I’ve been thinking a lot about Barenaked Ladies lately. And yes, the winters are long and cold where I live. But no, I was thinking of the band from Canada that goes by that name and not of women in their birthday suits who would get me in trouble on the home front.
The Barenaked Ladies have been around for ages, formed in 1988 and making fun, rollicking music that dares you not to smile while listening. You’ve probably heard her song “The History of Everything,” the theme song to the hit CBS sitcom The big Bang Theory.
Great song no doubt but I have another of their tunes on my mind these days. It’s called “If I Had A Million Dollars”. Recorded in 1992, it’s a catchy, goofy song tinged with endearing innocence and promises tons of stuff the singer would buy a loved one if they had a million dollars.
What would that shopping spree entail you ask? Here’s a sample: a house, furniture to fill the house, a tree fort in the front yard of the house with a tiny fridge filled with pre-packaged sausages, an exotic pet like a llama or an emu, John Merrick’s bone (you know yes, the elephant man), a limousine so as not to have to walk to the store (because the limousine costs more).
My favorite line? “And if I had a million dollars (if I had a million dollars)/ Well, I’d buy you some art/A Picasso or a Garfunkel.”
OK, so I don’t know exactly what I would buy if I had a million dollars, but I know exactly what the hell I wouldn’t buy if I had half that much: A mangled Honus Wagner baseball card.
The damaged Wagner card was recently auctioned for $475,960. I know we’re all dealing with inflation, but… what?!! Maybe I’m just showing my age, but I can remember when $475,960 seemed like a lot of money – like it does now.
I’d rather buy a llama. A whole.
Originally issued by the American Tobacco Company in 1909, the Wagner card is often referred to as the Holy Grail or Mona Lisa of sports cards. About 60 are known.
In reality, this Holy Grail is a rectangular piece of cardboard, less than 2 inches wide and 3 inches high, depicting a baseball player, best known for his baseball card.
Which is a shame because Wagner was an early star of the game. In 1897, at the age of 23, he made his Pittsburg Pirates debut – 14 years before the letter H was added to the city’s name. Wagner won eight batting titles in 21 seasons, hit .300 or more in 15 straight seasons, and could throw a baseball more than 400 feet. He also had a nickname that you don’t hear often enough these days: “The Flying Dutchman”.
In 1936, Wagner was inducted into baseball’s first Hall of Fame class, joining, among others, Babe Ruth in Cooperstown.
But unlike Ruth, the amazing home run hitter known as “The Sultan of Swat” – can we please bring back those old baseball monikers! – Wagner was largely forgotten except for his baseball card introduced in 1909 in a cigarette box by the American Tobacco Company.
There are more than 4,200 Ty Cobb cards from this series of tobacco cards, but for various and mysterious reasons only a few dozen Wagner cards are known.
Just last year, one of those Wagner tickets sold for $6.6 million, breaking the record for the most expensive sports ticket in history. Still, I think a tree fort would be more fun with a tiny fridge stocked with pre-packaged sausages. But hey, that’s just me. I’m not here to judge.
Six point six million is a lot of money. We can all agree on that. But at least the buyer got a whole card for that boatload of green, not a garbled card that looks like it was pulled out of a washing machine by a not-too-lucky mom to teach her kid the benefits of checking pockets before putting them in throw the laundry basket.
Folks, Wagner’s left jaw is missing, as is most of his torso! He looks like he went to a pool party with the great white shark Jaw.
And someone paid almost half a million dollars for this mangled Mona Lisa made out of baseball cards?
We’re sorry. I’d rather have real art.
Like a Picasso. Or a sparkle.
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