Category Archives: sports

Philadelphia

Donell Nixon 1989 Score I mentioned previously that my first big autograph experience in Philadelphia was mainly about cards. And sure there are lots of stories from that trip like Kevin Mitchell, Will Clark, Orlando Cepeda, Hank Aaron, and the Old Timers. But most of the experiences, while I’m glad I had them, kind of blend together into a whirlwind of a weekend.

My childhood autograph binder was roughly organized by event. This wasn’t because of any conscious effort to organize things autobiographically, it’s just that, as I acquired new signatures, they went into the back of the album. I’m trying to figure out how I want to reorganize things now. It’s nice to have the events but it’s also not the best way to present things.

Before I reorganize though, in much the same way that I felt obliged to scan my childhood collection of “old” cards before incorporating them into my current acquisitions, I’m going to post my autographs by event (where appropriate) so I can remember when and where I got them once they’ve been reorganized.

Kevin Mitchell 1987 Topps Will Clark 1987 Topps Brett Butler 1987 Topps Scott Garrelts 1987 Topps Pat Sheridan 1987 Topps Robby Thompson 1987 Topps Kevin Mitchell 1989 Score Brett Butler 1989 Score Scott Garrelts 1989 Score Craig Lefferts 1989 Score Candy Maldonado 1989 Score Kirt Manwaring 1989 Score Don Robinson 1989 Score Robby Thompson 1989 Score Jose Uribe 1989 Score Matt Williams 1988 Topps Don Robinson 1989 DonrussEarnie Riles 1986 Topps

I travelled with 1987 Topps and 1989 Score. I’m not sure why I chose 1987 Topps except that it was my oldest set and I’m pretty sure I liked the idea of getting the oldest cards I had signed. I have no idea why I didn’t take the 1987 Topps Don Robinson although I do like how the 1991 Donruss looks.

I chose the 1986 Earnie Riles instead of 1987 because the 86 was his rookie card. Similarly, the 1988 Matt Williams is his rookie card (I only started getting the Topps Traded set in 1988 so I didn’t have his 1987 Traded card either).

1989 Score on the other hand was a set which I just loved the look of. The action photos were great and the white card stock and semi-gloss finish were a welcome contrast to Topps. It manages to be both photo-centric and colorful and they all look great signed.

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Will Clark

Will Clark 1987 Topps

While Will Clark was overshadowed by Kevin Mitchell at the time, this is now my favorite signed card from my Philadephia trip. Yes I have a good story with the Mitchell card, but the Will Clark experience is funnier.

Well, funnier in hindsight. Of all the players whose autographs I was trying to get that trip, Clark was probably the most intimidating. As intense as he was on the field, he kind of gave off that intensity off the field too. In short, he was an asshole. But he was my team’s asshole.

So it’s funny now picturing the kid all kitted up in Mets gear who Clark met with an “I don’t like the Mets” comment.* Poor guy visibly blanched and panicked. And it’s funny thinking about the poor lobby clerk who didn’t recognize him so instead of showing his ID he brusquely called a kid over to the desk, curtly held the baseball card up, signed it and gave it back to the nervous but jubilant kid.

*Note, Clark still signed for him.

I took that he smiled at me because I was kitted up in Giants gear* as a sign that I was doing everything right.

*Knowing what I know about Philadelphia fans now I should probably have a conversation with my mom about this.

 

Will Clark

It also helps that I never got another Clark signature over years of effort. The more I tried for another card or ball the more I appreciated the one I had. Still, I did get the ball as a gift years later. No idea from where or who actually but I’m reasonably sure it’s legit.

The further I’ve aged away from my childhood collecting days the more I’ve realized that I’m a Will Clark fan. He was the guy for all the teams of my youth. My first game was on 1986 when he’d burst onto the scene. And the 1994 strike means that my last true childhood season was that wonderful 1993 season with its heartbreaking pennant race. By the time I returned to the game the Giants were Barry Bonds’s team and, while I was still a fan my feelings are much more complicated about those seasons.

But with Will every card or bit of memorabilia reminds me of being a kid. I love that I have had* a 1989 Mitchell and Ness Clark jersey. And I love that I have a burgeoning Will Clark player collection of baseball cards. It’s not a comprehensive gotta-have-them-all collection but I’m adding to it as I come across issues I’ve not seen or heard of.

*Between the date I wrote this post and the day I actually published it my Will Clark jersey got stolen.

Orlando Cepeda

Orlando Cepeda

That new ball I got for Hank Aaron but never got signed? I shouldn’t have gotten upset about wasting it either. I was winding down my autograph hunting as I had nothing new for many of the players to sign* when who should I see in the lobby again but Orlando Cepeda. He’d already signed the team ball but he was also a player who was totally worthy of a single ball.

*This gets filed under “signs of a successful trip” and “good problems to have.”

Cepeda was wonderful and gracious and I’m happy that his autograph is my first “big” signature on a ball all by itself. I passed up many additional opportunities to get his signature over the years. He was always signing for fans but I didn’t need another ball of his nor did I have any cards I was willing to get signed.* But he was a great guy who the fans loved and I was thrilled when he finally made it into the Hall of Fame.

*My treasured 1960 card was too special for me to risk something happening to it during travel or the scrum of an autograph session.

Bart Giamatti

I also love that my Cepeda ball is on a Bart Giamatti National League ball as it both dates when I got it and reminds me who my favorite Commisioner of baseball was. Most of my autographs are on Bill White baseballs and I’m both jealous of kids now who only have to deal with one official baseball for autographs and happy that I never had to deal with a Bud Selig ball.

Hank Aaron

Hank Aaron

The funny thing about missing Hank Aaron in while I was getting Kevin Mitchell’s autograph was that I had absolutely nothing for him to sign anyway. I mean I guess I could have gotten it on my Giants-branded baseball but that would’ve been all kinds of wrong. It was only after getting all the Old Timers signatures on hotel stationery and having filled up the Giants ball that I managed to talk my mom into buying a brand-new National League baseball.

Getting that ball probably cursed my autograph hunting for that trip since it was the transition between being satisfied at getting most of what I brought signed to wanting more more and MORE. Hank Aaron became my goal for the rest of that weekend. I came close a few times but repeatedly failed. When it became clear that I wasn’t going to get his signature I started to sorry about “wasting” my baseball and wanted to get it signed by anyone.

This is about the point where my mom yanked me out of the hotel and walked me down to the Philadelphia Mint. The walk was long enough to cool down and get a talk—not a lecture, just a talk—about obsession and how easy it is to get greedy and lose track of things. I’d been ecstatic just getting Donell Nixon’s signature only a day or so earlier. Now I was all upset about wasting a new baseball because I had no more room on the previous one. And the Mint was cool I also collected coins (naturally) and so seeing how they were made and buying a proof set cheered me up.

Anyway, two years later my mom accompanied me to a card show, purchased a Hank Aaron baseball, and managed to hide it from me both throughout the show and until Christmas. I’d sort of forgotten about the Philadelphia experience but she noticed that I’d learned my lesson and figured that I’d put enough legwork in trying to get Aaron’s autograph that I deserved one.

Mailday from @mjpmke

A great mailday from Matt Prigge (@mjpmke) which manages to hit a bunch of different projects I’m working on. Matt’s a Brewers fan whose All-time Brewers project seemed daunting until I found out about his Brewers Autograph Project. He also has some cool history writing about Milwaukee.

This is one of those rare cards which satisfies two projects at once. This fills a hole in my 1974 Giants but it’s also a record of the Padres aborted move to Washington DC. I’ve been sort of working on a moves/expansion project for a while now and the 1974 Washington cards are a key part of that.

I’m also working on a project of Stanford Alumni. I’ve not gone after any of the cards from after I stopped collecting in 1994 so this stack is fantastic. It’s a good mix of players like Sprague and Hinch who I collected (and chased autographs) when I was still a kid and players like Lowrie and Storen who I’m older than and would’ve felt really weird about trying to get their signatures.

Some Junk Wax Giants, most of which I’m pretty sure I don’t have. 1988 Donruss is one of those sets which, as nostalgia-inducing as it is, looks worse and worse each year. 1990 Donruss and 1990 Fleer though are growing on me. I love the Topps Gold Righetti card and that Upper Deck Triple Crown subset is also brand new to me.

And a half dozen holiday cards. I have to admit that these confuse me greatly. Googling suggests this was a Walmart exclusive set released around Christmastime. The idea of replacing the smoke effect in 2016 Topps with snowflakes is mighty weird. Baseball is, after all, a summer game so the resulting look was never going to make sense.

For some reason though I find myself kind of liking these. I don’t know, maybe the holiday tackarama hits a different sort of feel for me. Yes I think they’re stupid but they’re kind of gloriously self-aware and embracing of the stupidity. The only thing that could have made things better was replacing all the caps with Santa hats. Maybe that’s what we’ll get this winter.

Anyway thanks Matt! I’ve got a handful of 1975s I need to send your way in return.

#2KJWT

One of the baseball card tweeps who I talk with a lot is @junkwaxtwins. He’s a Minnesota fan living in Texas who’s especially interested in miscuts and printing errors. I sent him a small package of miscuts and Minnesota oddballs a while ago and I just received a small package from him as part of his celebration about hitting the 2000 followers mark on Twitter.

This package consisted of two parts. Part one was for me.

Highlights here are the wonderful combination of a Donruss Elite card with a Sportflics card. And also Bo Jackson as an Angel. My brain can’t grok that at all.

Donruss Elite was one of the first major chase cards in the hobby. Yes we had things like the Griffey Jr Upper Deck Rookie or the Billy Ripken error, but the idea of inserting a special, super-hard-to-find card was somewhat novel. We’d had the 1990 Upper Deck Reggie Jackson signatures the previous year but that was in packs that most of us kids couldn’t really afford. 1991 Donruss though? Totally affordable.

Still, I’ve never seen an Elite card before. Given what the hobby would turn into this is a wonderfully plain and simple card. No fancy card stock, just foil stamping and number out of 10,000.* It’s a very fun reminder of a simpler time.

*With the focus on 1:1 to 1:250 on chase cards to day this is a laughably huge run.

The Giants cards are all fun too. Always enjoyable to get a Lincecum. The Brandon Crawford rookie is great. The Jonathan Sanchez confuses me immensely since it’s so thick. As someone who puts cards into binders I still don’t know what to do with these thick cards.

Part two however was for my sons.

They were excited to see the pack and couldn’t wait for me to open it. I dutifully explained to them that it was a wax pack made of paper that had been stuck together and opened it slowly so they could see how it all worked.

The first thing we had to do was carefully unstick the gum from one of the cards. No damage. They were intrigued by the gum but did not try. I did. It turns to dust and never becomes chewable. I had to rinse my mouth out.

The cards though are pretty cool. Both boys love the Christopher Reeve Superman films and while they prefer the first one, they appreciate that I prefer the second. Of the twelve in the pack I like the one of the villains escaping the Phantom Zone and the one of Clark Kent getting his revenge on the asshole in the diner.

In a bit of a minor miracle the boys managed to split these into two piles of six without fighting. More predictably they promptly badgered me for binder pages so they could properly sort them.

It’s funny. Once I started collecting baseball cards I never considered any other sports—let alone non-sport cards like these. I never saw the point. I get it more now although I daresay that it only works when the movie cards are of something from pop culture which has achieved staying power. In the same way that it’s been fun to introduce my kids to Superman the Motion Picture, seeing and having these cards is another aspect of pop culture we can bond over.

Now I need to figure out what to do with the blank card the I’m supposed to “decorate” and sign and return. It’s a little small for my kids to draw on* but we’ll figure something out.

*My eldest did make a special 1:1 custom for Peter as a result of being on the receiving end of a large mailing of Giants cards.

Bach, Beethoven, Bob Brenly

Bach, Beethoven, Bob Brenly

My mom thought this would be a fun tshirt. So she made all the drawings and letrasetted the text and got a handful of them printed. And she sent one to Bob Brenly. Brenly was one of those players who Giants fans loved despite a somewhat mediocre career. Yes, we all loved Will Clark too, but Giants fans have always seemed to have favorites which the rest of the country doesn’t understand.

When my mom made this shirt Brenly had retired and was a broadcaster for the Cubs. This was his first go-round as a broadcaster before he came back as a Giants coach. So I’m guessing she mailed the shirt to either the Cubs of WGN. Anyway, like a month or so after she mailed the package, she got a random phone call. Turns out it was Bob Brenly calling to personally thank her for the shirt. She said we’d swing by the broadcaster’s elevator at Candlestick the next time the Cubs were in town.

Bob Brenly 1985 Topps

So we did. I brought my favorite Bob Brenly card. It’s pretty beat up but I only had maybe a couple dozen 1985 Topps cards. He was confused until he saw our shirts (we had to unzip our jackets what with Candlestick being Candlestick). That reveal was pretty fun and he signed my card despite having a ton of stuff in his arms. The signature is kind of wonky because I had to hold the card for him.

Steve Stone 1981 Donruss

Since this was the Cubs broadcasting team I also combed through my albums looking for a Steve Stone card. I actually had a couple but went with the 1981 Donruss Cy Young Award one because I figured the award reminder was a nice touch. It’s definitely not the nicest card on purely esthetic terms (it’s actually in the mix for the worst card I’ve gotten autographed) but there’s something charming about it.

I also didn’t ask for the personalization. I’m not sure if Stone does this all the time but it was the first time I’d gotten a personalized autograph. I have mixed feelings. It’s not like I was going to sell this so it’s cool that this is clearly an in-person signature with a story behind it. At the same time, my name is covering his face and that’s kind of annoying.

And yes, I could’ve tried to get Harry Caray’s autograph as well but I wasn’t into autographs from non-players at the time.