Thursday, January 3, 2013

My White Whale

The other day Fuji stated his 2013 hobby goals and asked for ours. I replied and yammered on for a bit and then I remembered that I was in the process of a post about the one card I'd love to find, if only I could. It's a card I've never seen and if it's what I think it is, it's not even a 'real' card, at least as far as how I think of 'cards'. Anyway if I could find one thing in 2013 that would really make me feel like I accomplished a goal this would be it. So, on to my 'white whale'.

I see the expression 'White Whale' from time to time on hobby blogs. Taken from Melville's Moby Dick novel it can be loosely defined in the hobby as an elusive and probably unobtainable card that one never quits looking for. At least that's my interpretation. And I have one. First the background:

I've written several times in the past about my football card collection that encompasses every player I've ever 'owned' in my fantasy league for the past 33 seasons. I had the idea to collect those guys in the late 1980s, maybe or early 1990s. Most were easy to find. I had a list of all 'my' players and I took it to card shows and shops and pretty quickly was able to cross off the list guys like Warren Moon, Bert Jones, and Marcus Allen. I already had a lot of those players on a card anyway. Within a couple of years I had about 90% of  my list knocked off and all that was left were cards of guys who had never been in Topps sets. That slowed me down somewhat. I know I hunted through hobby publications and scoured checklists hoping to find cards of players like Kyle Mackey and Ed Luther.

Then two things happened at about the same time. Someone thought up eBay, and I found this book. It was about the size of the Omaha phone book and had just as small print. Great resource that listed an amazing amount of odd sets. It proved invaluable.

Now I was able to look up my missing players and know for sure if there was an available card. Then it was a matter of scouring eBay and the hobby publications to find that card or set. In several cases I bought a complete 'police' or regional food issue set to get one player. I was able to knock out quite a few that way. 

I was also able to find out which players had never been on a card. I made up some using my really crappy graphic skills in MS Paint and then Publisher. I tracked down some of the players and wrote nice notes or emails asking for signatures. That's how I got to know former Giant Stacy Robinson. He worked for the NFLPA and was super nice in sending me his home address and phone number(!) and returning my request with a note and assorted swag. I discovered Kyle Mackey was coaching high school football just a county or two from my home. Too bad he never responded to my note. I was tempted to attend a game but I would have felt like a stalker. 

So my hunt had narrowed until, in about 2005, only one actual listed card was left. The 1978 Colts Team Issue #9 Randy Burke. I'd never seen the set and eBay/Google searches were dead ends. I had pictured it as something akin to the standard sized sets that teams gave out or sold at concession stands. But I did see a ton of these.....

But it never occurred to me that those were the referenced 'cards'. I always thought of those things as 'picture pack' photos. The type that used to be sold in sets inside an envelope at Manny's Baseball Land across from Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Or through the mail from the teams souvenir department.

But then a couple of years ago I found this book thru the Google online book library and damn if they didn't have the set listed. With  full description.

Sure enough the set consists of 5x7 photos. The description fits them exactly. 

So now I know what I've been searching for. With the dozens and dozens of Colt photos I've found on eBay I know it's just a matter of time before good ol' Randy Burke shows up. And I'll harpoon my white whale.

Meanwhile, I'll make do with this homemade card. I made it using a picture I bought from the Baltimore Sun. Jeez, I ought to invest in a graphics program and a good paper cutter before I attempt this again.

One last note. I've been able to track Randy Burke to his job in sales and marketing at a Lexington, Kentucky television station (he played at UK). But at this point I am determined that nothing other than his 1978 Colts Team Issue #9 'card' will do for my collection. Wish me luck.

R.I.P. Larry DeMartini. You put together a heck of a book. Thanks!