For the Love of Baseball Cards
From Hank Aaron to Robin Yount
A lifelong baseball fan and pitcher on the 1963 University of Texas team, West University’s John Collier has loved baseball cards since he was a nine-year-old Little Leaguer in Lufkin, Texas. Seventy-one years and thousands of cards later, John’s passion for finding, sorting, and organizing cards is still strong. But perhaps the most rewarding has been the joy of gifting them to charitable causes and children with a passion for baseball.
John shared, “My interest in Major League Baseball (MLB) cards coincided with a meaningful hobby and wonderful lifelong learning experience that has added value to many levels of community conversations well into my senior years.”
A fun card-collecting goal for John is creating notebooks with unique categories, like the one he assembled in 2016 with Baseball Hall of Fame players. The collection has over 250 former Major Leaguers who have been voted in by sports writers since 1936. The first five baseball greats elected were Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson, and Walter Johnson. The cards are alphabetized from Hank Aaron to Robin Yount.
John recently decided to give his Hall of Fame collection to the Payne family, which includes Braeden Payne, a sophomore at Kinder HSPVA, and Aaron, a freshman at Lamar High School. John has followed the boys’ baseball and life journeys while watching them grow up at West University United Methodist Church. Both boys played West University Little League since they were 7. Aaron also played for Pershing Middle School and is now on the Lamar Freshmen Fall team.
‘When I was about eight, Mr. Collier was so nice to surprise me with my first three baseball cards,” shared Braeden. “His kindness inspired my interest in collecting and taking time to check out different players and teams. We were really excited when Mr. Collier recently gave us his 2016 Hall of Fame players' notebook.”
The brothers admire Mr. Collier sharing his love of collecting baseball cards with kids, which may inspire some new collectors. Because of him, they have enjoyed taking time to find cards and learn more about the history of the game and realize just how many people have played through the years.
Aaron noted, “You may think there is a current player that is the best of all time, but then your dad or grandfather might say, ‘No, this person that played when I was your age was really the best.’ It’s a generational thing. I really love the cards and I know my kids are going to appreciate them, too.”
Braeden and Aaron’s dad, Brian Payne, also started collecting baseball cards back when he was in Little League. He said he’s grateful that John’s enthusiasm and generosity has inspired the boys’ excitement. The whole family, including baseball mom, Lee Ann, are big Astros fans and watch as many games as possible.
John also shares his cards for good causes. For one West U Methodist project fundraiser, he donated a baseball card-themed birthday party for a child, including cards for all guests to take home. He also attended to share a brief history of baseball cards and set up a display of cards from the 1930s-90s. A longtime West University Rotary Club member, John has donated notebooks to many Rotary clubs’ silent auctions.
When the Astros were in the 2005 World Series playoffs with Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, and Roger Clements, John set up a baseball card table at the West U Elementary Fall Festival with 100 percent of the sales going to the school.
John’s love of the Houston Astros has highlighted some of his favorite notebook-gathering mission accomplishments. “Putting together cards of MLB Hall of Fame second basemen (Biggio), Hall of Fame first basemen (Bagwell), and MLB sluggers with 3000 hits (including Biggio) has been a fun learning experience in my 70s!”
With the Golden Age of Astros baseball, 2017-2023 World Series championships and pennate accomplishments, collecting and sharing cards has provided John with many special moments for Houston conversation and an opportunity to bond with other ’Stros fans.
“There is a special joy going to an Astros game with cards of Biggio or Altuve or Bregman in your pocket and handing off one to a kid wearing that Altuve or Bregman or Biggio jersey!” John grinned. “It is pure fun giving a 50-cent card away that brings a $100 smile.”
In addition to baseball cards, John loves spending time with his wife, Polly, their four married children and 10 grandchildren, including a few who play in West University Little League where John coached his sons 40 years ago. John is also the executive director of Caring Friends Inc., a nonprofit that partners with various charitable outreach organizations.
John’s baseball accolades included being an All-State Texas high school pitcher in 1961 and Southwest Conference Co-MVP in 1965 as a Longhorn. He turned down offers from the New York Mets and the St. Louis Cardinals but still had many MVP grand-slam moments during his multi-decade career as a Methodist pastor.
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