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December 17, 2004

Prospectus Matchups

Christmas Bidding

by Jim Baker

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Holiday traditions: how do they start, really? There had to be one guy who said to himself, "You know what, I'm going to cut down a tree and put it inside my house this Christmas." When his neighbors stopped laughing at him, they started imitating him. That's all it takes, really: one ambitious person with an idea. (Please...no letters about ancient traditions involving evergreens and how they predate the birth of Christ--I'm just trying to make a point here.)

With that in mind, I'm going to try to start another holiday tradition right here and right now. It's called, "buy a baseball columnist a baseball related gift for the holidays." True enough, some baseball columnists can afford to buy their own gifts. None of them, however, work on this particular Web site. To make your purchasing easy, I had planned to go on the world's leading on-line bidding website and find some suggestions for you. Instead, I found myself captivated by some of the higher dollar items and figured I'd catalog them instead. You might want to buy some of these things as a holiday treat for yourself. Then again, maybe not. Read on:

  • Mickey Mantle's 1966 contract
    Minimum bid: $24,000

    If you buy this, you can experience the strange sensation of paying one-quarter of the amount the piece of paper you're buying represents. You look at Mantle's '66 stats in the context of his career and they don't seem like much. Yes, his .329 EqA that year was below his career average, but still, that's a heckuva performance for a guy in serious decline.

  • 1977 Montreal Expos signed baseball
    Minimum bid: $17,500

    I am not a sports collectibles expert, but even the layest of laymen has to know that this price seems a bit, er, ambitious. Those Expos finished under .500 and were not a particularly memorable team. (They have two Hall of Famers in Gary Carter and Tony Perez and perhaps, one day, another in Andre Dawson.) There is also this to consider: the Expos are not exactly a popular team. This would explain the zero bidding interest. Well, that and the price. Sellers who don't wet their fingers and check the market before listing amaze me. There is currently a signed ball from the 1939-40 Yankees listed at a fraction of this price and it has also received zero bids. You have to figure that if a ball signed by a team that is arguably the best ever isn't bringing a thousand bucks, the '77 Expos would be lucky to net about $50.

  • Cal Ripken print by Leroy Neiman
    Minimum bid: $4,200

    Some people speculate that impressionism was created because the artists were nearsighted. Sounds reasonable to me. What then, was Leroy Neiman's excuse? I never did drugs--especially acid--because my fear was that while under their influence, the whole world would look like a Neiman painting.

  • 1963 Midway Slugger Baseball Game
    Minimum bid: $1,050

    Now, this is cool: an arcade baseball game with great graphics that, according to the copy in the listing, works well. If you're lucky enough to have a rumpus room, this would look great in it. I can't vouch for the game's ability to recreate realistic baseball outcomes, but you have to admit it looks great. I wonder if you could get a kid raised on a PlayStation 2 to dig on this three-dimensional game? Doubtful.

  • Jugs Curveball pitching machine
    Current bidding: over $1,000

    What separates most of us from big leaguers? That's right: we can't hit the curve ball. Why is that? It's a question of exposure, really; we never saw enough good ones in Little League. Here's your chance to rectify that situation and get your climb to the majors back on track so you can get your piece of all that money general managers seem so bent on giving away these days. According to the copy in the listing, this thing can throw up to 104 miles an hour. It's like Steve Dalkowski without the emotional baggage and booze problems. It throws curves and sliders, too. If you get this for Christmas and spend the rest of the winter standing in against it down in your basement, you should be ready for at least an indy league tryout by spring, right?

  • 1985 University of Miami championship ring
    Current bidding: $800

    Who, aside from a collector, would be interested in something like this? Well, if you're currently somewhere between the ages of 37 and 42, you could get this properly sized and sport around with it as though you actually earned it yourself. Who is going to doubt you? There's no Encyclopedia of College Baseball they can check quickly to see if you were on the squad or not. They'd have to make phone calls to find you out. Go on...who's going to know? There are men out there who have falsely claimed to win the Congressional Medal of Honor for valor. Now that's wrong, but this? A minor lie at best.

  • 1933 Pittsburgh Crawford broadside
    Current bidding: over $500

    Man, this would look good in a nice frame under glass! It's an advertisement featuring Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, Oscar Charleston, Judy Johnson and Cool Papa Bell, among others, the kind of thing they used to slap onto a wooden fence by the dozen. It's always fascinated me about collectibles that, at one point, there was a stack of about 500 of these things all crisp and new. They were meant to last about a week, tops, designed to grab attention until the day of the game and then either succumb to the elements or get covered over by some other advertisement. Now? This has got to be the only one left, doesn't it?

  • BaseballLovers.com domain name
    Minimum bid: $500

    There was a time when it seemed like domain names were going to end up being a publicly-traded commodity with their own exchange, like the stock or futures market. It didn't happen, but people still try to sell them. The listing copy on this one reads: "Baseball is one of those things that will never go out of style! You either love it...or you hate it! This domain name is for those who love the sportů" This leads to the obvious question: why isn't this person also selling the rights to BaseballHaters.com? "Finally, a website for people who are passionate about their hatred of baseball."

  • 1977 Topps Baseball unopened wax box
    Current bidding: over $400

    Ahh, sweet mystery of life. What's in there? 36 packs filled with intrigue. Do you leave them as is, or do you tear them open as would an eight-year old on a spring day in that long ago time?

  • One dozen Eddie Mathews signed baseballs
    Minimum bid: $360

    This is a shining of example of where it all went wrong in baseball collecting. It's just not special if you get a guy to sit down and sign his name in bulk with his most prominent stat ("512 HR") written below it. Producing autographed items like they were T-Model Fords--well, that's not how it was meant to be.

  • 1936 Babe Ruth baseball game
    Minimum bid: $200

    This game was produced by Milton Bradley which leads us to the obvious conclusion that if player Milton Bradley could get his temper under control and put a couple of decent seasons under his belt, we might yet see Milton Bradley presents Milton Bradley's Baseball Game.

  • 1910 Husky Hans sheet music
    Current bidding: over $150

    What a coincidence--I was just humming this the other day! It's funny how nobody refers to Honus Wagner as "Hans" anymore. I wonder if any current players will lose their shorthand names over the course of the next century. Oh, that's right, players don't have nicknames anymore.

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