November 14, 2011
Part 2 - THE MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION: A collector who relates everything to baseball memorabilia
See previous post for part 1.
By PETE PUTMAN
Tuesday morning arrived, and I found myself sitting in Dr. Young's office, forcing myself to read the latest issue of Newsweek and trying not to stare at the Sports Illustrated with Dwight Gooden on the cover. This wasn’t going to be easy.
"Dr. Young will see you now," said a perky receptionist who was a dead ringer for the Orioles' ball girl. I strode through the door into his office.
"Come in, come in. It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Fosman. May I call you Mike?" A professorial fellow with a pipe and goatee extended his hand, and then gestured to the couch. "Have a seat. I'm sure our session will be productive. Dr. Weimeraner has told me all about you!" He picked up a pad and leaned back in his wing chair.
"I don't know where to start. It's all so confusing!"
"Mike, obsessions can be very harmful in the long run, not just to you and your health, but to those around you as well. I want you to be completely open and honest with me." I nodded somberly.
"Good. Let’s start with some simple tests. These won't take long.” He rummaged through the top drawer on his desk. “Now, where did I put that checklist?" he muttered.
I sat bolt upright. "What year, and what card series?"
"What did you say?"
"Never mind. It’s my obsession; I relate everything to baseball memorabilia.”
"Then you will probably find this test interesting. It's called a Rorschach test." He pulled out a large card, about the size of a '69 Topps Super, and held it up at arm’s length. "What do you see on the card? Describe it exactly."
I looked closely at the card. Hmmm - the corners looked sharp, and the surface had nice gloss. That inkblot was probably a printing error. No stats on the back, though. "I'd say this card was excellent to mint condition. The corners are nice, but that ink stain really hurts the value of the card. It might be a scarce printing variation, since there are no stats on the back."
Dr. Young stared at me for a few seconds, mouth agape. "I see." He placed the card back on the table and made some notes. "Let's try something else - a word association test. I’ll say a word and I want you to reply with the first word that pops into your head. Ready?" I nodded.
"Interesting. How about hot?"
"I see. Rain?"
"Any near mint card in the 1961 Topps high number series, especially Roland Sheldon and Bob Cerv."
He leaned back in his chair. "Your problem is quite severe. Did your parents deprive you of these things when you were a child?"
I thought for a minute. "Not really. Actually, it's just a way to recapture the fun of my youth. You know, flipping baseball cards in the schoolyard, getting autographs at games, sending away box tops and wrappers for pennants and hats. Didn't you ever do that as a kid?"
Dr. Young leaned forward and stared out the window. "To tell the truth, when I was a kid, I used to get those cards from my friends and neighbors.” A smile came over his lips. “Actually, I had a pretty good collection, but -"
"But your mother threw it out, right?" I smiled at him in anticipation.
He gave me a wan smile. "Not really. My mother died when I was young. Pop got rid of them. He said that I had to get on with being a man and put away the things of my youth." His smile turned to a frown.
I leaned forward intently. "What a shame. You never got to do all those things I mentioned?" He slowly shook his head. "Boy, did you miss out on a lot. What kind of cards did you have?"
He mused for a moment. "I'm not sure. They had color pictures with the name on the top and a “Big League Gum” banner along the bottom. I remember a few of the players . . . Goose Goslin, Jimmie Foxx, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe Cronin. Had quite a few of them, too."
I jumped up as if I had sat on a cactus. "1933 Goudey Gum cards! That's what they were, right?"
He leaned forward, startled. "Yes, I guess so. How did you know?"
I grinned slyly. "I bet you'd like to see some of those old cards, wouldn't you?" He nodded, eagerly. "Well, it just so happens that I have a couple dozen ’33 Goudeys in fair-to-good condition that I'd be willing to sell, or trade. That is, if you're seriously interested.”
He jumped up from his chair, excited. "When can I see them? What do you want for them?"
"Calm down. We can go over to my place right now. Got anything to trade?"
He looked confused. "Trade? Why, I - I haven't anything to trade. Not a thing” he said, slumping back into his chair.
"Tell you what, Doc." I was on a roll now. "Ask your patients and associates if they have any baseball cards they don’t want. Especially 1961 Topps. I'll trade you my 1933 Goudeys for their 1961 Topps. How's that for a deal?”
He seemed genuinely excited, and banged the button on his intercom. "Karen! Cancel all of my remaining appointments. I'm going with Mr. Fosman for some field observation and won't be back till later this afternoon." He smiled at me with a big foolish grin. I probably looked the same way when I traded a 1969 Topps set for 10 Mark Fidrych rookie cards.
• • •
Well, here it is, three weeks later and I must say that Dr. Young did very well for himself. Turns out, his father hadn't throw away those ’33 Goudeys after all. There were hundreds of them packed in an old shoebox that the good doctor had stumbled across while cleaning up his father’s old house to sell it.
In fact, I had the collection appraised at about $50,000. Last I heard, he was talking about retiring early and taking a long cruise around South America with his windfall.
Things are much calmer at my house these days, although my kids eventually got tired of eating hot dogs and popcorn for dinner. As for my wife, her thinking turned around 180 degrees after she read an article in Forbes about investing in baseball cards. In fact, she’s at a collectibles show this weekend, scouring dealer tables for the few cards I need to rebuild that 1968 set that she once tried to make into a cardboard Caprese salad.
All I have to do now is figure out how to get rid of 300 rolls of paper towels with the Atlanta Braves tomahawk on them. Interested?
• • •
Copyright ©2007 Peter H. Putman. All mechanical and electronic print rights are reserved. This story originally appeared in Baseball Hobby News. He wrote for BHN in the mid to late 1980s.