Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Feeling A Draft

Tomorrow is an exciting day for me. Fall Out Boy is releasing new music (you can read my post about that here), and my daughters will be participating in 'Take your child to work day' at my wife's office, so I will have the house to myself for two whole hours (woot!)

Also the Capitals-Penguins series gets underway (if the Penguins win again, I'm officially done with hockey) and the NFL Draft kicks off with Cleveland on the clock. 

I used to be obsessed with the NFL Draft. The first year I remember watching all of it was 1994, though I remember seeing parts of earlier drafts dating back to 1991 and Raghib Ismail's unprecedented decision to sign with the CFL's Toronto Argonauts instead of the NFL (and likely the Dallas Cowboys.)

For the rest of the 1990's I had a ritual of watching the entire draft from beginning to end, with a Pro Football Draft Guide and a notebook in front of me so I could write down every pick and check them against my prognostications. I even had a large glass of water and a team hat (Packers, of course) on the table to make it look like I was part of the 'war room.'

That was until 1999, when I happened to be visiting my girlfriend in Canada during draft weekend. I was so busy with her that I barely managed to see the Saints trade their entire draft for Ricky Williams. That was a huge deal... and yet it didn't bother me that I missed the completion of the deal, the analysis, or the rest of the 1st round. I remember saying "wow" and then turning off the draft to do boyfriend things.

The ritual was dead, and aside from an interesting year or two (the Aaron Rodgers slide!) I didn't follow the NFL draft all that much anymore. 

However this year's draft class is intriguing to me, for a few reasons. Jabrill Peppers is a local kid and I'd like to see if he can crack the first round despite questions about a positive drug test and which position(s) he can play in the pros. Are the Jets going to take a quarterback, and if so will they go with Mitchell Trubisky or DeShaun Watson? How will the Browns spend all that draft capital? And will the Packers get the running back they desperately need? (Is it too much to ask for Fournette or McCaffrey to slide to us at #29?) I'll also be keeping an eye on Usain Bolt-clone John Ross and J.J. Watt's "little" brother T.J. Watt.

I've never known an NFL player personally, but I did go to school with an offensive lineman who was signed as an undrafted free agent and "won" a Super Bowl with the Steelers. He wasn't all that wide, but he towered over everyone in the hallway.

My wife also went to school with an offensive lineman, and he played five seasons in the NFL. She did know him personally, though they were more acquaintances than friends. (Because I was such a roster junkie in the 90's, I knew exactly who he was when she told me about him.)

I was in junior high school when my football obsession began in earnest, and my friend Carl was just as much a fan as I was (we dressed up as football players for Halloween; my mom has a Polaroid of us play-tackling each other)

For a semester or two, we went to the local college (University of New Haven) for a special biology lab class. Our "teacher" was this pretty college girl who Carl and I both adored - her name escapes me now, and I feel awful about that. Anyway, there was a great, great running back at UNH at the time - and since it was obvious the girl wasn't going to date either one of us we asked her the second most important question we could think of: Do you know Roger Graham?

She did, and told us he was a great guy. Then she asked if we wanted his autograph.


Despite a record-breaking career at UNH, Roger was never drafted (so why am i bringing this up in an NFL draft post?) He was in Cowboys camp for pre-season, and apparently suited up for one game with the Jaguars. That was enough for him to appear in an NFL video game (likely Tecmo Super Bowl; I never played much Madden.) I tried sooo hard to get him good yardage but as you'd expect his rating was like a 55 and he never got more than two yards. But it was a thrill just to see his name on the screen and hand him the (virtual) ball.

Are you planning to watch any of the NFL Draft? Have you ever met a drafted (or undrafted) player? What does your favorite team need?


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

92 year old sports page

I did some spring cleaning over the weekend, and half the reason I dug through my boxes of sports memorabilia was to find all of my 8 x 10 autographs and put them in one place. Unfortunately I found a few and assumed that was all of them, then put all the boxes back before remembering I still have half a dozen autos unaccounted for. Perhaps I'll go back into the crawl space this weekend.

Though I didn't find my in-person Robin Yount auto (or some other goodies) I did find a 92-year old newspaper page from the New York Evening Journal:

This article recaps the New York Americans' 6-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on December 8, 1925. (The blurb at the bottom left is from a much more recent Hockey News article, which I added for the provenance)

I'm not sure exactly when I acquired it, likely sometime around 2000-01. My friend Chris was living in a small house that was being demolished, and after he packed up and moved out most (if not all) of his stuff, the structure was stripped bare. Chris claimed that it was totally cool with the owner if we wanted to help out with the demolition by breaking down some of the plaster walls. (I didn't exactly believe him, but no one was around, so I went along with it.) As soon as I put some hammer holes in the walls, I noticed they were lined with old newspaper - the oldest newspaper I've ever seen outside of a library. 

It was tough to remove the fragile paper from the wall without tearing it, as you can see. But I managed to keep most of the article intact. It's a fascinating look at the early days of hockey. Also, it's the oldest piece of sports memorabilia I own. 

What's the oldest piece of memorabilia (sports or non-sports) in your collection?


Saturday, April 22, 2017

A Trio of Trades, and a COMC struggle

I planned on publishing part two of my autograph show & tell, but there are still some autos I have to dig out of my closet, and I've had three trades come in recently so I'll get to those first. 

Justin G, author of the blog The Hopeful Chase, wrote a trading post a few weeks back in hopes of unloading some surplus hockey cards. I offered to send him some Lightning cards but he said there was no need (this time!) Which means that this technically wasn't a trade...but here are the cards:

The Neal Broten completes my Pro Set set

Greg, author of the blog The Collective Mind, sent me some Devils cards as well. I gave him a list of sets I was light on, and he came through with a couple dozen Devils and some cards for my Women on Cards collection.

Unfortunately I forgot to scan them up before adding them to my binders... I thought I'd scan them in the binders. 

The most recent blogger to hit my mailbox was Oscar, author of the aptly-named blog All Tradebait, All The Time.  Oscar asked for some Dodgers from my 2017 Topps Heritage box break, and sent me some Red Sox in return:

Thanks for the trades, fellas! I'm always eager to add new cards to my collection, and it's been tough to buy packs and singles lately since I'm trying hard to trim the family budget. To that end, I've been doing as many COMC challenges as I can - usually while watching playoff hockey (and basketball) games. 

As I've mentioned before, I'm a sucker for low-hanging fruit. Cheap Young Guns and low-numbered parallels are tough to pass up, especially when a COMC seller discounts their port at 50% or more. My plan for this year is to rack up as many cards as I can, wait until Black Friday to have them shipped to me, and then collect the cashback bonus/scratch-off tickets along with my accumulated haul.

But every time I read a post from someone who has used challenge credit on significant purchases it makes me wonder what sort of free swag I could earn if I just lay off the cheapies.

 Three Young Guns for $1.01... hard to say no to that.

My first goal was to see how much COMC credit I could earn in a week, which yielded this:

1934 Goudey Hugh(ie) Critz #17 ($7.25)

Then I decided to save all my challenge credit until the end of the month. But every time I did a round of data entry, my watch list got longer. I knew it was only a matter of time before I shattered the ice and bought something:

 2015 Panini Spectra Sterling Sharpe #d/99 ($0.85)

Sterling was my favorite football player for the first half of the '90's. He was a big reason why I chose the Packers as my favorite football team; Reggie White was another (this was before Brett Favre became an NFL legend.) My mom bought me a replica Sharpe jersey for Christmas one year and I still have it, even though the painted numbers and letters have cracked and creased almost beyond recognition. 

Unfortunately Sharpe suffered a career-ending neck injury in 1994, just two years short of the Packers' Super Bowl XXXI victory and possibly the Hall of Fame. (His more flamboyant brother Shannon got to experience both.)

I used to have a pretty decent Sterling Sharpe collection but it's been dormant for over a decade. Couldn't resist adding this thick base card for under a buck, and it still leaves me with enough COMC credit to pursue a HOFer for my 1956 Topps baseball set.

I'll try to find the rest of my HOFer autos and write/respond to blog comments this weekend. Hope you're all having a great weekend. Enjoy the first round playoff games!


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

My Favorite Autographs part 1: Red Sox and Devils

I recently read a post by Fuji in which he listed his five favorite autographed card as part of Tony L's 30 day baseball card blogging challenge. At the end of the post Fuji asked readers "What's your favorite autographed card of your favorite player?"

I didn't have a good answer. Mostly because I didn't read the question completely and thought he was merely asking "What's your favorite autographed card?" But also because I have a few favorite players - current and all-time - and I have a few favorite autographed cards (and other items) but I don't really have a clear favorite. Or do I?

In this post I'll show off a bunch of my best autographed cards of the two teams I actively collect, and in my next post I'll scan up some autographs of Hall Of Famers who didn't play for the Red Sox or Devils.

I don't have very many Red Sox autos, but the few that I have are signed by recent Boston stars... and a converted catcher who doesn't really have a role with the team.

The Swihart came from Mike Matson via Topps redemption replacement. It's a personal favorite because it represents the very first official trade I made here on the blogosphere (my first unofficial trade was P-Town Tom sending me an 800ct box of 1993 Flair and 2013 Topps baseball in exchange for freeing up space in his closet.)

I have a lot more Devils autos than Red Sox, in part because my wife was a hockey card collector and Devils season ticket holder for many years....

This would be her favorite autographed card...if she still cared about collecting.


... and partly because the Devils are a much less popular team than the Sox or Green Bay Packers (my favorite football team) and therefore these are much cheaper to purchase, especially on COMC. This John Moore Cup rookie cost me $3.25 on Black Friday:

He was one of the few Devils who had a good season in '16-17. It feels like forever since these guys were wearing the black and red:

The Brodeur ruby auto is numbered to 50, and it's one of only two Marty autos in my collection; my wife has a ton of signed Brodeur/Devils items, including these:

The first cup in 1995. D didn't store this too well; when I unpacked this after we moved a few years ago I noticed a lot of wavy lines that looked like water damage. It's possible that some moisture found its way into the paper-thin sleeve she had it stored in.

2000: The goal. Jason Arnott just happened to be D's favorite Devil, and one of her two favorite players of all-time (the other is Trevor Linden.)

2003: Forever Devils. I may be wrong, but I think Dano, Marty, and Patty are the top three games played leaders in franchise history.

Do you have a favorite autographed item in your collection? Do you prefer single-signed items, or team/group autos signed by multiple players?


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Hello out there. We're on the air. It's hockey night tonight!

The NHL Stanley Cup playoffs got underway last night with five Game Ones. I tried posting this while watching the Penguins-Blue Jackets game, but Blogger was acting up and wouldn't upload my scans.

Whether you're a casual fan or a die-hard puckhead, the playoffs are always exciting to watch. The first time I remember following playoff hockey was in 1991, when the Minnesota North Stars had a losing record and somehow made it to the finals against Pittsburgh. I really wanted Minnesota to pull off the upset, even though the Penguins had traded for Whalers legend Ron Francis that year. Naturally the North Stars lost - and tomake things even more painful the franchise relocated to Dallas a short time later. 

I have to admit I'm not as interested in hockey as I used to be. It isn't just because the Devils are lousy, or because scoring is way down from the 80's and 90's. It's because the same teams win every year, in both the playoffs (Blackhawks, Penguins) and the draft lottery (Oilers, Oilers, Oilers, and.. the Oilers). Baseball - a sport with no salary cap - has much better competitive balance; three teams with historically long title droughts have won a title since 2004, and the Indians came very close to ending theirs.

Hockey has started to resemble basketball, in that there are very few teams who can actually win a championship - and it's almost essential to build around a transcendent player acquired only through the draft lottery. You can't make trades anymore; every halfway decent player has a no-movement clause. And even with an insanely high salary cap you can't 'buy' a winner through free agency because star players never leave their original team (see Stamkos, Steven) This may be why I'm more excited for the Expansion Draft than the Entry Draft. Colorado will get Nolan Patrick, but who will end up on Vegas?

Most of the teams in this year's playoffs have had the good fortune to accumulate multiple first-round picks and turn them into key players. Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Washington are the obvious examples, but Toronto and Edmonton could soon be following their blueprint.

Here are the first round match-ups, most of which are already underway:

Capitals vs. Maple Leafs

Penguins vs. Blue Jackets

Canadiens vs. Rangers

Senators vs. Bruins

Blackhawks vs. Predators

Ducks vs. Flames

 Oilers vs. Sharks

 Wild vs. Blues

Are you a fan of playoff hockey? Is your team chasing the Cup? Got any predictions for the first round?


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Shop Rite vending and a COMC blaster

My wife is still sick, and we haven't been shopping in a while, so I offered to walk down to the Shop Rite and pick up a few things. She always does the grocery shopping because it's much easier for her to leave the girls with me and get it all done herself. At least that's what she always told me. There may be another reason she doesn't want me to go...

Our Shop Rite has a sports card vending machine! Nothing wonderful, packs of 1987 and 1989 Topps baseball for $1, early 90's basketball, 2015 Topps Football, and 2016 Bowman baseball caught my eye - but I only had $4 in my wallet and I wanted some bang for my buck. There were team bags of 20 assorted football or basketball cards - I picked a pack of basketball and a jumbo pack of 2013 Topps S2 baseball for $3. 

I was worried the corners would get crushed in the drop, and so I stuck my hand down to catch them... and banged my hand on the metal door. More embarrassing than painful, and not really necessary as most of the cards seemed to be ding-free.

Bonus card! There were actually 21 in this team bag. Not a bad selection for a Buck (pun intended) but I don't think I'd buy another one of these. As for my 2013 Topps jumbo pack...

The top half was awful; the best cards were a dinged Yoenis Cespedes and a not dinged Aroldis Chapman. No Red Sox, no rookies of note, and only one cool photo:

Conversely, the bottom half was loaded:

Two Chasing History holos and a regular. The red bordered parallels could have been better.
Mini Donnie
 Not a 'celebration variation', they all have this photo
 Alvarez Mountain Dew flavor
And finally...a JBJ RC! A tiny bit dinged, but not bad at all:
In yesterday's post I mentioned that I've accumulated a fair amount of COMC cash through their various challenges. I have just under $40 worth of cards in my 'ready to ship' queue, which I plan to keep there until Black Friday weekend. Apparently I added $20 in Paypal to the site, so I'll try to list the cards that I bought with earned credit. Either way, here's a "blaster" worth of COMC cards.. starting with some 2015-16 O-Pee-Chee Platinum Retro for my brand-new franken-set project:

Andrew Ladd orange #d/49 ($0.85)
P.K. Subban orange #d/49 ($1.35)

Eric Staal gold #d/149 ($0.65)
Sam Bennett gold #d/149 ($1.15)

Jamie Benn gold #d/149 ($0.78)

Super thick cards:

Henrik Lundqvist 2015-16 Black Diamond Exquisite base #d/149 ($2.54)
Aaron Ekblad
2015-16 Black Diamond Exquisite base #d/149 ($1.46)
Goran Dragic 2014-15 Immaculate Collection jersey #d/50 ($2.40)

Paul George 2015-16 Panini Spectra base #/125 ($1.38)

Steve Largent 2015 Immaculate Collection gold #d/25 ($2.85)
Marshall Faulk 2015 Immaculate Collection base #/99 ($0.95)

Devils rookies:

Steven Santini 2016-17 SPx Shadow Box rookies #d/249 ($1.95)
Miles Wood 2016-17 Upper Deck Young Guns Canvas ($1.39)

Total: $19.70. I can't wait to see the Santini in hand, the card looks huge!
Have you ever bought cards out of a vending machine? Do you load $20 onto COMC and buy a 'blaster' worth of cards? Let me know in comments!