Murray Chass

Murray Chass. Photo courtesy

Jewish baseball enthusiasts have the opportunity to add a limited edition card autographed by sportswriter Murray Chass to their collections.

A member of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh's Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, Chass is the 2003 winner of the National Baseball Hall of Fame's J.G. Taylor Spink Award for "meritorious contributions to baseball writing."

[Author's note: Among the other Jewish winners of the prestigious honor are writers Shirley PovichDick Young, Milton Richman, Jerome Holtzman, Hal Lebovitz and Ross Newhan.]

Chass has covered baseball since 1956. He previously served as the chairman of the New York Chapter of The Baseball Writers Association of America and the New York Time's national baseball correspondent, according to his Wikipedia biography.

He pioneered coverage of the business of sports, including contracts and labor negotiations.

Chass has written several online columns ("Hall Of Fame Puts Its Shame On The Line" and "Players Line Up To Salute Miller," among others) advocating the election of Marvin Miller, former executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and has been outspoken on the subject in a wide array of media (search Google for a variety of Chass's thoughts on Miller).

Chass is the author of several books, available on Amazon, on both baseball and football. These include The Yankees: The Four Fabulous Eras of Baseball's Most Famous Team, Power Football and Pittsburgh Steelers: The Long Climb.

Murray Chass Panini

Murray Chass 2012 Panini. Photo courtesy of JSC.

I had tried several times, unsuccessfully, to obtain Chass's autograph for my Jewish baseball collection.

So, it was with great delight that I read his April 25 online column (Chass insists his site is not a blog!), "Honus And His Buddy," in which Chass discusses the existence of his baseball card, in the context of reporting on Goldin Auctions' recent sale for $2.1 million of the "Jumbo" T206 Honus Wagner card.

Chass is the subject of card #JSA-MUR in the 2012 Panini Cooperstown Signatures (pictured at left).

The serial numbered, limited edition card — only 500 were produced –features a black and white image of the Hall of Fame writer along with a bold, clean autograph. 

In his column, Chass makes it clear he doesn't understand why collectors would want his card, and cares little for the "unimportant subject of baseball cards."

Chass's column reads, in part:

"… I wouldn’t have spent $9 for my card.

Let’s be honest here. The Wagner card is probably the most famous baseball card in existence. Nobody knew mine existed. Why it exists I don’t know.

Last year Panini America, Inc. decided to publish a set of cards of Hall of Fame players, Wagner, who was among the first five players elected to the Hall in 1936 among them. But the Panini people decided to include broadcasters and writers, too.

Peter Gammons and I were the two writers selected, and our autographed cards were distributed among the packs otherwise filled with Hall of Fame players. It was unusual enough that the cards existed. But then things got even more bizarre.

One of the recipients of the cards had no use for the Murray Chass card – hey, I don’t have a problem with that – but why he took the next step defies reality. He posted the card for sale on eBay. Why, I asked myself, did he think anybody would bid for the card?

… I am not a collector and have never understood the ravenous thirst memorabilia collectors have for sports items.

I suppose that lack of interest in collecting adds to my reaction to people bidding for my card. However, I will refrain from making any additional comment because the buyer might be a reader and I don’t want to antagonize a reader on the unimportant subject of baseball cards."

I don't want to, nor will I, engage Chass in an argument about sports memorabilia or collectors' passions. I do, however, think Chass should examine sports cards and memorabilia in some context before simply dismissing them as the cardboard idols of crazed collectors. 

Consider the following: Major League Baseball teams' 2013 Opening Day payrolls totalled an estimated $3.156 billion, according to Yahoo Sports. Annually, the global market total of sports collectibles sales is $2-4 billion, according to CNN and ESPN. In this light, alone, sports collectibles can hardly be dismissed as "unimportant."

The size of the sports cards and collectibles markets and collectors' unbridled passion for memorabilia aside, Jewish baseball enthusiasts may be limited to the Panini card if they want to add a Chass item to their memorabilia collections, given Chass' thoughts.

Two Beckett Marketplace sellers were offering Chass's card, at the time of this posting, for $10-$12. 

A search of eBay found several listings of the Panini cards, with prices ranging from $8-$25. eBay sellers were also offering Chass' books and a signed first day cover for bid, at the time of this posting.

Amazon sellers were offering the Panini card
and a signed first day cover (the same available on eBay) autographed by Chass, but little else.

I purchased a Chass card last week on eBay for a Buy It Now price of $11, and consider it money well spent to add the Hall of Fame writer's autograph to my Jewish baseball collection. What are your thoughts?

Do you have any Chass memorabilia in your collection? Do you know of other Chass collectibles? Have you had a chance to meet Chass?

Share your thoughts with other readers by commenting below.