The 11-year-old Who Collects 1952 Topps

’52 AL MVP and an 11-year-old Walk into a Hobby Shop

Date: May 28, 2024
Author: Greg Bates, Senior Writer
Topics: 1952 Topps, Baseball, Bobby Shantz, Card Culture, Collector Stories, Greg Bates
Length: 1087 Words
Reading Time: ~6 Minutes

As Bobby Shantz sat at a table signing autographs, he was shocked at what came before his eyes.

Eleven-year-old Cooper Davis presented the former American League Most Valuable Player with an album containing 1952 Topps Baseball cards.

Cooper Davis’ 1952 Topps binder (all photos provided by Bobby and Cooper Davis)

Shantz’s eyes lit up as he thumbed through the binder and shared some stories. He recognized former teammates and adversaries from his 16-year MLB career, which was a trip down memory lane for the 98-year-old.

Cooper’s dad, Bobby Davis, captured the magical moments on his phone at Geist Sporting Goods in Topton, Pennsylvania, on February 10.

“When Cooper opened the album in front of Bobby, he pulled it closer and started naming all the players,” Davis told Topps RIPPED. “The stories were incredible — like a time machine.”

Cooper keeps his prized cards in numerical order in the album. When Shantz reached card No. 219 in the 407-card set, he paused. It was a picture of himself as a 26-year-old pitcher for the Philadelphia Athletics.

“I think Cooper was a little bit in awe,” Davis said. “We didn’t anticipate Bobby taking the set and actually starting looking through it. There was maybe one guy behind us, but [Shantz] must have had [the card binder] for at least 10 to 12 minutes.”

Cooper Davis and Bobby Shantz

Shantz was interested in seeing more of the cards. The Davis boys didn’t want to hold up the line, so they retreated to the back and worked their way to the front again.

“It was pretty cool,” said Cooper, who is in fifth grade. “It was like he was going through, and then he found Allie Reynolds, the pitcher. He hit his first and only home run off him.”

Cooper’s dad added: “He gave us a little story on that, and that was pretty cool.”

Shantz wrote an inscription on the Reynolds card for Cooper: “My first home run.” And then signed it “Bobby Shantz.” He also autographed the card of himself: “Bobby Shantz ‘1952 A.L. M.V.P.’”

Cooper’s Bobby Shantz auto and a story to tell for a lifetime.

Shantz, the oldest living MLB MVP, enjoys reminiscing about his playing days.

“It was nice. I enjoyed that,” Shantz told Topps RIPPED. “I had a hard time remembering a lot of stuff. But I really like to go to card shows where I remember some of those things that happened to me when I was younger.”

Cooper’s PC

Davis started collecting 1952 Topps cards for his son about three years ago. The project has taken on a life of its own.

Cooper has every low-number card, 1-310, except the Willie Mays. He also has seven of the remaining 97 high-number cards from the set. Cooper doesn’t own the legendary names such as Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson, and Eddie Mathews. The set is 78% complete. Not bad for an 11-year-old.

Cooper picks up his ’52 Topps cards in various ways: on his birthday, holidays, for having good report cards, and even from collectors on social media who love to see the youngster trying to complete the coveted set.

“There’s a lot of people helping out,” Bobby Davis said. “They’re well-loved cards. There are many tape marks on some of them, but we don’t mind. There are stories behind each of these cards, like the little pinholes.”

When Davis found out Shantz was going to be signing, he knew he had to bring his son. Cooper was thrilled to find out the night before the event.

“There are not many ’52 guys left that are actually doing anything public — I think there might only be five or six guys still with us,” Davis said. “We’re about an hour and a half away from where the signing was, so we took a little drive after his basketball game that Saturday morning.”

Cooper, a St. Louis Cardinals fan, isn’t a stranger to memorable exchanges with MLB players. In August 2022, during Albert Pujols’ final big league season, the slugger handed Cooper his jersey after a game at Wrigley Field. The jersey is currently on loan to the National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum in Cooperstown, New York. Yes, Cooper is named after baseball’s most historic town.

Cooper plans to complete the ’52 Topps set at some point. It could be a number of years since he needs the rare high numbers and big-buck guys like Mantle, Mays, and Robinson.

“I told him he’s got to get a really good job,” his dad joked.

Bobby Shantz’s PC

During his long playing career, Shantz had at least one Topps or Bowman card released every season from 1950 to 1964. Over the years, he has accumulated about 100 of his own cards.

“A lot of guys send me cards and tell me to save them,” Shantz said. “So, I put them in my drawer. It makes me feel pretty good.”

Some of Shantz’s cards, along with the 1952 MVP award, are displayed on a wall over a fireplace in his Pennsylvania home. He enjoys looking at those cherished memories from time to time.

Shantz — who won Gold Gloves eight straight years from 1957 to 64 and was a three-time All-Star — had a fascinating playing career. The legendary Connie Mack managed him; played with some of the game’s best players of all time, including Mantle and Stan Musial; pitched against Ted Williams; and won a World Series with the New York Yankees in 1958.

Shantz attends four or five signings per year. Mingling with collectors and telling stories keeps him feeling young.

“I think I’m the only one alive from the Philadelphia Athletics,” Shantz said. “I don’t know if I’m the only one left for the Yankees or not. I don’t know what’s keeping me alive.”

Shantz was flattered when Cooper Davis wanted his autograph and showed him the ’52 Topps cards. It was a special moment for the former ballplayer 60 years removed from his final game. “It makes me feel like a million bucks,” Shantz said. “I can’t believe anyone would remember me. That’s really nice. That’s why I like to go to these card shows because I see so many people that really think I was pretty good. I don’t know why they think that, but I really appreciate it.”

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