Saying good-bye is tough after 17 years …


   I don’t want to suggest that writing my column all these years has been easy, but I’ve got to concede that it certainly was all of that and more, especially when contrasted with writing this final one. Those were easy, this one is hard.
 (Ten years ago, on my 50th birthday, we had a bit of fun in the office here at SCD as I opened up a 40-year-old cello pack of second series 1960 Topps. No Yaz rookie, but I did get a really handsome Reds Team card, Jim Kaat’s rookie card and others shown here.)

  I used the word “column” instead of blog because this is the final column that I wrote for Sports Collectors Digest, appearing in the Jan. 28 issue. After 17 years as a full-time staffer at the magazine – including more than a decade as editor of SCD – I will be leaving F+W Media, effective this Friday (Jan. 14). The details of the reorganization in the sports division here are outlined in Tom Bartsch’s “Leading Off” column on Page 9 of that issue.
   It may go without saying but I’ll do it anyway: SCD’s loyal readers are being left in good hands, namely Bartsch’s, with whom I know all are familiar with for many years now.
   I won’t be so trite as to malign Lou Gehrig by insisting that I am the luckiest guy on the planet, but I would note without hesitation or overstatement that for that whole 17 years-plus I never, ever dreaded going to work, and I don’t know how many people can say that.
   It used to be a running gag that people would ask me if I liked my job. “I love my job,” would be the easy answer. And how did I like living in Iola, they would come back with. “I love my job,” would always be the answer to that one, too.
   I used to grumble under my breath that our deservedly beloved founder, Chet Krause, could just as easily have started it all in Florida somewhere, but of course that’s just silly. The famous kitchen table that launched a publishing empire was right here in chilly Central Wisconsin, and no amount of whining from a transplanted East Coast wussy was going to change that.
   I’ll try not to let this sound like an Oscar-winning acceptance speech, but I have to start by noting that Bob Lemke hired me full-time in 1993, and about seven years later Hugh McAloon and Kevin Isaacson collaborated to put me in the editor’s chair. I am extraordinarily grateful to all three, as I should be.
   Over that 17-year stretch, I helped put together more than 900 issues of SCD. I think that’s a record, but I suppose my old friend Tom Mortenson, who preceded me here as editor, might have a challenge to that.   
   Along with attending all but a handful of the National Conventions since 1993, my job has sent me all over the country to cover major shows and auctions. Living in a rural community so distant from any major metropolitan areas would have likely posed an insurmountable challenge for us producing Sports Collectors Digest without the periodic travel every year. For me, it was an important aspect of staying in touch with the hobby, but more directly it brought me in contact with an imposing array of some of the most famous names in the card collecting world.
   About 15 years or so ago, that “card collecting” qualifier would be substantially modified to include sports memorabilia and equipment as our hobby matured and much of the emphasis – and money – shifted to many of the major auctions.
   Around that same time, I got to visit Barry Halper and see his famed collection in his home in New Jersey where the tens of thousands of pieces of memorabilia had been crammed into every available corner of his basement. We came away from that 1996 interview with what is likely the best photographic inventory of his collection as it was arranged in his home, which was even more important when the collection was loudly liquidated in 1998 and 1999.
   My friendship with the late collector is one of many that I will always cherish; I also got to visit him at his new home – also in New Jersey – that was purchased after the legendary sale of his collection by Sotheby’s in New York City in September of 1999.
   Rubbing elbows with hobby royalty was part of the job description as editor of  SCD, and thus I got to know and befriend a veritable Who’s Who of hobby history. As I noted, I can’t list all the names, but I did pull out a few photographs from the archives and offered them with that final SCD column in the worthy name of nostalgia.
   In my time here I wrote three books in addition to editing all those weekly issues, and I regard that opportunity with the same reverence that I hold for the position itself. A 1994 volume called True Mint provided the detailed exploits of the most famous card dealer in America, Alan “Mr. Mint” Rosen, an old friend who I knew even before I started full-time at Krause Publications.
   I authored another book, Yankee Stadium: Memories and Memorabilia From the House That Ruth Built, in 2009, and last year a compilation of stories I’d written about vintage card issues, Classic Sports Card Sets, was published. It was a great privilege to have the opportunity to do all three.
   Doing the True Mint book with Rosen sent me around the country with the legendary “Mr. Mint” on some of his famous finds and buys, and I only hope that I was able to convey to the reader some sense of the fun and excitement that those kinds of adventures entailed.

   Not only is saying good-bye difficult, it also took a bit longer than usual, so I’ll continue this on the morrow.


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14 thoughts on “Saying good-bye is tough after 17 years …

  1. Erik Kamber on said:

    Mr. O’Connell, you will be missed!

    I have enjoyed your column here online for many years as well as your writing in SCD.

    My wife gave me Classic Sports Card Sets this past Christmas and I LOVE it!

    Best wishes to you in your future endeavors.



  2. john francis on said:

    thanks for all your stories and up dates on everything you even put me in one of your letters to the editors column you probably don’t remember but you picked on rickey henderson and about how old he looked on a certain fleer baseball card

    thanks and good luck

  3. Say it ain’t so, TS! Say it ain’t so! Why you’re a veritable institution, like Fenway Park, Vince Scully or the Lambeau Leap! SCD has been fortunate to have your unique perspective and your occasionally irascible voice. Have enjoyed working with you over the years, and I wish you well. Dave "Batboy" Moriah, 1963 NY Mets.


  4. Travis on said:

    While I must admit it’s been a while since I bought a Tough Stuff, I would still read my friends subscription & enjoyed the columns & different insight other than Beckett. It’s a sad day in the card collecting world.

  5. marlene. chilton on said:

    Its no wonder your publications folded you failed to keep up with the times.

    No prices just ads some of them questionable taste from that bald guy. Guess scd will be closing up shop very soon as well.

    Endless articles about some old time players and book reviews that read like press releases and auctions the same just to fill pages. You failed to cover any new issues along with your untill recently not holding those multi page auctions along with awarding one of your decade customer service awards. Wonder how they got them selling items way below current prices.

    Being a willing particpant to their dealings guess the $$$ outweighed those of the collectors who you claim to be "Voice of the collector".

    Guess your magazine can sleep well at night knowing that many people have worthless items from that firm along with the past allowing of autographs ADS from that SOUTHERN california outfits that FBI shut down operation foul ball.

  6. Erik on said:

    Absolutely NO CLASS Marlene…NO CLASS.

  7. Mike on said:

    You can say Marlene has no class, however, she brings up a great point. SCD was supposed to be an advoate for the hobby and it let us all down. when I tried to bring these matters to the fore-front, TS pulled all comments from these very pages.

    There are thousands of duped customers from that auction house. SCD could have done the right thing but they chose not too. Where do those actions wind up on your "class" ratings?

  8. Phil on said:

    I agree… "The Voice of the Hobby" often ducked its head when the hot topics came about. Whether it be a fraudulent auction house dumping thousands of bad autographs into the market through ads in SCD, or giving thanks to auction house owners who were convicted of running scams and shill bidding. As much as I love this hobby, I can’t help but notice how much "bad stuff" is out there, all because of the dollar. There is nothing wrong with making money, as long as it can be done with a clear conscious. Can SCD say, with a clear conscious, state they are the true voice of the hobby? That question could be debated on this blog and for years to come. T.S., I have enjoyed your articles, but we didn’t always see eye to eye. However, in this great country, we can agree to disagree. Best of luck to you in all future endeavors.


  9. alan katovich on said:

    Will miss your column a lot, now I will have to really think of renewing my subscription, for yours was the first column I looked for. Continued success, will miss you.

  10. Erik on said:

    Still NO CLASS.

    She may have a legitmate beef, but I believe the timing to put them here was wrong.

    I believe in picking and choosing your battles wisely.

  11. Nick on said:

    I often think about how people treat one another. I have been to many Nationals and several were in Cleveland; a few years ago I met TS and was amazed at how friendly and outgoing he was to a young collector. This was great. A few years later I stopped by the booth to say hello briefy and was shut down fast on a "slow day" so that he could first chit chat with dealers about the lousy numbers of customers that day and then to be interupted by TS himself as I proposed a possible new column angle that would be fun to read. Oh well, no great loss today in my mind… 20 year subscriber…

  12. Dan on said:

    Thanks for all the articles over the years. Good luck on your future endeavors!

  13. christopher smith on said:

    One shrinks from citing "irony" in a farewell missal, but the quality of tone and text in some of the comments here noting TS’s lamentable departure reflects the sentiments and styles of a changing time that perhaps underscores why he’s better off not being saddled with an online readership that prefers to whine, bleat and bicker rather than learn or enjoy.

    Whatever SCD’s fate — the same cost for an annual subscription for half as many editions… now THAT’S an enlightened brilliant business model in 2011! — and, in fact, the fortune of collectibles that reflect times past, there’s no doubt that TS’s love of his journalistic niche and passion for his subject matter will remain with those of us with enough wattage to have gotten pleasure from what he had to give.

    Good luck, and thanks from all of your readers, even the knuckleheads.

    C.P. Smith

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