Larry Dluhy Closes Houston “House of Cards”

Larry Dluhy Larry isn't retiring! There's no retiring in baseball collectibles! ~Larry's just taking his talents to the Internet!

Larry Dluhy
Larry isn’t retiring!
There’s no retiring in baseball collectibles!
~Larry’s just taking his talents to the Internet!

 

Don’t miss the article by David Barron at Chron.Com about the store-closing of Sports Collectibles in Houston. That business has been a staple in Houston for the past thirty-five years as one of our premier brick and mortar locations for the purchase of old baseball cards and an endless categorical list of other collectible sports artifacts that people seek, both in the name of sentiment and business trading. An old friend and baseball colleague, Larry Dluhy, is the owner, and a nicer fellow hardly ever walked the earth, as far as I’m concerned. Another Houston memorabilia dealer who falls into this same admiration category with me is Tom Kennedy, the baseball-loving guy who almost singlehandedly kept the Houston Sports Museum alive for years at the old Finger Furniture Store location at Cullen and the Gulf Freeway, but we are talking about Larry Dluhy today – and what his Texas store closings mean and do not mean, as we see them – from our catbird seat at The Pecan Park Eagle.

We considered headlines for this column – like the one we used – just to be cute. The reality, as we see it, is not that Larry Dluhy is folding his tent and going away. He’s just going where the collectibles market now lives today – and that’s on E-Bay – or some other cyber-marketing variants of that site. Like almost all other niche market areas of the USA shopper’s frenzy – and maybe the big items are working more this way too – people aren’t wandering around the congested streets of Houston looking for deals in the same old ways. Many of them now are digitally shopping for almost everything.  A guy that opens a “card shop” today is going to die of boredom or bad business waiting on the attack of the old piranha-mentality card shoppers of the past.

It’s a new day. For all of us. For everything.

I will always consider Larry Dluhy to be a friend, a collegial soul in our shared love for the game of baseball and the stuff of its history – and, very importantly, a fellow who, in my dealings with him during the time we both served on the Board of the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame as volunteer members, I remember well.  – Larry Dluhy’s right-spirited, unselfish effort will never be forgotten. – Not by me.

During most of the time he operated his storefront business, Larry’s late wife, Betsy, worked side-by-side with him to make sure their dream of success by working at something they felt passionately about was not just possible, but probable. And so it was to be for these two honest and likeable people – with the right mixture of love, spirit, common sense, energy, and dedication – succeed was what they did – and on so many levels.

When Becky died about five years ago, her services took place in this little chapel down in Fort Bend County. And when it was all over, it was a mixture of every day and very famous people who filed out the little center aisle. Nolan Ryan and J.R. Richard were both there that day, among other notables. As they departed down the chapel aisle, and in no disrespect for Becky, I couldn’t help but gravitate to an invading thought: “When healthy, and younger, walking plainly down this little church aisle at this very moment – comes what is probably the hardest One-Two throwing punch in the history of all baseball starting rotations – and I mean all time – and today – in this simple place –  they and their families are all here to pay a departing tribute – with everyone else – to Betsy Dluhy! – That is love and respect at a very high, but most humble level, dear friends.

Here’s the link to David Barron’s wonderful story:

http://www.houstonchronicle.com/sports/article/A-sports-collectibles-store-becomes-a-part-of-6103944.php#/0

Congratulations and Good Luck, Larry Dluhy!

A few thoughts on our sandlot days baseball card collecting rush to mind. In Pecan Park (1949-1953, esp.) my buddies and I were completely imbedded, or lost,  in the endless, fascinating, and always madly compulsive pursuit of those little cardboard proofs of our delicious childhood memories we all once new as baseball cards – the kind you got almost free – five to a pack – with a nickle purchase of a bubble gum stick whose sugary flavor hardly lasted all of thirty seconds. The cards were life – or bicycle spoke jazz – depending upon our greater needs of the day and who was on the card.

Let me put that last thought more plainly. – The always available cards of the O’Brien brothers, who once almost anonymously played for the Pirates, were the stuff that made our cycle noisemakers perpetually active in the bike spokes. The hardly ever seen cards of Stan Musial, Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle were the Holy Trinity back in the day. We were driven by the crazed spiritual pursuit of them, sometimes even vainly pursuing insider advance information on – how often and when these rarest of figures were set for projected release, by percentage of production per rare card – and by store delivery time and date schedule.

We never learned anything.

Buying all the cards we could get – with all the nickles we could hustle – and always hoping that our purchase would be on the first day on the store shelf of a new shipment – and not the last day of an old stock batch. – We never knew for sure, but that was all we had going for as a strategy. – That was our little version of the roulette wheel. We would have killed for the Internet, the social network and Google back then.

At first, it was all Bowman, with their great artistic facial close-ups. I always preferred Bowman. – They gave life and identity to our Mutual Game of the Day radio heroes that most of us only had seen in one of those heavily pixelated newspaper photos – or in the newsprint styled Sporting News – the kind of photo that showed a player swinging with his eyes closed – regardless of whether he knocked it out of the park or struck out.

Topps, of course, came along and introduced us to action shots. They were cool too. – Every time Yankee shortstop Phil Rizzuto had to leap catch a line drive to keep it from becoming a hit over the radio Game of the Day, he looked in our individual mind’s eye just liked he did on his Topps card. – How cool was that?

The memory of everything – from the taste of the gum itself – to the lingering aroma that found a longtime home within the fibers of the cardboard that supported the images and player information on opposite sides – is all – like yesterday –  even though – for many of us – it was long ago – if not so faraway – that baseball cards were the currency of our once young and much more innocent lives.

The only card that remains from my sandlot days collection is now preserved in a nice looking small frame. It isn’t Musial. It isn’t Williams. And it sure isn’t Mantle. – Truth is – of all the baseball cards I owned back then, I’m not even sure how this one is the one that survived – other than the fact that it somehow got misplaced in another box of my non-baseball related school materials that we found in a storage container years ago. Maybe I had a potential trade going at school that never worked out.

By chance, the surviving from my sandlot days collection is...  CLYDE VOLLMER.

By chance, the surviving card from my sandlot days collection is…
CLYDE VOLLMER.

Maybe, too, this is the lesson:

What is acquired by chance – only remains by chance.

And, unless I missed an important wisdom stop somewhere, and, in my case, that’s quite possible, I rather think that the just now expressed lesson about chance occurrences is a little bit larger than baseball cards alone.

Have a peaceful Sunday, everybody!

 

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2 Responses to “Larry Dluhy Closes Houston “House of Cards””

  1. Mark W. Says:

    Thanks for this update Bill. I frequented Larry’s shops quite a bit in the early 1990s, and I went to a number of card shows he promoted. I remember once buying three packs of Upper Deck baseball cards in his shop, and as I drove home my wife opened the packs and pulled an insert card signed by Mickey Mantle from one of them. My favorite memory of Larry is when he consulted with me on a Tip Top Bread baseball card I won at auction on eBay. The card looked fishy to me. I suspected it of being a reprint, but it was sold as an original 1947 issue. Larry graciously came to my house and examined the card. He verified that it was a trimmed reprint, with one border narrower than the other where the word “reprint” was trimmed off the card. The paper stock was the wrong guage, the card’s weight was wrong (too light), the color was wrong, and the telltale sign: speckles appeared on the photo of the loaf of bread on the reverse, where on the original card that area was smooth. Larry wrote a letter of authentication for me to send to the seller as documentation of the card’s bogus nature, who then relented and refunded my money. Larry refused to take a penny for this effort.

    I’m sad to see him close his shop, but I understand the practicalities given the nature of the business these days. (Incidentally, the card I wanted was Bobby Bragan’s Brookyln Dodgers rookie card, an authentic version of which I have since acquired.) I assume Larry will read this column, so Larry, once again I thank you for this splendid favor and for all the fond memories, and I wish you many more pleasant years of of convivial transactions in the world of baseball.

  2. Fred Soland Says:

    Both Larry and Betsy were great friends through the years. I still see Larry from time to time. We have been friends since 1980. Man, how the time flies!! I have watched both of his kids grow up to be fine adults. It is a sad time indeed to see Larry closing up shop, but he has earned a walk through the park.

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