Interview with Mike Oz editor of Big League Stew
By: Shane Salmonson
Do you ever pick up some packs of junk wax cards to open just for fun, for nostalgia’s sake? Have you ever thought of what it would be like to open those packs with the players featured on the cards? Well Mike Oz does just that! In addition to being the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports, Mike opens packs of cards with celebrities! What a job! Mike was kind enough to take some time out of his busy life to answer some questions for me about cards and his video series!
BU: How were you first introduced to the trading card hobby?
MO: I started collecting cards when I was 6, back in 1986. That was the year Jose Canseco was a rookie and his Donruss Rated Rookie was the hottest card around. I remember driving around to card shops with my Grandma in her tan Oldsmobile chasing those Cansecos. She collected with me. It was our thing. Mark McGwire came the next year and the Bash Brothers were born. It wasn’t hard to get obsessed with baseball — and baseball cards — as a kid in the Bay Area in those years.
BU: Are you still a collector today?
MO: Definitely not as much as some people. I buy packs of cards here and there. I make it a point to get some Topps when they drop every year. But I’m not actively chasing specific players or cards or anything like that. Most of what I do with cards these days is the video series — and buying the occasional pack to make myself feel like a kid again.
BU: For anyone that hasn’t seen any episodes yet, what exactly is your Old Baseball Cards series?
MO: It’s the best possible answer to, “What do I do with my old baseball cards?” I take old cards — unopened cards, that’s important to note — and open them up with notable baseball people. So coaches, players, commentators, famous fans. We’ve had Hall of Famers, current stars, current managers, boyhood heroes, celebs and Alyssa Milano. The goal isn’t to find cards that are worth a ton of money. Most of the cards we open are junk wax. It’s really about seeing the guests’ reactions to the cards and hoping the cards they see bring out some great memories and stories.
BU: Where did the idea come from?
MO: This is where my Grandma comes back into things. We collected cards for years. She died quite a few years back and occasionally someone in my family will unearth more cards of hers. She was quite a collector (of lots of things, not just baseball cards). Like a lot of people in the late ‘80s and early ’90s, she thought those cards would be worth a ton of money by now. We all know they’re not. So, February 2016, I had this box of cards in my garage. It had a few unopened boxes in it and some other stuff. I was getting ready to go to spring training as part of my job at Yahoo Sports. Before I went, I told my wife I’d clean up the garage. I was looking at those unopened cards, thinking about what I should do with them. Then the idea struck me — open them on camera with baseball players. So that year, we shot a few episodes and ran them over a week. We shot a few more at the All-Star game, then a few more in the playoffs and a bunch at the Winter Meetings. When the calendar shifted to 2017, we decided to try it as a weekly series. Now, here we are.
Previously on Old Baseball Cards
MUST-SEE EPISODES: George Brett | Torey Lovullo | Pedro Martinez | Bronson Arroyo | Eric Davis | Dusty Baker | Hank Azaria | Alex Rodriguez | Scott Boras | A.J. Ellis | Bernie Williams | Chase Utley | John Smoltz | Best trades of 2017 | Best finds of 2017 | Best Guests of 2017 (Part 1) | Best Guests of 2017 (Part 2)
CURRENT PLAYERS: Curtis Granderson | Noah Syndergaard | Kyle Hendricks | Clayton Kershaw | Todd Coffey | John Axford | Dee Gordon | Adam Eaton | Rajai Davis | Brad Ziegler & Tyler Clippard | Buster Posey, David Price & Anthony Rizzo
STARS FROM BACK IN THE DAY: Frank Thomas | Sandy Alomar Jr. | Delino DeShields | Cliff Floyd | Dan Plesac | Aaron Boone | Bobby Bonilla | Andre Dawson | Ivan Rodriguez | Jack Morris | Jeff Nelson | Mark Teixeira | Rick Ankiel
BU: Anything new we can look forward to in 2018?
MO: We changed quite a few things this year. Small tweaks, but important ones. Most importantly, we ran out of my grandma’s cards. Originally what appealed to me was that the cards I had were 25 years old. Well, Grandma didn’t have any 1993s that were unopened. I also wanted to give different years of cards to guests — years that meant something to them and their career. So we ditched the idea of “25-Year-Old Baseball Cards” and just open cards from various years in the ’80s and ’90s. You’ll notice now that there are different cards in each episode. For example: When we had George Brett, we gave him 1985 Fleer because that’s when the Royals won the World Series.
BU: How are you able to book all of your amazing guests?
MO: Lots of begging and pleading! I’m only halfway kidding. Some of it is relationships, some is being in the right place at the right time and some is sending e-mails to team PR people and hoping they reply. It helps that my job takes me to the All-Star game, Winter Meetings, Spring Training and World Series every year.
12″ Circular Frame – Baseball Design Use for framing 5 x 7″ Photo; 4-1/2 x 6-1/2″ Window Screen-printed baseball design on white matboard
But I’m always angling for guests, always asking friends who might make a good guest, always leaning on people I know for help or an e-mail address. The chase isn’t always glamorous, but that’s journalism for you. And I guess baseball cards too.
BU: Any favorite guest(s) so far?
MO: It’s hard for me pick one “favorite” but I have many favorites. So in no order: Pedro Martinez, Bronson Arroyo, Alex Rodriguez, John Smoltz, Hank Azaria, Alyssa Milano, George Brett, Eric Davis, Dusty Baker and Scott Boras. They’re all great for different reasons.
BU: Cards have changed a lot over the years, what is your opinion of today’s cards compared to those from the early 90s?
MO: It seems like a much different world. I love that it’s progressed to the point that you’re getting rad 1-of-1 cards and game-used memorabilia. The next-day cards that Topps are doing are super cool too. But it also seems harder to get that one card you’re really chasing if it’s really rare. It’s almost like video games — it all seemed a lot easier when I was kid, but it’s crazy to see how much the industry has grown.
BU: If you had to pick a favorite product, which would it be? Favorite card that stands out?
MO: 1986 Donruss is special to me, obviously. I also love 1987 Fleer because that Barry Bonds rookie was something I had a good number of. I love 1987 Topps still, mainly for the look. Outside of baseball, I loved the 1991-1992 Skybox basketball cards with those wild backgrounds. I actually have some of those unopened. So, Michael Jordan, if you’re reading this, let’s do it.
BU: Anything else you’d like to share?
MO: I have to give props to Dan Harris, Ryan Dornbusch, Adam Sturgeon, Evan Doherty, Julian Schwab, Brian Caruso, Jason Chan, Vic Velazquez, Craig Rice and everybody else in the Yahoo Sports video department for believing in the series and helping it grow. As well as Jeff Passan, Tim Brown, Marcus Vanderberg, Kevin Kaduk and Johnny Ludden on the editorial end of Yahoo Sports for their help in making it a success.
Oh, and Wade Boggs was my grandma’s favorite player, so if anybody knows how to get Wade on the show, let me know, please.
7″ Circular Frame – Baseball Design Use for framing trading cards; 2-3/8 x 3-3/8″ Window Screen-printed baseball design on white matboard