Doug Shaffer isn’t shy about bringing up the fact that his family didn’t have a lot of money growing up.
So, when Shaffer, a lifelong Chicago White Sox fan, heard about a young up-and-coming power hitter named Sammy Sosa who shared a similar poor upbringing, there was an instant connection.
“I read his bio that he hits lots of home runs, has lots of power, great speed and a rocket arm,” Shaffer said. “But then I read an article that said he sends his money back to the Dominican Republic to feed his family. So, I knew at that minute that he was hungry and he wanted to be successful.”
Shaffer knew exactly what that felt like.
Shaffer had just opened a new barbershop, Doug’s Sports Cut in Goshen, Ind., in fall 1989. He was draping the walls with sports memorabilia, and he wanted to add to his collection. Shaffer thought he’d pick up some Sosa rookie cards in the hopes that one day the Dominican Republic-born player would be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Topps, Upper Deck, Donruss, Leaf, Fleer, Score, Bowman – whatever Sosa rookie cards from 1990 sets Shaffer could get his hands on, he snatched them up. Shaffer has the most of the Topps version – about 7,200 of them – where Sosa is taking a hefty cut at the plate.
“I bought 100 from this guy, 500 from this guy, a 1,000 from this guy,” said Shaffer, who as a barber knows how to share a story. “I don’t know how I came up with the amount, but I stopped at roughly 11,000 of them.”
Shaffer went crazy buying the Sosa cards, but he certainly didn’t spend a lot of money. He figures he only dropped about $1,000 in all.
“I probably bought some for 7 cents, some for 10 cents,” Shaffer said. “Then when you buy bulk, you get it for a lesser price.”
Shaffer stores his Sosa collection – the ones that aren’t on display – in 100-count plastic cases.
“I went through 10 of those boxes yesterday and I could not believe how pristine, how beautiful, how perfect they are,” said Shaffer, who stores the majority of his Sosa cards in a lockbox at a bank. “They are unbelievable.”
Shaffer has been hanging on to his 11,000 Sosa cards for 30 years. When ESPN aired in June its “30-for-30” documentary “Long Gone Summer,” which chronicled the captivating home run chase in 1998 by Sosa and Mark McGwire, it spurred an interest in Shaffer to sell the majority of his Sosa card collection. As Sosa cards increased in value, Shaffer believes it’s his golden opportunity to seize the moment.
According to Shaffer, Sosa rookie cards graded PSA 10 shot up to around $125-$175, with 9s going for around $40.
Shaffer submitted 25 cards to Professional Sports Authenticators (PSA) to get graded. If some come back gem-mint 10, Shaffer could be in business.
Shaffer was prospecting back before prospecting was a thing. He was hoping 30 years down the road the cards would be worth some money.
“Anybody that gets into the Hall of Fame, their card is worth $100,” Shaffer said, though it should be noted Sosa isn’t in the Hall of Fame and may never get there because of performance-enhancing drug allegations.
It isn’t far-fetched to believe Shaffer has the world’s largest Sosa card collection. Shaffer loves to hear that.
“I’m sure not a whole lot of people have more than that,” Shaffer said. “It’s something else.”
Shaffer isn’t planning on just selling thousands of his Sosa cards on such websites as eBay; he’s come up with a few creative ideas he’d like to see come to fruition.
He would like to get in touch with Sosa to see if he’s interested in taking 10,000 cards to his native country.
“What a story it would be for him to get 10,000 of his rookie cards and pass them out to all the little kids in the Dominican Republic that might have the same dream that he did,” Shaffer said. “That might be a huge difference he can make in their lives.”
Another idea is to have the Chicago Cubs, whom Sosa played for from 1992-2004, purchase 10,000 of the cards. It’s been well-documented by the national media that Sosa and the Cubs have a strained relationship following steroid allegations during Sosa’s playing days. But if Sosa and the Cubs ever kiss and make up, Shaffer thinks Sosa could autograph 500 cards and the Cubs could have a promotion where the first 10,000 fans at a game at Wrigley Field would receive a Sosa rookie card.
“I hope I can bring some happiness to Sosa,” Shaffer said. “I hope I can bring some closure to Sosa and the Cubs. I would love it if somehow I could talk and convince the Baseball Writers of America to listen to me, to listen to the story.”
Shaffer is a big advocate for Sosa making the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Shaffer is quick to point out in his Hall of Fame argument that Sosa is the only player in Major League Baseball history to ever hit 61 or more home runs in three different seasons. Sosa accomplished that feat in 1998 (66), ’99 (63) and ’01 (64). Sosa – who finished with 609 career home runs, which is ninth on the all-time MLB list – hit 332 during a remarkable six-year span.
“His achievements are just astronomical,” Shaffer said.
Shaffer had the pleasure of meeting Sosa in 1990 at a card shop signing in Indiana. He got a picture of him autographed, as well as one of his Upper Deck rookies signed. Those are two cards Shaffer will be hanging on to for the rest of his life.
A Unique Barbershop Experience
When Shaffer was mulling over the idea of opening his barbershop in 1989, he was also interested in running a card shop. What better way than to combine the two ideas and have his barbershop walls draped in sports memorabilia.
Shaffer has some historic pieces, including a Babe Ruth baseball bat. Shaffer also has on display one of the baseballs from Ruth’s 714 career home runs. A person in the stands corralled a Ruth home run and threw it to a young fan. That guy ended up giving the ball and the story to Shaffer.
Shaffer isn’t limited to baseball memorabilia with two Pelé autograph jerseys, a copy of the first Sports Illustrated ever released, a leaderboard from the PGA Memorial Tournament in 1991 and a banner from outside the gates at Dolphin Stadium during Super Bowl XLI.
His walls of memorabilia get quite a lot of attention from customers on a regular basis.
Over the years, Shaffer has cut some well-known athletes’ hair. He has trimmed former MLB pitcher Jamie Moyer, as well as former NFL quarterback Rick Mirer and former NBA superstar Shawn Kemp. Shaffer actually has Kemp’s first driver’s license hanging up in his shop after the big-time dunker left it at a bank when it was expiring right after he was drafted by the Seattle SuperSonics.
Shaffer, now 66 years old, gave his first haircut on June 22, 1974, and his last day before retirement is scheduled for exactly 50 years later, June 22, 2024. He still cuts the guy whom he gave his first haircut to and that will be Shaffer’s final client ever as well.
With retirement a few years down the line, Shaffer is ready to cash in on his impressive Sosa and memorabilia collection.
“I need to get rid of everything in less than four years,” Shaffer said.