Baseball card collection hits 25,000

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 24, 2011

MOUNT PLEASANT — Ruth Boger serves as music director for Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Rowan County.
She leads choir practice Wednesday nights, and about twice a month, the group presents special music for the Sunday service.
Boger also plays the church organ every Sunday.
During the week, she works as an administrative assistant for Rowan-Salisbury Schools’ English as a Second Language program.
She also crochets, cross-stitches and cans her own vegetables “like any farm girl.”
But 51-year-old Ruth Boger has a dark secret: She collects baseball cards.
“They almost pop open when you get them out,” Boger says pulling several of her binders off a living room shelf.
The three-ring notebooks are filled with clear plastic sheets holding card after card in her collection.
Boger figures she has 25,000 cards, which isn’t bad, considering she only started collecting 10 years ago.
She has an unusual array, built on her admiration for particular players and teams and an appreciation for the design of the cards themselves.
A fan of Cincinnati’s “Big Red Machine” in the 1970s, Boger has pages of old Johnny Bench and Pete Rose baseball cards. Truth be known, Bench — the Reds’ Hall of Fame catcher — is probably her favorite player of all time. She swoons like a school girl just looking at his cards.
Other baseball players Boger built her collection on include Cal Ripken Jr., Ken Griffey Jr., Frank Thomas and Derek Jeter.
“You know, a lot of women like Jeter because of his looks,” she apologizes.
Her favorite teams through the years have included the Reds, Baltimore Orioles, Atlanta Braves and Chicago White Sox.
Boger says she got into card collecting as a fun pastime, not to make money.
“Most of them are not worth but a nickel or a dime,” she says, “but some might be worth something some day.”
Her living room is a small baseball museum. Corner shelves hold the binders filled with baseball cards, a baseball Monopoly game, ballcaps and handsome baseball history books, which would dominate any coffee table.
“The Orioles cap is my mowing-the-yard cap,” she explains.
A main wall has framed photographs of Bench and Rose from their playing days.
Rose, the game’s all-time hits leader but banned from baseball for betting, deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, Boger says. And she still disputes whether Henry Aaron really beat Babe Ruth’s career home run record in 1974, because it took him so many more games to pass Ruth’s 714 total.
Raised on her parents’ farm just outside of Mount Pleasant, Boger watched baseball games at night — the Braves and the Reds — with her father. Her love of baseball took root when she was 9 years old.
But the card collecting started in 2001 when she was sidelined with a third back surgery. Her recovery kept Boger out of work for a year. When she was able to drive, she began going to baseball card shops and flea markets, becoming enamored with the cards of players from her youth.
“I’ve been a baseball fan a long time,” she says. “… That’s what intrigues me — the old baseball paraphernalia.”
Her collection became heavy on the names mentioned earlier and others such as Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Carlton Fisk. A store owner in Winston-Salem always knew which cards to hold for her.
She has five Michael Jordan baseball cards from that 1994 season when the basketball star left the National Basketball Association and tried to make it in professional baseball. He lasted one season in Double A, but Boger thinks it’s neat to have his cards.
Most of the photographs on her living room wall she purchased during a stop at the Ted Williams Museum in Florida. She has been to three major league ballparks in her life — games in Baltimore, St. Petersburg, Fla., and Miami.
She relies on a satellite dish for her nightly baseball games at home and complains when games are blacked out in certain markets.
“I’ve written to them quite a few times when they did that,” she says.
She limits her love of card collecting and sports in general to baseball
“It’s silly,” she says of football, “for 100 people to jump on one guy (with the ball).”
Boger’s own experience on the diamond was limited to impromptu games with cousins on the farm and a girls softball team at church. “I got excited one night when I hit a triple,” she recalls.
On defense, she played left field and says she always prayed the right-handed power hitters wouldn’t sock it her way.
Boger lost her husband to cancer several years ago and from 2005 to 2009 she moved back to the homeplace to help care for her father until he passed away. It curtailed her card collecting for awhile.
But Boger is getting the fever again.
“I’m going to get back into looking at the more modern guys now,” she promises.