Friday, July 30, 2021
Insight: Closing the book on a lifelong obsession
More than 56 summers have passed since I first laid my eyes on what would become a lifelong obsession for me, completing an entire collection of all 598 Topps 1965 baseball cards.
From the time I stepped out of R’s Market on Monroe Avenue in Brighton, New York in July 1965 and spied my friend Billy Whitney on his bike in the parking lot thumbing through a freshly opened pack of five cards he had purchased there for a nickel, I was hooked. The vibrant colors and team pennants were the first thing that I noticed about the cards, and he gave me three cards in his pack that day which were duplicates of what he already had in his collection.
So my 1965 collection began with Card #142 Pitcher Bill Monbouquette of the Boston Red Sox, along with Card #114 Outfielder Jim Hickman of the New York Mets and Card #90 Third Baseman Rich Rollins of the Minnesota Twins.
I took the cards home and carefully placed them in an old shoebox on the shelf of my bedroom closet and throughout the rest of that summer, any spare nickels I had were used to purchase packs of baseball cards at R’s Market. With each new pack I opened, I dreamed of finding the most valuable cards in the set at that time, Card #350, Outfielder Mickey Mantle of the New York Yankees, or Card #250 San Francisco Outfielder Willie Mays, that I could trade to my neighborhood pals for seven or eight other 1965 cards to build my collection. Mantle or Mays never showed up in any of my new packs, but once I discovered #Card #300 Pitcher Sandy Koufax of the Los Angeles Dodgers and I traded it to my neighbor David Ronner for four Baltimore Orioles cards, including Card #33 Outfielder Jackie Brandt, Card #15 Pitcher Robin Roberts, Card #94 Catcher Charley Lau, and Card #290 Pitcher Wally Bunker.
Trading the 1965 Topps Koufax card was something I came to regret as an adult because the price to replace it skyrocketed after he retired the following season and at age 36, he became the youngest player ever inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.
As I returned to school in the fall of 1965, I had about 125 cards in the shoebox and I would sometimes pull them out and read through the statistics on the back of each card, marveling at the lengths of their careers or the far away cities or towns that they once played in. For example, I noticed that Card #157 of Shortstop Zoilo Versalles, the 1965 American League Most Valuable Player, indicated that he was born in Havana, Cuba, and played his first season of professional baseball in Elmira, New York in 1958. Or that Outfielder Jerry Lynch of the Pittsburgh Pirates (Card #201) led the Piedmont League in batting in 1953 at age 22 while playing for the Norfolk (Virginia) Tars.
As I continued my education on into high school and then college, I occasionally pulled out the shoebox and wondered how I could add to my collection of 1965 cards.
In 1982, I found a chance to do that when a sports card store for collectors opened near the U.S. Air Force base that I was stationed at in Arizona. I was able to purchase many common 1965 Topps cards from that store, and added Card #260, Hall of Fame Pitcher Don Drysdale of the Los Angeles Dodgers, from that store.
When the internet came around, I found some more cards I needed for the 1965 set on eBay and others I ordered from a sports cards dealer in Ohio. I’ve upgraded cards in the collection that were in less-than-ideal condition and protected them carefully to ensure they remain in pristine shape.
As of this morning, I’m down to the last card to acquire before finishing the collection, that being Mickey Mantle, Card #350. Earlier this week, I acquired Card #477 Hall of Fame Pitcher Steve Carlton’s rookie card and the week before I had purchased Card #300, Pitcher Sandy Koufax, which was the card I originally flipped for four others.
I’m about to close the book on the 1965 set and my wife and I have decided to sell it and use the money from it to help pay for a new roof for our home. The complete set of cards is worth thousands and I’d rather put it to good use than have them stored away unappreciated.
The 1965 Topps baseball card set has long been my obsession, but if you think I’ll miss them, think again. I do have other sets I’m working on, and I’m not done yet with this hobby. <