Armour: The great Topps baseball card monopoly: Collecting

From SABR member Mark Armour at The National Pastime Museum on May 19, 2016:

For Christmas in 1968, my Grandma Armour gave me a card locker that I could use to hold my baseball cards. There was a slot for each team, with the American League on the left and National League on the right, and the 20 teams sorted alphabetically within the leagues. The card locker contained two extra slots on each side for specialty cards (leaders, World Series cards, etc.) but the four new expansion teams immediately took these slots. Thus, I usually kept these speciality cards separately. (I still sort my teams precisely this way, simply adding the expansion teams to the bottom and not moving teams around if their city name changes.)

My card locker always held the current team roster, so if players were traded I would simply move their cards from one slot to another. Also, I never had all the cards from a current year, so the team collection would be the most recent card I owned of each player. If I got a 1970 card of Willie Mays, it would replace my 1969 card, which would be put in a shoebox somewhere. If the Red Sox were playing the Yankees, I just needed my card locker and a radio and I was good to go.

This all presumed that I had at least one card for every player, and this was probably not true until I was at it a few years. I got most of the 1969 cards, so I bet I was pretty current by the next summer. The one guy I could never find was Tony Horton, who was one of the best players on the Cleveland Indians in the late 1960s. Years later I learned that Horton never signed with Topps and never had a card—he is likely the best player that Topps never signed. (During their early 1960s battles with Fleer, there were a handful of players Topps could not sign for several years, among them Maury Wills, Chris Short, Dick Hall, and Joe Adcock. But Topps eventually settled with Fleer, and all of these players had cards in 1967.)

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Originally published: May 19, 2016. Last Updated: May 19, 2016.