Card #3 of 2011 – 1936-37 OPC Howie Morenz
When I took the plunge and bought my Conacher (which would have definitely made the list, maybe even topped it had it not been bought in 2010), the dealer had a second card from the same set. There was no way that the budget would allow for both of them at once and I kind of wanted to see just what I was getting before jumping on two cards, so I bought Charlie and let the other card get away.
Once I got the Conacher in my hands, I realized that the other card had been an outright steal. All I could do was wait and see whether it would be listed again. It took a while, but in early 2011, it was back. The same factors played in (coin dealer with no card feedback selling a high-ender with a steep but still cheap opening bid). I got it as the only bidder.
The Morenz is a little bit rougher than the Conacher. The back surface is a little marred and one of the two sides has let go. Still, it’s intact and it’s the only Morenz I have (and the only one I am likely to have for a very long time).
Other than the RC, this is to me one of the most significant Morenz cards out there because it’s his last. Howie Morenz died during the season.
Morenz at his peak was called the Babe Ruth of hockey. He was hockey’s greatest and most electrifying puck rusher in an era when the rush was the only way to advance the puck. He was the league’s drawing card, the player everyone wanted to see.
Nicknamed “the Stratford Streak,” Howie Morenz joined the Habs in 1923 after a storied junior career. In 1920-21, he played simultaneously on a junior team, an intermediate team and a senior team in Stratford, and led all three to league championships.
As a Canadien, he led the team to three Stanley Cups and won a host of personal awards. In 1927-28, during the most defensive era in hockey history, he led the league with 51 points in 43 games, a full dozen ahead of his nearest competitor. Adjusted to modern standards at hockey-reference.com, this was the equivalent of 190 points in a modern schedule.
Slowing down some as he aged, Howie left the Habs for a couple of seasons in the mid-1930s, playing in Chicago and New York. Both he and the team floundered. In 1936-37, the Habs brought him back and it gave new life both to him and the team.
It was not to last.
On Jan. 28, 1937, Howie got his skate caught in a rut just as he was hit by Earl Siebert of the Black Hawks. His leg shattered, breaking in four places. His career was over. Howie never left the hospital. His condition degraded and he died a few weeks later on March 8. His body lay in state at the Montreal Forum and was visited by thousands upon thousands of mourning fans.
Howie Morenz is one of the real legends of the game. I never expected to have a card of his. Had it been just a tad more solid, it would have been #1.
Card #2 of 2011 – 1952 Topps Look N See Leif Ericson
It seems kind of hard to follow something as significant as the Morenz with something as goofy as Leif Ericson, but I’ve been laughing at this card all year. For a purchase that cost less than $5, I’ve gotten an absurd amount of amusement out of it.
I posted about this card in September. Leif is captured in mid… something. I’m not really sure just what he’s doing, but he’s doing it with great enthusiasm – or something. I said at the time that instead of discovering Vinland, it looked like he was discovering why one should not stick a fork in the toaster. I still think that’s apt.
It’s also fun that the hidden answer claims Leif discovered America – much to the shock of the good people of Newfoundland. :)
Card #1 of 2011 – 1953 Topps Jackie Robinson
Of the cards in the top three, Howie makes me reverent, Leif makes me laugh, and Jackie (posted in April) just makes me say, “Wow.”
One thing I thought I would try this year was to get out of my comfort zone (which generally includes hockey and all things OPC) and get a couple significant people from older baseball sets. I only ended up with a handful when all was said and done. I was picky, though. The first one had to be one of two people – either Jackie Robinson or Sandy Koufax, with Jackie being the preference. (I did land a ’66 OPC Koufax, but it’s pretty mashed up.)
I actually got two Robinsons – there is the ’55 as well, but I just like this one more. He’s a little more vital still in this card. The end isn’t as near as it was in 1955. I don’t think there’s anything I can say about Jackie that hasn’t been said a million times already, but in the past couple of years a lot of it has been new to me. Two years ago, my summer reader was “The Boys of Summer” and there was a newer Robinson biography I read early this year. As I’ve gotten back into baseball after a lot of years away I’ve been absorbing a lot of history and there are few people closer to the centre of it than Jackie Robinson.
2012 will not be as momentous from a collecting standpoint as 2011 was. I won’t finish many sets and I won’t be after big-ticket things. I hope to poke away at some old OPC ball and build some mass in some Parkhurst hockey sets I’ve been ignoring. I hope I can find one more Jackie Robinson, though. They’re just great.