Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Baseball card stories from Clay Snellgrove

Clay Snellgrove played six years of professional baseball, mostly in the Padres organization. He is now an Emergency Medical Technician and runs a baseball school called Bases Loaded in Tennessee. He has written a novel called The Ball Player, about a professional baseball player burdened by his responsibility for his best friend’s death, and confused by a love for the same friend’s fiance, while trying to make it in the major leagues. You can read more about the novel and purchase it here. His excellent writing style can be seen in the great baseball card stories he shared with me.

"I grew up a huge baseball fan. My neighbor and I both collected cards. We competed to see who's collection would be bigger and better. This was back in the late eighties, so needless to say many of the cards we purchased are not worth much on the market now. At 12 years old, we battled to save lawn mowing money to purchase the coveted wax-box of Topps, Fleer, or Donruss (then making ourselves sick on cheap gum as we shredded through 36 brand new packs in minutes). During this ongoing contest of collecting, one of his mom's friends heard he liked baseball cards. The family friend said he had some cards that he was trying to part with. He brought a shoebox full of unsorted cards over for my buddy to inspect and to see if he would like to buy them. We both reviewed the box and found near complete sets of 1970-73 Topps (he would complete these sets card by card in the years following). A few random cards from the 60's were included for good measure. We leafed through the Beckett Pricing guide and stopped looking after 5 cards by themselves topped $20 in value. The next day the family friend asked if he wanted the cards. My buddy said, "yes." Without any conversation the friend said he would part with them for $50 dollars. To my buddy's credit he informed the man that they were probably worth much more than he could afford. He shrugged and said, "Fifty is fine." With that transaction I lost the competition.

I never made it to the major leagues during my pro career, but did get a $10 check from Topps, as all players do, for the right to make one. The minor league cards of me were really cool. The day I autographed my own card for a fan, I really felt like I had made it.

I don't collect anymore but do have my collection in boxes waiting to share it with my son when he's old enough. His grandfather has started giving him baseball cards for special occasions. He got a Mickey Mantle for his 1st birthday and his collection is now officially better than mine.

As far as my only regret from my collecting days, it would be passing, on my parents instruction, on purchasing a Dale Murphy rookie card for $2.75 when I was 7yrs old. I had saved several weeks of allowance and was given the offer by the teenage boy down the street. My parents were sure he was suckering me so forbid me from doing business with him. I managed to collect nearly every Dale Murphy card over the following years, but as his career soared, so did the price of his card. I could never afford it. When I stopped collecting in the early nineties that card was selling for $50."



  1. Love the story. What was the part about a check for $10? I'm not sure I totally followed.

  2. Sharpe: I believe Topps gives rookies a small check for the rights to produce baseball cards of them...