Changing the rules, because I can

When I was a kid first getting into baseball and the Cubs, my favorite player was Bruce Sutter. Yes, he did leave for the Cardinals and then the Atlanta Braves, but he’ll always be a Cub in my mind. That hat he’s wearing on his Cooperstown plaque is just some sort of engraver’s error, I think.

Back in the summer of 2001, the Topps company was partnering with the Cubs to give away reprints of some of the Cubs of old when you went to a game at Wrigley. These cards (I got one of Sutter’s old cards and one of Fergie Jenkins’ that summer) reminded me of how much I enjoyed card collecting as a kid, and later on in the summer I picked up a big box of cards on Ebay, and away we go. Picking up hundreds of baseball cards for a couple of bucks was great, until I realized that shipping them would set be back another ten bucks. Live and learn, I suppose.

When I went into the ballpark and got a Sutter card (I wasn’t there for the card, but they offered it to me and I didn’t turn it down), the woman in front of me exclaimed to her friend ‘Lookit! Bruce Sut-ter” (it rhymed with Putter, as she said it). I shook my head, since the correct pronunciation is SOO-ter (it rhymes with computer if you say it the right way).  So if you were wondering about how to say it, you know it now. Glad I could help.

One of the cards in the big box I bought on eBay was the Kellogg’s 3D card shown above. Either I had this when I was a kid and it vanished, or I never had it to begin with. Either way, I was happy to get the card. But when I turned it over and read the back, I learned that Sutter had been traded to the cardinals in the offseason, so he wasn’t a Cub anymore. Nevertheless, I reasoned that since he had the Chicago jersey on–especially the light blue one with the white pinstripes–he had to be considered a Cub. Besides, he was Bruce Sutter, for crying out loud. There was no way was I getting rid of this card.

Flash forward a decade or so. I had acquired another big box of cards through a bulk trade with somebody else who collects cards. This wasn’t a box of all Cubs players, but a mix of all teams involved. So I was sorting through and I came upon the Jason Marquis card shown above. This was the Sutter situation in reverse, since Marquis is wearing a Cardinals uniform, but is listed as being a Cubs player. So, if I followed the previous set of rules, this card wouldn’t count as being a Cubs player. It’s all about the jersey, right.

But then I realized something. In the modern day, the players come and they go, and sometimes they wear your team’s uniform, but most of the time they wear somebody else’s uniform. I haven’t followed any player the way I’ve followed the Cubs. Marquis in a Cardinals jersey, and Sutter in a Cubs jersey, didn’t make a difference, as long as I was setting the rules.

So the Marquis card entered into the Cubs card collection, alongside Sutter and all of the others. Different cards, different rules, but the same person administering the whole thing (namely, me). Marquis has since left the Cubs, as Sutter did before, and I wish him well wherever he is, but I have no interest in any of his cards in his new location.

Some card collectors follow a player for all of the different teams that the player has played for. Albert Pujols is phenomenally popular, but since he’s only played for the cardinals before, it’s been pretty easy for them. If he leaves to sign with another team after this season (I can’t see how he wouldn’t, but anything’s possible), these collectors will still keep collecting Pujols cards, and they may not ever own a Cardinals card ever again. That’s fine, but I come at this from a different perspective than that.

I can’t stand Alfonso Soriano, and the time when he leaves the Cubs can’t come soon enough for me. But as long as he’s with the Cubs, any of his cards will be the ones that I look for. Not that this is any better or worse than anyone else’s approach. But that’s just how it is for me.

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