A Great Unknown

The “Next Mickey Mantle” Now A Mexican League Legend

It seems all anyone is talking about these days is Cubs prospect, Kris Bryant. His cards have been on fire, specifically from Topps’ Bowman line and prospectors are drooling over a possible late-April call-up to the majors. At that point, we will see is Kris is the next big thing or another Gregg Jefferies or, well, Ruben Rivera.

If you recall, much like Jefferies in the 80s, Ruben Rivera was touted as the second-coming of Mickey Mantle in the mid-90s. As it turns out, he was so far removed from it that his career fizzled out in less than a decade and after being publically shamed for being a memorabilia thief. In case you forgot, he was caught stealing Derek Jeter’s equipment and selling it off for $2,500.

If it seems like a lifetime ago that you saw Rivera in baseball it’s because he last played way back in 2003. His lifetime career average? An abysmal .216 with 64 career home runs in well over 600 games played. You would think that was the end, right? Wrong. Turns out, Ruben Rivera is still playing baseball in a Mexican League at the age of 41.

Just last season, Ruben hit 21 home runs, drove in 70 runs, stole 19 bases and hit .301. His best season was in 2009 when he hit 32 home runs, drove in 90 and hit .344. Now those are more Mantle-like numbers if you ask me. It also appears Rivera has no plans to slow down, either, as he has already played in 3 games this season.

It’s unfortunate that Ruben Rivera did not turn out to be the next Mickey Mantle. It’s even more unfortunate that he forever tarnished his name as well. However, everyone deserves another chance and clearly this man loves baseball enough to continue playing every day even in his 40s. As of now, he is a lifetime .300 hitter in the minors thanks to his Mexican League stats and is on his way to 400 career home runs. Those aren’t exactly Mantle figures but he has more than made up for digging through Jeter’s jockstrap for some cash.

Keep it going, Ruben!

Categories: A Great Unknown, The Hobby | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Where in the World Is Rob Broder?

” The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist. And like that… he is gone.”

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There’s not much public information about Rob Broder, even now in 2015, when pretty much everything is public knowledge thanks to the Internet. What little is known about this notorious card counterfeiter is that he is the son of Ed Broder, who made some cards in the 60s and 70s, and that he worked as a photographer for Major League Baseball at one point or another. While his photography skills didn’t impress all that much, his ability to impact an industry in a short amount of time is nothing short of amazing.

These unlicensed cards, which littered shops and trade shows in the late-80s and early-90s, had little value to many collectors then and to this day. Back during their hey day, I didn’t even know they existed. Back in 1990, all I cared about was Upper Deck, Topps, Donruss, Fleer, and the rest of the “real” card manufacturers. I despised unlicensed, “oddball” cards that were being put out from companies like Pepsi, 7/11, and other retailers who had no business in our hobby.

Then again, Broder cards were most definitely not unlicensed. Logos were always in plain view, as were full team names. It is believed that Rob Broder was an up and coming photographer who wanted to get his name out to the public and producing huge quantities of cards was his way of doing it. It’s then somewhat ironic that what destroys most Broder cards is the one thing that was there to promote it, photography. Most, if not all these photos could have been taken by just about anyone who could hold a camera.

Here’s an example of a Broder Jose Canseco set, which I once paid $5 dollars for at a card show in 2008. Two cards of Jose in almost identical poses but different uniforms, most likely taken during a Spring Training game. Three cards of Jose posing but never looking into the camera. One card of Jose leading off a base. Three photos of Jose hitting batting practice with cage in plain view. There you have it. Not one single iconic shot in any set, ever. Just point and shoot, print and move on.

Despite their short-comings, Broder cards exploded into the market and that’s definitely something you can’t take away. I myself began receiving them during the early days of eBay in huge card lots and kept picking them up over the years due to curiosity and because my player, Jose Canseco, was one of the main Broder card stars featured year after year. Does that make me a fan? Well, obviously, YES. Rob Broder and whoever was helping him create these cards made a dent in our hobby and as complete underdogs. You gotta love that!

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Broder cards continued leaking into card shows and shops into the early-90s but it’s believed that by that point Rob Broder had ceased all operations due to what one collector who claims he was in the know referred to as a “really angry letter from MLB”. The cards kept coming, though and even evolved from the full-bleed photography they were known for into flashy cards featuring foil and insert-like designs. Unfortunately, by the mid-90s, MLB cracked down hard and put an end to Broder cards for good.

Now it’s time to ask the important questions. WHO IS ROB BRODER? WHERE IS HE TODAY? If ANYONE has any information, please contact me ASAP. Let’s get the word out and track down a hobby hero and/or villain depending on what side you stand on. Rob deserves to have a chance to explain to us what his intentions were and exactly what caused him to walk away from it all (besides the impending lawsuits). The card collecting world, well, a good portion of it, wants to know how it all went down and only one man can fill in the pieces.

Rob Broder, come on down ….


Categories: A Great Unknown | Tags: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

A Great Unknown – Joe Bauman

I busted a box of Tristar Obak once. It was years ago and while I did like a lot of the work Tristar was doing with the TNA wrestling releases at the time, I was not a fan of Obak. To put it mildly, some of the cards, like the one below, looked a lot like what happens when you open a .GIF on Microsoft Paint and then try to save it. The colors bled and just had a cheap look and feel about them. Perhaps they were going after the hardcore Allen & Ginter collectors but much like Upper Deck’s Goodwin Champions, it wasn’t done right.

While scouring eBay this morning I discovered the card below, of Joe Bauman. Many people don’t know Joe because he was a career Minor League player who last played professional baseball half a century ago. Then again, many people do know Joe Bauman for the amazing numbers he put up in the Minors, specifically in 1954 when he hammered a then unheard of 72 home runs. To put into perspective just how great of a power hitter Joe was, look at the seasons of 1952 through 1955 in which he averaged 55 home runs.

Unfortunately, if you want a Joe Bauman baseball card you only have Tristar’s Obak to choose from. If you want, let’s say a Kyle Skipworth card, a player who had a ton of hobby hype but has now played in the Minors 7 seasons, you have over 200 cards to choose from manufacturers like Topps Company, Upper Deck, and yes, even Tristar. As for the card below, you can probably find it in commons boxes at your next show. However, good luck finding a dealer who just happens to carry Obak commons.

You’d have better luck trying to break “Ponderous” Joe Bauman’s Minor League HR record.


Categories: A Great Unknown, Tristar Cards | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

A Great Unknown Pt. 1

Bob fucking Welch.

If you were an Oakland A’s fan in the late 80’s and early 90’s, this guy was a God on the mound, at least for a few years. Well, a God on the mound unless you were a kid saving up as much money possible to buy cheap baseball cards. Pulling a Bob Welch out of a pack when you’re going after Jose Canseco is a plight I wouldn’t wish on my biggest enemy. If you collected during the “Junk Wax” era, you probably had a lot of this guy’s cards stored in shoe boxes under your bed.

Take a look at the card below. It is a tribute to a design that none of us loved but is a part of our childhood, like it or not. When it comes to 1990 releases, Topps was absolutely slaughtered by Upper Deck in every way, shape, or form. Don’t feel bad, though, Donruss and Fleer suffered the same fate. It was a new decade and you just couldn’t touch the work Upper Deck was doing just one year after their debut. Topps did much better in 1991 but I digress.

To get back on track, the card below features a certified autograph of a man who won 27 games in 1990. Even with such amazing numbers, he was probably the 7th or 8th best player on his own team. Not only did he have a pretty solid career (aside from his Cy Young season), he’s also dead. Yes, he died mysteriously in 2012. That means you can’t even track the guy down to let him know how much he was appreciated (if you’re an A’s fan). You’d have to find him in older releases like the one featured here.

I can buy this card below on eBay, released in 2013 by the Topps Company, for less than $5 dollars. Meanwhile, a Joba Chamberlain 1 of 1 Superfractor once sold for over $5,000 U.S American dollars. I am dead serious. Fast forward a few years later and Joba has played in 8 seasons and has never once won more than 9 games. That is what you call a failure in the real world where prospecting means nothing.

Meanwhile, Bob Welch sits in the Dollar Bin in Cardboard Heaven waiting for someone to pick him up and take him home.

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Categories: A Great Unknown, Celebrity Death, eBay Treasures, The Topps Company | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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