Friday, November 28, 2014

Hockey IPs

As a follow-up to my last post about my in-person baseball autographs, here's a quick look at the various in-person autographs I have been able to get my hands on, either on my own or through trades. I have already posted on a few of these, but seeing as how I'm still getting my new blog caught up to where I am now, I'm just going to list them all.

Matt Cullen

Matt Cooke

Wes Walz

All of the following have been acquired through trades:

Marc-Andre Fleury

Marc-Andre Fleury

Jordan Staal

Jordan Staal

Chris Kunitz

James Neal

Ben Lovejoy

Jeremy Roenick

Dion Phaneuf

Glenn Healy
Corey Hirsch

I think that pretty much gets me caught up. Now I can finally put together some real-time posts, and I'm going to be having quite a few at the end of the month, so you all have that to look forward to you.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Autographed Baseballs & Cards from Various Baseball Games

I went to quite a few baseball games growing up, mostly in Houston at the Astrodome/Enron Field/Minute Maid Park, with a few games in a couple other cities. One of my favorite things to do, in fact, something I insisted on doing when we went to a game, was to arrive at the stadium as the gates open and do some autograph hunting.

My main stakeout point was always right next to the visitors dugout, since the crowd was about 25% of the crowd surrounding the home team's dugout. With the occasional exception, you could usually depend on at least a few players stopping by after they finished warming up. Now, it ended up being a crapshoot as far as if your position was in the player's path down the line, but the odds were in your favor of usually getting at least one.

I tried my best to bring one card of each player on the visiting team, but just in case I either didn't have a card of the player, or I couldn't identify the player in time to access his card, I brought a few baseballs along. Here's a quick look at the autographed baseballs I obtained in person at baseball games over the years.

Billy Wagner

Jose Cruz

Brandon Puffer

Luis Gonzalez & Scott Servais (front)

 Luis Gonzalez & Scott Servais (back)

 John Hudek

Bobby Hill

Shane Andrews & Darren Fletcher

It is kind of funny how as a kid, I always thought it was much cooler to get a card autographed than a baseball. I guess being able to pull autographs out of packs and being able to purchase them so cheaply on-line has dampened that a little bit, as 20 years later, I am now MUCH more interested in getting a baseball signed in person than a card. That being said, here are the cards I was able to get signed before various games.

Mark Grace

Sammy Sosa

Luis Gonzalez

Cliff Floyd

Darrin Fletcher

Moises Alou

Bob Tewksbury

Sawyer Carroll

Justin Erasmus

C.J. Retherford

Petey Paramore

Nic Jackson

These are some IP cards that I didn't get signed myself, but obtained through trades:

Mark Grace

Jerome Walton

Greg Maddux

Dick Tidrow

That's it as far as what I have so far, but trust me, though, there will be a lot more to come.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Mark Eaton Autographed Card

This is a card that actually comes from my very first in-person autograph signing. My family was living in Billings, Montana back in 1991, and as far as sports go, we were pretty isolated.  The closest anything came to it in the year we lived there, was when Utah Jazz center Mark Eaton came to a local sporting goods store for an autograph signing.

All I had was a 1990 Fleer card of Eaton's, so we made the short trip to the signing, where I got to meet him. I don't remember a whole lot about the experience, but it is one of the items that really kicked off my going-on-20-years hobby.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Craig Biggio Autographed Card

Here's an in-person card I've had for quite a long time. In the early '90s, when I was living in Houston, my dad took me every year to this big card show in Houston. It wasn't quite as large-scale as "The National," but it was pretty close. A massive convention hall was filled with dealers, and there were plenty of autograph guests, and there I was at 12 or 13, with a very limited budget. 

I did have a local card shop that my dad would drive me to every now and then, so I didn't want to spend it all on packs. What I did decide to throw down some money one, however, was an autograph. I was pretty young at the time & didn't really understand too many of the nuances of the game, but there was one player from the Astros there, who I understood to be a good player: Craig Biggio.

While I know that I did get the card signed in person, and I do remember specifically purchasing this 1992 Topps Gold card specifically for this purpose, I don't remember a single thing about my interaction with Biggio. I'm sure me, being a shy, awkward pre-teen walked up to the table and said "Hello," asked him to please sign my card, and then thanked him before walking off. I'm sure he was extremely nice and had a big smile on his face, because that's who he is, and that's what he does. I just can't remember it for sure.

I also ended up purchasing a small plaque to hold the card. Even back then, I wanted to proudly display my unique piece of athlete interaction. I guess there are some things that don't even change 20 years down the line.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Matt Cullen Autographed Card and Bobblehead

In the Fargo-Moorhead area, we don't have a whole lot of professional athletes to come out of the region, but we do have a few. The most famous, of course, is Roger Maris, who broke Babe Ruth's single-season home run record in 1961.We also have Matt Cullen of the Nashville Predators, who was raised in Moorhead, MN. While he may not carry the legendary credentials of Maris, Cullen has put together an impressive NHL career, he has scored 212 goals and 389 assists over his 16 years in the league, along with a Stanley Cup victory in 2006, with the Carolina Hurricanes.

He tends to stay out of the spotlight when at home during the off-season, but there are occasional autograph opportunities that I have been able to take advantage of in years past. My first encounter was at a celebrity golf tournament in the late 90s. I knew he would be there, and at the time, being the only hockey player attending, he was really the only one I went after. We were living in Texas at the time, and I didn't bring anything up with me, but I was able to get my hands on a team set of hockey cards, which would give me a card of Cullen's.

The second occurrence actually took place at a baseball game. Back in 2007, again, when we were visiting family up here, the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks of the Northern Baseball League had a themed "Hockey Night." Cullen was there to throw out the first pitch, which he did by shooting it into a net with a hockey stick, a goal horn was sounded for every Redhawks run, and all sorts of fans came to the game wearing hockey sweaters. After the pre-game ceremonies, which had Cullen and his wife talk to the fans about Cully's Kids, their charity which provides financial resources to children's health care organizations, primarily those dealing with cancer, Cullen made himself available to sign autographs in the concession area. Like before, I hadn't brought any Matt Cullen items with me on my trip, but luckily, they were giving out bobbleheads at the gate, which gave me a great item for him to sign. The bobblehead features Cullen in his Moorhead Spuds hockey gear, where he played high school hockey.

Cullen still resides in Moorhead during the off-season, so I'm sure there will be plenty more opportunities in the future. I just need to get my hands on a Cullen Minnesota Wild jersey, so that I will finally be prepared for when another opportunity comes my way.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Clyde Drexler Autographed Basketball

A couple years ago, when my wife & I were living in the Houston-area, a brand new Circuit City was opening up, and they brought in Basketball Hall-of-Famer and Houston basketball legend Clyde Drexler to sign autographs and help promote the store's grand opening. Now, I had no idea of this, but luckily my wife heard an advertisement on the radio, and knowing how much of a collector I am, informed me of this great opportunity. So, we went to our local Academy sporting goods store and picked up two basketballs: one for me, and one for her brother, who played basketball throughout high school.

We got there in time for the signing, but there was already a pretty long line formed. We came too late for the gift cards they were giving out to the first 100 people, but we did get a Circuit City umbrella as a giveaway. Anyway, we wait through the line, which moved pretty quickly, and got to the front, and weer hit with a bit of a surprise. Apparently, Drexler was doing this as a fundraiser for a charity he was involved with, and was charging $25 a piece for the signature, which included a white-paneled basketball for him to sign. Unfortunately, we didn't bring any cash or our checkbook with, so we were pretty stuck. Luckily for us, though, he was willing to sign our basketballs, allowing us to walk away happy.

I don't have a whole lot of basketball signatures, but the ones I do have are pretty spectacular. This is certain to be one I will proudly display for quite a long time. Now I just need to get it a decent display case and take it out of that cardboard.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Thomas Vanek Autographed Puck

I made what has become an annual pilgrimage to St. Paul, Minnesota Tuesday, to see my Pittsburgh Penguins take on the home team Minnesota Wild.

Last year, the game took place with just a few weeks left in the season. It was a disappointment, to say the least, with the Wild winning 4-0. It was a pretty bad blowout, and what it came down to, was that you had one team (Wild) playing like a team fighting for a playoff spot, and the other team (Penguins) playing like a team who was already in.

This year would be different, though, as it was early enough in the year that both teams would be fighting to prove their worth. Not only that, but both teams came in as two of the hottest teams in the league, which should give us quite a competitive game.

It was another decisive victory, but this time with the Penguins coming out on top with a 4-1 victory. Goals were scored by Nick Spaling, Brandon Sutter, Chris Kunitz, and Patric Hornqvist, as well as the Wild's lone goal being scored by Nino Niederreiter. Once again, Pittsburgh went with their backup goaltender when visiting the "State of Hockey," but Thomas Griess was spectacular, stopping 33 of 34 shots.

Also at the game, the Minnesota Wild Foundation was holding a fundraiser, where for $40, fans could get their hands on a "Mystery Puck," wrapped in gold foil to conceal the identity of the signing player, autographed by one of the Wild players. Last year, 10 players signed pucks, and I got Mikael Granlund, Jason Pominville, and Jared Spurgeon. This year, that number was increased to 12, with autographs from Jonas Brodin, Matt Cooke, Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula, Mikko Koivu, Nino Niederreiter, Darcy Kuemper, Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Ryan Suter and Thomas Vanek. Now last year, I got Pominville and Granlund, and this past summer, I got a puck signed by Cooke, so I had a 25% chance of getting someone that I already have.

Well, the odds were in my favor, as I got a new player, and a pretty good one, too, in Thomas Vanek.

The puck is one specially designed for this promotion, which is raising money for the Minnesota Wild Foundation. The organization raised money to support various pediatric medical causes throughout the state, so even if you didn't get your favorite player, you knew your money was going to a good place. I actually don't mind the design, as it gives a good window for the player to sign, making the signature more visible. Last year's pucks were just a team logo in the middle, with the player signing wherever they decided to scribble. The other nice thing, is that it specifies the season, so that way, if I pull a Vanek again next year, at least there's a slight difference in the two.