This Blog Bat Around is courtesy of Tom from Eamus Catuli! who in turn got the idea from Kin's comment.
What is it about the players you collect that made you want to collect them in the first place? Like many of my blogging colleagues, the hometown team(s) provide the foundation of my player collections.
My first player collection began all the way back in 1987 with one card -
My mother likes to tell a story about one of the first games I went to- I was probably 4 or 5, and the seats we had were in the general admission section of the Upper Deck at the Metrodome, probably the portion of the section that in later years were cordoned off by large banners showing the Twins' retired numbers. We were, however, sitting dead center, so our closest professional athlete was Kirby Puckett, roughly 100 feet away and 50 feet below our seats. The batter crushed a deep line drive to right center field, and Puckett raced over on his tiny legs and made some impressive leaping/diving/acrobatic catch that dipped out of our sightline. The crowd's reaction was all that was needed to clue in to our family that Kirby had made the catch. As he headed back into view, the crowd's cheering got even louder, prompting him to briefly lift his cap, and his focus stayed squarely towards home plate. I grabbed my mother's arm and pulled her closer.
"Did you see that?!" I said.
"Yes, Kirby made a great -"
"KIRBY. WAVED. AT ME!"
So, from that moment on, Puckett was my favorite player.
When I returned to collecting as an adult, I became more interested in the history of baseball, and a set like the T206 tobacco from the early part of the 20th Century held a certain appeal. When I started to look more closely at the checklist, I found another local connection - the set contained players from the minor league Minneapolis Millers. Among those players was the fascinating Gavvy "Cactus" Cravath. What started as a quest to collect various Minneapolis/St.Paul and outstate Minnesota players turned specifically to this forgotten Home Run King of the 1910s. Cravath has all the ingredients for a great player collection target. Great talent; a long and winding road to success; a set of killer nicknames; and enough mystery to keep people interested.
Pioneers, innovators, and players that broke new ground are of particular interest to me. The only player I know of that broke a team's color barrier and played in a professional game in my lifetime was Minnie Minoso. Whether or not you think the Saint Paul Saints are wrong to trot out old timers to get legitimate professional at bats long after their careers were otherwise over, I still think it is objectively cool to give the fans (and the players) a thrill. Kevin Millar was the latest guy to do it, hitting a home run this weekend at the age of 45.