Yahoo’s “Old Baseball Cards” video series started back in 2016, when host Mike Oz opened a 1991 pack of baseball cards with Rajai Davis. Three years later, the series has gained a fair bit of popularity and reached 100 episodes, with that 100th episode (a super-sized one featuring Oz opening five packs with Pete Rose) premiering Wednesday. Oz spoke to Awful Announcing this week and said he got the idea for the series thanks to some cards that were left from his grandma’s estate.
“So, my grandma and I collected cards. I started collecting when I was six, that was around the time of Jose Canseco, and we were super chasing the 1986
Canseco rookie, so that was like our first thing. My grandma was just like, as I came to find out later, just like a super collector. She collected all kinds of stuff; I think collecting baseball cards was a function of her wanting to do something with me more so than her necessarily wanting to collect baseball cards. That was just something we did.”
Many people in my family love baseball, but I don’t know that I’d be where I am if not for her. I think about her every time we put out a new episode.
My goal is to get @ChickenMan3010 on the show this year because he was her favorite player. Her cat was even named Boggs.
— Mike Oz (@mikeoz) March 13, 2019
“At the time, unbeknownst to me, she was also stashing away a lot of boxes in her apartment. She’d go to Costco and buy boxes and put them away sealed. I didn’t know this, because I would have wanted to open them. And so, when she died about 15 years ago, ever since then people have always just found more and more
of the cards she had stashed away. Like, basically any time anyone in my family moves, they find a box with boxes of baseball cards, which happened just the
other day, honestly.”
In a wonderful bit of coincidence (that could be something more if you believe in that sort of thing) …
My aunt and uncle asked me today if I wanted some more of grandma’s cards they found in the garage.
We all know the answer.
Love you, Grandma. pic.twitter.com/MeQ7bwEG6t
— Mike Oz (@mikeoz) March 13, 2019
“So the show started with one of those instances where I had got in a box of cards and I was trying to figure out what to do with them in terms of where I was going to store them. I had told my wife that I was going to clean up the garage before I went to spring training. I was trying to figure out where to put the cards and that’s when I was like ‘Oh, I should open baseball cards with baseball players.’ So it was kind of the genesis of everything.”
“Literally, every time I record an episode or we put one out, I always think of my grandma. It’s a really nice connection for me, beyond just the fact that I think it’s a good show and an interesting show. To me, every time I do it, it brings me back to that point in my life and my relationship with her.”
Oz said Davis was one of the first players to show interest in the idea, but it’s become something that a lot of players have enjoyed.
“The first one we recorded was Rajai Davis. I had the box of cards, I was walking around the Indians’ clubhouse, and he was like ‘What are you doing with those cards?’ and I’m like ‘Well, let’s open some.’ …I think it’s definitely a different kind of interview for them. They’re doing something different, and I think it helps them connect with fans in sort of a different way. It doesn’t matter if you’re Mike Trout or, you know, some random person who’s a fan, there’s a really good chance that when you were a kid, you liked baseball.”
“And some of us grew up to be fans and some of us great baseball players. But I think it all kind of goes back to that same idea; whether you’re a person watching it or whether you’re a player opening the cards, I think it all kind of connects back to that sort of childhood love of baseball.”
Oz said much of the show’s success is thanks to the efforts of their crew, including producer Dan Harris and primary editor Adam Sturgeon, with Victor Velasquez and Jason Chan providing additional camera and editing work. He said those efforts have helped the show turn out some great stories, with one of the most memorable coming from the August 2017 episode with Pedro Martinez. Martinez’s episode was notable for the trade he made:
“Pedro Martinez, he pulled his brother Ramon’s card, and we were thrilled, like, ‘You got your brother!’ I mean this is pretty much the pinnacle of the show to me, when you can get yourself or your brother or something like that. And then at the end of it, we make the trade, and I was like ‘Would you trade me your brother?’ and he’s like ‘Yeah, for Lee Smith.’ I was like ‘Really? For Lee Smith, huh?’ And then he proceeded to tell this really great story about what Lee Smith meant to him when he was a rookie and he was struggling with the Expos, and just how at that point in his life Lee Smith really made an impact on him.”
“And that’s great, because you know, if you’re going to go interview Pedro Martinez, like I don’t know that Lee Smith is like in the top 20 or the top 25 players you’re gonna ask him about. It’s not the top-of-mind question. … There’s so many other things you would talk to Pedro about, right? So you find yourself kind of getting these stories out of people that you wouldn’t otherwise get.”
Oz has opened a lot of cards over the course of this show, but the one that stands out to him is the Canseco rookie card he was chasing back in the day.
“We pulled the Canseco rookie in the Tim Raines episode. That was probably the best in terms of actual cool card with value. It’s probably not worth a ton anymore, but you know, we’re not often looking for cards that have a ton of value, we’re looking for connections and stories and stuff. But that one was pretty cool, because for myself and other people my age, I think that was one of the most important cards of our childhood.”
Oz said the 100th episode with Rose wound up being super-sized because Rose was so into the concept.
“We opened five different packs with him. We were kind of set up to film a bunch of other stuff somewhere else, and we had to go to him, so I didn’t bring like my entire box, I just brought five with me, sort of ‘Hey, you could pick whatever you want.’ I tried to pick different ones, obviously all at times when he was playing; one of them was a year they went to the World Series, one was the year he broke the [hit] record, and let him choose what he wanted to do. So he picked one and then I picked one, and usually that’s how the show goes. And then when we got done, we made a trade, and then he was like ‘Let’s open more cards!'”
Here’s a teaser for that:
The 100th episode of #OldBaseballCards starring the incomparable Pete Rose is must-see ?⚾️
"Charlie Hustle" shares his wildest clubhouse stories, eats a 30-year-old piece of gum, and more ?
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) March 27, 2019
Oz said he was impressed by Rose’s recall. “It’s about 20 minutes long, it’s full of stories and information and memories, you know, and he’s able to recall them all. At one point he pulls this pitcher and then tells us ‘Oh, yeah, that guy struck me out on this date, and then I hit three home runs off him.’ And he just knows the day off the top his head, you know. He’s just a character, obviously. It’s our longest episode we’ve ever done, and it’s definitely one of our most entertaining.”
Two episodes particularly stand out to Oz as proof that the concept had legs. The first one was the July 2016 one with Scott Boras, which dropped around the MLB trade deadline and featured a lot of trades, which Oz said then seemed like something to include in the series in general.
“The first few, we didn’t do the whole trade thing. I think it was like five or six episodes in. And particularly when we did it with Scott Boras, that’s when I was like ‘Okay, the trade thing is really interesting.’ It just adds a different dimension to the show; not only do you get to open the cards, but then you have to sort of see ‘Okay, how are we going to make a deal?’ And sometimes it’s like people are driving hard bargains and sometimes it’s pretty fun and easy-going. But I think that part is always interesting.”
Another one came when they featured Bobby Bonilla in an episode filmed at the 2016 All-Star Game.
“The first older player we did was Bobby Bonilla. Before that, we had just been thinking of like doing it with current players. And when we did it with Bobby Bonilla and he’s going through, he sees a guy, he’s like ‘Oh, I got traded for that guy.’ And that’s when I was like ‘Oh, old players is what we need to be doing, because we need to be able to get them to share their memories and their stories.’ So once we did that, that’s sort of when we veered off and started getting more Hall of Famers and guys who have played and coaches and managers and stuff like that.”
“I felt like that gave it sort of a different dimension. A lot of those guys aren’t getting hit up for interviews all the time any more. When you’re not playing you’re more likely to not be confined by ‘Here’s how I should answer questions.’ They’re being a little more honest and telling stories and memories. And if you’re talking about stuff from the pre-social media era, a lot of people don’t know those stories.”
“There’s a story in the Pete Rose episode about Dave Concepción, he put himself in a dryer trying to break out of a slump. That story has been out, some people know that story, but not everybody knows that story, and hearing Pete Rose tell that story is kind of different. So, you know, if you’re just talking about stuff that happened like in the last couple years, anybody who’s really into baseball and social media, they know those things, but they may not know these stories from the 80s and the 90s. So it’s kind of a new way of telling those things.”
Oz said he never expected the show to last for 100 episodes, but he thinks it can keep going.
“I’m honestly astonished we made it to 100 episodes just because when we started, we did like four or five of them and I didn’t know what it was going to be. [But then] we did those two episodes where I realized that it could be something bigger. So probably like 12 episodes in, I was like ‘Okay, we have something.” But even then, 100 episodes seems like a lot of episodes. So the fact that we made that says to me we can certainly keep it going.”
“We’ve got all kinds of great people and people really like the show, guests really seem to enjoy doing it. I don’t foresee any reason why you know it’s not going to keep going. We’ll adapt it and change it. …We’ll keep tinkering with it and then figure out ways to bring in new guests, and keep making it something that connects baseball fans to the game in sort of a interesting and unique way.”
The 100th episode of Old Baseball Cards is available on Yahoo here.