This whole thing goes back to devotion. The whole story. The whole blog. Everything. If no one was devoted then none of this happens.
My grandfather was devoted to this hobby. Devoted is one word. Obsessed. This is a man who prospected in the 1980s and stockpiled copies of XRCs of people he thought was going to make it. Hundreds of 1987 Topps Mark McGwires. Hundreds of 1987 Topps Traded Benito Santiago. Dozens of Jeff Musselmans, Kevin Seitzers, John Smileys. Even if he was wrong he was going to be devoted to being wrong. And all of that goes back to his childhood, picking up the original 40s Bowman square cards. Taking home premier issues of players like Bob Lemon, Snuffy Stirnweiss, and, yes, Yogi Berra. If he didn't have that Berra as the centerpiece of his collection he wouldn't keep chasing the dragon. He did this with coins as well. And we found out that the coins were worth...something, but not an enormous amount. A lot like the Berra 48. But that's never getting sold.
It's been over fifteen years since my grandfather passed. One of the reasons I started this blog is him. Because if he were still kicking he'd be giving me ideas on a daily basis for posts.
I think a lot about how I constantly strive to fit into communities I find. I had a lot of experience being the weird outsider to a lot of social groups I'd encountered [and yes, I do realize that I still fall into this category in the blogosphere], and I learned that I needed to affix myself to the expected behaviors by watching how people around me acted and sort of modeling that. Once you know what the expectation is it's easier to meld yourself to it. To this day I'm doing this. The difference is that now I know at what point it's alright to do my own thing.
When I first discovered the baseball card blogosphere in 2008, I spent many mornings just inputting information and accumulating as much knowledge of the people, the expectations, the formatting, the audience. At this point the top blogs were Wax Heaven, The Baseball Card Blog, Cardboard Junkie, A Cardboard Problem, Stale Gum, Thorzul Will Rule and, though a newer blog by that point, Night Owl Cards. I got a sense of how they write, how they used pictures, how they talked about current products and older products, when they talked about themselves. More importantly, how they used humor- this was 2008, around the time that Topps was relying on gimmicks and short printed cards to set themselves apart from their competitors, and the public outcry in reaction to these was, at times, more entertaining than the cards themselves.
I say this because I wouldn't be doing this blog had it not been for all of these people who've influenced me. Chris, Dayf, Mario, Bill, Marck, James, Drew, Nick, Sooz, Greg, Ryan, other Chris. Countless others. A lot of whom I still talk to on Twitter or Bluesky. Many of which have stopped writing. I just wanted to be like you guys. 13-year-old me just seeing these guys embroiled in my own hobby, posting pictures of stuff they've accumulated just by making social bonds, it seemed like a leveling up. And it's nice to be even a small part of a group forged by people like that.
I started this blog 15 years ago today. When I think of the number 15, I think of Thurman Munson. My dad's all-time favorite player. He was a first baseman but he wanted to hit like Munson. Got his heart broken 45 years ago. I felt some heartbreak when Roy Halladay passed but you can't even compare this. Munson was the Yankees in the 70s. There's a reason people still talk about him, make cards of him, bring him up as a Hall of Fame possibility, because he was the central force behind those great Yankee teams, and a .300-hitting catcher in an era where that still meant something.
My dad got to watch Munson in 3 straight World Series' when he was a kid. And then I grew up to see Derek Jeter in the World Series for 4 straight years. My dad collected Munson cards. I collected Jeter cards, and Munson ones as well. My collection is the accumulation of three generations of collectors doing their own thing. Which explains the extent.
When I started the blog, I had no idea what I was going to write about. Maybe go to card shows and post what I got. Maybe open packs and post the results. Maybe talk about baseball things. In 15 years, the blog has just become me posting custom cards on a bi-daily basis and choosing those moments to talk about baseball things and hopefully have decent analysis. There's a lot of bloggers who pack more quality into sporadic posts, whereas I go for 2 posts a day and hope that at least one of them is good.
I think I still like what I do. If anything, it's my way of keeping up with baseball knowledge on a daily basis. I have no trouble talking to people about baseball now, I can pull up players that came out of the woodwork and became great pieces. Admittedly it has less to do with reading the stats off the back of a card and more to do with checking baseball reference dot com and tracking a player's season from the point they burst onto a team's WAR leaderboard. But I can definitely hold my own talking to people about sports. It's odd, because the rest of my interests are more...nerdy and niche. And this is the big popular mainstream work bro thing I'm into. Y'know, baseball's a great unifier. If it helps me fit in, so be it.
It's wild that I've been doing this for fifteen years. I didn't think I'd make it past 2 or 3. But y'know, if you get into enough of a routine with something you just keep doing it. Especially if it's free.
The only thing is that fifteen years into this blog I've been caught at a really weird time. For collecting, for baseball, for my life. I'm still in between jobs and trying to find work where I can, and that has led to me not buying cards as much in the past year or so. I've found time to save up and get stuff, but it's been less frequent. Cards aren't on the shelves as often when I'm at Target, products are more streamlined than ever, and I'm worried the joy is leaving the hobby for me. I mean, I think it's a universal feeling, but from what I'm getting from all of you, you stick with it because you can't quit at it now. And that's where I think I'm at with collecting. I can't not collect cards. I don't know what I'd be if I stopped.
To give you an idea of where I'm at, I gave up soda last year. Wasn't doing wonders for my throat, the caffeine isn't great for you anyhow. I used to have one a day in college. But I cut it out last year, and now I average one a month. Soda right now is cheaper than baseball cards, but it's more addictive and more carcinogenic. There hasn't been a case of somebody getting cancer from collecting too many baseball cards, not since they stopped selling them in cigarette cases. It just takes up space and costs too much money and doesn't spark as much joy as it used to.
I started collecting in 2007, a year where you could get a blaster of Topps that had 10 packs for 10 dollars. Now you pay 20 dollars and get like 7 packs. The CEOs won and the creativity is mostly gone. But I still want to keep collecting. The same reason I keep going for jobs, or keep writing, or keep doing things I love. Because it's gotta get better eventually, right? It has to. Everything has to balance out, swing back down to earth and all.
I've been seriously thinking about the future of the blog in the last 6 months or so. There were a lot of nights where I hammered out my two posts and thought to myself 'do I have anything left?' Or 'am I doing this just to amuse myself at this point?'. In September, the blog had its highest amount of page views, with over 92,000 in that month. At the same time, you look at the analytics, and most of the blog's views are coming from Singapore and China, meaning I have no idea how many people are reading this blog because they like baseball cards. The bot-ification of the internet has diluted a lot of online areas, especially the blogosphere. I have no idea if analytics actually mean anything anymore. People are reading, yeah, but it's not 2009 anymore.
Kinda sucks that the peak of the blogosphere was the period where I was 13 or 14 years old and I didn't know how to really do analysis yet, but hey, you live and you learn.
But yeah, I've been mulling it over a lot. That's probably why I haven't posted much since the end of the season. That and I've been working on other projects. But I think I am gonna keep the blog going, keep making customs and all that. Mostly for my own sake but also because I know the blog does have a decent enough readership. And because I'm gonna be kicking myself if I don't get to make customs of, like, Shohei as a Dodger, or Soto as a Yankee or any of that. Or Votto wherever he signs. This is fun for me, it's how I tell the story of a baseball season. As a bonus, other people seem to enjoy it as well.
Thank you for sticking around these 15 years, and for helping inspire me to keep at it. I hope I can give you some more decent years. I still enjoy writing the blog. I still enjoy making content. It's difficult sometimes with everything that's going on, but this helps me get by. I'll keep it going as long as it continues to do so.
I've run Mint Condition for 15 years. More than half of my entire life. More than I've consistently done anything else. I wouldn't do something for 15 years if it wasn't at least a little bit worth it.