Virtually every schoolboy who is interested in baseball cards knows the story of how Topps bought Bowman. After World War II, Bowman was the leading brand of baseball card, or, at least from 1948 until 1951. Then, in 1952, Topps released its landmark 1952 set. Bowman and Topps battled for baseball fans’ nickels and pennies until 1955. Then, in early 1956, Topps bought Bowman, and that was the end of Bowman until the late 1980s, when Topps dusted off the brand name and started issuing Bowman cards again. And Topps faced precious little competition in the baseball card field until 1981, when Fleer and Donruss won the right to produce cards.
That’s the story as I knew it. But there’s a lot more to the story, starting with the details of the purchase. In January 1956, Topps bought its once mighty rival for a mere $200,000. Normally a company sells for 10 times its annual revenue, and Bowman had sold $600,000 worth of baseball cards alone just two years before. The purchase price makes no sense, until you dig a bit deeper.
I’ve had some questions about the Royals’ wheeling and dealing for their pennant drive, and of course I have an opinion about that.
Mostly I’m glad I was wrong about last year’s heartbreak turning into a flash in the pan. But you may be surprised to hear I’m not too heartbroken that the Royals traded away five pitchers so they could rent Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist for two months, or three if everything goes as planned.
If you sell cards, odds are at some point you’re going to have to mail a baseball card. You can mail a card cheaply and give it good protection.
One would think people would realize sticking a baseball card in an envelope in between two pieces of cardboard cut from a Federal Express overnight envelope and wrapping a sheet of typing paper around the package isn’t enough protection for a baseball card in the mail.
Even if you write “Do not bend. Deliver Flat.” on the envelope.
Doing it right isn’t too hard, doesn’t cost a lot, and your customers will appreciate it.
One of my college buddies (Hi Christian!) shared my previous post on Facebook, pointing out that I’m a long-suffering Royals fan in Cardinals country, and adding that what I said was balanced and dispassionate.
I’m normally anything but dispassionate. But in this case, it’s not a baseball matter–it’s a business matter, and neither my employer nor any past employer is involved, so it’s easy to be detached and dispassionate. I guess you can say my take on hacking has changed. I was going to say “evolved,” but “changed” is more dispassionate.
The now-infamous breached Houston Astros database sounds like a classic case of what security professionals call Shadow IT: a project that the business needs, done without adequate involvement from security and, most likely, from the IT department as well.
These kinds of things happen a lot. A go-getter implements it, cutting through red tape to get a useful project done in record time, and it’s great until something goes wrong.
In this case, “wrong” meant a competitor got into the database and stole trade secrets.
So, about a year ago, the Houston Astros announced their internal player database had been breached. This week, more details emerged, pointing right at the St. Louis Cardinals.
It wasn’t a terribly sophisticated attack. You knew I’d write about this, but I’ll explore it from an IT security perspective more than from a baseball perspective.
It was June 2, 2015, the 80th anniversary of Babe Ruth’s final Major League Baseball game. That day, I bought a lottery ticket. I spied a 1935 Goudey Babe Ruth card on Ebay, which casually mentioned it was an “RP,” which is usually shorthand for “reprint.”
Chances were, the seller was telling the truth, and hoping some bidders would fail to notice the code word. But the card looked just convincing enough that I decided to place a bid, just in case the seller was wrong. I won. The total price including shipping was $11. No one else had taken the bait.
There are a few hucksters on Ebay, whom I don’t care to give free advertising by mentioning by name, who hawk “graded” cards on Ebay and claim them to be especially valuable. One even puts supposed appraised values in his listings in parenthesis, then invites you to visit his page for an explanation of “graded” value, where he cites an example of a run-of-the-mill 1970s star card, normally worth $60, being worth $2,500 once graded.
The thing is, that’s an edge case, and it’s important to understand those edge cases to avoid getting ripped off.
Several times now, I’ve seen people like me, who used to collect baseball cards, went on hiatus, then came back, ask how to avoid counterfeit baseball cards, or at least detect them before it’s too late.
There’s a surprisingly simple answer that often works really well.
As security professionals, we deal with a tremendous amount of stress. Like my new boss told me about a week into our tenure together, we tend to be perfectionists, and frequently we’re asked to deal with the most cavalier people in our organization. It’s a toxic combination.
One of the first things my boss asked me after we met was what I think about at home. In all honesty, I can’t help but think about work sometimes–I apologize for being crude, but I have a thinking chair at home and it doesn’t look like the one on Blue’s Clues–but I have a lot of other things I think about at home too. Important things like my family of course, but other important things too, like trains and baseball and baseball cards.