Saturday, September 27, 2014

2014 F-M Redhawks, Part 5/5: Nic Jackson Autographed Bat

The last entry in my five-part series of 2014 Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks autographs and memorabilia is my big one, and actually updates the piece I proudly displayed in Part 1.

I purchased this Nic Jackson game-used cracked bat at the 2014 season-opener, and was waiting for the chance to get it signed. Even though there were other items I planned on getting signed as well, this was the real reason I wanted to be sure to attend one of the team autograph party games. Jackson is a former Chicago Cubs prospect, so if I was going to get a bat signed by any one of the Redhawks players, he would have to be it.

I now have the autographed bat proudly displayed in my man cave/home office, and is one of my favorite pieces in my collection.

Friday, September 26, 2014

2014 F-M Redhawks, Part 4/5: Autographed Baseball Cards

Along with the baseball I had the 2014 Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks sign, I also picked up a few baseball cards of the five players who had an MLB-licensed card released. Now, none of those players have played in the majors yet, but thanks to Bowman churning out their prospect sets, we did have a few cardboard appearances by eventual Redhawks players.

Nic Jackson - 2004 Donruss Diamond Kings (Chicago Cubs)

Sawyer Carroll 2009 Bowman Prospects (San Diego Padres)

Justin Erasmus - 2009 Bowman World Baseball Classic (South Africa/Boston Red Sox)

C.J. Retherford - 2010 Bowman Prospects (Chicago White Sox)

Petey Paramore - 2009 Bowman Sterling Prospects 27/199 (Oakland Athletics)

When my dad would take me to baseball games as a kid, one of my favorite things to do before a game was get autographs. I would always wait by the visitor's dugout before games since the traffic was lighter, and did pretty well, getting guys like Sammy Sosa, Mark Grace, Luis Gonzalez, Billy Wagner, and Jose Cruz. I haven't done much of it lately, with one reason being that the nearest MLB stadium is a 4-hour drive away in Minneapolis, but I almost forgot just home much fun it is. It's always great to be able to get that close to the action and meet the players who you watch so often. It's nice to get a good reminder of that every now and then.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

2014 F-M Redhawks, Part 3/5: Autographed Team Ball

The Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks not only had their various souvenir-style promotions throughout the 2014 season, but they also had a theme to each day of the week. Every Wednesday wasn't just College Night (which, sadly, is a promotion that hasn't applied to me for a decade), but also featured a "Post-Game Autograph Party." At the end of every Wednesday game, every player from the Redhawks would line up at the third-base-line fence and sign away for the fans.

Looking ahead at the team's schedule along with my own work schedule, I came to the realization that the July 9th home outing would be my last opportunity, so my wife & I arranged for a sitter and headed to the ballpark.

The game didn't turn out as well as we would like, as the Redhawks continued their slump with a 6-3 loss to the Gary SouthShore Railcats. The players were in good spirits after the game though, and were very conversational with all the fans.

Each player came equipped with a Sharpee, which doesn't always last too well on leather, so it was a good thing I brought a ball-point pen along. The autographs show up much better on a ball, and the thinner lines give room for more signatures to fit.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

2014 F-M Redhawks, Part 2/5: Matt Erzar Game-Used Jersey

Usually, when I go to a sports game of any kind, I like to wear some kind of gear to represent that team. For the most part, this manifests itself in the form of a jersey. Now, our local  USHL team, The Fargo Force, sells replica jerseys in their team store, but our baseball team, The Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks of the AAPB, does not. They do, however, sell game-used jerseys in their team store, and at a very affordable price.

So, naturally, I had to pick one up. Now knowing very little about the individual players of the team, I really wasn't picking a particular player. I knew I wanted the red version of the jersey instead of dark blue, mostly since they are still using the red, and I think the blue is an outdated design. Anyway, there were three reds available, and with no knowledge of the individuals themselves, I just had to pick which number I liked better. There was 29, 48, and 55. I ended up picking #48, simply because I think the number looks better on a baseball jersey.

The jersey belonged to Matt Erzar, who only spent one year with the team in 2010 as their pitching coach, when they went 61-39 on the way to their fifth Northern League Championship in the league's final season. The Redhawks actually wasn't his first Fargo-based team, as he played four years of college baseball with North Dakota State University.

It's a great-looking jersey, with a bright, bold red color and sewn-on patched for the logo, numbers, and nameplate. It also has more of a mesh-type of fabric, which is great during the hot summer days, which breathes a lot better than a solid material. Watching a few games so far this year made me realize that the Redhawks really do the jerseys right, as some teams will screen-print the name and number on the back, or leave the name off entirely and just print the number.

Here's a few photos of the jersey:

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

2014 F-M Redhawks, Part 1/5: Nic Jackson Bat

Over the next 5 posts, I'm going to be going over the various autographs and memorabilia that I was able to get my hands on during the 2014 Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks baseball season. The Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks are an independent league team with the American Association of Professional Baseball, and I was able to pick up my first big item at the May 25 home opener against the Sioux Falls Canaries.

After the 5-4 Redhawks victory, I stopped by the Team Shop, just to check out some of what they have. There were some game-used jerseys for a very reasonable price of $99. I didn't get one, but made a mental not of their availability for a later date. Right next to that rack, almost tucked away in a corner was a basket, containing three bats. The sign next to it identified them as "cracked bats," and were available for only $15. I thought that was pretty reasonable, and was more excited when I discovered that one of those bats was for centerfielder Nic Jackson.

It's a big deal for me as a Chicago Cubs fan, because Jackson, who has been with the Redhawks since 2009, used to be with the Cubs organization. He was drafted by the team in the third round of the 2000 MLB June Amateur Draft. He never made it up to the pro club for a regular season game, but spent two years with the AAA Iowa Cubs, hitting .255, with 11 home runs and 45 RBIs. He signed minor league contracts with the Philadelphia Phillies  and New York Mets in 2007, but never quite caught on with either team. He has been playing indempendent-league ball since 2008.

Anyway, here are a few photos of the bat itself. Now, I'm not sure if this was game-used or batting-practice-used, but either way, it's a really cool item to add to my collection.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Henry Boucha Autographed Puck & Photograph

At the March 16, 2013 Fargo Force game, there was a special appearance by former NHL-er Henry Boucha, who was selling copies of his autobiography, as well as signing autographs for the fans. Of course, being the collector that I am, I had to get something signed, and brought along a Minnesota North Stars puck.

While I wasn't necessarily interested in the book, I still was able to send some cash his way by purchasing this photograph of him with the Minnesota North Stars, which he signed and personalized to me.

Considered by many to be one of the greatest high school hockey players in Minnesota's history, Boucha gained national recognition as a member of Team USA at the 1972 Winter Olympics. He scored 2 goals and 4 assists in 6 games, and was drafted 16th overall by the Detroit Red Wings in the 1971 NHL Draft, and made his NHL debut after the '72 Olympics were over, playing 16 games at the end of the 1971-72 season. He would eventually play six seasons in the NHL with the Red Wings, Minnesota North Stars, Kansas City Scouts, and Colorado Rockies, but an eye injury forced him to end his career early in 1976.

A full-blooded Ojibwe, Boucha hails from Warroad, MN, a small town known for its ability to churn out Olympic hockey players. In addition to the Silver-Medal-winning Boucha, there's also Gordon Christian (Silver, 1956), Bill Christian (Gold, 1960), Roger Christian (Gold, 1960), Dave Christian (Gold, 1980), Gisele "Gigi" Marvin (Women's Silver, 2010 & 2014), and T.J. Oshie (2014). Boucha, as well as Dave, Bill, and Roger Christian, are all members of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.

 We don't usually get a lot of autograph opportunities up here in the Fargo/Moorhead area, but when we do, it's nice to have that opportunity with somebody so successful and highly regarded in his sport.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Colton Gillies Game-Used Stick

A couple months ago, I picked up an item for my collection that I had nothing of up to this point: a game-used hockey stick. While I do have a couple of cards with stick pieces on them, this is actually the first full piece that I have gotten my hands on.

This stick, at one time, belonged to former Minnesota Wild left winger Colton Gillies. The seller I purchased it from acquired it from Gillies during the 2009-10 season, when he was playing for the Wild's AHL affiliate, Houston Aeros. Being a former Houston resident, and current Minnesota resident, this was a perfect item to pick up, as it represents both of my "home bases" from the past 20 years.

Here's a few photos I snapped of the stick, just to show off to you all:

The signature and inscription on the blade reads "To Jack 04/26/10 Colton Gilles." Having the inscription isn't necessary, but cool, and it doesn't really bother me that it has another person's name on it. I just think it's an extra nice touch to even have the signature, as not all game-used items carry one.

Apart from the autographed blade of the stick, the other really cool part is the customized nameplate toward the top of the stick. Each stick will have this element, as it allows a particular player's stick to be easily identified on the stick rack among those of his teammates.

The butt end of the stick is wrapped in red tape, with a coil of some kind wrapped around underneath the tape, to give a better grip on the end. It is also done in red, which along with some green on the stick itself, matches the red and green colors of the Aeros, which the team adopted for the 2009-10 season and beyond, to match up with the colors of their parent club.

Here's a better look at the stick-maker's logo, which gives a really good view of the green element along the stick. This is taken from the reverse side of what is pictured on the full stick photo, but it gives a better look at the stick design, plus there's much more wear across this part of the stick.

I now have the stick mounted on the wall of my home office/guest bedroom/man cave. It's one of those things where it may not be of a major player, but that doesn't really matter, as it's always good to have anything extra to bring you that much closer to the game, plus it just looks really cool.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Michael Jordan TTM: Sometimes You Just Get Lucky

I haven't really sent any through the mail (TTM) autograph requests since the early '90s, when, as a 13-year-old kid, I did on a somewhat regular basis. Most of mine were failures, primarily because I'd send cards that were a couple years old to the players c/o that teams that they were depicted playing for on the cards, not knowing that they were long gone from their former ballclub. I did get a couple of good ones, though. I sent a Topps Black Gold card to Dave Winfield when he was playing for the Twins. I received the card back, unsigned, but along with it, an autographed postcard, which I have, since then, misplaced. I think my dad agreed to hold onto it for safekeeping, but I have no idea where it is at the moment.

My biggest success, however, was this one:

That's right. The greatest basketball player of all time, through the mail, for nothing more than the cost of a couple of stamps and a couple of envelopes. At the time, I didn't realize how big of a deal it was. I just figured I got a pretty good autograph of a really good player. Looking back on it, I realize how lucky I was.

For one, the timing was good. I sent it out, I think, the year before the Bulls won their first NBA Championship, so while he may have been receiving plenty of requests, I'm sure they were nowhere near the amount that he would eventually receive. Second, I was 11 or 12 at the time, so I'm sure a handwritten letter from a young kid went a little bit further than a type-written letter from an adult.

Still, no matter what the circumstances, while I am not that much of a basketball guy, I would say it's one of the cornerstones of my card collection. If I could show off one card out of the thousands that I have, this would be it, plus there's a little bit of a story behind it.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Autographs from Matt Cooke, Wes Walz, and Mike Greenlay

These items all come from this past June, when I had a great opportunity to meet some members of the Minnesota Wild organization, as the Minnesota Wild/Wells Fargo Road Tour stopped in Moorhead, MN. Matt Cooke, along with  Fox Sports North analyst Wes Walz and FSN broadcaster Mike Greenlay were on hand to sign autographs at the Moorhead Youth Hockey Arena.

Luckily, I had that particular day off of work, as I was scheduled to work the overnight shift, so I grabbed a couple pucks and a few cards of Cooke and Walz, and headed to the arena. Luckily for those who did not bring their own items, each of the three guests had 5x7 photos from their playing days. This was great for me, because I had cards of Cooke and Walz, but Greenlay never had an NHL card, as he played only two games for the Edmonton Oilers during the 1989-90 season.

Everyone was really great and was happy to meet all the Wild fans, and signed everything I brought, which was really cool. Here's a quick look at these particular autographs that I added to my collection.

Matt Cooke

Wes Walz

Mike Greenlay

There were actually three legs of the Road Tour, with these three as Leg 1. Leg 2 was current Wild players Charlie Coyle and Jason Zucker, as well as former North Star Tom Reid and his radio broadcasting partner Kevin Falness. Leg 3 was current Wild players Erik Haula and Stephane Veilleux, along with former Wild player Antti Laaksonen and FSN broadcaster Anthony LaPanta.

My leg was the only one to feature just one current Wild player, but seeing as though it is the one guy who is a former Pittsburgh Penguin, so I'd say I did pretty well.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Ryne Sandberg Autographed Baseball

This is an article that I originally wrote for my card-collecting blog, Cardboard Conundrum, on May 15 of this year. I decided to basically just cut and paste it here not only because it's pretty long, but because it really showcased the background of why this was such an important item for me to get my hands on. I also wanted to break the rules of this blog right of the bat with Post #2. While the title of this blog is "Not Pulled From Packs," here I am posting on something that was kind of pulled from a pack. Maybe there's a difference when the "pack" is not sealed cellophane, but a 4"x4"x4" wooden box. 

Anyway, without further ado, here's the story of me acquiring one of my favorite autographed items: a Ryne Sandberg baseball:
"After being a Chicago Cubs fan for close to 25 years, I finally got my hands on an autographed baseball of my all-time favorite north-sider, Ryne Sandberg. I know that there are other Cubs like Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, or Ron Santo that people will name as their favorite Cub, but for me, Sandberg was a big reason why I became a baseball fan in the first place.

I started following the Cubs that year for a few reasons. For one, my family moved around quite often due to my dad's job, so I was never really able to establish a home base. Two, the Cubs were really good that year, and won their division. And three, we had WGN, which meant if I was watching a game on TV, it was usually the Cubs.

Of course, I was only nine when I started following the game, so despite playing Little League, I really didn't understand the nuances of the game, but I knew Sandberg was the best player on the team, so that was good enough for me.

Fast forward 25 years later, and there really hasn't been anyone to take that title away from him. Sure, we had guys like Sammy Sosa, Derrek Lee, and Alfonso Soriano, but their stays in Chicago were temporary, and in Sosa's case, his reputation was temporary. Today, we have Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo who show potential, but who knows if they'll live up to that.

So, without anyone to take that crown away, Ryno is still my guy.

So, a few weeks ago, Sam from The Daily Dimwit sent me a text message to let me know that he had recently gotten his hands on a Sandberg ball, and wanted to see if I was interested. Apparently, he got one of those packs, or boxes, or whatever you call them that contain a mystery autographed baseball, and pulled a ball of my all-time favorite Cub.

Interested? Um.....yeah!

So, after sending him some Paypal, and waiting a few days, I finally had an item for my collection that I have been without for WAY too long:

There is a crisp, clear version of Sandberg's scribbled signature, which really stands out. Whatever pen they used seemed to work pretty well, too, as there is no fading or bleeding of the ink whatsoever. The ball is signed on the sweet spot, as most baseball autographs tend to be, and there's also an inscription that reads "84 NL MVP."

I also like that this is signed on an "official" MLB baseball, which works out well for signatures. Most cheaper balls have a certain degree of gloss to them, which can sometimes lead to the ink either bleeding through the leather, or across the surface. There's also the hologram, which matches up with the certificate of authenticity included in the box it came in.

The product it came from was 2012 Onyx AmerIcons, which is a baseball re-pack set. The only difference here than other re-packs, is that I think Onyx actually acquired the autographs themselves to be used in their various products, instead of purchasing their products on the secondary market.

Here's a look at the certificate of authenticity, which gives all of the fine print, and even has a photo of the player signing. It also gives the date that the ball was signed (Dec. 13, 2008), and informs that the ball's signing was witnessed by an Onyx representative. Apart from that, the certificate is hand-signed by the company president, and contains a matching hologram to the accompanying baseball.

There was also one peculiar thing I noticed when looking at the COA. As it turns out, on the COA (twice) and on the COA verification website (also twice) the name was misspelled as "RYAN" Sandberg. Oh well, at least if a mistake was made, at least it was on the COA, and not on the item itself.

When all is said and done, I was thrilled to add this item to my collection. I have been looking for the right one for some time, and when you combine the quality of the product, along with a clean signature and a cool inscription, it was the perfect one to get my hands on.

Thanks for looking out for me, Sam!"

Monday, September 8, 2014

New Blog, and a Look at My Autographed Bobby Hull Jersey

Hey everyone. After blogging for over three years at my card-collecting blog, Cardboard Conundrum, I wanted to create this off-shoot to focus more on the other part of my collection. While I do love card-collecting itself, I am also a big fan o fin-person autographs, wether on balls, pucks equipment, or even cards.

This blog will focus solely on those in-person encounters, along with a few through-the-mail successes, and any other part of collecting that can't be pulled out of a pack of cards.

I'm big on organization and collation, as the large number of Photobucket links on Cardboard Conundrum have shown readers of that blog, and I will try and do the same here, so be patient while construction is being completed.

Anyway, to kick things off, I will share the story of acquiring my favorite (so far) in-person autograph. As you can see from the background that I am currently using, I have a beautiful Bobby Hull autographed jersey that is proudly displayed in my home office/man cave. Here's the story of me meeting Hull and getting the jersey signed.

I was living in Houston, TX in the mid-'90s, and every year, Tri-Star Sports has a major card show downtown. Being in Houston, the hockey-related autograph guests are rare, but one particular year, they brought Bobby Hull to town. As it turns out, I already had a Hull replica jersey that I was wearing on a fairly regular basis, so I saw my chance to get it signed and add a really cool item to my collection. Since I was too young to drive at the time, my dad took me, and told me all about Hull and other Blackhawks like Stan Mikita, Keith Magnuson, and Tony Esposito, and how they never seemed to be able to beat "those damn Canadiens" in the finals, and told me that when I get up there, to tell Hull how it broke his heart that they always kept losing to the Canadiens.

So, I get in line and get closer to the front, and realize that this is one big dude. Big guy, big booming voice, and I'm just a 15-year-old kid. My turn comes up next, I say hi, hand him the jersey, and since I'm not sure if he is aware of the importance of symmetry in autograph placement, and what collector's like myself look for, I ask him if he can sign his name on the middle bar of the "9." He doesn't say anything, and begins to sign his name on the TOP of the "9." I'm a little disappointed that I won't get my jersey signed quite the way I want it, but THEN, he goes to the middle of the number and inscribes his nickname, "The Golden Jet." AWESOME! It turned out even better than I thought it would.

I had just a few seconds, so I shake his GIGANTIC hand, thank him for his time, and then tell him, "My dad grew up a huge Blackhawks fan, and it broke his heart how you guys could never beat those Canadiens." Then Hull, who looks like the kind of guy who would have no problem punching a kid, let out a laugh, shook his head, and said, "Aw, don't remind me, kid." He then thanked me for coming, and I went on my way.

Not only do I have a great piece at the center of my hockey collection, but even more, I have a cool story to go with it.