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The K.P. Wee Podcast

Dec 6, 2021

What happens when you have two super-knowledgeable sports super-fans on one show? Magic! This episode of the K.P. Wee Podcast features the host and his guest swapping stories and stats at a fast and furious rate. Michael Unger, best known to baseball card collectors through the social media handles udeck1990@Twitter or upperdeck1990@Insta, shares the story of how he turned a set of 1990 Upper Deck baseball cards that were gathering dust into a subject of daily fascination for collectors everywhere. Early in 2020, he started posting a daily meditation on each of the cards contained in the collection just for the fun of it, but quickly found a universe of followers eager to join the conversation. Michael’s daily social media posts quickly evolved into a community and it was through this online sports ecosystem that K.P. and Michael connected. It turned out that, in addition to sharing a passion for sports and interest in players like John Cangelosi, they were also fellow Canadians enjoying life in Vancouver.

The show features some context for Michael’s #UpperDeck1990 project, including his personal motivation and some of the characteristics that distinguished these cards from Topps or any other brand in circulation. Known to many as the go-to company for hockey cards, Upper Deck was granted a license in 1989 by Major League Baseball and quickly set a new standard for premium cards with improved photography, design, card stock quality. The company’s 1990 set also included the industry's first randomly inserted personally autographed and numbered cards of sports superstars.

There has been a real renaissance of interest in collecting and trading, which Michael attributes to a mix of interest in pandemic pastimes, new marketing initiatives that have generated fresh new designs and the fact that a generation of 1990s kids have now reached an age where they have a little disposable income to invest in sentimental collectibles. K.P. also elicits a great story about how Upper Deck rode a big wave on the back of Ken Griffey Jr. 

Towards the end of the episode, K.P. yields the mic so that Michael can ask a few questions of his own. Their fun conversation reveals not only a little of K.P.’s life story but also what it was about sports that captured his imagination as a somewhat shy young immigrant from Singapore. He never could have imagined that his interest in following players and teams would one day result in personally coming to know and write about some of his favorites. Enjoy this upbeat conversation between two men who share a lot in common. They are both educators, Vancouverites, sports and stats enthusiasts, and members of the #UpperDeck1990 community that Michael has built to the delight of so many fellow baseball card collectors!

To learn more about two of the online reference sites Michael likes to consult, visit the Society for American Baseball Research or the Baseball Reference website.

You can hear previous episodes of the K.P. Wee Podcast here.

If you’re a fan of this podcast’s intro music, please follow Roger Chong:

Twitter @chongroger and Instagram @chongroger


  • (3:15): K.P. introduces Michael, aka #udeck1990 or upperdeck1990, a fellow sports fan-turned-friend via social media and a shared passion for all things baseball.
  • (5:59): Why baseball cards and why the Upper Deck brand in particular? In January 2020, Michael was feeling down and looking for a way to get out of his own head.
  • (11:05): The physical cards themselves, in addition to a limited number of Twitter characters, have formed the scaffolding for Michael to do a deep dive on one player, one card, one day at a time. He has been working his way through the entire set of some 800, finding endless stories behind the stats.
  • (13:38): Baseball cards have reignited for Michael, who has started collecting/trading them again. He has found not only a meaningful, engrossing pastime but also camaraderie within the online community that has grown up around his Upper Deck project.
  • (14:55): Many kids of Michael’s era were excited by the monetary value in baseball cards, but at this point the bigger draw is a simple love for the community on Facebook, Insta and Twitter. There’s a real buzz these days around collecting cards -- perhaps because of confluence of generational stage of life, pandemic and some exciting new initiatives like the Topps Project70 remix of new designs by well-known artists. 
  • (16:38): Exactly how big is the universe of card enthusiasts? Michael says it’s hard to quantify because of the multiple audience streams, some on social media and others not. Just one group on Facebook has 11,000 members, for example. 
  • (19:15): Michael returns to what it was that drew him to Upper Deck. Where production values had historically been pretty basic, they were among the early adopters of full-color, high-quality photographs. He gravitates to the clean design and quality.
  • (21:06): Upper Deck caught a big break with their first release -- putting all their stock into a rookie by the name of  Ken Griffey Jr. Many believe that one card was revolutionary. Upper Deck cards were a little bit more expensive and a little rarer to find and everyone wanted that 1989 Griffey. It’s still one of the iconic cards in the industry.
  • (24:05): The One: K.P. asks Michael to describe his absolute favorite card ever and gets a reflection on why it is that fans gravitate to particular players (in Michael’s case, Darryl Strawberry, a fellow tall/thin guy). Like old friends, our life ups and downs can correspond or sometimes intersect with the fortunes of the players we follow. Today Michael has nearly 200 unique Darryl Strawberry cards, but is still looking for the Holy Grail: 1983 Topps trading card.
  • (30:15): The beauty of sports as a diversion from the workaday world – something that both Michael and K.P. appreciate at the end of a long day. Going onto Twitter helped Michael step away from science education and engage in other universes of interest, including baseball cards and beyond. Social media enables all kinds of conversation and cross-cultural learning that he finds exciting and educational.
  • (33:33): John Cangelosi became the unlikely connector between Michael and K.P., who has written a book about the player, "John Cangelosi: The Improbable Baseball Journey of the Undersized Kid from Nowhere to World Series Champion."  The two found each other through Twitter and learned that they were neighbors. 
  • (34:35): Michael turns the microphone on K.P., throwing out some interview questions of his own. The two discuss K.P.’s roots in Singapore and how his experience as a shy kid assimilating into a new Canadian life in part fostered a fascination with sports. 
  • (38:55): K.P. shares memories of the year baseball became his passion (even if he got started mainly because it was fun to root for the contrarian, glass-half-empty teams). It was through sports that a young K.P. cemented schoolyard friendships. 
  • (42:21): Michael asks K.P. how it was that he made the leap from ardent fan to author. As a kid, he felt most comfortable inside his mind, so writing down thoughts came naturally as a forum for exploring his interest. From there, K.P. developed into an author through initiative and hard work. (Click here to learn more about KP's books.)
  • (43:44): K.P. shares the story of how he became preoccupied with Tom Candiotti, whom he perceived as a scapegoat who nonetheless kept showing up and getting the job done. Inspired by his indefatigability, K.P. reached out to Candiotti as a fan and ultimately in 2010 wrote "Tom Candiotti: A Life of Knuckleballs." 
  • (53:41): One for a trivia buff! Michael asks what’s the name of the one pro baseball player who comes alphabetically between Cangelosi and Candiotti? K.P. is officially stumped. The answer? John Caneira. (Learn more about Caneira and all things baseball at Baseball Reference website.
  • (55:43): K.P. and Michael wrap up with a promise to team up again and share more stats, stories, fun – and their shared passion for all things sports and life!


  • (11:34): “I can go on the internet and find out any information I want now, but back in the 80s and 90s you couldn’t. Baseball cards were really these nuggets of information to learn about all the players.” 
  • (13:05): “Lo and behold, I’ve developed friendships online because of this and that’s really something surprising. I didn’t think that was going to happen. And I’ve also gotten into collecting cards again!”
  • (20:30): “(Upper Deck) put a lot of production into the quality of the cards and a lot of thought into the quality of the photographs.”
  • (25:27): “When I started going to high school life started to change. It wasn’t cool to collect cards anymore. There were other factors at play and life started to change a lot. All of a sudden baseball cards were just for kids; not for me anymore.”
  • (32:26): “We forget sometimes that we’re so close to the United States, which is such a big country with so many different pockets and little areas. It’s hard to clump people together and put labels on them, so I find it fun to have (online community) conversations.”
  • (42:31): “When I was younger I was shy and didn’t like to talk. I probably could communicate better by writing down my thoughts … And sports is not a topic where you’re going to convince somebody by just telling them something.” (K.P.)

Michael Unger’s Bio:

In addition to his #upperdeck1990 and #udeck1990 social media following, Michael is also a fan favorite at the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre in Vancouver, where he organizes programs across cultural and scientific disciplines. He’s a fixture at Nerd Nite Vancouver, a bar lecture series that offers an alternative to traditional learning environments, and he manages SCI-CATs (a team of science communicators that have created open source teaching modules that span a range of science communication topics). Michael is most passionate about finding new ways to connect with audiences, sharing the diversity of humanity looking into the cosmos with a sense of wonder and curiosity about the universe and our place in it.

Follow Michael Unger @Twitter or @Insta

About K.P. Wee: 

K.P. Wee is the author of multiple books and a regular contributor to sports radio programs and websites. In addition to hosting The K.P. Wee Podcast, he also enjoys writing sports and psychological fiction with a twist of romance. He spent a decade working as a program developer and instructor for a private school before joining the Vancouver Canadians baseball club’s media relations department. 

You can find out more about books by K.P. Wee here.


Follow K.P. Wee:

K.P. @Twitter

Additional episodes of the K.P. Wee Podcast: