Tommy Baxter, a 36-year-old precast concrete specialist from Little Rock, Ark., has just accomplished something no one else in the world has been able to do: put together Upper Deck’s gigantic 6,600-plus card Yankee Stadium Legacy (YSL) collection. Baxter, an avid Cubs fan, seized the opportunity to become the first collector to piece together Upper Deck’s enormous insert set, which pays tribute to every single Yankees home game ever played at the historic venue since its doors opened on April 18, 1923.
“I’ve put together plenty of Upper Deck sets in the past, so I figured this was just one more to complete,” said Baxter, whose 11-year-old daughter, Madeleine, helped him sort and collate the thousands of cards. “I really didn’t take it seriously at first, but once I got through that first series of inserts, I knew I had to finish it.”
That first series of insert cards appeared in Upper Deck’s 2008 Series One Baseball set, which released on Feb. 5. That’s when Baxter got started. The cards fell at a ratio, on average, of one in every four packs. Within two weeks, he had collected 200 of the YSL cards; he only had 6,461 to go! Nine more Upper Deck baseball trading card products were released over the course of 2008 that have each contained various YSL cards from the overall set. Baxter’s feat, therefore, is a study in patience, persistence and stick-to-itiveness. It also proved to an expensive pursuit.
“I would estimate I spent a little more than $15,000 putting this set together,” said Baxter, who mentioned he finished the set the night before Halloween. “I remember it was a Thursday, since those were the days we’d collate the cards. Madeleine would go through and sort the cards every week. That night we knew we had this thing licked.”
It would have been sooner, but despite his best efforts with buying and trading the cards with collectors from as far away as Taiwan, there was one single card that eluded him: No. 4,272. “It had Ron Guidry on the front. I couldn’t find that card anywhere. Nobody had it,” said Baxter.
He was recording each of the YSL cards online at a special website Upper Deck debuted earlier this year, www.ownthelegacy.com. He was watching his numbers climb almost every day, but No. 4,272 was nowhere to be found. But where there’s a will, there’s a way. Inside of October’s final week, Baxter received the card from collectors in New Jersey and Florida. “I couldn’t find that card for seven months and then I got four of them within a week,” he said.
Once he had the complete set in hand, he quickly packaged up his work and shipped it off to Upper Deck headquarters in Carlsbad, Calif., for verification. Upper Deck staffers Chris Carlin, Terry Melia and Carrie Peterson certified the contents of Baxter’s shipment.
“All the cards are in,” said Carlin, Upper Deck’s hobby marketing manager. “Tommy’s accomplishment is incredible. He’s the first person to complete the set, so we’re ecstatic and very happy for Tommy and Madeleine.”
Baxter’s prize for completing the entire set of insert cards is multi-tiered. He and his daughter will receive an all-expense-paid trip to New York City in the spring at which time they will take in a Yankees game at the new venue and meet Yankees Team Captain Derek Jeter. In addition, since 2008 marked the final MLB season in the old stadium, Baxter will receive 81 additional YSL cards chronicling the Yankees’ last campaign which brings the grand total of games played (and cards produced) to 6,742. And, of course, he will get all of his cards back to display proudly at home.
“You know, I was never really a big Yankees fan, but I did always admire Don Mattingly,” said Baxter. “I liked his work ethic and I guess I always had a penchant for guys who could hit over .300 every year.”
Upper Deck still has four prize openings left for any other collectors who are able to piece together the entire Yankee Stadium Legacy Collection. The word is there are a few people who are just single digits away.