He’s a Jack(?) of All Trades
Well, his name’s not Jack, but Englewood retiree Richard Rogers otherwise fits that description very well. If you’re interested in history, so is he. You wanna talk about baseball? He’s an expert. The Red Sox? He’s a fanatic, and that goes for the Patriots and Celtics, too. You use eBay? He practically invented it. Dog racing? He was a bigshot in the field. Financial management? He was in the profession for a hundred years. Okay, maybe not that long, but let’s take a look.
Born in Middleboro, Mass. to parents of modest circumstances–his father, Edwin, was a meat cutter and later a frozen foods manager at First National Stores, and his mother, Annabelle May, was a housewife–Rich was a good student in the Middleboro schools, lettered in sports and got into nearby Bridgewater State. “I didn’t get a scholarship, but the tuition was only about $300 at that time, and I worked all through those years,” Rich remembers. He and his twin brother Rob landed most jobs as a duo: hammering sheetrock at age 16, picking apples, working in the cranberry bogs.
Rich majored in history and Russian studies–and thereafter never held a position relevant to his major. He left college in 1970 just a few credits short of graduating, and shortly after leaving school, he married his sweetheart Pat and needed a job. He got one with American Finance (which later became Beneficial Finance) as a debt collector in South Boston, probably the city’s toughest urban area, and he came in contact with some pretty shady characters. “I was a repo man, a leg-breaker,” he says with a laugh. It turned out that his legs were targeted more often than anyone else’s. After literally dodging airborne frying pans and angry delinquents for a few years, he became a credit manager for Beneficial. Thereafter he took successive credit manager jobs at Howard Johnson’s, Schmid and then at United Liquors, where on occasion he brushed shoulders with the notorious gangland boss, Whitey Bulger. Finally he landed a job with a computer company, Elcom Corporation, where he worked until his retirement in 2006.
Along the way, Rich and Pat had two daughters, Marianne (born in 1975) and Kerry (born in 1976), both of whom now live in Taunton, Mass. They have one granddaughter, Arielle, and three grandsons: Ty, Kyren and Jamie.
As a sideline, Rich got into greyhound racing. It all started in 1978, when he bought a couple of greyhounds and gave them to a kennel in southern New England that specialized in dog racing. Through the kennel he started buying puppies, raising them in Florida and running them in four states: Florida, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. “I loved the dogs, and the races, too,” he says. At one point he owned over 200 dogs, many of them top winners. But isn’t there great abuse of the dogs? “That’s a popular misconception,” says Rich. Greyhounds don’t start racing until they’re 18 months old, and they only race until they’re four years old or so. They have to qualify to race, and it’s true that some get injured in the sport. But they are treated like royalty. They’re fed the best food and given the best medical care. When they’re done racing, they are put up for adoption. Why would any owner want to treat his greyhounds any other way?” Rich might still be owning and running greyhounds if his partner/trainer in Florida had not been killed in an accident.
In retirement, Rich has not been idle. At various times he has been a school crossing guard, a credit analyst for Light Bulb Depot in Sarasota, a postal carrier in Rotonda, a ferryboat mate for the Palm Island Transit and a magazine distributor–pretty much a (are you ready for this?) Jack of all trades. “I need to keep busy, and I might as well make a little money doing something useful,” he says. But his real passion has been buying and selling major league baseball cards.
It all began in 1958, when he was ten years old. “I’d go down to the Panesis Market and buy a pack of ten bubble gums with baseball cards for a nickel,” he remembers. The kids would trade them to make complete sets of players from their favorite major league baseball teams, and Rich was an avid Red Sox fan. “I can’t tell you how many Mickey Mantles I traded for Red Sox players,” he laments. For the record, recently a 1952 Mickey Mantle in mint condition sold for $2.5 million. Sometimes he’d buy a packet from Leaf’s containing 10 baseball cards and a catseye marble. The cards went into his growing stockpile of cards, and the catseyes would be risked in a competitive game of marbles with his school buddies.
“I didn’t do much card collecting in high school,” Rich says. “And in fact I sold off almost all my cards–about 2,000 or so–to help pay for my college education.” In the late 1970s the collecting of baseball cards died down, but Rich found a baseball shop in Boston’s Kenmore Square that was selling cards from the 1950s and 1960s. “I’d go there pretty often and pick out cards in mint or near-mint condition for anywhere from 5 cents to a dollar each. That was at the bottom of the market, and I accumulated at least 4,000 cards then,” he remembers. And lo and behold, the market came alive again in the 1980s, especially for cards in mint or near-mint condition from the glory days of major league ball. “A guy nicknamed ‘Mr. Mint’ was buying up cards for a song, and interest began to build up,” Rich says. By 1990 baseball card trade shows were springing up all around the country. “I’d go to shows in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey, which was where most dealers were. New publications were coming out that valued all the different cards, which drove up interest and established pricing parameters.” Rich had been buying low and selling high for some time, and in his words, “I was making serious money on cards” in those heady days. How serious? As much as $10,000 in a single transaction.
But it all came to an abrupt halt with the advent of … hold onto your hat? … Beanie Babies. The stuffed toys invented by H. Ty Warner in 1993 became a nationwide fad, both for their appeal as toys and for their investment potential. Rich remembers that at the last trade show he attended, he was the lone baseball card trader among a host of Beanie Baby dealers.
Like the stock market, things change from year to year, and in 1996 the emergence of eBay and PayPal reinvigorated the baseball card business. “Two authenticating agencies came along at this time–PSA and SGC–and they provided a means of grading the baseball cards and guaranteeing their authenticity,” Rich says. “That facilitated the buying of legitimate cards and completing the transactions easily.” Rich buys only graded cards, and he deals only with cards that are in mint or near-mint condition. He was one of eBay’s earliest sellers, and he still uses eBay for his transactions. For a couple of hours just about every day, he’ll be in the market to buy or to sell…and not just baseball cards. He branched out to memorabilia–bats, jerseys and autographs–about 20 years ago. All of his research in the realm of major league baseball has made him a whiz on names, dates and teams–not just his beloved Red Sox, but any team in the league.
Betcha didn’t know that you had a Mister Rogers in your neighborhood and he’s such an interesting and enterprising guy.
Dean Laux is exploring interesting folks living in our community. If you know of anyone with an interesting background please send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Include the person’s name, contact info and give a brief description of the person's background.