When Kent Corser speaks of his three sons, you can almost see the grin stretch across his face—even though he’s on the phone some 800 miles away in Kansas City. But the joy presently in his voice has nothing to do with their latest report cards or some community service project. The thing that has Corser all smiles right now is the fact that his boys love sports cards.
“I have done my job as a parent,” says Corser. “They all collect cards in their own way and have their own unique collections, but all are based on those great 2014-2015 Royals teams.” Youngest child, Bryson, collects Eric Hosmer. Middle son, Jackson, has a stash of Alex Gordon cards. First born, Dylan, already owns more than 275 Mike Moustakas cards.
While commendable, the young men still have a ways to go before they catch the 4,000-plus Henderson bounty that dad has showcased in the family basement. But the shrine Corser dedicates to Major League Baseball’s all-time leader in stolen bases and runs scored is filled with much more than cards. “It’s so nice to not only be able to display, but to be able to share it,” says Corser of his Man (of Steal) Cave. “I’m all about sharing. That’s what elevates the fun of the hobby.” Almost daily on his Twitter page (@rickey939), in fact, Corser posts images of batting gloves, signed bases, artwork and other trinkets he’s gathered over the years.
As a huge fan of hard-playing, leadoff-hitting sluggers with swag, Sports Card Investor was all ears when Corser started talking about Henderson. In the following interview, Corser recalls the first time he held one of Rickey’s cards and talks about how his adoration for the Oakland A’s legend morphed into the impressive collection it is today. We probably could have chatted for hours on the subject, too, but it was Bryson’s birthday. And one thing the proud father didn’t want to do was keep Hosmer’s biggest fan waiting.
Questions and answers were edited for length and clarity.
Where did this love for Rickey Henderson come from?
My first set of baseball cards was from Santa Claus in 1987. I remember walking downstairs and seeing this big, boring brown box. I unwrapped it and learned that it was full of a complete set of 1987 Topps. At that point, I wasn’t really into sports cards. I played Little League baseball but all we had in the Midwest and Kansas City was everything Royals. We didn’t get East Coast or West Coast stuff, unless it was a nationally televised game. Of course, there was no internet or things like that. So, my exposure to Major League Baseball is whatever was in the Kansas City Star and, frankly, whatever George Brett was doing.
When I got this set, it really opened my eyes. I’m like, “Oh my gosh! There’s all these other teams and all these other players.” Here I am, a kid sorting everything by color, by teams, by numbers. As I started to do the collation by player, I noticed Rickey had a lot of cards. It was at that moment, I literally said to myself, “This guy must be good.” From there, it has just never stopped. I started digging in to learn more about Rickey. And that was already in the Yankees era. I missed the first Hall of Fame career with the A’s in the early days.
Obviously, a couple of years later, he was traded [back] to the A’s. That entire ’89-90 postseason run that those teams had was on TV. It just elevated my love for being able to see him. And then, in ’91, the stolen base record happened. And then, in ’93, he’s back in the World Series. There were multiple years in a row that I had more TV exposure of him. And, of course, every time any team he played for came to Kansas City, I was there. That’s how it really started.
And to take it a little further, I played left field in Little League and I led off. Between the cards and him being a left fielder and this amazing leadoff hitter [made me a fan]. I couldn’t hit worth a darn, but I was pretty fast. I could bunt my way on and steal second and third. Who else should I pattern myself after? I had to tell dad to go get the bright green Mizuno gloves. I had to have’em. I was the only kid in Little League to have a bright red and gray jersey, to have these lime green batting gloves. People were probably like, “What the hell is wrong with this kid?” I thought it was the coolest thing ever.
When you saw Rickey on the field, what made him special to you?
It has to be the swag. When I say “swag,” it can mean so many different things. But for me, you could tell that the guy loved the game of baseball. He’s before his time. He’s eccentric. He does all these things that, by today’s standards, are no big deal, but back then, you’re like wow. Were you supposed to love it or were you supposed to hate it? I’m from the side of loving it. At the end of the day, it’s entertainment. Not only was he so good at his craft, but he did it in such an entertaining way. Many think that it came across as cocky, but he was doing it from an entertainment perspective. And frankly, he could back it up. That was the part that stood out the most—his love for the game.
How did your collection balloon to what it is today?
I would say the biggest growth spurt for the collection was in the mid ‘90s. I’m 42, so high school for me was ’94-98. I worked at a baseball card store (Overland Park, Kansas’ The Baseball Card Store) in the summers. So, I had full access to any deals that came into the store. I had first rights, basically, to any Rickey Henderson rookies. In this market, nobody cared. People would sell’em to me cheap. I could trade cheap. I could do whatever I wanted.
I was also able to go to national shows, too. Some of my favorite memories were going to the Houston show which, at the time, was [equivalent to] The National. It was just a big regional show. That’s where I got my 1996 Select Certified Mirror Gold. In ’94, ’95 and ’96, yes, there was a ton of production going on and Rickey already had a ton of cards before that. But then, once the inserts hit and everything else, that’s where [my collection] started to take off.
But at the same time, I didn’t have a lot of money. Every dollar that I made, basically went back into the card store to supply the Rickey collection. And then, once I got into college, I worked in student publications on the I.T. side, so I got paid as a student worker. A lot of that money I pulled together [was for card purchases].
And in 1998, that was the first year I was on eBay. That’s when it really ballooned. Now, I wasn’t confined to stores and local shows. I had a national outlet. Since ’98, I’ve done thousands of transactions on that thing. That’s where it ballooned, but I really credit it back to those early years being able to work at that card store, which is still in business today with the same owner. Every time I go in, he’s like, “Wow, I can’t believe you’ve never wavered.” Never. Not once.
If Rickey stopped by your house today and wanted a tour, what are two or three proud possessions that you’d show him?
I think the first things that would come up are the Mizuno batting gloves. It resonates so much to me to see, that color. To this day, every time I see lime green or the numbers 939 (the number Henderson hit to break Lou Brock’s all-time steals mark), it takes me back. I know that was a big part of Rickey, having that sponsor for multiple years. I would definitely show him anything Mizuno related. He’s actually signed a pair of Mizuno batting gloves for me back in 2000. Of course, I’d want to hear his stories around the Mizuno agreement.
I would show him my wedding gift from my wife, Amy. We’ve been married now going on 18 years. I remember [her asking to borrow] a signed bat and a signed ball from 1983, which is really cool because it’s his early signature which is different from what his signature looks like today. He was just a kid. She said, “Hey, I need those.” I’m like, “Ha, yeah right.” She said, “Just trust me. I’m doing something with them.” I’m like, “Okay.” So, the night before our wedding, I open up this beautiful shadow box with amazing green mating on the inside [that she put the items in]. I have to show him that.
I have a Steiner signed base that I’m sure he’d get a kick out of if he were in front of me. Rickey doesn’t sign bases. The dirty little secret about Rickey is that, here he is, the all-time stolen base leader and he refuses to sign bases. However, Steiner kinda pulled one over on him. He had an exclusive contract with Steiner and the story goes that he showed up to sign other things —flats, balls, jerseys— and all of a sudden, there’s a table of bases. He looks at his manager at the time and said, “What am I supposed to do?” [The manager] goes, “Rickey, if you don’t want to sign’em, don’t sign’em. If you do, you’re here so go for it.” I’m sure, reluctantly, he did do it. As far as I know, they’re the only commercially available bases that have ever been signed by Rickey. But if you showed up at a show today with a thousand dollars for him to sign a base, he’d decline. So, it’s a very special piece for a variety of reasons. But not only is it signed “Rickey Henderson,” it has an inscription of “All-Time Stolen Base Leader 1,406.” It’s just awesome.
I could show him cards all day long. I have almost 50 of his rookie cards. I’m sure he might get a kick outta that. But he’s not a collector of his own stuff which, I think, surprises a lot of people. When you think of Rickey, you’d think his house would just be everything about him. But he loves artifacts of other folks.
Any guess on the amount of Rickey Henderson cards you might have?
It’s about 4,000 unique cards.
Yes, it is a wow but, sadly and infuriating to me, if you go to tcdb.com, before 2021, I think he was at 9,800 total cards out there. But now, it’s like 10,200 already. It’s just ridiculous. Obviously, with the dawn of 1/1, 1/5, 1/3, you name it, it’s just ridiculous. Ninety-seven parallels in Donruss and stuff like that. I’ve learned to tailor my sanity by always getting the base card. There’s probably not a base Rickey Henderson card that I don’t own. Then, I try to get the green parallel specifically because, obviously, it looks best with his jersey. If it’s a Yankees picture, I try to get one that goes with that jersey.
Otherwise, I’m done with the days of trying to get every single card. Basically, up until 2002 or ’03, I did have everything that was ever produced, card-wise. Except for some complete unicorns out there. Then, that ’03, ’04, ’05 [stretch], things flipped. It was just insane. I think there were 8,600 total cards in 2005 alone. So, it sounds like a lot [that I own], but in the grand scheme of things, I’m not even halfway there, buddy.
What are the unicorns that you haven’t been able to get?
Some of the things I want are, of course, the five-or-less sort of things. I could fill probably two or three rainbows if I could just find the last piece of the puzzle. There are other things, frankly, that are one of 99 that I can’t find. Specifically, there’s a 2010 Topps manufactured bat barrel. I think it was out of their Topps Update or maybe it was Topps Series 2 in 2010. They made a crap ton of bat barrels. It’s manufactured. It’s obviously fake. But daggone it, for whatever reason, I can’t find the Henderson out of 99. There’s also a black bat out of 25. There was one that popped up on eBay probably about a year ago now and I missed it. It’s so weird. I can find stuff all day long numbered 10 or less that you’d think would be impossible to find. And yet, I find those daily. But I can’t find the stuff out of 99. There are things like that that are infuriating.
But I’m just at peace [overall]. At the end of the day, if I get it, cool. If I don’t, no big deal. I know some folks that it would eat them alive that they don’t have it. They would spend whatever amount of money [to get it]. I’ve had to set boundaries and I’m very at peace with those boundaries. I’m strategic. I’m smart about it. Family first. Kids first. The car, the house. Everything has to be done first. If cards make it into that month, awesome. If it’s six months, fine. It is what it is.
Tell me about how your collection is set up at your house.
It’s a basement. It takes three full walls of the basement. What you don’t see on the other side of the basement is my kids’ stuff. We’re big Royals and Chiefs fans. There are other items on the other walls of the basement. But yeah, I told my wife when we bought this house back in 2018 that all I cared about was the basement. I was specifically looking for space that I could showcase the stuff.
Prior to having our second child, I used to have an office at the house. That office turned into a bedroom. You know that whole story. Once you have kids, they take over. I used to have a den, but the den was taken over. Now that we have three kids, now there’s not even a guest room.
For many years, other than the cards, everything was rolled up into a crawlspace. It was in pristine condition, but I never got the opportunity to get things framed. Even if they were framed, I didn’t have a place to put them. So, when we made this move in ’18, I was adamant that [the house] had to have a finished basement and tons of finished wall space. When we saw this house, I walked straight downstairs. My wife goes into the kitchen and bathrooms, right? I’m like, “See ya! I’m going downstairs.” In five minutes, I came back up and said, “I’m good.”
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