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Vendors, Visionaries & QBC ’14

As mind-blowing concepts went, none could explode the goop inside this onetime 15-year-old’s coconut quite as much as what I learned was about to take place on the first Saturday of August 1978. There was going to be a baseball card show at Shea Stadium.

Think about that:

• Baseball card show.

• Shea Stadium.

Now think about it as if you’re 15; as if baseball card shows are a relatively new and exotic concept; and Shea Stadium is Mecca. (No “as if” necessary on that last one.)

The Mets were in St. Louis [1]. My parents were weekending in the Catskills. I asked my recently college-graduated sister if she and her boyfriend might take me to this overwhelming confluence of activity. Her boyfriend, a former Shea Stadium vendor [2] — experience that left him chilly toward all things baseball — said sure, why not? He lived nearby, he knew the terrain and he was curious in his own way about it.

Depending on one’s perspective, the Shea Stadium Baseball Card Show that took place the first Saturday of August 1978 was either a rousing success or a crushing bore. My perspective was it was fantastic. There was a baseball card show inside of Shea Stadium. That’s pretty much all I needed. You bought a ticket labeled SHEA STADIUM SHOW. You traipsed amid what passed for the Shea Stadium ground-level concourse, which is to say inside Gates A and B directly in front of the stilled escalators. Sales tables were set up from left to right.

That was about it. I remember buying one item that day: a 1978 Topps No. 450 [3], which featured Tom Seaver [4] as a Cincinnati Red. It would be nice to think that was an error card, but late 1970s reality [5] dictated otherwise. Thanks to the quarter I handed over to some vaguely sleazy fellow, I now had every Topps Seaver…the only kind of Seaver back then, come to think of it…since 1968. And I bought it at Shea Stadium, the same place where both the photograph on the card and the legend of its subject was crafted.

A rousing success!

No, it was a crushing bore, according to my sister’s boyfriend who hated baseball, but not because he hated baseball. His interest in the trip was purely observational, and like everything else that transpired at Shea Stadium, he observed that the card show represented a black mark against the human spirit. That’s it? he asked. That’s all a baseball card show is?

My sister’s boyfriend, though only 22 himself, was a veteran of gatherings of a certain strain of cinema buff: sci-fi, superheroes, westerns, “B” movies. And when those guys got together, he said, it wasn’t just about selling. Yes, there was a “dealer’s room,” but they had areas devoted to screenings and seminars and speakers. It was more than a show. It was an event. It was everything a fan could want if the fan couldn’t get enough of the stuff he sought.

Sounded great to me. It still does. And more than 35 years later, my now brother-in-law’s vision is coming true, thanks to another former Shea Stadium vendor.

I doubt my sister’s husband — who prefers to be known on this blog as Mr. Stem [6] — has ever come across the author of Send The Beer Guy [7] — who prefers to be known on his blog as Shannon Shark — but unwittingly, the two have shared a vision. Shannon, who you probably know from his tireless patrol on Mets Police [8], came to pick up the vision first expressed by Mr. Stem and ran with it. The result is coming to the ballpark that sits adjacent to the site of 1978’s SHEA STADIUM SHOW.

But it will be so much more.

On Saturday, January 18, Shannon and his co-conspirators Keith “Media Goon” Blacknick and Darren “The 7 Line [9]” Meenan, will present the first Queens Baseball Convention, or QBC ’14, at McFadden’s Citi Field. It is shaping up as the Saturday for which we’ve all been waiting if not all our lives, then at least all our winters.

QBC is described on its site [10] as an amalgamation of fanfest, Comic Con and Hofstra 50th anniversary conference [11]. You don’t have to read too hard between the lines to realize QBC implicitly spells M-E-T-S. Perhaps the greatest thing about this event is it’s about our team but it’s not being put on by our team. Our team has occasionally caravanned in through the Metropolitan Area but has never put on a wintertime fanfest. When we consider that fact, we tend to kvetch and moan about their hot stove negligence. Shannon & Co. did more than complain. They got to work putting on one for us.

Hence, for one Saturday in January, starting at noon, a corner of Citi Field will come alive with the sound of baseball. With Ron Darling [12] and Ed Kranepool [13] on hand to share their insights and autographs. With a special salute to the memory of Gil Hodges [14]. With Sandy the Seagull [15] winging his way over from Coney Island. With a mob of minutiae mavens. With the jazziest jerseys. With new media and old media (including a couple of bloggers you know well if you read Faith and Fear). With trivia for adults, games for kids and the spirit of Mets fandom shaken awake from hibernation nearly a month before Spring Training.

With a 1978 Topps No. 450 for sale [16], for all I know.

Plenty is planned [17] and plenty more is being planned. Shannon’s agenda is to stuff QBC ’14 so full and stack QBC ’14 so high that the Carnegie Deli [18]would’ve been proud to have served it to Mo Vaughn in 2002 [19]. Knowing Shannon, he will succeed. He and Keith and Darren and everybody pitching in is dedicated to creating both an unprecedented experience and the template for future QBCs. I’m very excited to be in on the ground floor…a more inspiring ground floor, frankly, than the one from which that vaguely sleazy fellow sold me the ’78 Seaver for 25 cents.

Not that that wasn’t great when I was 15. But as I approach 51, my reblown mind is capable of recognizing that this will be greater. This is a genuine “by the fans, for the fans” endeavor. I’m proud to be one of the fans pitching in to put it on and thrilled to be one of the fans who will be taking it all in.

So don’t just stare out the window and wait for spring. Give your 2014 Queens Baseball battery a jump start by Convening with your fellow fans. As a certain song [20] might suggest, everybody’s comin’ down to meet the Q-B-C of Flushing town. Step right up and greet it, too.

Information on Queens Baseball Convention tickets and events is here. [10]