I was going through an stack of old baseball cards today, when something caught my eye. And I have to admit that it’s a fairly exciting find, too. But first a few words about the intended subject of this card, Jamie Moyer.
Moyer began his long professional career (24 seasons, and possibly still counting) with the Chicago Cubs in the late 1980s. He spent three years with the Cubs, and was traded to the Texas Rangers late in 1988. The Cubs gave up Moyer, first baseman Rafael Palmiero, and pitcher Drew Hall, in return for Mitch Williams (who would be a key part of the Cubs’ division winner the following season) and five other players. Moyer spent two seasons in Texas (1989 and 1990), and signed with the St. Louis Cardinals as a free agent in early 1991. In fact, he may have already been a Cardinal by the time this 1991 Upper Deck card hit the market. And there’s also a tell-tale can of spit tobacco (Joe Garagiola’s preferred term) in his back pocket, which is something I’ve written about here and here.
But take a look to Moyer’s right. In the first row behind the Rangers’ dugout, with both feet up and resting his arms on his knees. Wearing a red cap on his head, and staring right into the camera. He seems to be more aware of the camera than Moyer is. I think that’s George W. Bush, the son of the sitting president (at the time the picture was taken), and part of the Texas Rangers’ ownership group.
Think back to the 2011 postseason for a moment. When George W. Bush sat next to Nolan Ryan, they were not in an owner’s box, but right behind the Rangers’ dugout. This was an extension of the way that he raised his personal visibility as a private citizen in the late 1980s and early 1990s. His path to public life began with the Texas Rangers, then went to the governor’s office in Texas, and then to the White House. Visibility was the key, and you don’t get that from sitting in a skybox. Sitting behind the home team’s dugout, on the other hand, is exactly the way to draw attention to yourself.
Sitting presidents appearing on baseball cards are certainly nothing new. Topps included a number of “Presidential First Pitch” cards as an insert to their 2011 Opening Day set, and my favorite one appears below. It must be the Cubs jacket.
But to have a future president appear on a baseball card? I’d be surprised if there are any others, besides this one that I found. It’s enough to take an ordinary baseball card and turn it into something unique. I didn’t say valuable, because I believe that those who would monetize these things are missing the point. These cards are meant to connect us to the game, not to provide investment opportunities.
Baseball cards went off the rails sometime in the 1980s, when they turned into a business proposition. That’s why there’s such a severe glut of them now, where a bag of 30 old baseball cards costs one dollar at a local dollar store. There must be millions of these things out there in circulation, and the value of them collectively is next to nothing. And that’s as it should be.
These things are fodder for stories about baseball, at least for me, and that’s why I acquire them as I do. I find these stories, and put them on this blog when I have a few moments to write them down, but I have no illusions that they will ever be anything more than that. Nor do I want them to be.