Red Sox

What's in the Uncle Jimmy collection? Some of the greatest finds in baseball card history

Courtesy: Professional Sports Authenticator

What's in the Uncle Jimmy collection? Some of the greatest finds in baseball card history

Everyone should be so lucky to have an Uncle Jimmy.

World War II veteran. Devoted uncle. A fixture in his working class New Jersey neighborhood for 90 years.

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And over the course of nearly a century, the silent curator of one of the most spectacular collections of baseball cards ever seen.

When James Micioni passed away at age 97 on March 8, he left his family a treasure trove that might be unrivaled. For decades, the man known as Uncle Jimmy mailed cards to teams seeking autographs, meticulously cataloguing the results.

He stored hundreds of cards in his attic in binders and boxes, keeping them out of the sun and out of public view. His nieces and nephews knew he owned a vast collection — he never married or had children of his own, so he often doled out vintage cards for birthdays and Christmas — but they had no idea exactly what was hidden away, save for cryptic references to the "Holy Grail" in his attic.

Now the entire collecting world knows. The sheer scope of the Uncle Jimmy collection is breathtaking, and it's expected to fetch millions at multiple auctions.

His collection includes cards signed by some of the game's greatest players, including Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, and Rogers Hornsby. He owned news clippings signed by Mel Ott and a rare wall plaque of Mickey Mantle. His completed Topps and Bowman sets from the 1940s, '50s, and '60s are almost perfectly preserved. 

Joe Orlando runs Professional Sports Authenticator, which graded and authenticated Micioni's vast holdings under the special "Uncle Jimmy Collection" tag. He has worked there for 21 years and never seen anything like it.

"It's pretty rare for me to get stopped in my tracks and look at something and have it blow you away," he said. "It's a privilege, because we get to handle many of the best items in the market, but every once in a while, something like the Uncle Jimmy collection comes forward and it makes you feel like a kid again."

What separates this collection from others of similar size and vintage, Orlando said, is the effort it took to assemble. Micioni mailed and received hundreds of cards, fastidiously tracking each attempt in a ledger. He began as a boy with the famous 1933 and 1934 Goudey sets, distinct for their player illustrations against monochromatic backgrounds above a Big League Chewing Gum label.

Most such cards that circulate today show understandable wear, but Micioni filed his in albums for decades, allowing them to retain their original color and brightness, which more than compensates for whatever damage they incurred in the mail.

"The cards are by no means in perfect condition," Orlando said. "They have corner-wear. But in terms of the colors, the eye appeal, they retain a freshness, because he preserved them the right way. So when people see images of these cards, they are absolutely gorgeous."

There are six signed Ruth cards that alone could be worth $1 million, as well as signed cards and news clippings from Hall of Famers like Lefty Grove, Charlie Gehringer, Ted Williams, Satchel Paige, and Eddie Mathews. 

In an era when new cards can sell straight out of the pack for thousands, it's nice to know we can still be surprised, Orlando said.

"What's so neat about stories like Uncle Jimmy is that it proves that the stuff is still out there," he said. "There's this idea, ever since the emergence of the internet, I think some people believe everything has been discovered and there are no finds anymore. There's stuff out there and people like Uncle Jimmy that preserved their collections and wanted to hand them down to family members, and they've never come to market.

"At PSA we get to see millions of items a year, but it's not often that you get stopped in your tracks with a collection of this magnitude, but it is absolutely remarkable stuff."

Mookie Betts' daughter has adorable reaction to his 3-home run game

Mookie Betts' daughter has adorable reaction to his 3-home run game

Mookie Betts gave the Boston Red Sox a reminder of what they've been missing with a historic performance for the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday night.

Betts crushed three home runs vs. the San Diego Padres for the sixth three-homer performance of his career, tying the MLB record.

The real star, though? That would be Betts' daughter, Kynlee. The 27-year-old shared an adorable video of Kynlee reacting to his home runs, and it's the most adorable thing you'll watch all day.

"My daughter Kynlee is watching me, I have no other choice but to wake up everyday and give it my all!" Betts captioned the Instagram video.

Watch below:

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It doesn't get any better than that.

Betts entered Friday night slashing .319/.380/.694 with seven homers through 19 games with L.A. Meanwhile, the hapless Red Sox are coming off an embarrassing 17-8 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays and a four-game series sweep.

Mookie Betts is dominating with Dodgers, but trading him remains the right call

Mookie Betts is dominating with Dodgers, but trading him remains the right call

There are many reasons to rip the Red Sox, whom I described as a maggoty dumpster fire as recently as Friday.

Trading Mookie Betts isn't one of them.

The former and probably future MVP made history with the Dodgers on Thursday night, delivering the sixth three-homer game of his career and his first outside of Baltimore. (That's a joke, but man, did he murder the Orioles).

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With the Red Sox slip-sliding their way to oblivion, the juxtaposition of Betts' monster night with their own demoralizing 17-8 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays was hard to miss, but easy to mischaracterize.

In the short term, oh my God, what a horrific deal. Betts is going to win a World Series and the Red Sox are going down the toilet like a leg-twitching beetle. But in the long-term, the franchise will be better served by moving on from its homegrown star, because Betts' window of dominance did not remotely fit Boston's window of contention. 

Perhaps it's just my small-c fiscal conservatism talking, but I am philosophically opposed to 12-year contracts, no matter how talented the player. You're buying more decline years than prime ones, especially in an era when fewer and fewer players maintain production into their 30s, let alone players of Betts' profile.

Five-tool star Grady Sizemore saw his ascension halted at 25. Former NL MVP Andrew McCutchen delivered his last monster season at 28 and his last really good one at 30. Ask the Yankees how they feel about paying Jacoby Ellsbury.

Betts is a generational talent, but he's only 5-foot-9. As we noted over the winter, players that size simply aren't built to last, and if that sounds like some cold-blooded actuary bleep, so be it.

Since 1947, only seven players 5-foot-9 or shorter have compiled a career WAR of 50 or higher (compared to 125 for those 5-foot-10 or taller). Two were catchers (Yogi Berra, Pudge Rodriguez), one was a defensive whiz who couldn't hit a lick (Luis Aparicio), and you tell me what to make of the other four.

Hall of Famer Joe Morgan remained an elite player until age 32, when he won his second MVP Award. He hit .254 over the final eight years of his career. Fellow Hall of Famer Tim Raines made his final All-Star team at 27 and topped 3.5 WAR just twice after age 30. We are already intimately familiar with the career trajectory of Dustin Pedroia.

That leaves Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett, a 5-foot-8 bowling ball who remained a force through his age-35 season before a tragic eye injury ended his career.

Betts is a unique athlete, so maybe he'll break that mold, but I don't blame the Red Sox for deciding not to take the risk. Were they stacked with the kind of talent that could contend right now, and blessed with a deep farm system to augment some of their higher salaries, then I would've made a case for retaining Betts anyway to capitalize on the 27-year-old's prime.

But let's be realistic about this window. There's a reason John Henry and Co. replaced the win-now Dave Dombrowski with the win-someday Chaim Bloom. They saw the team for what it was, married to bad contracts like the oft-injured Nathan Eovaldi and Chris Sale.

They were lucky to get out from under half of David Price's remaining bloat, but now they face the prospect of retooling pretty much every position except catcher (Christian Vazquez), third base (Rafael Devers), shortstop (Xander Bogaerts) and right field (Alex Verdugo). Do I even need to ask what difference Betts would've made on this train wreck?

Assuming Sale returns from Tommy John and Eduardo Rodriguez beats myocarditis, the Red Sox still are woefully inadequate in the pitching department, and after years of being strip-mined by Dombrowski, the once-prized farm system is beginning a long road back to viability.

Trading Betts makes clear their path forward. It provides the financial flexibility to attack multiple deficiencies, because no team boasts a limitless budget, not even Boston. Paying Betts $35 million annually to begin declining just as the Red Sox climbing back into contention would be bad business.

In the meantime, hammer away. Crushing the Red Sox is its own cathartic sport (I've got my varsity letter), and there will undoubtedly be more nights when the Red Sox fall on their face while Betts soars 3,000 miles away.

That doesn't change the calculus that made him a bad long-term investment for Boston, which is why I firmly believe we will eventually look back at his departure as the right call.