By Jim Gates
Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock was published in 1970. A noted sociologist and futurist, Toffler presented a thesis which argued that our society was faced with an accelerated rate of technological and cultural upheaval that would lead to increases in stress and disorientation. These symptoms were described as future shock, basically stemming from one’s existence in a world where there was an overwhelming number of choices which had to be made with ever-increasing frequency.
Little did I realize that Toffler’s theories might be applicable to the world of baseball cards, but a review of the current collecting world indicates his work might be relevant. Using one of my new favorite Web sites, openchecklist.com, I have reviewed the number of cards produced for some high-caliber players and learned the following:
- Willie Mays played from 1951-73, and during his career there were 196 Mays baseball cards produced, or 8.5 per year. Since his career ended, another 514 cards have been produced, leading to a total of 710 cards.
- Brooks Robinson played from 1955-77, and during his career there were 186 cards produced, or 8.1 per season. Since his career ended, another 661 cards appeared, leading to a grand total of 847 cards.
- Greg Maddux began his career in 1986 and just recently announced his retirement. Although Open Checklist only lists his cards through 2005, 4,279 have been produced, or 213.9 per season.
- Ichiro Suzuki first played in the Major Leagues in 2001, and his checklist is only available through 2004, but he has appeared on 2,024 cards, not counting the 141 cards from his years in Japan. This amounts to an average of 506 cards per year.
What does this mean? Well, when I was a youngster and engaged in card collecting, it was quite possible to collect a full set of cards of my favorite player, team, or even a particular series of cards. However, today’s young fans don’t seem to stand a chance! The abundance of cards for any particular star is simply overwhelming. Toffler also coined the term “information overload,” and this certainly applies to the universe of baseball cards.
Jim Gates is librarian of the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library.