Klein’s Korner: Remembering A Legend Gone Too Early

Klein’s Korner: Remembering A Legend Gone Too Early – With the recent tragic news about Kobe Bryant, his eldest daughter and the nine other people on the ill-fated helicopter last Sunday, a new lead to the July column *which will run in full after the lead* is in order.

Recently, there was a post on Facebook that Harry Harrison, the Morning Mayor of New York for more than three decades is in very ill-health and all good thoughts and prayers are very appreciated. I started thinking about when my good friend John Troll sent me a MP3 with his final WCBS-FM morning show in 2003 and how when I realized he was saying goodbye to us tears came to my eyes.  I then sent an email to our mutual friend Lou Orfanella, who I have known since college and his response was: “You always make a connection with the morning radio personality“. They are the one who help you get out of bed in the morning and accompany you on the morning drive to work or if you taking your kids to school.  They are a part of your life. One of his pet sayings each morning was: “Every new day should be unwrapped like a precious gift“. Sadly, Harry passed on January 28th.

Every holiday season you could hear this recording of this spoken recording:

On Sunday, January 26, 2020 many of us lost a sports connection and in the unexpected and tragic way.  No, we never thought Kobe Bryant would leave us at the age of 41. To us, the recent memories of dropping 60 points in his final NBA game is still fresh in our minds. About a decade before that he became only the second NBA player to score more than 80 points in a game. To us, he’ll always be the great player when young, when in the prime of his career or at the end of his career. If you are a collector who is following what I’ve (and others) have called the 20 year rule of returning to collect cards; then you remember his whole career and he meant as much to you as Michael Jordan to the previous generation or LeBron James to today’s collectors.

Here are some you tube videos with those career highlights:

A few months I penned a column about Tyler Skaggs and his passing. While we now know some of the details of what caused his untimely passing, we are still saddened by the loss of anyone so young: Many of the concepts about how we handled his cards are now multiplied by the transcendence of Kobe’s legacy.  For many of the words in the rest of the story just substitute Kobe for Tyler and the feelings are the same. I know from their Facebook posts both Mike Fruitman and Rob Veres, among many leading hobby dealers, were still trying to figure out the best course of what to do in these uncharted territories.

If I’ve never said this before, or if you missed it, we all appreciate your reading and thoughtful comments about these stories.

Today, the road all runners come,

Shoulder-high we bring you home,

And set you at your threshold down,

Townsman of a stiller town.

From: A.E. Housman’s To an Athlete Dying Young.

While a beautiful poem about the mortality of an athlete in both the competition and the living sense, writing columns such as these are always very sad. In case you missed the news at the beginning of July, a 27-year old major league pitcher named Tyler Skaggs was found dead in his hotel room. Now, one never expects anyone so young and in excellent physical condition to pass, it did occur. This has occurred all throughout sports history and there is always a sadness when these moments of mortality hit us and so hard because of the shock. This photo of all these players wearing cowboy hats was taken less than 48 hours before his life concluded.

I know we can all agree this was a very sad situation but as with many aspects of life business issues make things more complicated. I know for many dealers and even some collectors one of the most difficult aspects is how to deal with his autographed items you might have for sale or be holding for sale. To me this issue has several tentacles of which some are easy to discern and others not as much.  One issue is we know Tyler Skaggs will never approach Hall of Fame credentials and you may feel this is your one chance to sell his cards. This is especially true of his certified autograph cards.

I will present some of these options and a few words thereof.

1) You had a Tyler Skaggs autograph for sale before he passed and you changed nothing in the listing. Frankly, no one can have any objections to this. You would have accepted that money before his passing and you have not changed anything.

2) You had a Tyler Skaggs autograph for sale before he passed and you changed the listing to indicate he passed or raised the price. Now I get you are trying to draw attention to your item and that may be fine on a business level but not as much on a moral level. This is certainly problematic for many collectors.

3)  You had a Tyler Skaggs autograph in inventory and placed it for sale (at a higher price) when you found out about his untimely passing. On a business level, I get your belief this may now be your only opportunity to sell said card but how do you feel morally about such an issue. There may very well be collectors who will say I won’t do business with you again and you have to make a decision as to what you feel is correct.  This is even more problematic an issue to many collectors than example #2

And then on the other hand, you have the collectors dilemma. A few years back I received an Oscar Taveras autographed card from Topps as a replacement for a Mike Moustakas autograph card which Topps said would never be redeemed.  Now, since the Moustakas card came from a box I opened while doing box reviews for Sports Collectors Daily I took the trade-off in stride. But, if I *Had* paid decent coin for the Moustakas rookie year autographed card I would have been quite perturbed.  Fortunately there was a major Oscar Taveras collector on the Beckett Message Boards and he made me a fair offer which I was happy to accept so he could get a card he desired. But, without that happy ending I would have felt Topps was pulling a fast one on me at that point. My only point is these autographed cards of deceased young players is tricky and there is a ton of gray area in that aspect of collecting. In simplest terms, what does one do as a collector other than show patience?

We would love to hear you opinions as well on this subject.

For more from Rich Klein, follow him on Twitter @sabrgeek.

Klein’s Korner: Remembering A Legend Gone Too Early
Rich Klein