As I'll discuss more in tomorrow's post, the Pirates were little more than an afterthought for me growing up. The teams were (and have continued to be) bad, the Pirates had an awkward tv deal at the time that split regular season coverage between three little-watched networks, and in the midst of the 90's home run boom, the Pirates fielded an ever-rotating cast of light hitting retreads and middling prospects.
But as the 2001 season rolled around, the promise of a new ballpark sparked what had never been more than a casual interest in the Pirates. Simultaneously, the red hot rookie crop and return of Donruss drew me back into card collecting. At 12, I was looking for a favorite player: someone whose cards I could collect on a very limited budget, and someone who would likely be with the team for a while. I took an interest in a light hitting, smooth fielding shortstop who was positioned to fill the team's void at short heading into Spring Training, Jack Wilson. Wilson had come to the Pirates the in a trade deadline deal the previous season for one of my favorite players, reliver Jason Christiansen (like myself, a lefty with an excessively long last name).
I spent much of 2001 going to card shops and local shows asking everyone if they had any Jack Wilson cards, usually met by blank looks, followed by "Who?" Wilson went on to spend parts of nine seasons in Pittsburgh, providing highlight reel qualify defense on a nightly basis, and putting up a couple of strong offensive seasons, including an All-Star appearance in 2004. My Jack Wilson collection was the first point that I focused on any one player or team, and as the number of Wilson cards I needed slowly shrank, I began expanding my collection to focus on Pirate autographs and eventually all Pirate cards.
My Jack Wilson collection is still my favorite part of my collection. I currently have a little over half of all Jack Wilson cards produced, including 1/1's, and nearly 75% of all non-1/1 cards. Below are five of my favorites, for either sentimental or aesthetic reasons.
For a long time, this card was my white whale. Despite being /700, up until last summer, I had never seen the card in person or listed anywhere online. I was almost convinced it didn't exist...until finding a copy in a $.50 box at a show. The next week, a copy was listed on ebay.
05 Zenith is one of my favorite modern sets - I absolutely love the defux printing on the parallels.
2004 Topps Chrome Gold Refractor
Again, the black and gold color scheme really makes this card stand out for me. I actually like this card more than any of the 1/1's I have in my collection.
The 07 Co-Signers set was a huge headache for player collectors, featuring a mind boggling number of parallels, and multiple player combinations. Jack is featured as the primary player with both Freddy Sanchez and Jose Castillo, and as the secondary player with Jason Bay. Fun, right? This card shows Jack with close friend and overall good guy Freddy Sanchez. Wilson and Sanchez were summer league teammates growing up in California, and would anchor the Pirates double play from 2003-09.
Check back tomorrow as I take a look at some cool photography on Andy Van Slyke cards.