Two Extremes of Strat-O Storage (Replay Zone – July 2015)

By Jeff Polman
July ruminations from your trusty Strat-O-Matic replay addict. Check out, “Mystery Ball ‘58”, my new baseball novel, which was inspired by a replay of the 1958 season.
Okay, you’re a Strat addict like me and you own a lot of card sets. Because you’re also a pack rat, you refuse to lose or sell your creased, slightly torn, basic version of the 1927 Pirates you haven’t played with in over three decades. What this means is that your Strat collection is possibly out of control. How do you store your cards? What is your system?
Larry Fryer and I are like the yin and yang of extreme Strat card collecting; I imagine most people fall somewhere in between us. Larry is co-commissioner and one of the original members of the ECBA draft league that I’m in, and whenever I attend our Maryland convention I’m always astonished to revisit his meticulous card-cataloging system. Fryer is also an avid Strat football gamer, so he needs to keep his collection a bit more organized than most.
As Fryer puts it: “In paying homage to the Strat Gods, my collection of baseball teams from 1963 to present, as well as complete football sets since their inception in 1967, I have each card individually sleeved, with each team in a separate envelope, which is then systematically archived chronologically in filing cabinets in my Strat-O-Matic bombproof bunker.”
Actually, it’s a walk-in closet filled with rows of tall file cabinets, each drawer labeled by year(s), like something out of a 1970s public library Dewey Decimal System. Slide open a cabinet drawer and feast on a yellowed but still crisp Rusty Staub from the 1965 Astros, for example, tucked into his thin paper sleeve along with everyone else that year. No rubber bands to dry up and crack for this guy. It’s still a chore for Fryer to keep everything in one room, so some of the sets, especially the football ones, have made their way into adjoining rooms, but you can bet your bottom dollar that he could locate a particular George Blanda card in a matter of minutes.
Of course, compared to the card-filing system at my house, Larry may as well be a Swiss watchmaker. For starters, the most recent baseball sets I’ve acquired still live in their giant brown Strat envelopes, either wedged between two pieces of furniture on the office floor or stuffed inside an old cabinet on wheels whose bottom drawer doesn’t open. Other sets that I began playing full seasons with but never finished tend to be haphazardly arranged inside a giant plastic tub on the floor to the left of the computer, many of them inside a cardboard M&Ms box inside the tub, with rubber brands snapping every time I try to take out one of the teams.
Still older sets have been banished to Archive Alley, around the outside of the house. Foraging through tall weeds and stepping over rusty rakes and rotting beach toys from the late 90s, you come across three huge plastic storage bins that sort of close securely but are ripe for torrential rainwater to leak in. Lift one up and be overwhelmed by stacks of shoebox-sized plastic containers, none of them labeled of course, each one containing a Strat baseball season or sometimes two if I can stuff enough cards inside.
I actually did endure a weather-related incident a few years back when an entire tub with a wobbly top became filled with rainwater, and I lost every baseball card season from 2002 to 2006. You’d think I would have learned my lesson before then, but in a way I did, because back in the late 1980s while living in a bungalow studio apartment across town, I left for a week vacation with my giant box of barely organized Strat cards on top of a floor vent. Returned to discover that enough heat had seeped up through the vent to light the box on fire and cause either fire or smoke damage to 90% of the cards inside. Bye bye 1956, 1930, and many other great years! At least I moved on from fire damage to water damage.
Somehow I did manage to salvage some of my 1985 cards from that apartment blaze, Strat’s very first super advanced season, including the entire NL champion Cardinals team. Sure, they’re still a little curled up and slightly toasted on the edges, but they’ve stayed with me through thick and thin, valiant survivors of a more foolish age.
Now, if I can only remember where the heck I put them…