Friday, September 26, 2014

The Storybook Closes: An End of an Era

Hey everyone, Drew back here. I've been dreading writing this post every since I first joined the blogging community in the summer of 2008. At the time I was just turning 12, and Derek Jeter just turned 34. He was escaping his prime, but still was more than capable of helping lead the Yankees to the playoffs. By that point I had gotten used to seeing my favorite team make the playoffs year in, year out. And the second I fell in love with the game in 2005, while other stars came and went, my favorite player was always the Captain.

His first full season in the big leagues was 1996, and I was born in 1996. His first four World Series wins came before I knew anything other than that I loved the Yankees. The flip play against Oakland in the 2001 playoffs, and the diving catch into the stands against the Red Sox both also came before I learned of the game I grew to love. So what was left for me to fall in love with? Number 2 was a plague in Yankee Stadium; everywhere you looked fans were sporting Jeter's famous number. He was everywhere you went; on all of the commercials and all the posters. All the ladies loved him, as evidenced by his vast array of high profile celebrity girlfriends. But all true Yankee fans saw more than the watch advertisements and his beautiful mansion in Tampa, Florida. And this underlying feeling "The Captain" gave us fans is something that no statistic could ever possibly measure. On top of it all, he still batted over .300 11 times in his first 14 seasons, and came through in huge situations in the playoffs. He goes down as one of the best hitters in the game, and especially for his postseason achievements. But, there was more to him than what met the eye to most fans.

Derek Jeter became the face of baseball. His clutch performances and legendary plays may have been special, but they always played second fiddle to his demeanor that I had never seen in another athlete. Often times it would bother me when he wouldn't show much emotion, but there was an understanding as to why he wouldn't; so that he could maintain focus on his job. He loved the sport, but he viewed it as a job for 20 years. He knew he was making a lot of money, and he wanted to do everything he could to make his stay in pinstripes worthwhile to the fans. He was the best captain anyone could ask for, and even after last night, he still has a hard time taking credit for all he's given the game.

I'm very grateful to say I grew up in the "Derek Jeter Era" of baseball. Keith Olbermann, and various other Jeter haters did not. I participated in many baseball camps and played on teams every year. Some days practice would slow down, and our coaches would ask us who our favorite players were. At least half of every team I would play for would give their vote to Jeter. Coaches would often use his playing style as an example to teach us how to play the right way. Often times kids would goof off during a game, but I stayed quiet and concentrated on the game, just as my idol would. To say that the Pequannock, New Jersey native is larger than the game is an understatement. Kids worshipped him because he did things the right way. And in the midst of many controversies in sports revolving assault, performance enhancing drugs, and even murder, Jeter's name was as clean as it came. The biggest insult you could use against him is that at one point he was close to Alex Rodriguez.

In 3rd grade, we had to dress up as our role models and speak to the class about who we were and why we dressed up as them. I chose Derek Jeter. I'm now a freshman in college, and looking back on my first game back in May of 2005, I'll never forget seeing #2 in person for the first time and jumping up and down with excitement. There's just some aura about him, even though he didn't show his emotion, it always felt like he was there to root me on. I got the pleasure of meeting his fellow Core Four member Mariano Rivera earlier this year, and while that was the biggest honor I've had in the baseball aspect of my life, meeting my idol would be a dream come true. I know I'm not alone, but I have extra motivation because I need his signature on my Core Four Sports Illustrated.

Although I mentioned before that I missed a majority of his finest moments in baseball, I did get to see some significant memories I'll always be happy to have witnessed. I saw him kiss the fans of the old Yankee Stadium goodbye in 2008 with his famous speech. I got to see him inside out a single into right field to pass Lou Gehrig as the Yankees' all time hits leader. I saw him help lead the Yanks to a championship in 2009, and that year I had never been more proud of my team. I watched his clutch 5 for 5 performance on July 9th, 2011; when he crushed a home run off of David Price for his 3000th hit. I tuned in frequently during his resurgence season in 2012, and cried as he lay flat on the infield dirt after fracturing his ankle; watching the Yankees postseason hopes dwindle at his demise. And although I was across the country in San Francisco last summer, I tuned in to see his two hits in his final All Star Game. But none of those famous images could ever beat the way the storybook came to a close last night. Honestly though, how couldn't we have expected him to finish his career on such a perfect note?

I sat glued to my TV all night. There were two dorm meetings in my hall, but I closed my door and pretended to sleep because nothing was going to stop me from being there for the Captain for his final game. I knew a situation like this wouldn't be must see TV for almost any player but Jeter. I knew something would happen, and after he crushed the ball off the wall in the first inning I knew this would be a game I'd never forget. I was calling for David Robertson's head in the 9th inning after he allowed two huge home runs to Adam Jones and Steve Pearce, but then I was okay with it because I saw Jeter would be the third batter of the inning. I wondered if there was any way that this game could come down to him. It sure did. And, just as expected, he delivered a textbook Jeter opposite field single to score rookie Antoan Richardson and win the game. As that occurred, everyone in the dorm knew I wasn't asleep, but I didn't care as I jumped around pumping my fist screaming "YES! He did it!" Heroes of my childhood were there to greet him as he crossed home plate, and while it wasn't what anyone had expected, it was exactly what we all knew he was capable of. I broke down after a sideline reporter from the YES Network asked him what was going through his head during his final at bat. "Try not to cry", he said, as Yankees fans berated him with love and Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia dumped the Gatorade cooler on his head.

I vividly remember a Yankees game I went to with my late Grandpa Walt, my Uncle Scott, and cousin Jayen. Derek started the game off with three base hits, and we all were on our feet. During his 4th at bat, my Grandpa turned to Jayen and I and said "Watch closely: you'll never see a player like him again". On cue, he ripped one into the outfield for his fourth hit of the game.

Saying goodbye to #2 last night felt like the biggest part of my childhood officially fading away from me. I've never known a Yankees team without him manning shortstop, and I don't know if I ever will. Maybe another player will come along and give the game the heart and soul Derek has given, but no player will ever impact my life the way he has.

We love you Derek Sanderson Jeter. Thank you for supplying us all with 20 years of winning and excellence. I can't wait until the day I get to shake your hand.

So long everyone.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Son of the Mick!

Hey guys, Drew back here! A little over a week ago now I received one of my cooler through the mail successes in recent memory. I don't know if any of you remember, but around this time last year I got an autograph back from Babe Ruth's 97 year old granddaughter Julia Ruth Stevens. Continuing that theme, I sent to David Mantle, Mickey Mantle's son; shortly thereafter. After about a seven month wait, my Dad opened up this really special success for me, and I can't wait to come home and see all of these for myself.

David Mantle: 5/4 in 212 Days (Sent February 8th)

I gathered a bunch of Mantle related items to send his way, the first being a 5x7 movie cover from Billy Crystal's "61*". I really enjoyed this movie, although I haven't seen it in a while. I've been collecting the 1961 Topps set on and off over the years, and the '61 season as a whole is one of my favorite seasons to read about!

I'll always remember watching the final game at the old Yankee Stadium back in 2008, and this is actually David standing on the field representing his dad. The Yankees brought out all of their legends, and if they had passed away, either a family member or an impersonator took their place. David stood in for Mickey, and having this 5x7 from the event will help me never forget the special event it was.

David also signed a 2008 Topps Allen & Ginter for me, which came out beautiful signed in blue sharpie.

The big piece here was this 8x10 Life Magazine cover of Mickey towards the end of his career. Although the cover suggests a negative downspin to Mantle's playing days, I really liked the cover and thought it would look great sporting his son's autograph. It did! By the way, in case you haven't noticed, each and every item was inscribed "Son of the Mick".

But, that wasn't all. David wanted to convey a message to me on my letter, and it was really something special. He wrote below my letter and then flipped over to the other side of the paper and continued, so take a look:

"Please keep up the good work! Make your parents proud! Thank you for your letter. Please learn from our families mistakes, don't drink, etc. Ok, Thank you, David Mantle, PS: We learned the hard way (over)

As Dad said in one of his last press conference at the Hospital he was in before he passed "I'm not a role model, if you want a role model don't be like me." God Bless and please support our troops! David"

Mickey was a hero among heroes in baseball, however there was plenty of tragedy involved in what could've been a record setting career. Many believed he had the potential to top the Babe and have the best offensive numbers in the history of the game. I believe Mickey had the greatest potential of all time, while Willie Mays is in my opinion the best all around player of all time. This letter was extremely down to Earth and kind of David, and it really meant a lot to me that he took so much time out to sign my items and give me some advice. It'll be nice to have these autographs to go along with my DiMaggio/Mantle signed photo, as well as my multi signed Mantle 16x20 project I've been working on. All in all, one of the coolest successes I've ever gotten!

Thanks so much Mr. Mantle! Have a great night everyone, and See Ya!

Friday, September 12, 2014

My Going Away Gift to Myself

Hey guys, Drew back here! I probably spoil myself a bit too often, but regardless, rather than spending extra at the past card show I attended, I decided to buy a piece for my collection that I've always wanted to own! I collected the funds I made from selling off COMC, and for a bunch of unwanted cards and $25 I got this beautiful 16x20 off of eBay:

I started watching baseball a little while after Nolan Ryan's near 3 decade career ended, but I'm enough of a baseball fan to thoroughly enjoy this moment that has now been regarded as one of the most classic fights during a baseball game in history! If you've never seen perhaps the most dominant hard throwing pitcher of all time beat the crap out of Robin Ventura, here's a link. Enjoy.

I've been eyeing this picture for a while, and with the funds I collected I knew it was a great opportunity to get myself a going away gift. It conveniently arrived in the mail the day before I left, so I got to see it off on my way to college! Ryan inscribed "Don't Mess with Texas" below his autograph, which makes this piece double as awesome. It's authenticated by PSA/DNA and Nolan Ryan's personal authenticity company, so for the price I paid; I made out like a bandit!

Before I let you all go, I just wanted to let you know that drewscards has officially joined Twitter! If you enjoy this blog or some of the things I talk about, be sure to give me a follow @drewscards and I'll be more than happy to follow you back. I've had a personal Twitter account for a few years now but am always looking to expand my audience here on drewscards.

Have a great day everyone, and let me know what you think of my new masterpiece!

See Ya!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

TTM's from 200 Miles Away!

Hey guys, Drew back here! Although I'm at school at the moment, I made sure to send a bunch of through the mail requests out to come home to on breaks! My dad has been face timing me whenever I get letters back in the mail and opens them for me, and so far I've gotten a few really nice successes! Here are the first two of the three I've gotten back so far!

Tony La Russa: 1/1 in 6 Days (Received August 28th)

We start off with newly inducted Hall of Fame and legendary manager Tony La Russa! I wish I had more time before I left to find a second card of La Russa depicted as a manager to also have signed, but I guess I'll have to give him a second try down the road. That doesn't take anything away from how beautiful this 1972 Topps came out, but obviously La Russa wasn't known for his playing ability. It's a great shot of young Tony, before each and every one of his 2728 career managerial wins! He's clearly missing some gray hair and wrinkles, but those certainly worked their way into the equation after the stress of managing for as long as he did. I've always had a ton of respect for Mr. La Russa, and I'm really happy to add his small, but powerful autograph to my growing collection!

Larry Bowa: 3/3 in 6 Days (Received August 28th)

Larry Bowa was a better player than Tony La Russa, but his managerial record isn't half of what La Russa gave baseball. However, I've been a fan of Bowa's ever since he became a part of the Yankees coaching staff in 2006 (around the time I began to follow baseball). I also really enjoy his work currently on the MLB Network! He signed 3 cards for me, out of 1971, 1972, and 1976 Topps; my personal favorite being the '76!

All in all, two really nice gifts from home that have helped make this transition a little better! Thank you Mr. La Russa and Mr. Bowa for the beautiful autographs! Have a great night everyone, and See Ya!

Monday, September 8, 2014

East Coast National: Best of the Rest

Hey guys, Drew back here! Since we're approaching one month since this last card show took place, it's probably best to get the show on the road! I met 3 other former players the day I shook Johnny Damon's hand, and one celebrity I didn't expect to come across! Check it out:

First up, should be Hall of Famer Lee Smith! I've met Smith on one prior occasion, but this go round he was JP's Sports' free signer of the day, and I couldn't pass up some signed pictures of one of the best closers in baseball history! Smith was really friendly for a free signer, and just like last time, we told him we'd love to see him get enshrined into Cooperstown, and he put his hands up to God saying he hopes so! It would really be something else if he got inducted and I was able to obtain so many cheap/free autographs of his, but chances are he won't make it at this rate.

Smith signed two photos for my collection; one of which with his 478 saves inscription. I couldn't decide if I'd rather have a picture of him with one of his better teams (Cardinals/Cubs) or with his brief Yankees stint, so my Dad and I got them both signed! In retrospect I would've had him sign the Yankees picture in silver, but it still looks really good! All in all, another great experience with Lee Smith, who has definitely made me a fan of his over the years.

I met Johnny Damon after Lee Smith, which you can see in the previous post below, and following that Dad & I went into the side room, where 3 Hall of Fame pitchers resided: Ferguson Jenkins, Rollie Fingers, and Jim Bunning! I already had plenty of Fingers and Bunning autographs, so I passed them up, but did choose to add Jenkins to my signed baseball collection!

Jenkins was extremely quiet when I eventually got my turn to shake his hand, but admittedly, so was I. I don't know much about Jenkins other than that he was one of the more underrated pitchers of his era who had never had much of a chance at postseason glory. However, he stood up to take his nice picture with me and inscribed his Hall of Fame year for free, which was pretty awesome!

I didn't take much from my experience with Jenkins, but I did add this beautiful signed baseball to my growing Hall of Fame ball collection! I'm sure a good few of you already have one of these in your collection, but I finally joined the ship and I'm glad I did.

Lastly, I got to meet a key cog of the Yankees 1990's teams, Jeff Nelson! Nelson was perhaps the best reliever on the Yanks outside of Mariano and possibly Wetteland during their dynasty, so it was nice to get to shake his hand and thank him for the great memories. He was really quiet too, but allowed for a picture and signed my Mantle picture nicely (although he doesn't have the nicest autograph).

Nelson was my 52nd autograph on my Mantle picture, and was placed between Ruben Sierra and Gaylord Perry! Fortunately, he inscribed his number, or else he'd be very difficult to identify down the road.

I believe I'm making some impressive progress on my picture, and already have a plan for how I'm going to finish it! I have a few big names to add before I cap it off though, and hopefully I get to do that sooner rather than later.

After I met Nelson, I started putting all of my items together and getting ready to leave. I saw Joe, the dealer my dad and I love to deal with sitting at an autograph booth next to someone I didn't recognize. I started talking to Joe about my Nelson and Damon experiences, and then he asked me if I wanted a picture with Eddie Munster! I watched the Munsters with my family once in a while when I was younger, and well, how could I pass up the chance? 

Joe actually sponsored having Butch Patrick on hand to sign at the show! My dad and I got pictures with him and talked to him and Joe about this being my last show before I left for college! They both wished me good luck, and Patrick remarked by saying "I had a 4.0 in college... Blood alcohol content"! He really was something else, and it was cool getting to shake hands with a classic TV character!

The August show was yet another productive one for my ever-growing collection! It was a blast hanging out with my Dad one last time before I went away to school, because I certainly miss him and everyone else for that matter an awful lot right now. Stay tuned for some more posts coming up, because I'm getting some TTM successes at home that my Dad sends me pictures of, and there's some good stuff coming! For now though, See Ya!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

East Coast National: Meeting Johnny Damon!

Hey guys, Drew back here! I've officially been in college for just over 2 weeks now, and it feels like just yesterday that I was unpacking my bags here. However, I don't have much planned this weekend, so I figured I'd catch you all up on probably the coolest thing that I experienced with my favorite hobby over the summer! 

At the East Coast National, I paid to meet Johnny Damon, one of the first players I grew to love when I started following baseball! Of course, when I first started watching, I saw Damon kill the Yankees in the 2004 playoffs, but when he became a Yankee in 2006 I bought his jersey and became an instant fan. The price was steep on Damon's autographs at the show, but it was well worth getting to meet one of the players that helped me fall in love with baseball!

We lent one of his representatives my mom's camera for the experience, and she captured the handshake perfectly! I told Johnny how grateful I was for all the memories he left Yankee fans and for being a part of the 2009 World Series team, and he was gracious and kind back to me. He's always been known for being a little on the awkward side, but I think that trait makes him more likable anyway, as I am certainly am too!

Johnny noticed my Dad's Jets shirt and started making small talk with him about how the Jets will be this year! My dad asked him who he'd prefer to see at Quarterback, and Damon answered with Michael Vick!

We got a really great picture with "The Caveman", who I must say has a great hair/beard look going for him at the moment. We thanked him for everything and went on our way with a new, beautiful piece to add to our collection, and we raved about how kind Damon was to others at the show.

I wasn't sure what I originally wanted Damon to sign, and ultimately settled with a baseball. I asked for the 2009 World Series inscription, and he also threw in his number! He has a long autograph (I barely captured it all in the picture), but the ball looks phenomenal! It's become one of my favorite signed balls in my collection, especially with the nice story to go with it.

Ever meet someone that you always enjoyed watching that completely blew you away? This was Damon for me. I always liked watching him play for the Yankees because he always gave his all and could do all sorts of things with the bat (side note: Ellsbury reminds me a lot of Damon), but after meeting him and talking to him for a minute, he became one of my favorite players! I wish some team could give him a chance like he's been asking for, because I believe he's right by saying he could produce more off the bench than a lot of guys have been. Even at 40 years old, if Giambi still has a job, Damon should too.

Thank you so much Johnny for being so great to my Dad and I and giving me an autograph I'll always cherish! Have a great day everybody!

See Ya!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

East Coast National Card Show Trade!

Hey guys, Drew back here! I'm sorry it's been so long since I've posted, especially since I told you I'd have something to share. I still do, but it's been pushed aside because I'm now in my second week of college! It's been an enormous transition for me, but so far everything has worked out relatively well, and my classes don't seem to be too over demanding for my first semester. I'm studying Sport Management here at my school, so that one day I may have a role in a professional organization (that's the goal)!

A few weekends ago, my Dad and I spent a day at the White Plains "East Coast National" meeting players and buying all sorts of things for my collection! I mostly added some supplies, and I bought a few cards that I don't have scans of on my laptop, but it was nothing overly notable. But, I did make a big move. If any of my long time readers may recall, way back at one of my first card shows I won a signed and framed Tom Seaver photo, and ever since I've had it framed in my closet. Don't get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for Mr. Seaver, but the piece had never quite fit into my collection. I said in the blog post over 4 years ago that I'd be keeping thepiece for a "lllllllonggggggg time!" I think 4 years would be considered a long time, and I finally realized I could get something I'd prefer in exchange for the piece.. and I did just that. But I got two great pieces for the price of one!

My dad and I have worked out a lot of deals with a man named Joe at the shows in the past. Joe is a big collector around our area, and actually doesn't live far from us, but he deals at the White Plains shows and even the Cooperstown show we went to last year with the Regenthal clan! He made me a great offer, and was able to trade me these two signed baseballs for the Seaver photo:

First off, he filled in an enormous hole in my collection with this Goose Gossage signed baseball! I have a bunch of items signed by Goose, but for some reason I never thought of adding a ball to my PC! He has a beautiful signature, and the HOF 2008 inscription is the icing on the cake!

I also got this sweet "Lousiana Lightning" Ron Guidry autographed baseball in the exchange! Guidry inscribed "Yankee Captain 1986-88" below his signature, and it looks really good despite his sloppy handwriting! Getting these two baseballs saved me a lot of money I'd wind up spending to meet them in the future, and I can now focus on getting them on other items (I really need Guidry on my Mantle photo)! 

Thank you so much Joe for being such a great business partner and friend over the years, and I hope the Seaver photo has served you well! I'll have more to report on this show in the near future, but for now, See Ya (college edition)!