Many of my childhood memories are attached to baseball cards. I remember one late morning in 1989 going to the house my parents just bought. We were about to move, and while I don’t remember much about that day, I do remember being in the passenger seat with a box of 1989 Topps, and a handful of packs from the movie Eight Men Out. I was on cloud nine – it is one of my earliest memories being happy. I remember sitting at the table later that day opening it with my uncle watching the progress. My gosh, how I loved the Future Stars cards – The Gary Sheffield and Greg Jefferies cards looked so cool! #sheffjeff #perfection
When my cat Sparkles died (RIP, Sparkles!) my parents consoled me by getting a full box of 1990 Donruss. 1991 Donruss reminds me of the time when we went to a Christmas Tree farm – in fact, I’m not sure I will ever be able to smell a Christmas tree without thinking of ’91 Donruss. I remember having a handful of packs of series 1 while I was in the back seat as we pulled up to the Christmas Tree farm – opening and savoring the new design, happy I got a Canseco, but wondered why it was an All Star card and not a regular one.
There are many more memories I have attached to cards as well, with most of them being good. A few years later, I moved on from baseball cards, and became interested in girls, cars, friends, and activities at church. Did I mention girls?
As a 19 year old in 1999, I was still living at home, but had plans to move in December. I broke up with my girlfriend whom I just met in September. Saying goodbye to her was way tougher than I had imagined, because we really clicked – isn’t it ironic, don’t you think? You find someone you really like … right before you move.
I packed up my 1989 IROC with everything I owned, and followed my mom westward – she would reunite with my dad in California who went ahead of her a few months prior, while I was going to Arizona so my best friend and I could get an apartment. Ahhhh, my ’89 IROC. I LOVED that car. In one of my first jobs, I printed out a picture of an IROC to remind myself what I could get. Sadly, it had no a/c – but who needs a/c in the Houston summer when you have racing stripes, right?
While baseball wasn’t consuming my brain like it had when I was a child, due to the home run frenzy, I kept tabs in the newspaper from time to time. I would also frequent canseconet.com – a Canseco fan website run by Mark Petrillo, whom we have become friends over the past few years. His website still shows my participation in guessing the 1998 home run total when I was 17 or 18.
Coming off of a career high home run year in 1998, I was delighted to see Canseco leading the league with 31 bombs at the All Star break in 1999, and on his way to perhaps a career high in home runs. Unfortunately, he didn’t get to play due to needing back surgery. He would go on to play about a full season’s worth of games over the next two years before he was out of major league baseball forever, at the age of 37. Plagued with injuries, Jose only played 135 or more games in a season five times, and only twice after his 1988 40-40 season.
Coming Back to the Hobby
It took over a decade for me to come back to the hobby I loved as a child, and I learned that things had drastically changed. There were exciting things happening in the baseball card world in the mid to late 90s when I wasn’t paying attention. Competition-led innovation powered off-the-charts creativity, and has given us some of the most eye popping cards our hobby has ever seen. Perhaps we are only now fully able to appreciate what was created back then.
In 2006 or so, I came back to the hobby, and learned for the first time about something people were calling “game used” cards. Try to forget what you know about these for a second, and take a journey with me back to the first time you heard of these. Were you excited? Did it sound like a gimmick? To me, it sounded so futuristic. Having a piece of jersey that was worn by a player in an actual baseball game that was cut up and embedded in the card itself felt like the absolute pinnacle of collecting.
Speaking of futuristic cards, a while back, I created this custom with a video of myself and Jose playing cards on his card table:
Video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_S4Qs0IkPqo
While the card I made above is real and functions, here is a fun little video I did of what I think the coolest thing ever would be – a Star Wars style holographic pop up – this is just photoshop magic, but how insane would that be?
The advent of game used cards caused me to go on a collecting side quest for these futuristic feeling relics, and buy almost every common game used card I could find. After spending several hundred dollars, I looked through my bounty, and while I still thought the concept was cool, I was left with a bunch of cards that I didn’t care all that much about. The little one inch square of white or gray fabric looked the same from card to card. As the years went on, the jersey card took the path of the walkers from The Walking Dead – that is, they were just expected background noise, and eventually became common.
I came to the conclusion that boat loads of meaningless (to me) plain swatch cards didn’t really do it for me anymore, so I sold them, and was ready to exit the hobby once more. Once I realized I could actually make money buying and selling cards, I stuck around until I got bit by the supercollecting bug. My journey into supercollecting Jose Canseco has been well documented, so I won’t bore you with the details here, but after having bought and sold a ton of Canseco cards over the years, I find myself gravitating toward mainly collecting true unicorns – that is, cards that are extremely rare, meaningful, and beautiful.
Side note: Years later, cards companies would amp up their offerings by offering premium patches. The players that are currently active have an unreal amount of patch material available. Check out this run from a Kyle Seager supercollection I picked up a couple years ago. Not only does Seager have these 3 eye popping cards – they are so plentiful (comparatively to the retired guys), they were all in the same product release!
The collection of Seager cards had tons of amazing stuff like this, too. If Canseco was in the release shown above, I can almost promise you his 1/1 would be a plain bat piece, or jersey swatch.
2000 Upper Deck Game Jersey Patches
In the midst of one of the most life changing months of my life, Upper Deck released the first official pack-pulled patch card set in December of 1999: the 2000 Upper Deck Game Jersey Patch. Back then, I didn’t know anything about new card releases, so I was clueless to literally all of the goings on in the hobby. When I started supercollecting Canseco 14-15 years later, I knew it was a “must have” but mainly because it was rare, and had a piece of a patch. Devil Rays patches have beautiful coloring, too, so that’s a plus.
It wasn’t until the past several months when I realized the magnitude that this card set carries – for Canseco in particular.
Nowadays, we are accustomed to the glut of high end products that offer patches in each pack or box. 2000 Upper Deck Game Jersey Patch pulls were ridiculous: they fell 1 per 10,000 packs. If you thought pulling an Elite from 1991 Donruss was hard, that was nothing. In order to pull your favorite player in the 2000 Upper Deck Game Jersey Patch set, you are looking at roughly 1 in 200,000 packs!
Timing is Everything
The 2000 Upper Deck Game Jersey Patch is Jose’s first ever patch card, and is one of only two “official” patch releases during his career (the other is his 2001 Upper Deck Game Jersey patch).
For a couple decades now, card companies have released various patch cards year after year, and will likely continue for as long as baseball cards will be made. That’s part of what makes the ’00 UD patch cards for Canseco stand out from the others – playing career patch cards can no longer be made unless someone invents a time machine. No matter what color foil they use, no matter how hard they strike the mighty 1/1 foil stamp on a card, no matter what patch is utilized, card companies simply won’t be able to capture all the magic held by a game used patch card created of Canseco during his playing career.
That’s why my latest pickup is so exciting:
In spite of Jose being found in approximately 1 out of every 200,000 packs, I’ve seen and owned several copies in the past as well. I learned a friend of mine had this one in particular last year, and it blew away any other version I had ever seen. He had it in his collection for about a decade – it makes you wonder what else is hiding in other people’s private collections! I guess that’s what makes collecting seem like a treasure hunt.
This card means so much more to me than most of the new stuff they put out, so I attempted to blow my friend out of the water with a trade offer. Several times – over the course of several months. Finally, we clicked!
I had to give up a king’s ransom – a bat barrel, a couple 1/1 multi patch panini cards, and a few other newer nice patch cards, AND my copy of this same card. When you step back, it sounds crazy, doesn’t it? All of those high end cards for a mere change in fabric scenery in the square inch relic window. But that is how important to me this card is. It is the best copy I’ve ever seen with an eye popping patch, in a prominent ground breaking set of which is the first ever patch release for Canseco – 1 of only 2 from his playing days. The cards I gave up were no doubt amazing – anyone would be excited to have them in their collection, but this card is legendary. It’s a card that can be called upon by name in the future, and instantly recognized as one of the most epic cards from his playing days.
I think this card stands on its own as being one of Canseco’s best, but perhaps its release date does *just* a little more for me because of what was going on in my life at the time.
I mentioned earlier at the age of 19 in December of 1999, I packed up my IROC and followed mom westward where she would reunite with dad in California, while I would stay in Arizona and get an apartment with my best friend. After saying gut-wrenching goodbyes to my then ex-girlfriend, something interesting happened. Several hours into our trip in the middle of nowhere, mom’s car’s engine threw a rod.
She pulled over with all of her belongings (and a VERY fat cat in tow) and told me her car broke down. I silently prayed to God “Lord, if you want me to move back to Texas, please have mom ask me about it.” A VERY strange prayer indeed – it never even occurred to me that going back was even an option. Several seconds later, mom came up to me on the side of the road and asked “Well kiddo, what do you think about moving back to Texas?” I told her “I think God just told me to.”
We left all of mom’s belongings and her car off the side of the road (with – gasp – my childhood baseball card collection!) and checked in at an Extended Stay hotel. Mom left a couple days later to be with dad. The next day, I surprised the girl I broke up with by saying I was here to stay. We eventually got married, and now have two kids who are now 18 and 2 – our 20th anniversary is just around the corner!
1991 Donruss will always remind me of Christmas Tree farms growing up, and now, this 2000 Upper Deck Game Used Jersey Patch – my childhood hero’s first ever patch release, and only patch released during my teenage years in Dec. ’99 – will forever remind me of the time my world was turned upside down – for the better!