One of my first posts was about Tony's 1980s Topps cards. I mentioned how in 1988 there was an acknowledgement of scout Cliff Ditto on the back of Tony's card.
This week I've finished reading He Left His Heart in San Diego, an anthology of memories of Tony Gwynn compiled by prolific author Rich Wolfe. On page 142, one-time Padres manager Jack McKeon is quoted thus:
"About the middle of November... Sy Berger from Topps Baseball Cards called me. He said, "Jack, I've got a problem... I've got four or five scouts claiming Tony Gwynn." I laughed and said "Let me go through the scouting files and see which guy should be credited." I went through the scouting files and there was one report on Tony Gwynn. That was from Cliff Ditto out of the Los Angeles area. That was the only scouting report we had. So I told Sy, "Make them all feel good. Give them all a certificate or whatever they need." They all claimed Tony Gwynn but we had only one report."
There are some learning points from this.
1) Always submit your reports!
2) Other people will try and claim your successes. Which is why point 1 is important.
3) For all that I bust on Topps for their bizarre choices of cardback factoids, they actually did some diligent digging to make sure they were right.
4) Cliff Ditto has risen even higher in my estimation because it seems he was the only scout who actually spotted Tony.
And on to the Saturday Serendipity. A couple of weeks back Jack contacted me via one of the Facebook groups for UK baseball card collectors to show me a couple of Tony Gwynn cards he had, including this one.
Card Number 60: Topps Mini, 1986; #65 (League Leaders)
As you can guess, I didn't have this card but I do now thanks to Jack. The back is unremarkable but is a nice shade of pink.
Anyway, that's not the serendipity. Jack said he was happy to sell this and the other card of Tony's or he would trade. He collects Derek Jeter. So I took a photo of four Jeter cards I had accumulated and asked if there were any he wanted. Turns out he wanted all four, so I asked if he had any other Padres cards and I'd just pick two extra and we would swap four cards for four cards.
Jack showed me his binder pages of Padres and one card leapt out at me. It was a Topps 1984 card. Somehow I have accumulated plenty of Padres 1983 cards and 1985 cards, but I had exactly zero 1984 cards in my binder. So I said I'd take that one and another card as well (which may make an appearance on this blog in a future post.
Anyway, the 1984 card was #224, pitcher Sid Monge. This almost a quintessential example of what a real baseball card looks like.
The back is centred poorly. This makes it almost a quintessential example of what the back of a real Topps baseball card from the 80s looks like. (As an aside, I love that Friar logo.)
A few hours after we agreed the trade I got another message from Jack. "I take it you knew this," he said with a screengrab of Sid Monge's Wikipedia entry with the following line highlighted:
"Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn of the San Diego Padres got his first hit off Monge on July 19, 1982 while he was pitching for the Philadelphia Phillies."
My first reaction was "WHAT!?!?" I wish now I'd played it cool and said, "Yes, of course I knew that. Why else would I have selected that card?" But, really there's no point lying to a fellow collector (who I discovered lives not very far away from where I grew up), especially when a fellow collector is not only helping you out with cards for your collection, but is also going off and doing your research for you! That's going above and beyond, isn't it.
So, there you go. My first 1984 Padre, traded as an add on in a deal, turns out to have an important connection with Tony Gwynn. Being totally truthful I doubt I would have done any research on him at all, just happily filed him away in my Padres binder full of Topps cards. So a massive thanks to Jack for giving me a reason to include Sid's card on this blog.