SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Brad Ziegler enjoys sifting through boxes of baseball cards he collected as a child. They aren’t worth anything but have sentimental value.
The Arizona Diamondbacks’ reliever started collecting cards as a kid. He received Topps sets every year. And though they were random, he spread the cards on the floor, assembled teams and simulated games.
Baseball wasn’t the only sports cards he collected. He also traded football and basketball cards with friends.
“We would trade all the time if we had something the other wanted,” he said.
Ziegler has never stopped collecting baseball cards but in 2011 he started to focus on Hall of Fame cards. He had received a high-end set of cards that included a Babe Ruth relic card. On it was a slice of the Great Bambino’s bat.
“It blew my mind,” Ziegler said. “Like I’m actually holding a piece of Babe Ruth’s bat. I didn’t realize that kind of stuff was going on with cards. It got me hooked on it again.”
There are 310 members in the Hall of Fame. While Ziegler can’t put an exact number on how many of their cards he has, he estimates he has about a third. The latest Hall additions — Randy Johnson, Craig Biggio, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz — are also in his arsenal.
Today, current players already have their likeness plastered on the 2 ½-inch-by-3 ½ -inch cards. Ziegler has a few of his own, but who else’s is he searching for?
“Addison Reed,” Ziegler giggled and nodded towards the pitcher as he walked by and exited the clubhouse.
Maybe one day. Today, Ziegler only collects Hall of Famers. If there are active players who he thinks will make it someday, he will get their cards. If they wind up not making it, then he’ll set it aside from his collection.
“But there’s definitely guys that I think are on their way there so it makes sense to grab their card here or there wherever they pop up,” he said.
Ziegler figures it will take decades to complete the entire set of Hall of Famers. Finding autographed Hall of Fame cards is difficult because some are old and few people are collecting them today. Some don’t even know what they have.
“When an autographed one pops up online people might see it and be like, ‘Oh who is that,'” Ziegler said. “And I’m looking at it like, ‘Whoa, an autographed one of this guy never pops up.'”
He doesn’t need everything he finds online — only Hall of Famers. And if there’s someone he doesn’t recognize, he Googles his name and checks if he’s in the Hall.
Ziegler has some competition on the MLB front. Chris Perez, who pitches for the Milwaukee Brewers, has a couple of nice cards, but Ziegler doesn’t know how extensive Perez’s collection is. Houston Astros pitcher Pat Neshek also sports an incredible assembly.
Down the road, the cards will exchange hands, if Ziegler’s kids want them. From there it’s their choice whether to sell them or continue the collection.
“Hopefully they get into collecting because it would be one more thing we can do together,” Ziegler said.
Chris Caraveo is a journalism student in the graduate program at Arizona State University. This story is part of a partnership between Arizona Sports 98.7 and Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.