Editor’s Note: As part of our occasional Way Back Wednesday feature, today we travel back to a column written long, long ago, in a Gigaplex far, far away on May 3, 2013. In this column, we covered the unofficial holiday of Star Wars Day in the pre-Disney+ era of Baby Yoda. As you await the return of the aforementioned Baby Yoda while practicing your Jedi mind tricks, please enjoy this column on how the world of baseball celebrates Star Wars Day and as always, May the Fourth be with you.
For years, Minor League Baseball teams have looked to wacky promotions and giveaways to help attract crowds and give the fans a little something extra besides a seat at a ballgame.
There are the Ballpark standards of hat and seat cushion giveaways.
However, what I am talking about are the really outside the box promotions that make you both say, “I can’t believe no one ever thought of that before,” while also saying, “I can’t believe someone thought of that.”
In terms of the memorable crazy promotions, there have been promotions of every shape and size.
Teams have had Harry Potter themed nights. Teams have had speed dating nights. There was even a team that thought the biblical figure Noah, of the Ark building fame, needed his own bobble head figure. The list goes on and on regarding both good and bad promotions in the Ballpark.
With all of that past pedigree of promotions, and with tomorrow marking a holiday of sorts for fans of a certain science fiction franchise, it marks a perfect opportunity for yet another creative ballpark promotion.
For those who may not be aware, May 4th is known as Star Wars Day due to a pun surrounding a popular phrase found in the films.
That phrase of course is “May the force be with you,” which can easily translate to “May the fourth be with you.”
For years, teams have celebrated May 4th in the ballpark. Realistically though, how many times can you really dust off that storm trooper costume to throw out the first pitch before it gets a feeling of been there done that?
With teams looking for creative and new ways to celebrate Star Wars Day, it was only a matter of time then until May the fourth was celebrated on a Minor League Baseball diamond in the form of players wearing Wookie jerseys.
That’s right boys and girls I said Wookie Jerseys.
The Detroit Tigers’ Triple-A Affiliate the Toledo Mud Hens are going to celebrate both May the fourth and May the fifth wearing jerseys that look like a Wookie complete with utility belt.
Thankfully, the team opted away from the faux hair version of the jersey and will instead go with a more diamond appropriate version where the fur is implied.
This is probably a very wise decision. No player wants to have an error assigned to them because they lost a ball in their Wookie hair.
I am also thinking it would be hard for the pitcher to read the signs from the catcher with all of that hair getting in the way.
So far, there has been no word on whether the special Wookie jerseys will be available for sale to the general public. But as Darrell Hammond impersonating Sean Connery said to Will Ferrell who was impersonating Alex Trebek on Saturday Night Live’s parody of Celebrity Jeopardy, “You’re sitting on a gold mine, Trebek.”
I expect in the coming days that Wookie jerseys will be available in the Mud Hens team store. After all, who wouldn’t want a Wookie jersey?
While this is most likely the first-time players have dressed up as a Wookie, it is not the first time that a Wookie, or at least an actor who played a Wookie, has been at a Minor League Ballpark.
During a May 1, 2010 game between the Oklahoma City Red Hawks and the New Orleans Zephers, Peter Mayhew, the actor who played Wookie extraordinaire Chewbacca, threw out the first pitch as part of the 30th Anniversary celebration of the original Star Wars film.
As mentioned before, there have been numerous other teams who have honored Star Wars in various ways on both the Major and Minor League levels by encouraging fans to wear their favorite Star Wars Cosplay outfits.
While I have never dressed up as Boba Fett, I have attended games where ushers were dressed like Princess Leia. I have also been at games where the opposing players were made to look like Darth Vader and other villains on the Jumbo Tron.
It is all done in good fun and is kind of cool to see the worlds of film and baseball combine in such an entertaining way.
How will I be spending Star Wars Day this year? At a ballpark of course.
And while there will not be any Wookie jerseys on the field, rumor has it that there will be a Star Wars themed fireworks show to fill the night sky.
Baseball, hot dogs, and pyrotechnics, it doesn’t get much better than that.
And in the spirit of full disclosure, I am a much bigger fan of Star Trek than Star Wars but “Beam me up” Day and “Make it So Number One” Day just don’t seem to roll off the tongue as easily when it comes to a ballpark promotion.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go see if I can still make the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs. And May the fourth be with you.
Recently, several Major League Baseball teams announced that they would extend how long they sold alcohol in response to changes that have shortened the average time it takes to finish a game.
The Arizona Diamondbacks, Texas Rangers, Houston Astros, Minnesota Twins and Milwaukee Brewers are among the teams who have announced that they will sell alcohol beyond the seventh inning.
Traditionally, teams declared last call on all alcohol sales after the seventh inning. The rationale for stopping beer sales in the seventh inning was to allow fans two innings to “sober up” before they headed to their cars after the game.
However, the newly introduced pitch clock has dropped the average time of games by about 30 minutes to start the season leading to scenarios where the seventh inning is arriving earlier than it used to in many cases.
As a result, there is less time for teams to sell alcohol.
I never held any grand illusion that stopping beer sales in the seventh inning meant that there would be a decrease in the number of drunk fans leaving a Ballpark.
A 2011 study by the University of Minnesota determined that one in every 12 fans leaving a sporting event are above the legal limit when it comes to alcohol. That means in a stadium holding 40,000 people, 3,200 fans will likely be legally impaired by the time they leave.
To be fair, I know that most attendees of sporting events drink responsibly and use designated drivers. In fact, the above statistic breaks down to about eight percent of the total attendees. So, I am not painting all fans who drink with the same broad Clydesdale hair brush.
However, it only takes one of those individuals to make a bad decision and cost someone their life.
I often left Ballparks at the seventh inning stretch to ensure that I got ahead of the crowds leaving after the ninth inning.
Whether leaving early actually increased my odds of avoiding an encounter with a drunk driver or not, the practice usually made me feel like it did.
The entire premise of MLB teams ending beer sales in the seventh inning to give fans time to sober up falls flatter than a dropped keg when faced with the new approach of extending beer sales into later innings to allow teams to maintain their revenue streams.
Make no mistake, sporting events generate thousands of dollars of revenue from alcohol sales every game.
An example of how much revenue can be found in the trend of beer snakes. For those who may be unaware of what a beer snake is, it is comprised of empty beer cups extending from the bottom of a stadium section to the top. One of the teams that fully embraces the beer snake is the D.C. Defenders of the XFL.
For the sake of some quick journalist math, let us assume that with about two cups per inch, a hundred-foot beer snake would be comprised of around 2,400 cups.
Now, let us say that each of those 2,400 beer cups in the beer snake cost $12 when they were full.
That makes the cost of the beer snake to be $28,800 from head to tail.
Once we realize that not every beer sold in a stadium or ballpark becomes part of the snake, we are talking about some serious money.
The Sporting News took the alcohol sales math further and estimated that MLB teams could make up to an average of $8 million on beer sales a season for their 81 home games. Multiply that by 30 teams and the amount of money teams are heading to the mountain with expands to a whopping $240 million for the league per year.
Considering a 31 minute shorter game time thanks to the tinkering MLB did for the 2023 season, and the 30 teams could lose a little under $35 million in beer sales in total over the course of a season.
Proponents of extending the alcohol sales window will likely try to paint a human element on the issue by saying that longer sales mean that the vendors who provide alcohol to thirsty fans will not miss out on as many tips.
To that I say, many of the vendors at the games I have attended usually park blocks away from the Ballpark. By extending alcohol sales, vendors will now be faced with the prospect of having to walk further past more buzzed and/or drunk drivers leaving.
To be clear, I am not against responsible alcohol consumption inside Ballparks, or anywhere else for that matter.
What I am against, is when decisions that have real impacts on innocent people are made solely on a financial profit basis as appears to be the case with the MLB teams extending their alcohol sales.
The optics of extending beer sales beyond the seventh inning is profit over safety no matter how many team spokespeople try to spin it as a catering to fans approach.
Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Matt Strahm weighed in on the issue of longer beer sales during an appearance on the Baseball Isn’t Boring podcast and provided some sobering insight.
“The reason we stopped it in the seventh before was to give our fans time to sober up and drive home safe, correct?” Strahm said. “So now with a faster pace game, and me just being a man of common sense, if the game is going to finish quicker, would we not move the beer sales back to the sixth inning to give our fans time to sober up and drive home?”
It used to be that common sense would say that the best approach was to be proactive and try to avoid a situation from happening versus reacting to it after the fact.
A bartender who over-serves a patron is held responsible if that patron gets in a car and kills someone. It will only take one incident of a fan leaving a Ballpark and killing someone for the beer sales issue to be placed back on tap.
Someone who is going to overindulge at the Ballpark is going to do that whether alcohol sales end in the seventh inning or the ninth inning. So, at the end if the day, the percentage of drunk and unruly fans will likely not increase if teams continue to leave the bar open longer.
What will change is any goodwill MLB teams got by saying that they were halting beer sales early to allow fans time to sober up before hitting the road.
Those MLB teams don’t get to have it both ways. The optics are either, fan safety or profits.
With the rise in sports leagues cozying up to Sportsbooks, it is fair to say that MLB teams are gambling that extending beer sales closer to the time that fans leave will not lead to catastrophic events like drunk driving crashes, or fans falling over a railing in the Ballpark.
I certainly hope they are right and that the cash grab of later alcohol sales does not increase the occurrence of fan death and injury.
Then again, every gambler runs out of luck eventually.
Now if you’ll excuse me, doing all of this math has made me feel like I need to rest for a bit.
As Spring Training winds down, and teams begin their final preparations for the 2023 Major League Baseball Season, a lot of attention has been paid to the new rules that are being rolled out in an attempt to speed up the game.
The changes coming to an MLB Ballpark near you include, banning infield shifts, putting pitchers on a pitch clock and making the bases larger.
When announcing the rules changes MLB officials noted they were aimed at improving pace of play, action and safety at the MLB level.
The rules changes have received a mostly mixed response ranging from fans who believe that baseball traditions should be maintained at all costs, to those fans who see no issues with changing rules on a regular basis.
Personally, I fall somewhere along the middle of the spectrum.
While I would not consider myself to be a full baseball traditionalist, one of the things I enjoyed most about baseball was that it was the only major sport that did not include a clock of any kind.
Unlike football, basketball, soccer and hockey, baseball game lengths were varied like snowflakes and varied depending on the actions of the players on the field.
Sadly, those days are now gone thanks in part to fans with shorter attention spans and a desire to compress the action into a predefined, yet completely arbitrary definition of how long a baseball game should take.
The latest slate of rules changes follows changes made to extra innings of games starting with a runner on second base, to a universal designated hitter rolling out for the 2022 MLB season.
Prior to the latest bunch of rules changes, perhaps the greatest “who moved my cheese” moment in baseball was the introduction of the designated hitter in 1973.
I was born into a world where the DH already existed in the American League. As such, I did not experience the tectonic plate shifting impacts felt by those who lived in a world before the DH.
For many of those baseball fans from the before times, the introduction of the DH sent ripples through their collective scorecard completing souls.
The American League introduced the designated hitter, or DH, fifty years ago, and the game of baseball was forever changed. Once the designated hitter was introduced, pitchers on the American League ball clubs were no longer burdened with the hassle of having to bat. National League pitchers would continue to take their swings at the plate.
On January 11, 1973, American League owners voted 8–4 to approve the designated hitter for a three-year trial run. On April 6, 1973, Ron Blomberg of the New York Yankees became the first designated hitter in MLB history when he stepped into the batter’s box to face Luis Tiant of the Boston Red Sox.
Blomberg was walked on five pitches with the bases loaded in the first inning, which meant that not only was Blomberg the first DH, he was also the first DH to earn an RBI.
The “three-year” DH experiment has rolled on for 50-years and counting.
Mention the designated hitter in polite dinner conversation, and one will quickly find out how divisive the topic really is among fans.
The pro designated hitter camp will point to the fact that by eliminating the pitcher as a batter the rallies can continue without the fear of a nearly guaranteed out with a pitcher batting.
The foes of the DH rule will say that having pitchers batting, despite the almost guaranteed out they provide, is a truer form of the game, is more historically accurate, and creates more cat and mouse strategy between the managers.
The debate entered a new phase when the universal DH was applied to all 30 MLB teams as a health and safety measure during the 2020 season as a result of COVID-19.
The DH returned to pre-pandemic rules during the 2021 season before being universally applied to all 30 MLB ballclubs starting with the 2022 season.
I was so convinced that the baseball purists would never allow designated hitters full time in the National League that I boldly proclaimed in a 2013 column honoring the 40th anniversary of the DH that, “I do not see a time in the near future where the DH will go away any more than I predict a time when the National League will start using them in their home ballparks.”
I could certainly argue whether the DH expanding nine years after I made that statement counts as the near future, or if I put a five-year cap on a definition of near future. Instead, I will admit that I was wrong about the universal DH coming to baseball.
Personally, as someone who always identified more as an American League fan, I will not miss watching National League pitchers try to bunt, or strike out on three pitches.
I know that some National League pitchers could swing a mean bat. As such, it is unfair to say that all they do is bunt, strike out, or pop out. I also know Shohei Ohtani can take the field as a pitcher, designated hitter and outfielder for the Los Angeles Angels. So, there are definitely exceptions to the rule regarding whether pitchers can hit.
MLB was not done tweaking the game by adding a Universal DH. It is like someone at MLB headquarters looked out at the field and said, “hold my glove” as they looked at other ways they could upset the popcorn cart of baseball purists.
Which brings us to the 2023 MLB season that begins in eight days.
MLB has already had to make changes to the rules related to the pitch clock since wily managers and players found ways to best the system for an advantage in their favor during Spring Training games.
When announcing the tweaks, it was stated that more changes could be coming to ensure that the clock is applied fairly across all 30 MLB Ballparks.
When rumblings about a pitch clock coming to baseball first started a few years ago, I questioned whether that was in the best interest of the game. I still question that today.
The Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, of which the Sugar Land Skeeters used to belong, served as a testing ground for many of the rules that MLB is rolling out now, including the pitch clock.
Watching Skeeters games with the pitch clock and robotic umpires back in 2019, I felt my inner baseball purist scream.
I also pictured a scenario where the players from the movie “Field of Dreams” would quickly go back into the corn field if they emerged from the stalks and discovered Ray Kinsella operating a pitch clock.
Say it ain’t so, Shoeless Joe. Baseball has a pitch clock.
To be fair, the game of baseball will continue, albeit with a little less joy from some of the residents of Mudville.
However, if the MLB brain trust continues to tweak the game in order to appease a crowd that often seems more interested in the amenities in a Ballpark then the actual plays on the diamond, it might not be too long before baseball does not look anything like the game I grew up watching.
That is not to say that I want to see baseball revert back to the way it was played in the late 19th or early 20th Century. I just think that part of the charm of baseball exists in its imperfections, and the fact that there was no time clock or buzzer to beat.
Continued efforts to shoehorn baseball into a mold that it doesn’t belong in could backfire. It is entirely possible that efforts to change the rules of the game to attract new fans fail, while also causing the traditional fans to find other ways to spend their time that don’t involve baseball.
Unfortunately, as long as advertisers and broadcasters continue to pump millions of dollars into the team coffers, MLB may not care so much about what the product on the field looks like as long as people still pay money to see players run around the pizza box size bases.
Perhaps like no other time in my lifetime, we are all about to discover whether if you time it, they will come.
Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk about pizza box size bases as me hungry for a slice.
Aside from being the month of my birth, March is also Women’s History Month.
Established in 1987, Women’s History Month highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society.
Few can argue that women have played a pivotal role in societies across the globe for centuries. It would be impossible to list all of those accomplishments in a single column.
Instead, I am going to focus on the three women in my life who, among other things, helped shape my love of baseball and sport in general. It is a love that has proven to be quite useful throughout my life and career.
Those three women are, my mother, my maternal grandmother, and my paternal grandmother.
Each of them, in their own unique way set me on the path that I am on today.
Our journey through the inspirational baseball loving women in my life begins with my mother.
My mother grew up as a Washington Senators fan and became a Baltimore Orioles fan after both versions of the Senators fled the Nation’s Capital to become the Minnesota Twins and Texas Rangers, respectively.
As my mother would often point out, had the Senators stayed around, I likely would have never been a Baltimore Orioles fan.
But the Senators did leave town twice, which meant either by default, or by choice, I became a Baltimore Orioles fan.
In addition to taking me to my first regular season Major League Baseball game in Baltimore, my mother also took me to my first Spring Training game to see the Orioles play in Orlando.
In January 2013, I wrote a column about the series of events that occurred on that fateful trip to Memorial Stadium in 1983 for my first regular season game.
The story behind my first Spring Training game was equally memorable.
After moving from Maryland to Florida in the third grade, I went from living in a state where I had a local Major League ball club to root for from April to October, to a state that only had Major League Baseball during two months of Spring Training.
I did not know it at the time, but the lack of full time Major League Baseball, that existed until the arrival of the Florida Marlins and Tampa Bay Devil Rays about a decade after I moved to Florida, would be a great benefit to shaping me.
While I would go on to attend hundreds of Spring Training games in my life, my first encounter with spring training started with a bit of constructive deception.
One March day, which also happened to be my birthday, as I was sitting in my classroom like a good little student, my name was called on the intercom to go to the principal’s office.
To be fair, there were many times when my name was called over the intercom because I had done something to warrant a trip to see the principal.
However, on this particular day I was at a complete loss as to why I was being summoned.
As I exited the classroom, my mom met me outside my classroom door. We walked in virtual silence. The whole time we were walking, a series of thoughts ran through my head. The thoughts ranged from someone must have died, to I must have really done something this time if my mom is the one escorting to the office.
But we did not stop at the office. Instead we kept walking in virtual silence all the way to my mom’s car.
Once we were safely away from listening ears and inside the car, my mom told me of the real reason why I was leaving school. And that reason was, we were going to Tinker Field to see a Spring Training game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Minnesota Twins.
I was excited to learn that my fears of a death in the family were not realized. I was even more excited that I was getting to go see a baseball game Ferris Bueller style while the rest of my classmates were stuck at school.
Two traditions began for me that day. The first being, that one should never be in school ,or at work on their birthday, and second, birthdays are best when they are spent at a ballpark.
In the years since that first Spring Training game, I have often followed my mom’s example to stop and smell the nachos from time to time by skipping school, or work, in order to take in a day at the ballpark, even on days that aren’t my birthday.
My mom did not only take me to see Spring Training though. She would often take me to see the Orlando Sun Rays play Minor League Baseball games. My mom also took me to a Senior Professional Baseball Association game where I was able to meet Earl Weaver.
I have written extensively through the years about how those numerous trips to Tinker Field with my mom shaped me as a fan, as well as a sports writer. Those trips also instilled in me a yet unreached goal of working for a Minor League Baseball team.
As I also recently noted in another column, my mom also often took me to baseball card shops and card shows to ensure that my baseball itch was scratched outside of the ballpark as well.
Yes, my mother was quite influential in ensuring that my love of baseball was fed at every possible opportunity. However, she was not alone in nurturing my love of baseball.
The next women who inspired my love of baseball was Edna Kirby, who I called Granny. Granny lived among the slash pine trees of southern Georgia about four hours away from Atlanta. In addition to going to nearly every baseball game at the local high school, Granny always made a point to watch her beloved Atlanta Braves whenever they were on TV.
Before she got a satellite dish, and long before streaming games on the internet or a phone was a thing, Granny used an over the air antenna strapped to the roof.
On the days when the antenna just couldn’t pick up the station carrying the game, Granny would go old school and listen to the broadcast on the radio.
There were definitely some lean years to be a Braves fan. Still, Granny would soldier on with her devotion to her “boys” and most of all Chipper Jones.
Whenever Chipper Jones would make a great play, shouts of “attaboy Chipper” would resonate throughout the house from Granny’s recliner.
And, whenever Chipper would strike out or make a bad fielding play the battle cry from the recliner turned to “oh Chipper.”
About 20 years ago, my mother and I traveled from Texas to Georgia to visit Granny in the hospital.
While it was never spoken out loud in the car, we both feared that maybe we were driving to say good bye to her based on the severity of why we thought she had been admitted to the hospital.
After driving for 16 hours straight, we arrived at the hospital and prepared for the worst as we approached the small rural hospital.
However, nothing really could have prepared us for what we saw once we got inside. Instead of a woman near death, we found my grandmother standing in the hall in her hospital gown shouting to us to hurry up since the Braves game was on.
She did not wait for us to get down the hall. Instead, she turned and went back in her room. By the time we got to her room, she was already back in bed and giving us a recap of the game and asking what took us so long to get there.
Near death indeed. She was as full of life as ever, and it was yet another time to talk about the Braves. Granny went on to live about another 10-years after her “near death” experience.
When Granny went into a nursing home, many of her things were divided up among family. There were not too many items of my grandmother’s that I wanted, but I made sure I got her television. It was far from a new television. In fact, it was downright old and heavy by today’s standards.
For me, it was the Braves TV. Every time I saw it or powered it on, I thought about Granny and our shared bond over the game of baseball.
Eventually I replaced Granny’s TV with a newer HD model after thinking to myself, there is no way that Granny would still be watching the Braves on this set.
I laughed a little when I thought that if she were here she would say, “Buster Brown, get rid of that old TV and get yourself one where you can see the blades of grass on the field.”
To this day, whenever I watch the Braves play, I smile a little wider because I know we are both watching the same game.
The third woman who shaped my love of baseball is Pat Hall, or Mom Mom as I called her. For years, Mom Mom lived in the perfect area to take advantage of a love of baseball. After retiring, Mom Mom moved from Maryland to the west coast of Florida near Bradenton.
In addition to being located near some really nice beaches, which made for great summer days in the surf, as well as year round fishing, there was proximity to baseball; lots and lots of baseball.
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the layout of baseball in Florida, there are several teams that hold their Spring Training games in and around the west coast of the Sunshine State.
Each year when Spring Training rolled around, Mom Mom and I would try to plan when I could come down from Orlando and catch a game with her.
Sadly, it never worked out that we could see a Spring Training game in Bradenton. However, we were able to see several Minor League Baseball games together at Tinker Field in Orlando.
In addition to fueling my love for attending baseball games, Mom Mom also helped add to my autograph collection.
Mom Mom interacted with many ball players through a part time job that she had at a restaurant that was owned by a former player in the Pirates organization. Every so often, a new package filled with autographs of people that she had met would arrive in the mail.
Many of those autographs are still displayed in my office. One particularly cool item from those years is an autographed team ball for the Bradenton Explorers of the SPBA.
The SPBA disbanded after a single season. So, I consider that extra cool to have that memento of a forgotten era.
Encounters with sports figures was not just tied to baseball however. During one visit to her restaurant, I was also introduced to college basketball announcer Dick Vitale.
I met him before I really knew who he was. So, there was not a huge wow factor aside from the normal pleasantries of being introduced to someone and being told that they were famous. Once I did learn who he was I must say as he would surely say, “it was awesome baby.”
One of my remaining bucket list Ballparks is McKechnie Field in Bradenton. It is the Ballpark that Mom Mom and I never made it to. It is important to me that I make it there at least once in her memory.
I had planned to make the trek in 2020, but then the world of sports shut down for COVID-19. Hopefully 2024 will allow me to finally catch a game there 40 years after the invitation was first made.
Although both my maternal and paternal grandmothers have passed away, the lessons they taught me and the love of baseball remains.
My mom and I have attended many baseball games together over the years, and hopefully we will get to attend a few more in the years to come. Inside and outside of ballparks she continues to be an inspiration.
There are countless other personal stories that I am sure people can tell about their own experiences with inspirational women in their lives.
Of course, just like a single column cannot contain all the stories of important women in my life, a single month cannot contain all of the ways that women have contributed to societies throughout history.
Be sure to take time to recognize a few women in your life who have helped shape you into the person you are today, and the person you are yet to be.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some trips to some Ballparks to plan.
Through the years, I have collected everything from Matchbox Cars and comics, to ticket stubs and books from the late 19th to early 20th centuries. It has often been said that my collections have collections.
One of the earliest things that I collected was baseball cards.
I started collecting baseball cards in elementary school back when packs could be purchased for pocket change and included a stick of card staining bubble gum.
One of my greatest joys back then came from riding my bike to the neighborhood 7-Eleven to spend some of my allowance on a pack of baseball cards, a comic book, some powdered doughnuts and a Sunny Delight.
On special occasions, my mom would drive me to one of three baseball card and comic book stores where I would thumb through the boxes of comics and binders of cards looking for items to add to my collections.
Once I was able to drive and was earning money from working, I would still go to the card shops on the weekends. My trips became less frequent once I was in college.
Eventually, as other priorities and interests emerged, my card collecting was relegated to occasionally buying a pack here and there out of nostalgia.
Back on August 19, 2013, I wrote a column about wanting to finish the 1983 Topps baseball card set that I had started 30 years earlier.
In that column, I made a bold prediction that I would finish the set by the end of the year by procuring the missing 125 cards that I needed out of the 792-card set.
Despite starting the quest in the fourth quarter of 2013, it seemed like a very doable thing to complete.
In reality, the quest to finish the set would take another decade.
Paraphrasing a song about black eyed peas and homicide, as spring turned to summer and summer faded into fall, I found out that the 1983 Topps baseball set might be the set that was not completed at all.
I cannot really say why the set was not finished back in 2013.
When I wrote the column, I really had the intention and desire to finish the set that year.
In the years since 2013, I had mostly forgotten about the incomplete set of cards despite walking past the binders of baseball cards nearly every day.
That all changed in January. While I was moving my baseball card binders, I was once again reminded of the incomplete set.
At the time, I did not take any action to finish the set.
Then in late February as I was looking through some old writings, I was reminded of the column about the 30-year quest.
So, determined not to wait another 10 years, I decided that I would make completing the set an early birthday gift to myself.
Back in the latter half of the 20th Century when I was actively collecting baseball cards, I carried around checklists in my wallet for each set I was working on. The checklist was numbered from 1 to 792, or however many cards that particular set had. As I found a card, I would cross it off of the list.
This system was extremely helpful in providing an exact snapshot of the status of every set of cards I was working on at any given time.
Back in 2013 when I first came up with the grand idea to complete the set, I could not find my checklist from 1983. So, I was forced to sit on the living room floor and thumb through the binder with the cards I did have crossing off the corresponding number on the checklist one by one to determine just how many cards I needed.
One would think that realizing how tedious that task was that I would put my 2013 checklist somewhere safe.
This was the thought that ran through my head on a continuous loop as I found myself in 2023 once again sitting on my living room floor creating a checklist for the cards that I needed.
With my list of missing cards completed once more, the question now was how to best procure the 125 cards.
Back in 2013, complete 1983 Topps sets were selling for around $50 on eBay. At the time, I decided against buying 792 cards when I only needed 125.
In my mind I thought that it would be way more fun and economical to procure 125 cards on a card by card basis to mimic the old days of thumbing through the cards at Ye Olde Baseball Card Shop.
Of course, in 2013 Ye Olde Baseball Card shops were hard. Many of the shops had either closed altogether or consisted of people who used to run baseball card shops selling their stock online.
When I resumed the quest last week, I had the same mindset that it would be cheaper to buy the 125 cards I needed individually compared to buying a whole set.
I also ran into the same problem as I did in 2013 that the days of driving to a strip mall and looking for baseball cards at a baseball card shop have come and gone.
So, it was off to Ye Olde world wide web and the virtual baseball card shop to find those pesky missing cards that had eluded me for four decades.
After spending several hours online carefully selecting the cards from a vendor who was selling singles, I watched as the price soared well past the complete set price.
I was about to give up hope until I saw a listing on another site for a mostly complete set of 1983 Topps baseball cards. By mostly complete, I mean that the set had every card in it except for the five most expensive cards including the rookie cards of Tony Gwynn, Wade Boggs and Ryne Sandberg.
As luck would have it, I already had those cards from my trips to 7-Eleven back in 1983.
So, I was able to by a mostly complete set of 1983 Topps Baseball cards for far less than a full set price, and way less than the 125 card a la carte price. This approach also allowed me to claim a technicality that I did not buy a complete set to only find 125 cards.
Sure, I bought 667 cards that I already had, but what a bargain compared to paying the per card price for the 125 cards that I did not have.
Best of all, I can finally say that the first set of baseball cards that I ever tried to finish, has now been completed.
Happy early birthday to me indeed.
When the cards arrived in the mail, bringing an end to my quest to complete the 1983 Topps baseball set, I was hit by a range of emotions.
While I was both happy and sad that the quest was completed, the emotion that was most impactful as I stared at a cardboard box filed with cardboard baseball cards was the feeling of being transported back in time to the sunken living room of my parents’ house in Florida.
As I placed the finally completed set of 1983 Topps baseball cards on the shelf, I was also reminded that I will be ending another 40-year quest in December when I graduate from the University of Florida. Two 40-year-old goals completed within nine months of each other. Not too shabby.
Back when I was riding my Diamondback bike to the 7-Eleven to buy baseball cards that I sorted while sitting on the sunken living room floor of my parents’ house while watching the Gators play football on TV, I never would have imagined that I would find myself accomplishing two goals 40-years after they first formed in my head.
Back then, I likely also would have thought that 40-years is a very, very long time.
And while my bike is now a Mongoose instead of a Diamondback, it really does seem that the more things change the more they stay the same.
While I do not think that my recent baseball card purchase will fully reignite the passion I once had for collecting baseball cards, it was nice to revisit younger me for a bit and to be reminded of a simpler time filled with bike rides to the 7-Eleven and Saturday trips to a baseball card shop.
I guess the morale of the story is, one is never too old to accomplish a goal. Also, if you ever find yourself sitting on the living room floor making checklists of baseball card sets, by all means make sure you remember where you put the list in case you need to find it years later.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to decide on what my next 40-year quest will be.
Copyright 2023 R. Anderson
Covering the world of baseball one pitch at a time.