Publish date:

Saying good-bye is tough after 17 years ...

I don’t want to suggest that writing my column all these years has been easy, but I’ve got to concede that it certainly was all of that and more, especially when contrasted with writing this final one. Those were easy, this one is hard.

(Ten years ago, on my 50th birthday, we had a bit of fun in the office here at SCD as I opened up a 40-year-old cello pack of second series 1960 Topps. No Yaz rookie, but I did get a really handsome Reds Team card, Jim Kaat's rookie card and others shown here.)

I used the word "column" instead of blog because this is the final column that I wrote for Sports Collectors Digest, appearing in the Jan. 28 issue. After 17 years as a full-time staffer at the magazine – including more than a decade as editor of SCD – I will be leaving F+W Media, effective this Friday (Jan. 14). The details of the reorganization in the sports division here are outlined in Tom Bartsch’s “Leading Off” column on Page 9 of that issue.

It may go without saying but I’ll do it anyway: SCD’s loyal readers are being left in good hands, namely Bartsch’s, with whom I know all are familiar with for many years now.

I won’t be so trite as to malign Lou Gehrig by insisting that I am the luckiest guy on the planet, but I would note without hesitation or overstatement that for that whole 17 years-plus I never, ever dreaded going to work, and I don’t know how many people can say that.

It used to be a running gag that people would ask me if I liked my job. “I love my job,” would be the easy answer. And how did I like living in Iola, they would come back with. “I love my job,” would always be the answer to that one, too.

I used to grumble under my breath that our deservedly beloved founder, Chet Krause, could just as easily have started it all in Florida somewhere, but of course that’s just silly. The famous kitchen table that launched a publishing empire was right here in chilly Central Wisconsin, and no amount of whining from a transplanted East Coast wussy was going to change that.

I’ll try not to let this sound like an Oscar-winning acceptance speech, but I have to start by noting that Bob Lemke hired me full-time in 1993, and about seven years later Hugh McAloon and Kevin Isaacson collaborated to put me in the editor’s chair. I am extraordinarily grateful to all three, as I should be.

Over that 17-year stretch, I helped put together more than 900 issues of SCD. I think that’s a record, but I suppose my old friend Tom Mortenson, who preceded me here as editor, might have a challenge to that.

Along with attending all but a handful of the National Conventions since 1993, my job has sent me all over the country to cover major shows and auctions. Living in a rural community so distant from any major metropolitan areas would have likely posed an insurmountable challenge for us producing Sports Collectors Digest without the periodic travel every year. For me, it was an important aspect of staying in touch with the hobby, but more directly it brought me in contact with an imposing array of some of the most famous names in the card collecting world.

About 15 years or so ago, that “card collecting” qualifier would be substantially modified to include sports memorabilia and equipment as our hobby matured and much of the emphasis – and money – shifted to many of the major auctions.

Around that same time, I got to visit Barry Halper and see his famed collection in his home in New Jersey where the tens of thousands of pieces of memorabilia had been crammed into every available corner of his basement. We came away from that 1996 interview with what is likely the best photographic inventory of his collection as it was arranged in his home, which was even more important when the collection was loudly liquidated in 1998 and 1999.

My friendship with the late collector is one of many that I will always cherish; I also got to visit him at his new home – also in New Jersey – that was purchased after the legendary sale of his collection by Sotheby’s in New York City in September of 1999.

Rubbing elbows with hobby royalty was part of the job description as editor of  SCD, and thus I got to know and befriend a veritable Who’s Who of hobby history. As I noted, I can’t list all the names, but I did pull out a few photographs from the archives and offered them with that final SCD column in the worthy name of nostalgia.

In my time here I wrote three books in addition to editing all those weekly issues, and I regard that opportunity with the same reverence that I hold for the position itself. A 1994 volume called True Mint provided the detailed exploits of the most famous card dealer in America, Alan “Mr. Mint” Rosen, an old friend who I knew even before I started full-time at Krause Publications.

I authored another book, Yankee Stadium: Memories and Memorabilia From the House That Ruth Built, in 2009, and last year a compilation of stories I’d written about vintage card issues, Classic Sports Card Sets, was published. It was a great privilege to have the opportunity to do all three.

Doing the True Mint book with Rosen sent me around the country with the legendary “Mr. Mint” on some of his famous finds and buys, and I only hope that I was able to convey to the reader some sense of the fun and excitement that those kinds of adventures entailed.

Not only is saying good-bye difficult, it also took a bit longer than usual, so I'll continue this on the morrow.