Filmmaker and actor Stuart Stone set out to make a documentary about one of his loves that vanished. But his story became more about another loss.
Jack Of All Trades first seeks to figure out why baseball card collecting became a thing of the past and why cards that everyone said would be worth so much became worthless. Then it tries to answer a much tougher question: why did Stone’s father, who was seemingly on top of the world, with money, great children and a great wife, suddenly sell his baseball card stores, disappear without a trace and not stay in touch?
Stone, 40, grew up in Toronto and spent a lot of time at his father Jack Eisenstein’s baseball card store called Sluggers, which grew to 12 locations. In the film, which is currently airing on Super Channel, and will soon be on Netflix, he speaks to representatives from the major baseball card companies, including Topps and Upper Deck as well as Blue Jays radio broadcaster Mike Wilner. We see him at a depressing card show where he is told boxes of cards he thought would rake in good money would only fetch about $10.
He learns that at one time, there were 10,000 baseball card stores in America, and amazingly, his father originally set prices on cards years before the Beckett’s Guide came out. At its zenith, this magazine which was the bible of card collectors, sold one million copies in a year. Stone interviews former Oakland A’s slugger and admitted steroid user Jose Canseco, who appears relaxed and humble.
While Stone, (who changed his name from Eisenstein) is obsessed with baseball cards, he is also sympathetic. It’s hard to watch the cute and full-of-life boy joke around in his bar mitzvah video, not knowing that weeks later his father would be gone.
“People who disappear, there’s a reason why they disappear,” Stone’s uncle tells him, advising him not to meet with his father.
But when he is told his father by chance is at a hotel in Toronto, he decides to meet the man he hadn’t seen in 25 years. The scene packs an emotional punch. His father eventually begins to tear up. As for the million dollar question of why he not only left but didn’t keep in touch with his family, he says he was sick and stupid. Then he offers a bewildering excuse that may make you want to throw your remote at the screen. It’s a Dr. Phil moment without Dr. Phil.
There is a question as to whether Jack Eisenstein screwed people over in the business and it also becomes clear that store owners knew the card industry was a racket and the value of cards would decrease after people shelled out money for them because they were not as scarce as the public believed.
The film focuses a bit too much on cards, and maybe it would have been interesting to see some of Stone’s personal life. Stone is an actor who has appeared in films such as Donnie Darko and The Boys Club. He has also produced rap music.
Even better, it would have been informing to see whether his father’s absence affected his ability to have a close relationship. The inclusion of those elements would have made this work a home run. As it stands, it’s a triple.
Jack Of All Trades is a fascinating look at what happens when a young boy’s hopes are squashed and who decades later seeks answers as an adult. This tear-jerker should be required viewing for any baseball fan.
It is a superb film and Stone shows a lot of courage and chutzpah to talk to his father on camera when he hasn’t seen him in ages.
Jack Of All Trades also has a painful lesson: when it comes to business, it’s great to swing for the fences. But when it comes to family, it hurts a lot more when you strike out.