The Card, The List, The Hope: BASEBALL!
I have a favorite baseball card.
The most expensive baseball card ever sold was a Honus Wagner, 1909-1911, T206 for $3.12 million. Why so much? Mr. Wagner didn’t want his card to be sold with cigarettes. Maybe he didn’t want kids getting hooked on smokes, or maybe he was holding out for more money. No one knows, but whatever the reason: his card is now worth a ton of value.
But my favorite card is far more valuable.
Topps 1952 Mickey Mantle card with a 8.5/10 PSA rating was sold for $1.13 million.
Also, not my card. My card is better…
Honus Wagner and Mickey Mantle cards are rare. Mine may be rarer.
Topps 2013 US268. Once I learned of it’s existence, I had to have it, for reasons that will become clear. But securing this card was not going to be easy. At times I thought I was chasing a myth, but the field of dreams called, and I needed to find this card.
At the National Baseball Card Convention, there are thousands of card vendors selling millions of cards. I’d been hunting for 2 days. I was so dirty that I looked like the grounds crew used me as a broom to sweep the field. I was weighted down with sealed boxes of cards. I carried far more weight than I could carry under ordinary circumstances. You see, there was a chance this card, a prize - like Charlie’s golden ticket to Mr. Wonka’s magical chocolate factory, hidden in the neat tin foil packages. Just maybe this card was in one of my boxes.
I had to keep buying more, until I could carry no more. I bought another box, and brought my treasure to a table in the corner of the room. My sister and I unwrapped all of the packages. All of them. Hundreds of them. We found cards of value. We found relics. We found cards that would make collectors of cards happy people. We stacked these cards and moved on, tearing open the packages, wishing for a pair of scissors, wishing for the needle in the haystack - US268.
No luck. As the innings ended, vendors packed up their booths and the convention was over. We packed our cards and cleaned our table. Under the piles of scrap foil I found two unopened boxes. I quietly slipped them into my bag. Maybe they had the card. Probably not. But if I didn’t open the boxes, the card was still in the box. There was hope.
We took the train to the convention - it was in Baltimore. On the long train ride I had time to think about Mr. US268. I wondered if he wanted to be a professional baseball player when he was a kid. I wondered what it must feel like to see yourself on a baseball card for the first time. I teared up imagining how I would feel if I were his mother, if I ever imagined this future for my son. I wondered where he would go from here, and how the seasons would play out. I was glad I didn’t open my boxes. I was still in the game.
You know how it feels to flop down on your bed when you get home from a long trip? You know how much better it feels to flop down on your bed after a long trip and there is a present under your pillow that says “VAL”, and you open it carefully and there, in your hand is the prize you were crane-gaming for: 2013 Topps Update US268 Cincinnati Reds… TEDDY KREMER.
(RECORD SCRATCH) Who?
Teddy Kremer, die hard Cincinnati Reds fan, honorary batboy.
Teddy Kremer is the first person with Down Syndrome to have his own Topps baseball card!
Of his first night in uniform in the Reds dugout, the Cincinnati Enquirer wrote: “Ted joined the Reds for a day, but changed the team forever.” His mother thought he was only there for a meet and greet, and had no idea the team would welcome him so warmly, giving him the ability to pump up the energy and spirit of the entire Reds line up and management.
Third Basemen Todd Frazier had given Teddy an armband he vowed to wear forever, and just before his last at-bat Teddy snuck behind him and:
TEDDY: “Hey, Come on, you can hit me a home run, please hit me a home run.”
FRAZER: “Alright, you got it.”
ANNOUNCER: That ball clubbed to the straight away center field, and that one will fly out of here!
FRAZER: “I rounded second, hitting third, and I see the big smile…he gave me a big bear hug, he’s pointing to the sky, it’s like he hit that home run, he was with me right there.”
I will almost certainly never know what it feels like to “club one over center field”, but I connect with Todd Frazier’s feeling of hitting that one with Teddy. My friends with Down Syndrome have been my greatest coaches, champions, and co-pilots in life. They have given me courage and have propelled me to greater accomplishments with their cheers, guidance, and support. In the interviews I have watched with Teddy, his parents, Reds players, and Reds management, it is clear that Teddy and the team had deep respect and admiration for each other, and this was an authentic, positive, and inspirational relationship. Teddy’s work in the dugout won him an invitation to President Obama’s State of the Union Address - and his own baseball card, 2013 Topps Update US268.
Now I own three Teddy Kremer cards. Two are GEM MT 10, and one is NM-MT8. Take that Honus and Mickey! Plus I have the two sealed boxes with all the other US268s! Next time you are at the card show, pick up a box of the 2013 Topps Update set, and you may find your own lucky card.
There have been many Major League Baseball players with disabilities who have had outstanding baseball careers. Jason Johnson is the first MLB player to wear an insulin pump during a regular season game; Jim Eisenreich is diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome; Curtis Pride and William Hoy are deaf; and Pete Gray has one arm.
Mordecai Brown played in the 1910-1920s. When he was a young boy he lost two fingers in a farm machinery accident. He turned this tragedy into an advantage by learning a new grip on the baseball that resulted in a dirty curveball, which radically broke before reaching the plate. He was one of the best pitchers of his time. I’m super-glad Todd Frazer and Teddy Kremer weren’t facing Mordecai Brown!
The New York Yankees honored The Prospector Theater for our commitment to improving the lives of adults with disabilities through meaningful employment in 2015 during Hope Week. The Yankees surprised us. And surprised us they did - and my furious Mets fan family. The Yankees treated us like we were royalty. They honored us at a time when we were still in start-up and were being undervalued and dismissed by our town officers. The Yankees arrived right in time. They inspired us and sent a signal to the world that we were important, that we were players, and we were winners.
And the Yankees know winners when they see them. In franchise history, Yankees have pitched 11 no-hitters. One of these games was thrown by Jim Abbott in 1993. Jim Abbott was born without a right hand. He played baseball because he says he wanted to play baseball. He kept throwing the ball against the wall. Now a motivational speaker, Abbott says, “I believe that challenges can push us beyond what we might otherwise be able to accomplish.” Kids, when you fall, stand up, and swing for the fences. And if you miss, swing again. Keep doing what you love.
MLB made a smart and classy move this year. The DL, “Disabled List”, was dropped from the roster. The new name for players with injuries is the IL, “Injured List”. The MLB made this move for major and minor leagues, to respect the fact that individuals with disabilities are healthy, important, successful players on MLB teams. Take me out to the ball game - this is a great call for MLB. Reading articles about the upcoming 2019 season, I see that many news outlets are still referring to the IL as the “Disabled List”. I hope there are “umpires” among their readership who will cry fouls, strikes, and out on these reporters, to teach them the new terms of the game.
I’ve spent a lot of my life on softball and baseball fields. The positive representation the MLB has demonstrated through their inclusive and accommodating actions makes me happy, and gives me strength and hope for the upcoming season and future - exciting and new feelings for a Mets fan.
MLB’s Jeff Pfeifer:
"The principal concern is that using the term 'disabled' for players who are injured supports the misconception that people with disabilities are injured and therefore are not able to participate or compete in sports. As a result, Major League Baseball has agreed to change the name 'Disabled List' to be the 'Injured List' at both the major and minor league levels.”