Originally published at Wax Heaven on December 23rd, 2012
A lot of people have asked me about my trading card obsession with Jose Cruz Jr. during the original run of Wax Heaven. I fell for Jose Canseco as a 9-year old kid during the peak of his fame and just never gave up on the guy. But what about Jose Cruz Jr.? The reason why I chased after every Jose Cruz Jr. card and continuously blogged about him is because of the lasting impression he made when I gave up on collecting in 1997, as a burnt out, 17-year old, sick of spending my hard-earned money on baseball cards.
At that time, Bowman Chrome’s debut offering was THE product to collect and packs were going for $11 bucks a pop (for 2-3 cards per pack). During that time, the hottest prospect in the card world to collect was Jose Cruz Jr. He had just been called up by the Mariners and absolutely tore the cover off the ball, taking the spotlight away from another “Junior”. Something had to change and mysteriously, the Mariners traded away the hottest slugger in baseball, probably to appease the beer-bellied, Kenneth.
On the very final day I collected, I pulled a 1997 Bowman Chrome Refractor of Cruz Jr., easily one of the hottest cards at the time. Beckett Baseball had it for $40+ with their arrows pointing towards the heavens. I should have been the happiest collector on the planet but I wasn’t. I looked at the dealer, who looked thrilled as he handed me a penny sleeve and top loader, and asked him for $20 dollars. After some negotiating, I walked away from the card shop (and The Hobby) and didn’t return for another decade.
Jose Cruz Jr. was the final image I had of collecting. I sometimes pondered about what happened to the guy during my ten-year absence from collecting. Did he become a monster slugger I had predicted? How many MVP awards had he won by now? Unfortunately, when I returned in 2007, I checked on Cruz Jr. and found out that while he did have a few good seasons, things didn’t work out the way I had imagined. By then, he was nearing the end of his career and was bouncing around from club to club.
Still, I wanted that 1997 Bowman Chrome Refractor again. Along with all the other parallels and ‘97 Bowman releases of Cruz Jr. Little by little I began picking them up until I had about 22 of the 37 cards needed and then just like that, Wax Heaven closed its doors. It took another few years for my return. This time, I Googled Mr. Cruz Jr. and found out that he is now an analyst for ESPN and somewhat of a fixture on Twitter. I passed on a story I wrote a few years back. A conspiracy of sorts to see what he thought.
I figured at best he’d laugh about it, at worst he’d call me a paranoid nutcase. His response was a very vague but not at all bad, “interesting view”. Not exactly terrible but also not agreeing. Was he just trying to play nice with a crazy fan? Satisfied with the response, I told him I was a fan and thanked him. This is what came next:
There you have it. Jose Cruz Jr. is a class act all the way! Now, after losing my 22 of 37 cards of his from the ’97 Bowman, Bowman’s Best, and Bowman Chrome series, it is time to start all over again. I tell you what, this is one tough hobby to walk away from.