Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Conclusion of Pinstripe Pandemonium

Hey guys, Drew back here! I spent my Friday night at Madison Square Garden seeing Jack White with my Dad, and let me just say that he's as talented as it gets. In today's era of music, he is still keeping old fashioned rock and roll alive, and he does a phenomenal job live. If you guys want to hear last night's show, click here! Pandora is playing the show repeatedly over the next few days, which is a pretty unique idea; as Jack seems to be full of those. It's safe to say I'll be adding his 2015 Topps card to my collection as soon as possible.

Anyway, getting back to the conclusion of another amazing day. I originally had arrangements to meet Ron Guidry, and he apparently cancelled far prior to the actual show. Same with Reggie Jackson. I'm not quite sure what the deal was with that, because there was absolutely nothing on MAB's website to suggest that they wouldn't be appearing. However, I did decide to get one more guy on my picture before I wrapped it up for the day.

Former Yankee hero Jim Leyritz became the 56th name on my Mickey Mantle photo last Sunday! We already met Leyritz at MLB Fanfest about a year and a half ago, and we were both impressed by how nice he was. He has had a lot of legal troubles over the past few years, but it appears that he's gotten everything together.

Leyritz was no different from the first experience we had with him; very friendly. I had him sign my picture towards the top of the left side, a part in which I didn't believe I'd add to. It came out great, I think.

The ink looks a little dry on his signature, but I think that's because of the area he signed it. He has a beautiful autograph though, and I'm proud to add the guy who made a name for himself hitting home runs in key moments for the Yankees in their late '90's dynasty. 

And now... here is the updated full Mickey Mantle picture:

As you can see, there isn't much room left. I'm going to attempt to add 4 or 5 more signatures on it, but I'm not quite sure how just yet. From here on, I'm going to only add star names to the photo; such as Don Mattingly, Dave Winfield, Ron Guidry, or possibly Paul O'Neill. I have some ideas as to how to finish off the project, but I've got some time to sort it all out. I'm surprised how much I've been able to add in such a small portion of time, but then again, it hasn't been cheap. I'm not even going to try to add up each cost, but when it's all said and done it'll be my prized possession, and it'll all be worth every penny.

We finished our day by getting to meet Lee Smith for the third time in a few years. We didn't have any intentions of getting a ticket for him after already adding multiple autographs of his over the years (including on the picture above). But we were supposed to get a free autograph ticket for Charlie Hayes alongside our Tino Martinez ticket, and Hayes missed his flight that morning and didn't make the show. They reciprocated us with a free Smith ticket, and we decided to make good use of it, although we had to wait another hour for him.

Mr. Smith was great as always with us, and he made the autograph worth the wait.

We got a baseball at the show to have signed, and Smith inscribed his number and save total for free. It looks great in person, and while he is just on the cusp of being in my new Hall of Fame display, I have plenty of great places to display it. I don't need a whole lot else of Smith's from here on, but I really hope he can find a way into the Hall. Maybe he doesn't have the legacy of some players, but he is right there in my opinion with Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter, and others of his era.

Doc Gooden was signing next to Smith, but as we walked by my Dad called him out and thanked him for all the wonderful experiences he's given us in the past when we've met him. He appreciated the compliment, and I was actually able to get a quick picture with him. Awesome.

I have a few more quick items to display from the show, but that was it as far as meeting the players went. It was an amazing day, and I'm really lucky to be able to share so many special days with my dad. I also got to meet Frankie of My Life in the Sports Card Hobby. Please, everyone do yourselves a favor and check it out if you haven't already. He's a smart young kid with a ton of promise in our hobby, and he's only in 7th grade! The emotion and passion he puts into his posts makes him seem much more mature and older, and it was great meeting him and his mother.

Thank you to everyone that helped make last Sunday so special! See Ya!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Mantle 16x20 Project: Star of my Infant Years

Hey guys, Drew back here. We now continue with the Pinstripe Pandemonium recap, today featuring a Yankees great in the late 1990's. He played 7 full years in the Bronx, averaging great home run and RBI totals while manning 1st base, initially replacing Don Mattingly at the position. He was a starter on all 4 World Series winning teams in the '90's, and was a prominent role in each of the four. Ladies and gentleman, Tino Martinez!

Tino easily impressed me the most among the players I met that day. His charisma and charm could be felt across the room, and you could tell he loves being recognized as a fan favorite on such a classic dynasty team. Just before he entered the signing "stage", I caught him walking in and said "Hey Tino!" He said "Hi, nice to meet you," and shook my hand. Also, the couple before us in line brought their baby up to him, and he posed for photos with it and was really sweet towards it. It was a nice moment to watch, without question.

When we got up to meet him, I shook his hand and said thank you for all the memories. My dad remembers watching him fondly and loved getting the chance to talk him up and make him feel great. Tino, after signing my photo, asked me if I had Mickey Mantle's autograph on my picture. I told him that I don't but wished I did, and he said oh well, but the picture is so nice, and I thanked him for the compliment. He was really kind hearted from what I could tell, and it makes me believe that those rumors about him causing issues in the Marlins clubhouse weren't as true as some have proclaimed. I was worried that I would end up spending all this money but wind up with no pictures with the players, but it turned out that every player I met allowed pictures. MAB introduced professional photo op costs for every player on the lineup, and I think they would've cracked down on more people had the show not been as hectic as it was, with players coming and going by the minute. I really lucked out though, and I love how this picture came out with Tino!

At the time Tino was signing, several other great players were also available, including former closer John Wetteland. He seemed to make a great impression on everyone, and even posed for a picture outside of the autograph room with my dad later on in the day. I wish I could've added him to my picture too, but didn't think there was enough room for him to sign.

You may think you're seeing things, but yes, John Smoltz was indeed a signer at the Pinstripe Pandemonium show. Shortly after Smoltz, Randy, and Pedro were inducted into the Hall of Fame earlier this month, MAB locked up Smoltz to a contract. They used his recent induction to their advantage, and had him appear at this show. Some people I talked to said they didn't both with him yet because his price is far too high compared to other players of his type. I actually paid $50 less to meet him in White Plains a few years ago, so I could definitely vouch for that statement. Either way, high price or low price, we all yelled out Congratulations to John as he entered the room, and it was a pretty cool moment. May be pricy now, but still a very nice guy and it was nice to see him.

Oh, right, back to Tino. Just before I came up to him I changed my mind on the dead set position I originally wanted him to sign, and had him sign alongside some of the others from his era: Doc Gooden, Charlie Hayes, Ruben Sierra, and Jeff Nelson. I thought it would be a nice spot for his signature towards the end of Mantles left thigh, and I believe I was right! He has a gorgeous signature, and with the number inscription to beat, you really couldn't top what he did for my Dad and I. With this he became the 55th player to sign my picture.

Thank you so much Tino for such an enjoyable day. I never realized how much of a class act he is, and I hope to get the chance to see him back in baseball, forgiven by all down the road. It isn't fair that he was exposed that way in front of a really lazy, bad Marlins team, and I hope the story didn't change people's opinions on the man. Who knows, maybe this one can help reverse those opinions.

See Ya!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Perfect Addition to my Mantle Project!

Hey guys, Drew back here. I have officially survived #Snowpocalypse2015, as online idiots may refer to those six inches of snow as. I love how every time some sort of disaster is expected nothing ever ends up happening. Anyway, we now continue my recap of my Pinstripe Pandemonium experience with a meet and greet with perhaps the most perfect man alive.

I've been recently beginning to rule out the fact that I could meet Don Larsen, until one day when his name showed up on MAB's website. Don is now 85 years old, and he isn't getting younger. I ordered my Larsen tickets in advance prior to the show to make sure that if he was there that I wouldn't miss out. However, last weekend we faced a relatively big snow storm, and 7 players cancelled from Saturday's lineup; most of whom were elderly players from Larsen's era. But Larsen still made it on Saturday and Sunday, and apparently when asked why he still wanted to go to the show even with the storm Larsen said something to the likes of "These fans are paying their money to come and meet me. So I'm going to go and meet them." You really have to love hearing things like that, especially to counter the fact that we also were under the same roof as Mr. 4 fingers himself, Jose Canseco.

Sure enough, I was fortunate enough to receive a chance to shake the hand that released the ball for 27 consecutive outs in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series. Larsen still is the only pitcher to throw a perfect game in the World Series, and to be honest he may always have that legendary achievement kept to himself. With all the media, pressure, and noise in today's ballparks, I would be shocked if anyone could ever match such a feat. There wasn't much else to Don's career, but man if I'd want to be known for one particular moment, there is nothing sweeter than having one unique day with the greatest franchise in sports.

Mr. Larsen kindly obliged to sign my Mickey Mantle 16x20 directly next to his battery mate and Hall of Fame teammate Yogi Berra in the lower center area of the picture. I would've liked him to have placed it a little further in to fill in the open space, but beggars really can't be choosers. He was an extremely friendly man, and seemed to have much more energy than I would've ever believed. It was a true honor to get to say that I had a moment to share with someone as etched into Yankee lore as he is. He is the first pitcher to have throw a perfect game that I've gotten to meet thus far in my life, and what a way to kick off that list.

Thank you so much Don Larsen for the kindness displayed throughout the day and for the beautiful signature. He marks the 54th autograph on the project. We have a few more special moments to share from a magical day filled with pinstripe pride. Stay tuned for more!

See Ya!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Mantle 16x20 Project: Rock Raines Edition

Hey guys, Drew back here. It turns out that my Tuesday class has already been cancelled all in part to a large snow storm heading through the Tri State area over the course of the next day. To all of you facing this storm tomorrow, be safe, because it certainly doesn't sound pretty. Fortunately, my Dad and I squeezed the Pinstripe Pandemonium show just in time before the storm yesterday, so I've got a whole lot to write about over the course of the next few days. At this show I was able to add 4 big names to my Mickey Mantle project. The first of which was one of the most prolific stolen base threats of all time, one whose veteran leadership helped guide the Yankees to their 1996 and '98 World Series championships. 

Tim "Rock" Raines was the first player I met on Sunday! I recently discussed Rock's case for the Hall of Fame when I revealed my 2015 ballot, and I easily voted him as one of my 10 inductees. Had it not been for Rickey Henderson, Raines would be calling Cooperstown home, but instead rode in the shadows and also faced drug issues right in the height of his career. However, since then Raines has been fully clean and recovered, and he was friendly to me when I got to step up and meet him.

It completely slipped my mind to wish Raines the best of luck on the ballot, which comes out of nerves without a doubt, but I do really hope he makes a final push and gets in. The former Expo was dominant during his prime; and despite his career possibly lasting a little too long, I believe he has the credentials to sit in a lower tier of hitters in the Hall along with guys like Jim Rice and Andre Dawson. One thing I noticed was that he was quite small for a baseball player, but maybe that size difference helped him steal more bases. He's probably one of the first players I've met that I can say I'm taller than!

This autograph show was loaded with star studded talent, and it was so difficult to pick and choose who and what I needed to get most. Wade Boggs and Mike Pagliarulo surrounded Raines on each side respectively, and the place just felt like a red carpet event all day.

My original idea was to put Raines alongside Rickey Henderson towards the bottom of my Mantle 16x20 project, but I then decided to let him shine in his own light as he deserves, and instead filled the top right corner of the photo with speed. Raines is above Mickey Rivers and Willie Randolph, and he signed it beautifully in blue sharpie. I love the way it came out, and while I wouldn't have also minded to have a ball signed too; I'll be able to get that taken care of soon (and hopefully with a Hall of Fame inscription)!

I'll be back tomorrow with more to report from a fantastic day of graphing! Again, everyone in the Northeast, be careful!

See Ya!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Autograph of a Star-Lord!

Hey guys, Drew back here! Today was easily one of my best hobby related days in a while. My dad and I attended MAB Celebrity's Pinstripe Pandemonium autograph show in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey, and I came home with a nice group of autographs and pictures! I will have plenty to share over the next few weeks to showcase this memorable day, but we're going to start on a bit of a fun note. Along with the autographs I obtained in person, I also bought a few signed items some of the vendors had for sale. The second I saw this signed 8x10, I knew I had to add it to my collection.

None other than Parks & Recreation and Guardians of the Galaxy star Chris Pratt! Pratt has been perhaps the breakout actor of 2014 with his role in Galaxy as Peter Quill aka Star-lord, however it was his performance as Andy Dwyer in Parks that really made me a fan of his. My girlfriend Victoria and I watched it all summer together, as I mentioned recently when I showcased my Nick Offerman TTM autograph. It became one of my favorite comedy shows, and it serves as a nice bridge show between crazy horrors and dramas.

Everything I've seen of Chris Pratt has been positive, as I've heard many who can vouch for saying he's a great guy. When recently asked if his rise to stardom tempted him to leave Parks & Rec before their final season, he replied "I would never f------ leave this show. I've been doing this business for 15 years. I realize that the things that really matter are the relationships you have while you're doing them. I could hope that I could have the good fortune of finding another group of people like this, but I don't expect I ever will." It's awfully nice to hear things like this in Hollywood, where these kinds of stories don't usually show themselves in public.

I bought this off of a dealer who exclusively sold celebrity autographs. He told me he worked in the same building as Sirius XM Radio, and he often comes across stars and is able to get all sorts of autographs. The picture is not certified, but the guy had an absolutely enormous stock of signed photos, and I believe in the good of mankind and that he wouldn't be a complete scammer. The picture is of Pratt wearing a "Mouserat" shirt, the name of his fictional Parks & Rec band, and is signed in blue sharpie.

Again, if you haven't checked out Parks & Recreation, I highly recommend it. Between Offerman, Pratt, Amy Poehler, and numerous other great actors, it's one of the best shows on television.

Fun fact on Pratt: He played Scott Hatteberg in Moneyball!

More to come from the Pinstripe Pandemonium! See Ya!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Rest in Peace, Mr. Cub

Hey guys, Drew back here. I ended my Friday night with some pretty difficult news to swallow. Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, passed away at the age of 83 in Chicago.

Over the past year or so, I've used all of the great experiences I've gotten from fans, stadiums, and players to become a more well rounded baseball fan. I can say today that I am a fan of baseball as a whole even more than I am a Yankee fan, which doesn't mean anything against my Yankees but gives respect to all of the other legends who have came and went in this great game. One of the trailblazers for my newfound love for my favorite game was Mr. Banks, whose personality stood larger than life and made his actual baseball career an afterthought. It takes a pretty special man for their heart and passion to surpass his credentials; which include 14 All Star selections, 2 NL MVP's, a retired number at Wrigley Field and a plaque in the Hall of Fame.

I've been meeting current and former players at sports card/autograph shows for over 5 years now with my Dad. We've seen the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to players' attitudes while signing for the fans. We've seen players openly tell their fans they have to leave to catch a flight, and players spend entire experiences with fans while talking on their cell phones. For every great experience we've had has come about 3 average ones and 1 below average one. But nobody I've met has ever been as down to Earth and lovable as Ernie Banks was to my Dad, my best friend Mike, and I on August 20th, 2011. And I'm truly convinced that nobody I've met ever will carry themselves quite like the Cubs hero. He made a steeply priced autograph ticket worth every penny to the three of us, and provided entertainment to everyone in the building, even staying well past his scheduled signing time to accommodate to each and every person in line (Click here to read about my time with Mr. Banks that day).

Some people got to spend a great amount of time with Ernie throughout his life. I only got a few hours, but those few hours were filled with memories I'll never forget as long as I live.

Let's Play Two. Rest in Peace.

Young Yankee Hurler: TTM Success!

Hey guys, Drew back here. I have officially kicked off my second semester here at home; as my first week wrapped up today. It has been an overwhelming, but welcoming transition, and I have a great feeling that it will be what I was in need of for a strong college education. It is more competitive, and the area has much more to offer, and on top of it all, I get to spend those years with my family and some close friends! With all of that in mind, I got a TTM success a few weeks ago that I really didn't expect to see come back, but I'm beyond happy it did.

Ian Clarkin: 3/1 in 179 Days (Received on January 2nd)

Baseball America ranked current pitching prospect Ian Clarkin as the 6th best prospect in the Yankees organization for the upcoming 2015 season! Clarkin was drafted at the end of the 1st round of the 2013 draft out of San Diego, and pitched very well in 2014. Although the Yankees haven't particularly scouted pitching prospects all that well over the recent years, but between Clarkin and the highly regarded Luis Severino, there could be good years to come in the Bronx following the eventual conclusion of the CC Sabathia era. 

I only sent Ian the 2013 Bowman Draft Picks and Prospects photoshopped card seen above, but he went out of his way (or was mistaken); sending two additional signed cards out of 2012 Panini USA National Team and Bowman All American Classic. He signed each card in black, and to be honest I think his signature is sort of neat.

This was a pleasant surprise without question, and I'm hoping Ian will make it far in the future. The Yankees could realize use the second coming of Andy Pettitte on the mound every 5th day.

If all things go well, I should be attending a pretty special event this upcoming weekend (pending weather of course), and if I do I'll be sure to show you all the results. For now though, See Ya!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

New York Jets TTM Returns!

Hey guys, Drew back here! I usually try to avoid mentioning that I'm a Jets fan, as they are a circus year in and year out. This year was a total catastrophe for the team, and I'm not going to even bother opening up a discussion. However, they did add a new head coach for next season, former Cardinals DC Todd Bowles; who I've heard several good things about. Hopefully one day I can see Gang Green hoisting up a Lombardi trophy, but it may be wishful thinking. A few weeks ago I sent out 8 TTM requests to some former Jets I came across while cleaning out my basement, and I've already got two of them back!

Bobby Humphery: 1/1 in 11 Days (Received December 29th)

Humphery was a relative unknown player throughout his career, but did play for the Jets as a cornerback between 1984 and 1989. He also was a solid kick returner throughout his time with the team. He signed a 1990 Fleer nicely for me in black sharpie!

Jeff Lageman: 2/2 in 23 Days (Received January 10th)

While Humphery wasn't exactly a household name, Jeff Lageman had a few great years with the Jets and currently works as a broadcaster for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He recorded 47 career sacks throughout his career, 10 of which being in 1991; perhaps his finest season. He signed two cards for my collection in blue sharpie!

I'm very happy to broaden my collection with some beautiful Jets autographs. I've tried so many times to change teams to break away from rooting for them, but I've never been able to let go. I'm going to keep believing that it'll get better... maybe Todd Bowles can make magic happen. We will see.

See Ya!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

First 2Pac, then Michael Jackson, now Jeter? Christmas Gift!

Hey guys, Drew back here! It's been a very busy few weeks for me as I've been settling back into my house for the foreseeable future; sorting cards and memorabilia left and right to ease my temptation to do so when I need to be doing my schoolwork a week from now until May. However, I'm proud to say that I've been able to put up much more posts lately than I have really over the past year, so to keep up with that; I wanted to share a pretty cool gift I got for Christmas that I've never seen before. Behold, the Jeter hologram ball!


Well, maybe this isn't a hologram, but rather a limited edition Laser-Etched Glass Sculpture from the Hamilton Collection made to commemorate Derek Jeter's final season! My mom came across it shopping for Christmas gifts and thought it would be something neat to give me, given Jeter is my favorite baseball player of all time, and I really like it. If you can see in the picture on the left, inside the baseball seams stands a swinging Jeter with his autograph directly to his left. I have no clue how companies make things like this, but I bet the process is pretty cool.

The sculpture came with a Certificate of Authenticity as well as a small player biography that describes the biggest highlights of his illustrious career. I was definitely caught offguard when I got this, but it now sits right next to one of my smaller signed baseball displays in my room (not the one I posted recently) and fits the definition of unique for certain. Thank you again Mom and Dad for the special gift! 

A few quick notes before I go:
- If you haven't seen it already, go check out the "Better Know a Blogger" series on Nachos Grande. Today, he posted my interview, so if you're interested in learning more about myself and other bloggers in our community, I strongly recommend it.
- I recently completed all of my Google sheets for each of my player collections, to view them go to My Wantlist under Pages on top of my sidebar and then click any of the individual player's names that feature links and it should bring you directly to each player's spreadsheet! I'm hoping doing this might make it a little easier for people interested in working out trades in the future so you can all see what I have.
- I also finished off my Flickr albums of said PC players, and to view them just scroll a little down my sidebar to "My PC's" and click any of the players under "Baseball Players" to see pictures of my best cards of each player. I did this more as a showcase than anything else, but it could serve as a trade tool as well. I hope to soon have an updated album on Flickr of all my cards for trade. PS, if anyone is looking to do something similar, Flickr is a great, free site that holds a terabyte of photos.

See Ya!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Mailday: Trade with Mr. Baseball (Scott)

Hey guys, Drew back here. On Christmas Eve, I opened a blaster box of 2014 Topps Updates & Highlights, and the hit of the box was a David Ortiz Commemorative patch card. As soon as I pulled the card, I thought in my head "Scott", and immediately texted him to see if he was interested. A few years ago I pulled a Stadium Club Ortiz Triumvirate auto, and as much as I didn't like Ortiz I was reluctant to move it until I saw my friend Scott starting to collect any and all of his cards. I traded him the Ortiz for a Michael Pineda blue Chrome refractor rookie auto out of Topps Chrome, and well, I'm still hoping the deal pans out for me! This year I didn't take as big of a risk, but sent him some cash and considerations along with the Ortiz for a 65 card lot of Yankees base/inserts over the past few years. Take a look at some of what I came home with:

Nothing overly spectacular, but that's exactly what I was hoping for in this move. I haven't bought nearly enough packs/boxes in recent years, so with moves like this I feel almost rejuvenated in a sense. I'm looking forward to adding these to my card boxes and sorting through them all, and I really appreciate the move, Scott! Best of luck in school next semester!

For any of you that haven't gotten the chance to check out Scott's blog or YouTube accounts, please do yourself a favor. He's got a very impressive Ortiz collection, and since a good majority of baseball fans don't like the Red Sox, perhaps you guys may want to work out something with this poor guy ;) Thanks again for the deal Scott!

In other quick blog news, I'm currently working on finalizing a few things to display my personal collections. I'm one player away from unveiling my Google Docs spreadsheets containing every card I own of all of my PC players, and also working on a Flickr account that will show the highlights of each of those collections. Be on the lookout for that, and also in the future I should have a trade/sale album on there too. I'm still selling on, and if any of you want to look at my store, click this link here. I'm willing to negotiate on nearly everything so I can buy cards of players to send out TTM next season and for future endeavors as well. Lastly, I've been on Twitter for a little while now, and I'd love to be more involved in our community on social media, so I'd love to connect with any and all of you guys on there, just give me a follow!

Anyway, that will do it for now, stay tuned for plenty more to come this month, but for now, See Ya!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

My New Hall of Fame Showcase!

Hey guys, Drew back here! I'm very proud to congratulate four great players on their inductions into Cooperstown, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, and Craig Biggio! I originally predicted 3 of those 4 to make it in 2015 with Smoltz barely missing the cut this year but making it in within a year or two, but I'm so glad that wasn't the case. We just missed adding Mike Piazza as well, but it looks like next year he and Ken Griffey Jr. will look to share the spotlight.

Since most of the baseball world has been focused on the Hall of Fame vote these past few weeks, I had been preparing this post for a little while now once the voting had concluded. This Christmas I received a really cool baseball holder, and I decided to hang it on one of the few open spots on my wall and put all of my Hall of Fame signed baseballs inside. I kept most of my Yankees balls together with the exception of the HOF'ers, and while I was originally 3 baseballs shy of filling the case with Hall of Famers, with yesterday's induction that was slimmed down to 2. About a year and a half ago, I met John Smoltz at the East Coast National Show, and added a signed baseball to my collection in hopes that he would be enshrined one day, and yesterday I was able to put him into my ultimate pitching rotation that spans two rows (or 11 of 21 total balls) of the case.

Here is how the display currently looks as of January 2015! I look forward to replacing two of the balls with Hall of Famers, but do wish Fred McGriff and Vladimir Guerrero all the best in being one day inducted.

Row 1: Gaylord Perry, Ralph Kiner, Rickey Henderson, Reggie Jackson, Vladimir Guerrero (non-HOF), Fred McGriff (non-HOF)
Row 2: Nolan Ryan, Bob Gibson, Whitey Ford, Bob Feller, Steve Carlton, Warren Spahn
Row 3: Fergie Jenkins, Jim Palmer, John Smoltz, Goose Gossage, Rollie Fingers
Row 4: Frank Thomas, Johnny Bench, Cal Ripken Jr.
Row 5: Yogi Berra

The lighting in the room seems to make most of the balls look more yellow than they actually are, but I've never been one to particularly care how worn the ball is as long as the signature is presentable. I never was interested in collecting signed baseballs but soon realized I couldn't have signed pictures of everyone because I didn't have enough space to present them all, so I took an alternative path and I now love to add baseballs of my favorite players and Hall of Famers. It will never quite compare to my good buddy William's insane 108 Hall of Famer deep baseball collection (please check this out if you want to be impressed), but I personally prefer to dabble all around the various highlights of our great hobby.

So what do you think? How do you all prefer to display your baseballs? Thank you to Mom and Dad for such a smart gift, it cleared a lot of space on my desk (for more baseballs)! Congrats again to all of the new members of Cooperstown's Finest, and for now, See Ya!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Give Me All the Bacon & Eggs You Have: TTM Return

Hey guys, Drew back here! It is officially one of my favorite days of the year, the Hall of Fame induction day. If you didn't see, yesterday I posted my ballot for the Hall of Fame and my predictions. I'm guessing that 3 players will make it but am hoping for 5 to 6. I guess we will see. 

In the meantime, I got an absolutely awesome TTM back last week from Parks & Recreation star Nick Offerman! My girlfriend and I watched Parks over the course of last summer and loved every second of it (with the exception of the shortened first season, perhaps). Ron Swanson was our favorite character in the show because his stubborn but loving personality was so relatable and hilarious to watch, and I was sure to let Mr. Offerman know that in my letter I sent him.

Nick Offerman: 2/2 in 132 Days (Received December 29th)

Nick signed 2 5x7's, one written out to Drew and the other to my girlfriend Victoria! He personalized both pictures, and wrote "to bacon" on my picture, which reminds me of one of his finest moments on the show. I surprised my girlfriend with the other autograph as a late Christmas present and she really loved it. I wrote in the letter that I wanted to give her an autograph of his for Christmas, and he must've read that because he wrote on my letter "Sorry if I'm late!", which was an added bonus.

Overall, this success may not stand out to anyone unless they've watched Parks & Recreation (strongly recommend it to any of you dry humor lovers), but is one of my favorite personal successes yet! Thank you so much Mr. Offerman for the amazing Christmas gift, and See Ya!

Monday, January 5, 2015

If I had a Vote...

Hey guys, Drew back here! I know I'm a few days late for this, but Happy New Year everyone! As most of you are aware, with each new year comes a new Hall of Fame class in Major League Baseball, and this year's vote has come with much controversy. With a vote limit of only 10 players per year and so much talent currently up for election, along with the Steroids issue, many writer's are struggling to compile their ballots. While my answer is certainly not the end-all-be-all to all other lists, I figured I'd offer up my personal ballot with explanations for each player.

My 2015 Hall of Fame Ballot

Image Source

1. Randy Johnson (Stats)
"The Big Unit" should be absolutely no question included in the Hall of Fame. Although he didn't hit his stride until his late 20's, Johnson was unstoppable up until his signing with the Yankees in 2005. He compiled 303 wins over his 22 season career, won 5 Cy Young Awards (including 4 in a row from 1999-2002), and led the league in strikeouts 9 times! The question for Johnson is not whether he'll get in, but how much he'll get in by. But it appears that his final voting percentage (which I don't find all that important) will be affected by some writers who will choose not to vote for him in order to give others a push to make it in, since Johnson will certainly receive the votes needed to be inducted this season. I'll always remember his signing with the Yankees, because 2005 was the first year I ever watched baseball full time. While he was past his prime, I remember loving to watch him and even had his pinstripe jersey at one point. Randy Johnson will be a Hall of Famer by this time tomorrow, without a doubt.

2. Pedro Martinez (Stats)
When I started to watch baseball, I couldn't stand this guy. But, most of that hatred was out of pure respect. I missed Pedro's prime seasons, but the statistics jumped out at me when I took a look at his Baseball Reference page. His final season in Montreal in 1997 sparked an incredible run of excellent seasons, and unfortunately for this Yankee fan, the remainder of those seasons were in Boston. A three time Cy Young winner, 3 time strikeout league leader and 5 time ERA league leader, Pedro had one of the best primes of any pitcher in the game's history. Between the 1999 and 2000 seasons, he was 41-10 with a 1.90 ERA and 597 strikeouts. It would be a travesty if he does not dominate the ballot this year, but it appears likely that he'll be joining Johnson as the only two locks in 2015.

3. Craig Biggio (Stats)
Longevity can be a very helpful tool in making the Hall of Fame, and I think Biggio will attest to that after he barely squeaks into Cooperstown this year. After viewing his career statistics, I can see why he is regarded as a Hall of Famer, but I don't think he ranks among the very best. Clearly we've seen over the years that the Hall contains several tiers of talent, but Biggio's consistency and lifetime totals of 3,060 hits and 668 doubles (most doubles for any right handed hitter in history) undoubtedly provide him with a place. He was versatile and loyal to the Astros throughout his remarkable 20 year career, and is a fan favorite whenever he steps into Minute Maid Park today. After coming up just two votes short of being inducted last year, I don't see how he fails to make it in again, and should be the third and (in my opinion) final member of the 2015 Class.

4. Jeff Bagwell (Stats)
People have already made claims that there are cheaters in the Hall of Fame. And there is no question that the "purity" the BBWAA says a player needs to have does not exist throughout all of the halls in Cooperstown. Ty Cobb was one of the greatest players in baseball history but was a racist and was charged with attempted murder. It was never verified, but Cobb along with Tris Speaker have been speculated as members of the KKK, and were involved with fixing games. It's a shame that Pete Rose is held out of the Hall of Fame while guys like Cobb, Speaker, and Gaylord Perry are in and respected as legends of the game.

So what does that have to do with Bagwell? Bagwell is one of the questionable steroid guys, although nothing has ever been close to proven. It feels like at a roundtable one day someone said "Jeff Bagwell is a big guy, he must've done steroids," and this rumor came about that has since excluded him from the Hall. It is said that he lifted weights like a body builder, which he has since regretted because it ended his career earlier than expected. But, with an MVP award, Rookie of the Year award, and 449 home runs, and no proof of steroid use, I don't understand how he hasn't garnered more consideration than he has. The American system (supposedly) is to be innocent until proven guilty, and what the writers are doing right now feels like a crime. If he was ever proven guilty of using PED's, so what? Put a little asterisk on his plaque to signify his "crime" and be on your way. Bagwell should be entering the Hall of Fame with his fellow Astro lifer Biggio regardless of suspicion, but it won't happen unless Biggio falls short this year.

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5. Mike Piazza (Stats)
Piazza is the other mysterious steroid user whose name is being juggled by the jury, because he took a drug to cure his back acne. It's embarrassing to think that Piazza has had to make the world aware of his back acne problem in order to prove that his Hall of Fame case should be taken legitimately. Statistics prove that Piazza was the best offensive catcher in baseball history! He wasn't a very good catcher, but provided reliability while also crushing the ball for several teams in his 16 seasons. A 12 time All Star and 10 time Silver Slugger winner should have a spot reserved in the Hall, even if his back acne didn't make for the most attractive appearance. He won't be inducted this season, but I believe, regardless of any rumors, he should not be restricted from entering where everyone knows he belongs.

6. John Smoltz (Stats)
You may ask why Smoltz's name is not in bold along with Johnson, Martinez, and Biggio. I have a hunch that he's going to fall just a bit short of reaching induction in his first year on the ballot. I may be wrong, but if I am, I won't be off by a whole lot. I just feel like there is too much talent available to choose from, and recent sabermetric reports have shown that Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling should be held at a similar standard to Smoltz. Some may feel like they have to vote for all of them or none of them (which is absurd, but hey, if Aaron Sele can get a vote anything can happen). But don't criticize me, he's on my ballot and if he doesn't make it this year, he'll be inducted by next year. Between his dominance as a starter and reliever, along with one of the best postseason track records in history, I think it's only right that he joins his former teammates Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine with a plaque over time.

7. Curt Schilling (Stats)
I am not a Schilling fan by any definition of the word. I do wish him all the best facing oral cancer, because I don't believe anyone deserves to suffer through such a tragic illness, but I do not like the guy. Character is supposedly judged by the BBWAA, but as I mentioned before it has not seemed to be a critical point in voting until the Steroid Era players entered the ballot. Whether the sock was bloody or ketchupy though, this guy deserves to be in Cooperstown. I initially did not think he had the statistics, but advanced metrics have given him a boost that have changed my mind. I do not rely on sabermetrics to make or break my voting procedure, but sometimes the numbers are too striking to ignore. He was a fantastic postseason pitcher, which should be an added bonus as far as voting is considered (Bill Mazeroski does not belong in the Hall of Fame based on one monumental home run) but should be the deciding factor, along with having won 3 World Series; despite being a critical part of all three. All in all, Schilling barely made the cut on my list and knocked off one of my favorite players, which I will soon explain.

8. Tim Raines (Stats)
I wish Tim Raines started his career ten years later. Similarly to the way Bagwell and Piazza are blamed for rumors they had no involvement in, Raines has received an unfair factor as well by playing in the shadow of Rickey Henderson. Can we please acknowledge Raines' career OBP of .385 and stolen base percentage of 84.7%? Rock also may not have faced the pressures of drug use by starting his career later, but I think most people have since forgiven him for being involved in the cocaine scandal in the early 1980's. But let's focus on the performance, because although he may have stuck around in the game a bit too long (as did Henderson), he was dominant during his peak and always a valuable player to own. Raines would not be one of those top tier guys, and does not rank as high as Rickey Henderson, but should be recognized for his tremendous career, although I don't see it happening until the Veteran's Committee one day elects him.

9. Barry Bonds (Stats)
When Bonds first debuted on the ballot in 2012, there was no chance I ever envisioned myself supporting him. Fresh off of the Steroid Era and constant news of indictment and court, I absolutely despised the man. Time does appear to heal all wounds though in my case, as here I am including him on my ballot for 2015. I still have no respect for the man, but I don't find it fair that there are criminals in the Hall of Fame and he won't be let in. As much as some of you may hate to hear this, Bonds has still never been proven of failing a drug test, and has only admitted to using a cream to assist his arthritis. Before and after his supposed steroid use he was one of the best (if not the best) player in baseball history. But everyone knows that, and seeing his name on my ballot wouldn't surprise anyone if not for the PED's. I don't see Bonds being inducted for years to come, but I think given the "purity" of the Hall of Fame was tarnished in its first Induction Class of 1935 when Cobb was inducted, cheaters should be recognized and inducted. I'll let the Hall of Fame decide how they will go about displaying their plaques, because it should be noted on his plaque that he was one of the core players of the Steroid Era of Baseball. It should not be a celebrated part of the Hall, but I think it's only right that the Home Run King* is in the Hall of Fame.

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10. Roger Clemens (Stats)
For many of the same reasons I have included Bonds on my ballot, I also included one of my least favorite Yankees of all time, Mr. Clemens. I do this with an understanding that these players will probably not be inducted until the baseball writers forgive them (an official admission would go a long way), but also because it's impossible to imagine this generation of baseball without thinking of both of these guys. You can not forget that these players existed, and it is only right that they eventually get their due. Plus, it may help Pete Rose's case if these players are forgiven, which I would fully support despite his betting on baseball. And on top of it all, when I walk my kids around the Hall of Fame one day, I want to be able to show them all of the history of the game and not just what the MLB chooses to display. Hiding history is not healthy for America's pastime, and I believe by having Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, Rodriguez, and possibly McGwire in the Hall of Fame will elevate the legacies of Ruth, Mays, Mantle, and Aaron even more. "These players needed to use amphetamines to compete with each other, but these other players didn't even have to use those drugs to compile the same statistics". I don't like any of these guys, but the Hall of Fame is not as clean as it claims to appear and it should instead embrace the history of the game, or at least do something to display an era they may not like to show off.

*Bold = Predicted to Be Elected on January 6th

Honorable Mentions

Mike Mussina (Stats)
I really had a hard time keeping Mussina off the list. I kept Schilling on my list over Moose only because I think Schilling was more dominant over the course of his career. However, I view Mussina as a Hall of Famer, and he was my #11 pick, thus showing my distaste for the current voting system in place.

Alan Trammell (Stats)
I did not get to watch Alan Trammell, and it appears that his case has been based around his intangibles and performances rather than solely on statistics. I think Trammell should be in because Larkin and Ozzie Smith are in, but I still don't quite understand the hype surrounding Larkin and why he was as big of a lock as he was.

Fred McGriff (Stats)
"The Crime Dog" has been robbed by so many other players throughout the years of votes, and while he isn't a dominant player, he would've hit 500 home runs without steroids if the 1994 season didn't end early due to the strike. He was a quiet player but was a premium power player who would've been looked at differently if he played in another era.

I also believe Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire should be inducted over time if Bonds and Clemens get in, although it didn't appear that Sosa would've been successful had he not cheated all throughout his career. I don't like them either, and I don't have that connection to their home run race because I was only two years old at the time, but if those guys get in, they should too. Edgar Martinez was a great hitter but is devalued for having been a DH. Larry Walker was also great but often injury prone, and playing his career in Colorado seemed to have elevated his statistics. A case can be made for so many players on the ballot, including even Don Mattingly on his last year of voting, and Gary Sheffield on his first year of voting; who may not even get the 5% needed to remain next year. With the amount of talent currently on the ballot, feelings are going to be hurt and deserving players may never get their opportunity to take the podium and celebrate their careers for the Cooperstown faithful. But if I had to pick 10, I took in my opinion the players with the ten best careers (with exception of Sosa and McGwire who won't get in unless Bonds/Clemens make it). You may not like my list, but it's my list, remember? I'm willing to forgive the steroid players enough to let them in but not without making all Hall visitors aware of what they've done.

As far as the actual vote goes tomorrow, I'm going to guess due to the huge amount of talent that Smoltz barely misses the cut, but I wouldn't be surprised if I'm wrong. I'll be looking forward to seeing the results, and I would love to chat in the comments below! Let me know your thoughts!

See Ya!