This is not part of our Orange & Past series, but maybe it should be.
Back in February, intrepid sportstweeter Grant Brisbee tweeted this:
We laughed, liked, and moved on. But then last week, I received an email from a somewhat cranky reader named Stef (look, Stef, I miss Grant, too), who pointed me back to this topic whereupon I found the following YouTube videos:
(Yes, a legitimate unboxing video.)
(My favorite genre of YouTube video is bewildered southerner gets extra twangy while trying to figure something out.)
You can read the article the unboxer in that first video wrote about the card here. If you’ve made it this far and are still playing catch-up, let me explain:
- eBay is a commercial website where people can auction off their junk to strangers and receive payment through PayPal, unless the stranger is actually a really crafty grifter.
- José Uribe was the Giants’ starting shortstop, basically, from 1986-1992. He posted an ERA+ of 76. The Giants will say he stuck around because of his glove and that he could switch hit and lay down a bunt, but the real reason was that he was a cult hero. We had a chant for him and everything. Candlestick Park would break out into an “U-RIBE” chant on the few occasions where he made a great play or got a hit.
- He was beloved playoff hero Juan Uribe’s second cousin, but Juan called him “uncle”.
- José died in a car crash in 2006.
None of this background suggests why eBayers have decided to bid up or set auctions at ludicrous prices that are above the major league minimum salary ($545,000). The card itself holds no intrinsic value. From a notoriety standpoint, most baseball fans are likely to confuse José with beloved playoff hero Juan. The idea that there’s some sort of error on the card certainly gives it some sort of collector’s value, but not three quarters of a million dollars worth of value.
As of 9:15pm on Sunday, July 1st, 2018, here’s what popped up when I google searched for the 2 videos...
... and when I went to eBay and searched for the card. These are the top 6 results, sorted by highest priced first:
It’s definitely more bizarre than hilarious. Even the YouTubers can’t fathom why this random player card is valued so high. Only, they don’t even attempt a guess (although the linked article comes close). That’s where I come in. I’m gonna rip the lid off this thing, dammit.
There are only four reasons why a José Uribe 1990 Fleer baseball card is being auctioned off on eBay for six figures:
Uribe’s OPS+ that season was 69
Which means that Irony Bros are behind this. I freakin’ knew it, man. They’re gentrifying “nice” by jacking up the price.
Juan Uribe makes drunk midnight purchases
The auctioneers know this and they know that Juan Uribe signed that $21 million contract with the Dodgers way back when, so they’re trying to play on his emotions for profit. Sick. But not surprising. As the first YouTuber mentioned, one of these Uribe Fleer cards sold for $2,200. That could’ve been Juan.
Juan, if that was you, I’m sorry for your loss.
Organized crime is using it for money laundering
This seems like the most plausible explanation. The “auctioneer” is a drug lord’s lieutenant and the “winning bidder” is someone deep in debt to the drug lord who, in order to “make things right”, must carry all the risk of getting caught with the funds and being responsible for transferring them at the appropriate time. Then, voila. Clean money.
If it’s not a pure laundering scheme, then we’re definitely in the organized crime/organized something (private or national security apparatus) sphere. The auction price could be a signal of some kind.
“Boris, when see signal, go dead drop, retrieve item to bring to contact in embassy.”
There is a code in that undoctored eBay search, though. If you add the non-zero digits that precede the triple zeroes ($758,000 and $525,000) and use the $29,999.00 as a code switch where the “999” indicates the numbers stay the same, then you can see it:
$758,000 = 20
$758,000 = 20
$525,000 = 12
$29,999 = break
$24,000 = 24
$20,000 = 20
Which gives us a phone number: (202) 012-2420. That’s a Washington, D.C. number, so this thing goes straight to the top!
I’m not going to call that number, though. I’m no Tim Kurkjian (click here for reference). And don’t you be annoying and/or inappropriate and call that number, either.
We may never know the real reason for this oddity. It’s certainly not the most bizarre bit of auction ephemera out there and I’m certain it has nothing to do with José Uribe himself. This all just might be random. But if I am right... please don’t kill me, Organized Crime.