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The 10 most expensive baseball cards of all time

Baseball, also known as baseball, is a team sport played between two teams of nine players each.

It is considered one of the most popular sports in Mexico, South Korea, Cuba, Curaçao, United States, Japan, Nicaragua, Netherlands, Panama, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Venezuela and also not so popular but with a significant number of fans like Australia, South Africa, Colombia and Italy. The countries considered powers of this sport are concentrated in America (North, Central, Caribbean) and in Asia, being the European and African continents the most behind. However, Europe has two good exponents (the Netherlands and Italy); and in Africa, the South African team stands out.

It is played on a large field completely covered by natural or artificial grass, with the exception of an area called the runner’s line, where the offensive players run to reach the bases located at the apex of the quadrangular area called the diamond, and score as well as the pitcher’s area, where the ground is a knoll.

The objective of the game is to hit a ball with a bat, moving the ball across the field and running through the infield looking to reach as many bases as possible until it turns around the base from which it was hit (home) and scores a run, while defensive players look for the ball to eliminate the player who hit the ball or other runners before they get to one of the bases first or score a run (see Rules for more details on the game).

The team that scores the most runs at the end of the nine (9) episodes, called innings, that the game lasts is the winner. If at the end of the nine regular innings there is still an even score in runs, the match is extended as long as necessary for there to be a winner, since according to the basic rules of the game there is no tie, allowed only in amateur and children’s leagues to limit player attrition.

Unlike other sports that are played with balls, such as soccer, which is also known as soccer, or basketball, which is also known as basketball; although “baseball” could be translated into Spanish, the custom of using its English root form is due to the feeling of a phonetically strange name: the translation would have to be base ball or pelota base, although in some Spanish-speaking countries it is colloquially called the ball game or simply pelota.

On the other hand, one of the characteristics that differentiate baseball from other team sports is that in this one, the defense is the one that has the ball, apart from the fact that the scores are determined by the players of the offensive team and not by the opposing team.

History

Collectible card of a nineteenth century player.
It is clear that modern baseball developed in the United States, although the exact origin of the game is difficult to determine. Most studies believe that baseball evolved from a variety of similar games. A popular legend tells that Abner Doubleday, who became an officer in the Union Army during the American Civil War (1861-1865), invented baseball in Cooperstown, New York, in 1839. Although there is currently no support for this myth; the Hall of Fame and National Baseball Museum are located in Cooperstown.

Origins of Baseball

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There is evidence that games with a stick and a ball have been practiced since the early days of civilization. Ancient cultures such as Persia, Egypt and Greece, practiced games with a stick and a ball for fun and as part of certain ceremonies. Games of this type spread throughout Europe during the Middle Ages and became popular in various forms. Europeans introduced similar games in their American colonies around the 16th century.

Despite the popular version of the origin of baseball created by Doubleday, there are numerous references to the terms “baseball” and “bat-and-ball” in documents from the early 18th century. The origin of baseball should actually be defined as the evolution of baseball, because based on what historians of the game have been finding, it is a derivation of the game “stool ball” that dates back to the Middle Ages and, in turn, “stool ball” comes from ritual games practiced in the ancient world. The first reference of the term “base ball” is given in 1744 just under 100 years before Abner Doubleday supposedly invented it in Cooperstown, New York in 1839.

In 1744 the first printed evidence of the game ‘Base Ball’ appeared in England and was published in a book of children’s pastimes. Between that year and 1796 several more references about baseball in Europe arise, giving an account of a small game played by children. In 1796 the first rules of “base ball” are published in Germany, which shows that, probably, in that country the game was already being played.

The game emigrated from Europe to America between the middle and end of the 18th century, brought by the English colonists who were establishing themselves in the New World. The first reference of a baseball game in the United States dates from April 1778 recorded in his diary by the soldier George Ewing: “I exercised in the afternoon and in the intervals I played base”.

In 1786, Princeton student John Rhea Smith mentions in his diary that “One fine day, I played ‘baseball’ (sic) on campus but was beaten because I missed catcheting and hitting the ball. Later, in 1791, a ban was issued in the town of Pittsfield Massachusetts to “preserve the windows of the new House of Boards … no person shall be permitted to play the games called Wicket, Cricket, Base Ball, Football, Cat, Fives or any other ball game within 80 yards of the said House of Assembly”.

Anyway, it is from the list of rules published by Alexander Cartwright in 1845, known as the Knickerbocker Rules for being applied by the team Knickerbockers, which was established and evolved the modern form of the game.

Process of the Game

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The positions of the players on the field are as follows

This way they change from attack to defense up to a maximum of nine times. Each time a team attacks and defends, an inning is passed. At the end of the nine innings, if there is no tie, the game is over. If there is a tie, additional innings are played until one of the two teams gets more runs than the other at the end of the entire inning.

The basic playing area is a square called “box” or “diamond”, placed on one of its corners is the home or home plate (batting place). Races (scores) are recorded each time the batter runs all the bases in the box.

Rules

The basic rules of the game are relatively simple, although there are some specific rules for particular situations.

Basically, it is a team of hitters/runners hitting the baseball or ball in a way that allows them to advance on base, until they complete a homerun before the catching team takes the ball.

There are some specific plays of some importance such as the “toque de sacrificio”, in areas of western Spain “toquecito” (soft hit to the ball that makes it barely advance). And that aims to make the runners on base get closer to scoring a run, can produce very positive attacking plays for the attacking team. If the “sacrifice bunt” or “bunt” goes out of play when the batter’s count is two strikes, it will be taken as an out as a rule.

The pitcher has four possible pitches, which if proved wrong, would allow the batter to advance to first base, while the batter (from the other team) has three attempts to hit (strike out), before being eliminated. If the pitcher misses the fourth time, the batter gets a base, without hitting the ball. If the batter misses a good ball a third time or makes a hitting attempt, he is eliminated (“struck out”). That count of bad pitches and hits is called the “count”. If the batter misses the third strike and the catcher loses the ball and walks away, the batter may run to first base, and if he arrives before the catcher’s pitch, he counts the punch, but not the out (this happens only as long as the first base is vacant).

Batting

If the batter manages to hit the ball or baseball, there are basically four possibilities:

If the ball hits the ground before any defensive player catches it, and the batter manages to reach first base before the defenders manage to touch the ball or step on first base (out), it is called “Single”. If the batter manages to get to second base, without the defensive team making any mistakes, it is called “Double”, if he gets to third base (no error from the defense) it is called “Triple”, and if he gets home (no error from the defense) it is called “Homerun”.

If the ball is caught in the air without touching the ground by a player on defense, the batter is out. If the ball is in the field, he has to run, he can’t wait to see if the hit is bad.

If the ball is hit but is outside the lateral boundaries of the game zone it is “foul”. In that case, the batter adds one strike to his “count” if he has less than two strikes; but if the batter has two strikes and hits a foul, he will continue to bat without being out. However, if the ball is outside the lateral limits of the game zone, but a player from the defense catches it in the air (even if it is outside the lateral limits of the game zone), the batter will also be eliminated.

If the ball flies over the bottom of the game zone, it is a home run, i.e., the batter turns around the box to reach the home plate and scores a run. If there were also any of his teammates on base, they also run to the home plate and score runs, one for each player on base and one for the batter.

If you get a home run with three players on first, second and third bases, that is, with the bases “full”, it is called a “grand slam”, and four runs are scored.

For the pitching to be good, it must pass over the “home” at the determined height from the armpits to the batter’s knees. If the pitch does not meet these requirements, the “umpire” (referee) will call it “ball”.

Before the start of the game, each team must present the batting order of its nine players. This order is respected in each of the innings. Batters can be permanently replaced, so a batter who leaves the field prematurely cannot return to play in the game.

Typically, the first two batters seek to get bases, so try to get the ball in play and run quickly to the bases. The third batter is usually the best, as he seeks to tow the previous two batters, and if possible score a home run or run for bases.

The fourth batter is usually very powerful, looking to score a home run to tow his teammates on base. The fifth and sixth batters usually make sacrifices, that is, they try to make contact to tow players on base, regardless of whether they get bases. The other batters are usually the least skilled on the team.

Other rules

There is no set time for a match, it concludes at the end of the nine innings (equivalent to twenty-seven eliminations or outs per team). In the event of a tie, the match continues with additional or extra innings until a playoff is achieved.

The umpires are called “umpires”: the main umpire is placed behind the home plate or batter’s box, and decides whether the pitches are good (strikes) or bad (balls). The main umpire may consult those located next to the first and third baselines if the batter passed the bat along the line without hitting the ball. The main umpire will decide if it is a strike or not (in which case it can be ball or strike without a batting attempt). If the ball hits the batter without hitting, it is considered “deadball” or struck out, in which case the batter struck out advances to first base.

Referees on base have to decide if the offensive player reached the base with a body part before being put out or not, in which case he stays on base. Umpires’ decisions are final. Since baseball is a sport where spectators are very knowledgeable about both the rules and the plays, the response of the spectators can be an excellent confirmation or rejection of the umpires’ decisions.

Umpires can decide whether a play was played according to the rules or not (for example, when deciding whether a batted ball went out on the home run or out on one of the foul sides). Umpires may also warn players of serious actions that may put others at risk and may result in the player(s) being ejected from the game if they repeat their misconduct. Coaches or trainers who display inappropriate behavior on the field or disrespectful behavior toward the same umpires may also be sent off.

A player who has been sent off is always replaced by another. The match must always be played with the total number of players.

The player picher

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The player (in this case the poker) has to make “contact” on the plate that is located in the center of the mound to start throwing; when this happens the play becomes “alive” and the poker can proceed to throw the ball.

When the poker makes a play called “reverse”, this can be explained with the movement it makes to throw from the plate or hill to one of the bases (first base, second base, third base) to try to get out the player of the opposite team that is running in one of the bases already mentioned.

The player (in this case the picher) when presenting the ball, will not be able to make a trick move to throw to the bases unless he really throws, otherwise a balk is marked, this means that the runner advances one base with the authorization of the umpire. This deception can be given by a sudden movement in the shoulders or literally by a movement to throw to the base and not to release the ball.

Under no circumstances may the picher have contact with an adherent so that the ball does not slip through his sweat, in case the umpire catches him doing this act the picher will be ejected from the game.

The manager may ask for time and enter a consultation with the pitcher when this happens is counted as a legal entry; there cannot be two legal entries in the same entry. If so, the pitcher by rule will have to be changed from the game by a bench player.

“Pitching” or “Pitching

The terms for baseball (or, in Spain, baseball) pichear, pichar, pícher and picheo are written without the letter t according to the RAE.18

In sports news they often appear with that lyric, taken from the English voices from which they derive, as in the following examples: “The Cuban will pitch his first pitch of the season”, “All he longs for is to pitch again” or “He trusts the pitcher’s reputation more than his quality”.

Since the words have already been adapted to Spanish, as stated in the twenty-third edition of the Academic Dictionary in the entries pichear, pichar, pícher and picheo, it is advisable to use these forms, which follow the phonetic and morphological guidelines of our language. In addition, Picher, whose plural is Picher, has a tilde because it is a plain word ending in a consonant different from nouns.

For this reason, in the previous examples it would have been better to write “The Cuban will launch his first picheo of the season”, “All he longs for is to pichear again” and “He trusts more in the renown of the pícheres than in their quality”.

Distinctive elements

Baseball has certain attributes that distinguish it from other popular team sports in countries where it has a following. All of these sports use a clock, the game is less individual, and the variation between fields is not as important or as significant. A comparison between cricket and baseball shows that many of baseball’s distinctive elements are shared in various ways with its sporting cousins.

BASEBALL LITERATURE

What would baseball be without literature?

It is difficult to imagine that a sport that is more than a century old would not have associated documentation. Many of the things we know about baseball today are referred to in various sources, whether electronic or physical, which can range from newspaper inserts or articles, to magazines and books.

Today I want to share a little bit of the library of books that I own, although I have not read them all, they are a database of information to consult at any time and to continue knowing more stories, characters, feats and details that characterize everything related to baseball.

I will start with the book of baseball rules (very important that every lover of the sport has one), mainly the one by the author Bruno Egloff, which not only shows the rules, but also complements them with additional information, interpretations and comparisons between different periods.

Although I do not have the whole collection, the books of General Jose Antero Nuñez, represent a great contribution to the world of baseball since he was in charge of compiling information of the Caribbean Series and sharing it with the readers. Additionally, he wrote other books such as “Oro y Glorias del béisbol venezolano” (Gold and Glories of Venezuelan Baseball) highlighting the performance of the Heroes of 41 and other stories about baseball.

The collection of biographies made by Radio Deporte 1950 AM, which currently has 10 pocket books, are ideal to know the life of the players: Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Andrés Galarraga, Luis Sojo, Omar Vizquel, Johán Santana, Bob Abreu and Miguel Cabrera. Additionally two special editions on Babe Ruth and Victor Davalillo.

I also have two biographies written by Nelson Martinez, corresponding to the players Luis Peñalver (Leones del Caracas) and Luis “Camaleón” Garcia (Navegantes del Magallanes), both books autographed by them in the Venezuelan Collectors’ Events (Evecolve).

I cannot fail to mention Juan Vene, many know him, a prominent and recognized journalist who has several publications and of which I have “Five thousand years of baseball”, a book that tells the story of the beginnings of sports using a ball and walking through various leagues. And the book “The best anecdotes of baseball” where he briefly tells various stories.

In 2006, a collection of books associated with the statistics of the LVBP (both regular and round robin seasons) was sold along with “The Encyclopedia of Baseball in Venezuela” written by Daniel Gutierrez, Efraim Alvarez and Daniel Gutierrez (son). This collection was also supported by Javier Gonzalez and Alfonso Tusa.

When talking about Venezuelan baseball, we must mention the young Carlos Cardenas Lares, who unfortunately died due to an illness, and whose legacy is represented in the Venezuelan Baseball Museum in Valencia. During his short life he loved this sport and at an early age he was able to write several books highlighting “Venezuelans in the Major Leagues. Their lives and exploits 1939 to 1989”.

I have yet to mention other books by Venezuelan authors such as Mari Montes, Javier González, Rubén Mijares, Giner García, Carlos Abreu Sojo, among others.

The 10 most expensive baseball cards of all time

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This century-old pastime has broken records in sales of some specimens.

The hobby of collecting baseball cards (trading cards) began a little more than a century ago, when baseball in the United States was the only professional sport that mobilized masses and lived from the stories that were told about the games and players in the newspapers and emerging specialized magazines.

Without this visual and auditory reinforcement, and even without the advanced statistics and social networks of that time, the only thing that could be possessed by this great ball player of the early 20th century were those small pieces of cardboard or paper that were originally intended for the entertainment of children, with the image of the player, perhaps, on the back, with some statistics or some data, or nothing else.

Although it is an industry that has been in decline for the past 15 years, in recent years, according to even Forbes, which considers that in the United States, investors have bet on trading cards or sports cards as a source of profit that will increase by 15 percent in 2019, with information from the consulting firm Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC).

Although at the time, the collection cards of series such as Dragon Ball, DC Comics, Marvel or Yu-Gi-Oh! were sold much more than those of professional sports (NBA, MLB, NHL, NFL), it has been proven that they are fashions that come and go but there is a captive and loyal public that has decided to be part of that market.

Some ‘players’ are of a different level, since they have been lucky enough to find jewelry at conventions that they were able to buy for up to 10 cents, but then to make the most of it at attractive auctions, even selling for more than 1 million greenbacks.

Over the years, the design of the cards was modified according to the existing technology and fashions. We could even say that the material has been changing, from an ordinary cardboard to a more resistant even shiny paper and with some kind of innovations such as authentic pieces of a player’s sweater, or a bat. But the format of 6.3 by 9 centimeters (2.5 by 3.5 inches) is the one that has prevailed for more than 70 years.

Besides the rarity, because there are limited edition, and the player whose photograph appears on the main face of the card, one of the determining issues to establish the value of a card is its physical condition. In English they call ‘mint condition’ to those cards that are impeccable and put a 10 rating, and from there down, that undermines how much they can be worth.

Both on eBay and in the Mercado Libre there is still a strong market not only for baseball cards, but also for NBA, field hockey, NFL, WWE, soccer cards, but those of the ‘King of Sports’ still have a very special place among sports collectors and not only that, it has been proven that they are the ones that have been sold at the highest price. These are the 10 most expensive of all time and in each text there is a link so you can see which card it is.

10. Joe DiMaggio: 1938 Goudey ($288,000)

A card that authenticated the Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) in 2017, from the Goudey Gum Company, portraying New York Yankee rookie Joe DiMaggio, sold for $288,000.

9. Hank Aaron: 1954 Topps (358,000)

According to Cardboard Convention, the Topps brand released 59 different Hank Aaron cards over his 23-year Major League career. But none tempted collectors more than his 1954 rookie card with the Milwaukee Braves, before it culminated in a career that took him to the Hall of Fame with 755 home runs. Three copies of that card, in impeccable condition, sold for over $300,000, but one in August of the previous year went on auction for $358,000.

8. Joe Doyle: 1909-11 T206 (414,750)

Although we are not talking about a great figure in sports history, with only 21 wins in five campaigns in the Majors with the New York Yankees and Cincinnati Reds, a ‘Slow’ Joe Doyle card sold for $414,750 in an auction in 2012. On the front, the card reads “National”, implying that he was from the National League, even though he is wearing the Yankees’ jersey. That peculiarity raised his value, despite being an unfamous player, but the age and condition of the card, raised its value.

7. Roberto Clemente: 1955 Topps ($478,000)

Despite the fact that Roberto Clemente’s career with the Pittsburgh Pirates was cut short by a tragic plane crash, he made it to the All-Star Game with 15 teams, 12 Golden Gloves and 3,000 unstoppable. And in February 2016 at an auction by Heritage Auctions, a card by the legendary Puerto Rican gardener was sold for $478,000.

6. Ty Cobb: 1909-11 T206 (488,425)

The 1909-11 collection of the T206 brand, manufactured as a promotional strategy of the American Tobacco Company, remains one of the most prized among baseball card collectors. One of the baseball players who is cooked apart, like the legendary Detroit Tigers star Ty Cobb, with an unmatched .366 lifetime batting average, whose card, in which he holds a bat (in impeccable condition) was sold in August 2016 for $488,425.

5. Babe Ruth: 1914 Baltimore News (575,000)

For many, Babe Ruth is the greatest baseball player who ever lived, so it would not be surprising to anyone that some object related to the ‘Bambino’ is quite priced. Before a successful career with the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, George Herman Ruth was part of the then minor league team of the Baltimore Orioles, and a rare 1914 card published by the Baltimore News newspaper sold for $450,300 at a public auction in 2012.

4. Joe Jackson: 1909 American Caramel $667,189)

If anyone who held a ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson card in their hands many years ago as a rookie, in a packet of candy, knew how much it is worth today… in 2016, a 1909 card from his first year in the Majors sold for $667,189 in what PSA recognizes as quality 8 out of 10 on the care scale. Jackson was part of the Chicago White Sox scandal of 1919 when they were called the ‘Black Sox’ when they cheated to lose the World Series that year by getting back at the club owner for abuse.

3. Babe Ruth 1915-16 Sporting News: (717,000)

Two of the most valuable cards ever sold of the greatest call of all time, profile a slim Babe Ruth and his days as a pitcher. A 1915-16 edition of Sporting News, and one that might one day be worth even more than a million dollars, sold in August 2016 for $717,000, and many experts believe the winner of the auction got a bargain with that Bambino rookie card.

2. Mickey Mantle: Topps 1952 (1.13 million)

There is no doubt that Mickey Mantle is one of the most legendary players in baseball and the Yankees, and what makes his rookie card even more valuable is that it dates back to a time when sales of these items were so bad that, they say, they were thrown away in the Atlantic Ocean, but half a century later it has become a collectible jewel. So much so that in November 2016 a Mantle card, rated 8.5 by its state, sold for $1.13 million.

1. Honus Wagner 1909-11 T206 (3.12 million)

The Honus Wagner card from the 1909-11 T206 series could be even more famous than the ballplayer himself. The former Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1936 broke a record in 2017 when a copy of the trading card sold for $3.12 million at a Goldin Auctions auction, and even the card was the subject of a mini documentary on ESPN called ‘Holy Grail: The T206 Honus Wagner.