When I opened my first pack of 2000 Fleer Greats of the Game baseball some 14 years ago, I was immediately drawn to the set. The simplistic design and checklist appealed to me. And of course there was the fact that I pulled the Nolan Ryan autograph on that first day, just as I wished.
Over the last 18 months, I casually started to gather other autographs from the certified set. And before I knew it I had made real progress toward achieving something I once thought was impossible — completing the autograph set.
Well, I’ve written here and in a Beckett Baseball Magazine column how far I had come and how I had met a pair of dealers at this year’s National in Cleveland who had some of the harder-to-find short printed autographs. At the show I acquired two of the harder ones. And then when I got back home I established contact and essentially agreed to purchase three others that they had that I needed.
The first that I acquired from the dealers after the show was Johnny Bench. I got a fantastic deal on the card, but as I documented about six weeks ago, the transaction was far from smooth. The hang-up really happened with the United States Postal Service and the Bench card spent 19 days in Postal Purgatory.
When it came time to complete the transaction for the final two cards I was a bit reluctant. Not because of anything the dealers had done. Rather I was a bit gun-shy due to the USPS service. Would I really spend nearly three weeks on pins and needles waiting for my cards?
Well, much to my surprise, the second half of the transaction went down rather smoothly. And in just three days (from New York to California) I had acquired two more short prints, cards of deceased Hall of Famers Phil Rizzuto and Warren Spahn.
And so where does this leave me with my set? Down to the Final Four.
Yep. Four autograph cards stand between me and a complete set — minutes that Derek Jeter autographed card that, in my mind, does not count as it was not originally released with the set.
So who are these pesky four players whose signed cards have yet to find a home in a penny sleeve, black top loader and team bag in my collection?
Three of the players are Hall of Famers, and if you know a thing or two about this set, they are all probably the three hardest — and most expensive — cards to find in this set. They are George Brett, Mike Schmidt and Kirby Puckett.
And the fourth card? It’s not a short print. It shouldn’t cost me too much. Heck, the player on the card is not even a Hall of Famer. It’s Alan Trammel, whose card I had seen long ago and decided to wait on since it was one of the “cheaper” ones in the set.
Nonetheless, it’s clear to me that the contact I made at The National — with a little help from Beckett Baseball Editor Chris Olds, who actually located the dealers while I was trudging through bargain bins — has been a vital contact point for getting this close. It just goes to show that while the world is at our fingertips via the Internet and our Smart Phones, personal contacts are still important.
You can see each of the 88 cards I have acquired thus far in this 92-card set HERE.