By Danny Gallagher
Canadian Baseball Network
A rather impressive collection of Expos cards, over 20,000 in all, is up for sale.
Steve Whitzman, a retired school psychologist from Campbellton, N.B., is selling his stash with no price tag being bandied about. Whitzman is moving to Toronto to be closer to a major-league team and to be closer to his daughter April, who is coordinating the card sale.
"I didn't have the energy,'' Steve said of his decision to sell his collection.
Over the years, Whitzman would purchase boxes and boxes of Kraft dinner products, not for the macaroni and cheese, but for the cards he would find inside. There were also cards to be found in products from such companies as Post Cereal, Zellers, Toys "R'' Us, McDonald's, even the Milkbone collection that has Larry Walker posing with his dog. The Durivage bread company in Quebec, with help from Donruss, issued Expos cards and Whitzman has them
Of course, Whitzman would make sure to check out all of the releases by the major card companies such as Topps, Donruss, Upper Deck, Fleer, Panini, O-Pee-Chee, you name it.
Does Whitzman have a card for each and every player who toiled for the Expos?
"I never missed a player, never,'' Whitzman said in an interview. "I have complete sets of every team.''
There are over 600 players who toiled for the Expos from 1969-2004 so Whitzman's list is impressive, although there are some players like Elroy Face, who were never issued an official trading card in an Expos uniform.
"What makes this collection so unique and so special is how many oddball cards Dad has,'' his daughter said. "It has a lot of variations. It's the most complete collection I have ever come across, including plenty of insert cards where only one was ever created. My dad also fell in love with a misprint. He has hundreds of misprints in his collection.''
That's right, Steve would look for cards with typos.
"I have quite a few of the error cards, quite a few of the printing errors,'' said Whitzman, who also took a liking to promo cards, especially ones that had no information on the back.
Price tag for this splendid collection?
"That's the hard part. In terms of value, we don't know,'' April said. "We haven't looked at a number out of thin air. We hope to give it to a fan who appreciates the cards and the Expos as much as dad did. Everything is super organized and documented.It would be so much fun for the right fan or collector.''
Steve, 68, was originally a stamp collector and started getting hooked on sports cards when he and his father Israel began collecting Beehive Corn Syrup hockey cards. From there, the collection spun off into baseball but mostly the Expos. While he fondly remembers trips across Eastern Canada and the United States with April and his wife Sharon, stopping at every card store they could find, he eventually took his hobby to eBay to find any cards he was missing and in hopes of finding new information on a potential variation.
April recently drove from Toronto to her parents' house to pick up the collection and it barely fit in her large caravan. The next step for April is to document what is there, although her father did a dandy job of keeping good records.
Steve admits that not all of his collection is up for grabs. He has kept a small stash he has in his possession of his favourite Expo: Larry Walker. Rounding out his top 3 favourite Expos are Tim Raines and Rondell White. And he would be remiss he didn't mention Vladimir Guerrero. He loved Vlad. Steve purchased Vlad's rookie card for $15 and considers it a steal.
"Oh yeah, Larry is my favourite Expo,'' he said. "I kept his collection. I have it front of me. I think I have all of his cards, 120 all told, and that's just counting his Expos cards. I have his pre-rookie cards, rookie cards, cards that are hard to find. Tim, my, is the epitome of a ball player and I loved Rondell.''
So at the very least, as April said, whoever takes over Stephen's collection will have the fun of owning an incredible collection without the necessity of eating all of that Kraft dinner.
Danny Gallagher has written a book about the 1981 Expos called Blue Monday: The Expos, The Dodgers and the Home Run That Changed Everything. It will be released this October by Dundurn Press. It can pre-ordered online at one of many sites.