Happy New Year to everyone! I can’t believe that 2009 is here already. The highlight of my day will be watching Penn State beat USC in the Rose Bowl. The game should be just as good as the National Championship game. I believe that both Penn State and USC would be just as worthy of being national champions as Florida and Oklahoma (and Texas, for that matter). It is a shame that we’ll never know who the best team in college football is this year because there is no playoff system.
Anyway, in the spirit of today’s game, here’s a picture of me with Joe Paterno taken on Sunday in front of Beaver Stadium:
With the holiday season winding down after today, you can look forward to me posting on a regular basis again very soon. There are a ton of posts in my backlog that I need to finish…
OK, so my Christmas post is now 4 days late, but I promised a Christmas post when I wrote my Hannukah post, and I don’t like to break my promises.
My wife and I left town on the evening of Tuesday, December 23. We drove north until we were too tired to go any further, and we stopped and got a hotel room in Beckley, West Virginia. On Wednesday, we woke up, had breakfast, and drove up to Buffalo, New York to spend Christmas Eve with my grandparents, my dad, and his wife. Then, we drove an hour east to see my mom in Rochester, New York. We drove with my mom back to Buffalo on Christmas to see my grandma and some other relatives on my mom’s side of the family. We went back to Rochester that night, and we spent all day there on Friday. On Saturday, we shuttled between Rochester and Buffalo again, and then we started our trip back on Saturday night. We stopped for the night in State College, Pennsylvania. On Sunday, we had lunch at one of my favorite restaurants and we walked around the Penn State campus and the surrounding area for a couple of hours, reminiscing about my college days. We left in the early afternoon, and finally got home at about 10:00 last night. After unpacking, I crawled into my own bed and crashed. Then I had to get up and work today.
So that’s why I haven’t written any posts in a week. I haven’t been able to keep up with other blogs either. So I’ll be trying to catch up this week. I’ve got a lot of emails to read and respond to, trades to complete, and posts to write. And I’ll be getting psyched for the Rose Bowl on Thursday.
Anyway, back to Christmas. I had a great Christmas with my family, and I hope that everyone out there also had a happy day. The funny thing about Christmas is that we all spend so much time and energy to get ready for it, and then when it’s over, we try to put it in the back of our minds and move on to our normal lives as quickly as possible. So I won’t dwell on it. Except for this…
While most people were celebrating Santa Claus’ arrival or Jesus’ birthday, there was something else to celebrate on Christmas this year. Yes, Christmas 2008 marked the 50th birthday of Rickey Henderson!
If you read the post about my Hall of Fame picks, then you already know that I strongly believe that Rickey should be elected unanimously to the Hall of Fame in January. Not only that, but the more I reflect on his career, the more I start to believe that Rickey Henderson was the best baseball player who played in the era of my childhood in the 1980s and 1990s. Sure, there were a bunch of power hitters (like Barry Bonds) and power pitchers (like Roger Clemens) who once seemed like all-time greats, but their reputations are now marred by steroid allegations. Henderson was one of the few great players who seem to have been totally clean. His accomplishments in breaking records and reaching milestones may never be equaled.
When he broke the career stolen base record in 1991, Rickey Henderson said, “Today, I am the greatest of all time.” It seemed cocky at the time, but 17 years later, he’s right. In many ways, Henderson deserves to be mentioned as one of the greatest players who ever lived.
To mark this occasion, here’s another PSA graded card in my collection, his 1980 Topps rookie card:
And to wrap up my holiday posts, here’s the card that my wife and I sent out this year:
Now bring on the new year (and the Rose Bowl)!
Hannukah actually began last night, but I didn’t have a chance to write this post until tonight. This is my fifth year of celebrating Hannukah, as it’s the fifth holiday season that my wife, who is Jewish, and I have been together. Hannukah is a holiday that can be spelled many different ways. I use the “two N’s and one K but no C” variation because that’s what my wife prefers.
Although Hannukah is not one of the major Jewish holidays, it is my favorite. Exchanging presents, lighting the menorah, and trying to sing in Hebrew (Barukh atah Adonai…) is much more fun for me than fasting on Yom Kippur. In our house, we celebrate both Hannukah and Christmas, which adds a lot of fun to the holiday season. As Adam Sandler would say, “instead of one day of presents, we have eight crazy nights!”
After two nights of presents, I’m still left wondering if my wife got me any of the cards that I asked for (I kept it simple for her and just asked for Stadium Club, Heritage High Numbers, and Topps Updates & Highlights blasters). But my first two presents were both baseball-related. I got Josh Hamilton’s autobiography and a Baseball Hall of Fame calendar, so we’re off to a good start!
I’m thinking that our future kids will make all the other kids jealous by getting presents on all eight nights of Hannukah and on Christmas. As you can probably tell from reading my blog, I think about my future kids a lot, and I’ve even bought some cards that I’d like to pass down to them someday. Since they’re going to be half Jewish, I picked up this card earlier this year of one of the greatest Jewish baseball players of all time:
Yeah, I know it looks like Koufax just smelled something really bad, but it’s 1960 Topps, which was a great card design. This card also reminds me of 2009 Topps Heritage, which will be released only two months from tomorrow!
Looking at the stats on the back of the card, it’s amazing how unremarkable Koufax’s first few years in the majors were. He’s considered to be one of the best pitchers all time, based on just the last five years of his career, which happen to be possibly the best five year run for a pitcher ever. Check out his very interesting career statistics here.
Now, I’ll have to try finding a Hank Greenberg card before my kids are born…
Happy Hannukah to everyone who celebrates it!
I’ll have a Merry Christmas post later this week. My posts will probably be pretty sporadic for the rest of the week as my wife and I will be traveling to visit my family. We’re leaving tomorrow night and coming back this weekend.
As you may have read on Sports Cards Uncensored, Gellman is organizing a “Secret Santa” type of thing for card collectors. Here’s his post about it. You supply a list of the types of cards that you’d like to receive, and then each person will randomly be assigned to another participant, and they’ll spend about $30 on cards for that person. I think it’s a cool idea and I signed up, but there are only six people who have signed up so far. The more people who are involved, the better it will be, so I wanted to do my part to spread the word!
By the way, since I mentioned Santa, who is one of my all-time heroes, did you know that Topps produced a Santa certified autograph card and a Santa-used relic (piece of suit) card in 2007? Unfortunately I don’t own them, and I found the images below on the web. Maybe I’ll get them in my stocking if Santa thinks that I’ve been a good enough boy this year. Here they are:
Ho ho ho!
Today is Thanksgiving, and there’s no better card to celebrate with than my 1992 Don Mattingly Mr. Turkey Superstar card!
Seriously though, Thanksgiving is a time that I usually think about all of the things that I’m thankful for in my life. Here are a few:
- I’m thankful for the many great baseball card blogs that I have enjoyed reading this year, and for all of the readers of my blog. Blogging about cards has been a very fun experience, thanks to the great blogging community that we have.
- I’m thankful for everyone who I’ve made trades with this year, including Dan from Saints of the Cheap Seats, Adam from Thoughts and Sox, and Larry from YouTube (check out his channel here). I received packages from them on Tuesday and Wednesday. I’m working on some posts to show what I received from them and packages to send out to them.
- I’m thankful for the Tampa Bay Rays for having the unbelievable season that they had. It was more fun to be a baseball fan this year than ever before. I’ll never forget how amazing it was to see them win the A.L. East, beat the White Sox in the ALDS, beat the Red Sox in the ALCS, and reach the World Series.
- I’m thankful for the Philadelphia Phillies for winning the World Series. Yes, you read that right. Honestly, it wouldn’t have felt right for the Rays to win it all in their first season of being a decent team. The Phillies fans have been waiting for a championship for much longer. And now, the Rays still have one more goal to achieve – winning the 2009 World Series.
- I’m thankful to the Penn State Nittany Lions for their incredible 11-1 season. I’m not so thankful for the Iowa Hawkeyes. I really believe that PSU could beat any team in the nation this year, and it’s a travesty that they can’t prove it because college football has its asinine bowl games instead of playoffs.
- I’m thankful to Topps, Upper Deck, and Donruss too, for the cards that they’ve produced this year. Some have been great and some have been horrible, but without all of this year’s card sets, what would we have to blog about? And how else would we be able to entertain ourselves?
- I’m thankful for my wife, my cat, all of my family, my friends, my health, my job, my house, and all of my baseball cards. I’m thankful to be a citizen of the United States of America and the state of North Carolina.
- And I’m thankful that I’m spending Thanksgiving at home this year instead of traveling. We’re going to my wife’s grandmother’s house this afternoon, which is only 20 minutes away.
So Happy Thanksgiving to everyone out there. I’ll be back tomorrow. And oh yeah, I’m happy that Santa Claus will be coming to town in less than a month!
Yeah, it’s after midnight now, but it was a busy day. I did some work around the house, had dinner with my wife and my in-laws, and watched the Rays beat the Royals. I’m glad that we didn’t go to watch the fireworks because we would have gotten drenched by a rainstorm. I hope that everyone had a great 4th of July. It’s a day to reflect on all of the good things about the United States of America. There’s our democracy, our liberties, and the fact that we live in the most prosperous nation in the history of the world. And of course, there is our national pastime. Since this is a blog about baseball and baseball cards, so I want to share two things with you in the spirit of the holiday:
The above video is from the best scene in one of the best baseball movies ever made, Field of Dreams. The words are spoken by James Earl Jones’ character, Terence Mann:
The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh, people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.
And of course, here is my most patriotic baseball card, a Scott Kazmir autographed 2007 Upper Deck Black “Pride of a Nation” card:
It’s after midnight now, so technically Father’s Day is over, but it’s been on my mind all day, so the subject of this post will be Father’s Day. The sport of baseball has been going strong in the United States for over 150 years. A huge reason for its continued popularity has been the impact of fathers teaching their sons about the game and sharing their enthusiasm for it.
Though I don’t give my dad nearly enough credit, I must admit that he played a big role in getting me interested in baseball, and baseball cards, when I was a kid. It’s funny to think of now, but when I was a toddler, my dad didn’t think that I’d ever be interested in baseball. That is why he sold his entire baseball card collection (or what he thought was his entire collection at the time) to raise money for a new car when I was three. That is why he went to Rochester Red Wings games and saw Cal Ripken and Don Mattingly play, but didn’t bring me. I was too young to be able to enjoy those games, but years later it would have been very cool to say that I was there to see two of my favorite players before they were stars.
I think I showed my first real interest in baseball when I signed up to play tee ball when I was in first grade in 1986. After that, my dad took me to my first Red Wings game, against the Toledo Mud Hens. I still remember that game and the fact that the San Diego Chicken made an appearance at the ballpark that day. He also helped me to buy many packs of 1986 Topps, showed me how to put the cards in order by number, and how to pick out the star players.
Through the years after that, my dad took me to countless Red Wings games and to many other minor league games around New York State. He took me to my first major league games in Toronto in 1987, against the White Sox and the Yankees. He took me to Toronto a few other times, and later to Yankee Stadium and Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. He taught me a lot about the game and its history. I first heard names like Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and Willie Mays from stories that he told me about baseball from his childhood. He helped me to develop a passion for collecting baseball cards, just as he had done when he was a kid. And, maybe most importantly, he was always willing to go to the backyard for a game of catch.
I don’t think that I realized how great it was that my dad did all of these things for me. I took it for granted. Years later I found out that not every kid got to have these kinds of experiences with their dads. Some kids didn’t even have dads that were around for their childhoods. My relationship with my dad was never perfect. My parents separated in 1991 when I was 12 years old. I blamed my dad for a lot of the bad things that happened to my family, and I wasn’t very fair to him. But now when I look back, I am very grateful for my dad and his major contribution to getting me interested in baseball and baseball cards.
I would be remiss in this post if I did not mention the strong influence that both of my grandfathers had on me too. My mom’s father was a sports writer for the Buffalo Courier Express newspaper, covering the Buffalo Bisons. I don’t think I ever spent a summer day at his house without the TV being tuned to a New York Mets game. He told me a lot of stories about baseball and even gave me some old bats from Buffalo players. He also had season tickets to the Bisons, which I’m pretty sure they sent him for free because of his contributions to the success of baseball in Buffalo. I remember fondly going to games there with him while he snuck in peanuts from the grocery store since he thought that they were too expensive at the stadium. My mom used to always say that I got my love of baseball from my grandfather. He passed away in 1996, but his influence lives on with me. I am proud to say that he was inducted into the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame in 1996, and his plaque currently hangs at Dunn Tire Park in Buffalo.
My dad’s father has also has had a very positive influence on me. While he never had a baseball-related career, he did fascinate me with stories about Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig when I was a kid. He also managed to save a bunch of baseball cards of star players from the 1950s and 1960s that my dad owned when he was a kid, and he kept them in a box in his basement. One day in the early 1990s, he gave the cards back to my dad, and my dad and I spent some great time together sorting through the cards and looking up their value in Beckett. My dad still has those cards. The experience of looking at those cards is something that I’ll write more about in a future post.
I owe a lot of gratitude to my dad and to both of my grandfathers. They helped me to become a huge fan of baseball and a baseball card collector, but more importantly, they taught me great life lessons over the years, and I am the man that I am today because of them. I look forward to one day having a son (or sons) of my own and sharing my passion for baseball with them.
To all of the fathers out there, happy Father’s Day to you! And thank you for helping to spread the joy of baseball and baseball cards to your children.
In the spirit of this post, here’s a picture of me from my Little League days, circa 1992: