in 1990,
    batting champion cards,
    and (Topps) cards with emblems, like the Rookie Cup, and an All-Star stamp/banner.

    That last one on my list is as odd as it gets for me, and definitely limits my collection as I never see All-Star logos of any kind on Topps’ cards.

    However, this makes me think of my favorite card, the 1977 Mark Fidrych.

    Anyone care to guess why that card is my favorite?

  8. Andrew Strong 9 October, 2012 at 19:21

    I have 2 main collections,

    #1 is my STRONG collection, any card of anyone with the last name of Strong (its my last name), I am about 90% done. I also collect game worn jerseys of players with the last name Strong, its a collection I cant wait to give to my son someday.

    Look up your last name and see whats out there (most names there is not a lot), its a collection you cant get sick of, its your name!!!!

    #2 is my LOCAL collection, all cards of anyone who was born, raised, or lived in my home town, there is about 100 people with cards, many have very few cards, others like Jon Jones and Mike Dunham have a lot. Its another collection to pass on someday.

  9. J.R. Lebert 10 October, 2012 at 01:22

    It’s not my collection, but there is a guy who collects SPx and SP Authentic cards serial numbered 264/xxx. His birthday is 02-26-64.

    If you ever have time to look up his collection, it’s incredible, as he has almost 300 SPx cards with that particular number. His name is Bob, and his collection is ridiculous.

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