Getaway Day: ‘Jack of All Trades’ Is About More Than Baseball (Cards)

Baseball cards were the love of my life as a kid.

A part of Mr. Getaway’s morning in grade school involved buying baseball cards from the local bodega. Topps, Upper Deck, and Donruss, Mr. Getaway knew them all. “Topps All-Star Rookie” and “Donruss Rated Rookie” terms an entire generation of baseball fans know and love. We read Beckett and looked at the prices of certain cards and hoped they trended upwards. We were told that we were investing in our college funds by keeping these cards in mint condition.

We were wrong and they were wrong.

The 2018 documentary “Jack of All Trades” chronicles actor and voice-over extraordinaire Stu Stone‘s quest to find out how something once viewed as valuable became worthless.

Stone’s father ran a chain of baseball card shops in Canada. During the peak of the late 1980s to early 1990’s card boon, his father made a lot of money. Suddenly, a few weeks after his bar mitzvah, Stone’s father left and his parents filed for divorce. Soon, his father got out of the card business.

The combination of his father getting out of the card business and his parents’ divorce changed his life. The documentary demonstrates how Stone still hasn’t dealt with his father leaving and keeps his bond with him through baseball cards.

But the cards themselves aren’t worth anything. The industry saturated the market in the 1990s and, ruined any value they had. Shady practices and legal, but unethical, business devalued the industry. Among many companies, Upper Deck gets a share of the blame for overprinting and killing the rarity of highly desired-cards.

Stone eventually gets to interview his father. The situation is awkward. The conversation starts with Stone’s father discussing how he got into the card business. It eventually moves into the breakup of the family and the marriage. It’s a powerful moment that reveals a lot about Stone, his father and why baseball cards were such a huge part of his life. However, the tough conversation leads to an opening in Stone’s life. It’s better to say opening instead of closure because he’s able to do away with his collection while keeping his love of baseball intact.

The doc’s worth watching because it’s a metaphor for baseball itself. An entire generation loved baseball as children and can’t stand it now. Both the sport and the fans are on a quest to find out what went wrong. Both parties want that magic back, but only one party shoots itself in the foot with public relations screwups.

While it’s kind of thin in substance on the industry side (despite interviews with card dealers and company executives), “Jack of All Trades” is worth your time. You can find it on Netflix.

Notes:

  • There were a bunch of suspensions handed down as a result of the brawl between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cincinnati Reds. As a result, a bunch of Pirates will have their calendars cleared to take advantage of Free Pittsburgh Walking Tours. But you don’t care about that. You want to see the brawl again, right? Right.
  • Leave it to the Mets to almost turn good news into stupid news.
  • Also: leave it to the Mets to give their fans post-All Star Break hope. We all know how this is going to end. For what it’s worth, the folks at Oddschecker are giving some interesting baseball odds on the Metropolitans and their chances to make the playoffs. Would I bet on them? Of course not. Should you? Of course not.
  • Trevor Bauer said he’s going to be a better person with the Cincinnati Reds. Good luck with that.
  • Brian Cashman had a chance to sign Dallas Keuchel before the former Astros pitcher decided to sign with the Atlanta Braves. Cashman also says he could’ve signed several other prominent pitchers the previous offseason. He had a chance to trade for some pitching help this trade deadline. He did nothing. The Yankees not acting like the Yankees is still something to get used to.
  • Mike Trout keeps doing Mike Trout things. I wish he would show some more of his personality to the public, but I respect him wanting to remain private away from the field. Still…it could help him, the Angels and the sport as a whole.
  • I tend to say “a strike’s comin'” a lot in these posts, but read this. Seriously, a strike’s comin’.

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