Got a rookie card of a player who you've scanned the boxscores all season long and hardly found his name? How about an aging veteran who has been traded more times then a share of AT&T stock? Been holding on to that card of a promising young pitcher only to be on the verge of throwing it in the garbage?
Take heart; salvation may be at hand.
The World Series which will begin in mid-October is the last, albeit best, opportunity to turn rags into riches. The Fall Classic has had a great history of turning unknown rookies, seldom used utility players and run-of-the-mill veterans into heroes and in turn, make what looked for a long time to be worthless cards and memorabilia into solid gold.
The reason is simple: performers and performances in the World Series are magnified because of the huge amount of media that is on hand to cover the games but also because of the large television numbers the games draw each year. For years, casual fans who pay little attention to the regular season are still drawn to watching baseball when the Series is on television.
Fox and NBC Sports, which have shared rights' fees for the playoffs the past two years, have been willing to absorb significant losses televising regular season games just to have a crack at a potentially (and lucrative) prime time audience in the middle of October. Viewership is on the upswing, the weather has turned cool throughout most of the country, and the networks can promo their other prime time shows on the World Series telecasts.
In a sense it's a distortion; events that occur in the World Series are magnified out of proportion compared to if they had happened during the regular season. Willie Mays' infamous catch of Vic Wertz' long drive in the 1954 World Series was a good catch, but had it been during the regular season it might have been soon forgotten. Scores of players have hit three homers in a game, but Reggie Jackson's turning the trick for the Yankees in 1977 got him crowned Mr. October and got his name on a candy bar (a real collectible if you have saved one of those treats).
Still, participants in the World Series are under a microscope. As a result, some of those trading cards, autographs or other collectibles you have stored in the attic can have their value increased several fold by a great play, key hit or great catch in the Series by players who caught lightning in a bottle in the crisp fall air of stadiums across the country.
Examples: there are many.
1947--Al Gionfriddo, an outfielder for the Brooklyn Dodgers, was hardly known outside of Flatbush. Riding the bench for most of the season, he was sent in to pinch run in game four of the series against the New York Yankees. He would later score off Bill Bevens, who took a no-hitter into the ninth inning. But Gionfriddo's real glory would come two games later when he made a game-saving catch off the bat of Joe DiMaggio. The catch was caught by newsreel cameras with the usually reserved DiMaggio kicking the dirt as he rounded first. The clip has been shown for 50 years and has made Gionfriddo part of World Series lore -- and his card a collector's classic -- even though he had a generally undistinguished career.
1954--Dusty Rhodes was the kind of name you would have been thought had been made up by the World Wrestling Federation. A journeyman player for the New York Giants, Rhodes found his niche by becoming a pinch-hitter extrodinare. In the World Series against the Cleveland Indians, Rhodes became an overnight sensation. He had three pinch hits to help the Giants sweep the Indians. While he would never get that kind of success -- or attention -- again for the rest of his career, he became a national sports figure for his off-the-bench prowess in the Series.
1956--Maybe the all-time classic underachiever, the Yankees' Don Larsen was no better than mediocre. With his no-wind up delivery, the 27-year old was bombed in game two of the Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers. But on Monday, Oct. 8, at Yankee Stadium, Larsen achieved baseball immortality. He threw a perfect game -- 27 up and 27 down -- in the World Series. It is the only no-hitter and perfect game in post-season history and turned Larsen into a national celebrity. Anything he signed, any photo, trading card or scorecard involving Larsen became instant gold. Sadly, Larsen's career would never come close to that pinnacle but his perfect game is possibly the most remembered World Series moment.
1969--The New York Mets were baseball's lovable losers through the decade. Until the Miracle Mets of 69 stunned the baseball world by winning the pennant. Against the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles, they won the Series in five games. Tommy Agee, a relative unknown in the Mets' outfield, Hit a homer in Game 3 and made a great catch in the fourth to preserve the win and turn the series around.
1971--If you had a Steve Blass trading card, you usually hid it behind Pirate teammates Roberto Clemente or Willie Stargell. Yet Blass would help pitch the Bucs to the World Series title over the Orioles that year with two wins including the clinching seventh and deciding game. His career would never be the same. He would be out of baseball soon after.
1985--Buddy Biancalana was the kind of shortstop that would be the subject of late night talk shows' jokes because a--he was of slight build; b--barely hit his weight and c--had the kind of name that made audiences laugh. But he got the last laugh for his KansasCity Royals' team against the favored St. Louis Cardinals, helping lead them to the World Series title. His reward: a guest shot on David Letterman that vaulted his stock sky high in the world of collectibles.
1996--Catcher Jim Leyritz' card wouldn't have been worth much last year compared to the likes of teammates Wade Boggs, Bernie Williams or Tino Martinze. He had also fought all season long with manager Joe Torre about his lack of playing time. Outside of New York few even realized he was on the Yankees. But his three-run homer in the pivotal fifth game against the favored Atlanta Braves turned the Series around and allowed the Bronx Bombers to win in six. Ironically, he was traded in the off-season to the Angels.