Monday, August 26, 2019

Jack of All Trades - My Take on the Baseball Card Documentary

My wife has recently been on a documentary kick, watching all sorts of different shows on Netflix. The other night she texted me from the other living room (yeah, she really did) a link to Jack of All Trades and asked if I wanted to watch it. We both read the the Netflix description and thought it sounded good. My wife did ask me what the "scandal" mentioned was all about and I have to say I had no clue. If nothing else, this just made me more interested in watching the documentary.

Before I get too far into this post, spoiler warning. If you haven't watched it then you may want to stop reading, bookmark this post and then come back afterwards to share your thoughts.

I was prompted to create this post after I posted on Twitter yesterday afternoon that I was watching the documentary and the comments I received were all over the place. Apparently there are a lot of different polarizing opinions and after viewing the documentary myself, I can see why. Going in I thought this was purely about baseball cards, but cards only play a part of the story. This is as much a documentary on co-producer Stu Stone's life as it is on baseball cards.

It starts off with Stu going home to Toronto to retrieve boxes of stuff from his childhood that were put away until recently. Going through the boxes he finds a Cabbage Patch Kids, Magic School Bus toy, My Pet Monster and other items from the late 70's / early 80's. Of course he also finds a few singles, a few boxes and factory sets of mostly junk wax. He boxes all of them up and through a call to his sister, plans on taking them to a local card show to sell and make big money. This is where I started to wonder what was up with the documentary. Through some home video of Stu's bar mitzvah, he explains that his dad, Jack, used to own a baseball card store in Toronto called Sluggers. Turns out he was sort of a big deal in the card business for a if that was the case wouldn't Stu have known that a 1987 Topps set or a 1991 Upper Deck factory set wasn't worth the cardboard it was printed on?

The production of the documentary was pretty crude. The other director (and Stu's childhood friend)
Harvey Glazer, also stars and would often open his mouth and ruin the flow of the documentary. From the home video segments and interview style portions of the show, the viewer learns that shortly after that bar mitzvah footage Jack would leave his wife and family. He would fall off the map for the better part of 25 years. This is where the documentary starts to shift gears from being about baseball cards and more about Stu's dysfunctional father.

While I didn't mind the "extra story" regarding Stu and his father (and I use that word lightly), I can see why this annoyed some people. I didn't mind it because a big part of anything collectible is nostalgia and the memories these things we collect bring us. A lot of the things I collect bring back memories from my cards, name it. It's part of the reason why I collect. I had a great relationship with my father up until the time he passed away in 1998 due to cancer. I obviously can't relate with Stu's story, but I did find parts of it sad at times.

Getting back to cards, some of the better parts of the documentary was seeing his interview with Jose Canseco, getting to meet super collector "Foul Ball" Paul Jones and Stu visiting the Topps headquarters. Sooz from A Cardboard Problem even has a cameo!

Overall I found the documentary to be interesting. The acting was bad, I think everyone can agree on that...but these aren't really actors. That said, if I hadn't seen my father for 25 years and all the sudden I had a chance to talk to him person, I don't think I could have casually sat down as Stu did and interview his father. That said, I would encourage any baseball card collector to take the time to sit down and watch Jack of All Trades at least once. It may not be the documentary most of expected or wanted to see, it was still fun seeing baseball cards being talked about and shown in more of a mainstream media.

If you've watched this before I'd love to hear your comments about it. Several of my Twitter followers have already shared their opinions...which were all over the place! If you haven't watch it yet, it's currently streaming on Netflix at the time of this post.


  1. Nice review. I think if you go into it with the idea that it's not a movie with professional actors, but instead a documentary with real people and a personal hook, then it's not a bad watch. I enjoyed it overall and found the parts about the quantity of '89 UD Griffey cards to be very interesting.

    1. I don't want to think that UD printed sheets and sheets of the '89 Griffey RC...but it's UD we're talking about so I wouldn't put it past them.

  2. Baseball card movies are like Star Wars movies. If they make them, I'll watch them. Overall... I enjoyed the movie and will probably watch it again at some point. I can definitely see myself playing it in the background while I'm sorting cards or something.

  3. I honestly did not care for this documentary. It felt like the old bait and switch technique to me. Come for the cards, stay for the family drama!!!

  4. Yeah the Netflix description just mentions the baseball card story and not the bigger family drama so it was kind of a misdirection.

    It was fine overall, with Canseco and Don West quite fun. I was hoping for more on the collapse of the industry and the UD stuff was interesting.

    Stu came off as a bit of a whiner at the start, and I didnt really get the bonfire at the end...burn the cards to move on from being abandoned?

  5. I thought the story was interesting. Like you said, cards evoke so many memories and for him it was about his family.