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November 15, 2005

Prospectus Matchups

Shopping List

by Jim Baker

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I had an idea that you might not want to read me going psychotic on the American League Cy Young voting or trying to figure out how, in a vote that repudiated a designated hitter, Travis Hafner of the Indians was mentioned on ballots while Jhonny Peralta was not.

No, the weather is too nice where I am to work myself into a lather. Instead, let's do something fun: a romp around the world's leading online auction site to pick out some baseball-related items to discuss.

  • 1910 Joe Jackson minor league tobacco card
    Bid at press time: $175,100.00

    There's a fine line between rarity and not existing at all. This particular item treads that line. Looking at the price, it makes me wish my grandfather--who was alive back then--had gotten a hold of one of these and stuffed it in an attic for me to find 95 years later. The fact that he didn't smoke sort of lets him off the hook, I guess. If he had, he might not have lasted long enough to get married and have my mother and then I wouldn't be writing this--not to get all Butterfly Effect on you.

    Jackson looks prepubescent on this card which stands to reason since he was only 20 at the time. He hit a league-leading 354 for the Pelicans that year and also led the league in hits (165) and runs scored (82). He hit 18 doubles and 19 triples. By year's end, he was with the Naps, having been given up on by Connie Mack.

  • Devil Rays welcome banner
    Bid at press time: $36.01

    Can we all agree that the Devil Rays are probably the least-popular team in baseball? How about this: can we agree that they are the team least likely to generate high dollar items in an auction? Because of this, I thought it would be interesting to see what item of theirs was generating the most dollar interest. As it turns out, it's a Devil Rays bowling ball. That's sort of interesting, but even more so is this item here, a never-used pole hanging from 1998. You know what would be a nice gesture? If the Yankees were to buy this and put it up in the visiting clubhouse whenever the Rays came to town--just to make them feel welcome. The Rays item with the highest posted minimum bid is a Carl Crawford game-used bat at $300.00. Nobody has bid on it, though.

  • The Art of ZigZag Curve Pitching
    Minimum bid: $99.99

    The secrets of the ancients revealed--and for under $100!!! This is a booklet from 1890 published by Spalding. "Zigzag" implies a direction change, doesn't it? Are we to believe that the ancients had discovered a way to make a thrown ball change directions between mound and plate? If so, imagine the implications for the lucky reader who can harness this ancient power! Batters will be mystified. Riches await--and all for the tiny investment of a c-note.

  • Paul Sebastian Porcelain Figurine
    Minimum bid: $1.99

    Is there anything more cloying than figurines that conspire to be charming? This would look better in pieces--lots and lots of pieces. It would be fun to buy just to run it over with a monster truck or to fire it out of a potato gun or to drop it from a railroad overpass onto the top of a moving boxcar. You could also rig it with fire crackers and blow it to smithereens. You could wrap it in rolls and rolls of electrical tape and play softball with it. Really--it's your call.

  • Mills Baseball Slot Machine
    Minimum bid: $3,000.00

    You probably thought that themed slot machines were a recent innovation. A lot of the machines in Vegas have themes from old television shows. Apparently, this is an old, old concept as this machine from the 1920s testifies. This is stunning piece, really. There's a better view of it here. If offered a chance to own a Picasso or this, I'd have to opt for this--vulgarian that I am.

  • Williams Baseball Pinball Game
    Asking $4,200.00 or best offer

    Speaking of slot machines and baseball, I had a crazy dream about a week ago--no lie. Somebody had converted one of these games into a pinball machine and I won 4,030 quarters on it. They were pouring out and I didn't have enough buckets to put them in. When your dreams have you winning only a thousand bucks or so, does that mean you have low expectations for your life? This must be what the field looks to a high-average hitter like Tony Gwynn.

  • Big Hurt Pinball Game
    Minimum Bid: $1,100.00

    Speaking of games, one would think that all things White Sox would be fast movers at this time, but there were no bids on this as of press time. It's a pretty cool-looking game, too, incorporating new Comiskey Park into its design. Frank Thomas is in eclipse right now and, if he never quite makes it back to have another productive season, he's going to stay that way for some time. Then, the pendulum will start to swing back the other way as his prime is reconsidered in retrospect. At that time, his reputation will enjoy a renaissance, he will be elected to the Hall of Fame and items like this one will be more appreciated. I think this would also generate more interest if it weren't so far from Chicago.

  • 1931 Seals Stadium Seat
    Minimum bid: $199.00

    For those who miss the old days or think they were somehow better, buy this seat, put it in front of your television and sit it in watching ballgames for a few hours at a pop. Ouch! Older doesn't always mean better. Yes, grass is better than turf--but, when it comes to stadium seating, wood is not better than molded plastic. No wonder games used to be shorter--the asses of the fans demanded it.

  • 1996 Braves National League Championship Ring
    Bid at press time: $1,800.03

    Sometimes, things are nothing more than just that: things. They cease to hold meaning for the possessor or, heaven forbid, circumstances arise in which they become a commodity to be traded. According to the copy on this ad, this ring belonged to the player who wore #49 on the '96 Braves. There were actually two men who did so. The first was Tom Thobe who was with the club in April for four appearances. In September, Carl Schutz was called up from Richmond and given Thobe's old number. Both were lefthanded relievers who would not visit the major leagues again after '96. It is Thobe's name that appears on the box in the picture. This ring is generating a lot of interest--although you can also find a ring from the previous season's World Championship currently up for auction. The '95 version did not belong to a player.

  • Busch Stadium pennant

    You have to wonder: if they weren't knocking the joint down, how much would this be going for? Timing is everything.

Steve Goldman contributed research to this column.
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The Week in Quotes: No... (11/14)
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