Sunday, July 31, 2011
Time: 7 Days
Item Sent: 2000 Topps Opening Day, 2001 Topps Heritage, 2002 Bowman Heritage
Item Received: 2000 Topps Opening Day, 2001 Topps Heritage, 2002 Bowman Heritage. All signed in black Sharpie.
I'm still a little upset at the Twins for trading Eric Milton. When he came over in the Chuck Knoblauch trade he was a symbol of hope for the long-suffering Twins. And, for the most part, he lived up to lofty expectations. His 1999 no-hitter put him on the map. After flashes of brilliance for three seasons, he put it all together in 2001. He was an All Star and established himself as one of the best lefties in the American League. A couple years later, he was dealt to Philly for Carlos Silva, Nick Punto, and Bobby Korecky. The Twins got a few good years from Silva and one great year and a whole lotta tail-battlin' and gettin' after it from Punto. Milton struggled in NL bandboxes through the rest of his career. The trade wasn't terrible, but I do wonder what might have happened had he been a Twin longer.
Time: 156 Days
Item Sent: 1981 Topps, 1985 Fleer, 1986 Topps, 1988 Score
Item Received: 1981 Topps, 1985 Fleer, 1986 Topps, 1988 Score. All signed in blue Sharpie.
John Tudor had an outstanding 12 year career, complete with a sterling .619 career winning percentage. His most notable season was 1985, where he assembled one of the finest campaigns of the era. After starting the season 1-7, he finished on a 20-1 run to end the year with a 21-8 record, a 1.93 ERA, and a league leading ten shutouts. Unanimous Cy Young Award numbers, but thanks to the remarkable sophomore performance by Doc Gooden that same year, Tudor failed to garner a single first place vote. After coming up short in the 1985 and 1987 World Series for the Cardinals, he finally won his ring with the 1988 Dodgers.
Saturday, July 30, 2011
Time: 10 Days
Address: c/o St. Louis Cardinals
Item Sent: 2009 Topps Heritage, 2010 Topps
Item Received: 2009 Topps Heritage, 2010 Topps. Both signed in blue Sharpie.
Jason Motte has been the Cardinals closer-in-waiting for three years now. After putting up very solid numbers across the board in 2010, he figured to be next in line should Ryan Franklin falter. When Franklin inevitably did fall, though, Motte found himself bypassed by a corps of less experienced arms. He has excelled in a sixth-seventh inning row, but I still feel he'll eventually find himself in the ninth.
Time: 18 Days
Item Sent: 1990 Collegiate Collection North Carolina
Item Received: Vikings black & white photo, 1990 Collegiate Collection North Carolina. Both signed in black ballpoint.
Sammy Johnson was a backup running back for the Vikings in the late '70s. He never had an official NFL trading card, but when I noticed his North Carolina Collegiate Collection card, I thought he would make a fun and obscure addition to my collection. In addition to signing the card, he graciously included a signed black and white photo depicting him as a Viking. Very cool return!
Thursday, July 28, 2011
Time: 47 Days
Item Sent: 1988 Cal League Visalia Oaks, 1989 ProCards Orlando Twins, 1990 ProCards Orlando SunRays
Item Received: 1988 Cal League Visalia Oaks, signed in blue Sharpie.
John Eccles was the Twins' eighth round draft pick in 1986 and spent five seasons in their organization. He displayed impressive power in the minors, but was plagued by low on-base percentages and high strikeout rates. He beautifully signed one of the cards I sent, but kept the other two. If he wanted the others for himself, I'm happy to make the trade for this one that he signed.
Time: 66 Days
Item Sent: 1989 Score, 1991 Pro Set, 1991 Stadium Club, 1992 Fleer
Item Received: 1989 Score, 1991 Pro Set, 1991 Stadium Club, 1992 Fleer. All signed in black Sharpie.
Bryan Hinkle was a tough-as-nails Steelers linebacker, a link between the Jack Ham-Jack Lambert crew of the '70s and Bill Cowher's revolving door of star linebackers in the '90s. He seems largely underrated and forgotten these days, as if it was his fault he had the misfortune of playing during the Steelers' longest lull of success over the past forty years.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Time: 12 Days
Item Sent: 1984 Topps, 1987 Fleer, 1989 Upper Deck
Item Received: 1984 Topps, 1987 Fleer, 1989 Upper Deck. All signed in black Sharpie.
When I was a kid, I thought first basemen were the coolest. Kent Hrbek was my main man, but I was also a big fan of Rod Carew, Don Mattingly, Eddie Murray, Cecil Cooper, Steve Garvey, Pete Rose (who had moved to first by then), and Leon "Bull" Durham. There was also a crew of young, left-handed hitting guys hitting the scene in the mid '80s. I always lumped Greg Brock of the Dodgers, Greg Walker of the White Sox, Pete O'Brien of the Rangers, and Alvin Davis of the Mariners into the same group. Brock was my favorite of the bunch. He displayed prodigious power in the minors (he hit 44 homers and posted a 1.094 OPS at AAA in 1982), and like the Dodgers, I thought he would be their cleanup man for many years. He struggled to hit consistently, though. Sure, he hit some bombs, but he was plagued by low batting averages and unreal expectations. After four years as the Dodgers' primary first baseman, he was traded to Milwaukee. There, he oddly became more of a line-drive hitter. His first season as a Brewer in 1987 was the best year of his career. Even though he only had 13 home runs in 602 at bats (and keep in mind this was the year of the "juiced" ball), he established career highs in nearly every other offensive category.
Time: 58 Days
Item Sent: 1992 Score, 1992 Topps
Item Received: 1992 Score, 1992 Topps. Both signed in black Sharpie.
Bemidji, Minnesota native and former Golden Gophers star Bryan Hickerson was drafted by his hometown Twins in the seventh round of the 1986 draft. After one season at class A Visalia, he was dealt to the San Francisco Giants in the deal that brought Dan Gladden to Minnesota. Four years later, he made it to the majors with the Giants. He spent parts of four years there before splitting his fifth and final big league season between the Cubs and Rockies.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Time: 32 Days
Address: c/o Minnesota Twins
Item Sent: 2008 Topps Heritage, 2010 Topps Heritage, 6/11/11 Twins vs. Rangers ticket stub
Item Received: 2008 Topps Heritage, 2010 Topps Heritage, 6/11/11 Twins vs. Rangers ticket stub. All signed in blue Sharpie.
On June 11, Maria and I brought baby Charlotte to her first Twins game. She seemed to have a great time. She loved watching the people and clapping along with them. Meanwhile, the Twins were having a pretty great time of their own, jumping to a big early lead on the Rangers. Starting pitcher Scott Baker was on his game that day, as well. He ended up with a complete game victory. As for us, we made it through four innings before heading home. At the time we left, Baker still had a perfect game. A few days later, I had the idea to send one of our ticket stubs to Mr. Baker. He inscribed it "To Charlotte, God Bless, Go Twins!" It's the second Twins autograph in Charlotte's collection, following Michael Cuddyer (who hit a playoff home run on the day Charlotte was born). Of course, there were a couple cards in the for me, too. Thank you so much, Big Spot Scott!
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Time: 105 Days
Address: c/o Baltimore Orioles
Item Sent: 2009 Topps Heritage, 2010 Topps Allen & Ginter
Item Received: 2009 Topps Heritage, 2010 Topps Allen & Ginter. Both signed in black Sharpie.
Chris Tillman has been one of the Orioles' top prospects for a few years now. He opened the season in their rotation this year and got off to wonderful start by firing six no-hit innings against the Tampa Bay Rays. He was not able to maintain momentum from that first start and was returned to AAA Norfolk at the end of May. He's still down there, pitching decently, and still figures to be a fixture in the O's starting rotation.
Monday, July 18, 2011
Time: 29 Days
Item Sent: 1991-92 Pro Set, 1991-92 Score Canadian
Item Received: 1991-92 Pro Set, 1991-92 Score Canadian. Both signed in black ballpoint.
Paging through Harvey Meiselman's Hockey Address List, you'll find a lot of addresses in Minnesota, Michigan, and Massachusetts. There are not too many former NHL players residing in New Orleans. Jeff Lazaro is a Boston native who played two seasons for his hometown Bruins in the early nineties. He spent the next few years bouncing around in the AHL and pro leagues in Austria and Germany. In 1997 he joined the New Orleans Brass of the ECHL. He would play five seasons for the now-defunct Brass and has remained in the Crescent City ever since.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
Time: 7 Days
Item Sent: 1987 Donruss Opening Day Twins Logo, 1991 Topps
Item Received: 1987 Donruss Opening Day Twins Logo, 1991 Topps. Both signed in blue Sharpie.
Wow, what took me so long to send to T.K.? He's an automatic TTM signer, and I still needed him for my ultimate 1987 Donruss team set (as seen several times over on this blog, for coaches and players who did not appear in any of the 1987 Donruss sets, I send a Twins logo card from the Donruss Opening Day set). The timing was right, though. T.K. had just made his debut as a guest television analyst for the Twins, filling in for Bert Blyleven. I complimented him on his work in the booth and thanked him for the wonderful memories of 1987 and 1991.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Time: 5 Days
Item Sent: 1980 Topps, 1982 Fleer, 1985 Topps
Item Received: 1980 Topps, 1982 Fleer, 1985 Topps. All signed in black Sharpie.
I have wanted to write a request to John Castino for longer than just about anybody. As soon as I started this hobby in April 2010, I picked out a few of his cards to put in my fledgling "to send out" box. The stats scared me away, though. His reported success rate on SCN was just a shade over 20%, and with no successes reported since 2009. Despite Mr. Castino being one of my earliest favorite Twins, and one of my most desired signatures, I kept putting it off. Finally, while on vacation in Grand Marais last week, I put pen to paper. I have been typing most of my requests for the last year or so to save time, and I generally don't think there's much difference in success rate between typed and hand-written letters, but I will still occasionally opt for the hand-written method on a tough signer to try giving that perceived extra bit of effort. I don't know if the fact that this letter was hand-written had anything to do with the success. I like to think it had more to do with the sincere and polite content of my letter. Either way, I am extremely happy with the result. I have wanted to add Mr. Castino's autograph to my collection since I was a kid. His unsolicited inscription of "79 AL ROY" on his 1980 rookie card is icing on the cake!
Time: 109 Days
Item Sent: 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee, 1981-82 Topps, 1984-85 O-Pee-Chee, 1991-92 Score Canadian
Item Received: 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee, 1981-82 Topps, 1984-85 O-Pee-Chee, 1991-92 Score Canadian. All signed in blue Sharpie.
Gordie Roberts was a North Stars mainstay during my introductory years as a hockey fan. He joined the likes of Craig Hartsburg and Curt Giles to form one of the most professional and sound blueline corps in the NHL. After eight years of smart puck-handling and shot-blocking at the Met Center he moved around the league fast and furious until landing in Pittsburgh, where he won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1992 and 1993 (the first one, of course, won at his old Bloomington stomping grounds against the North Stars).
Time: 17 Days
Address: c/o Chicago White Sox
Item Sent: 1985 Fleer Update, 1985 Topps Traded, 1986 Kay Bee Young Superstars, 1987 Donruss Opening Day Twins Logo
Item Received: 1985 Fleer Update, 1985 Topps Traded, 1986 Kay Bee Young Superstars, 1987 Donruss Opening Day Twins Logo. All signed in blue Sharpie.
The Twins obtained Mark Salas from the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1985 Rule V Draft, and the acquisition paid immediate dividends. Just two seasons earlier, Salas put together a fine campaign at AA Arkansas in the Cardinals system, hitting .304 with 20 home runs and 82 RBI. Promoted to AAA in 1984, his production dipped to .244 with 12 homers, but he did gain his first big league experience by getting 20 at bats for the Cardinals. Left unprotected that winner, the Twins snatched him up. He surprised everyone by taking over as the primary catcher, hitting an even .300 with nine home runs. He finished eighth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting and was the catcher on the Topps Rookie All-Star Team. He regressed badly (to an empty .233 batting average) in 1986 and by the 1987 season he was a clear third on the Twins catching depth chart behind Tim Laudner and Tom Nieto. He put up wonderful numbers early in the season for the Twins (albeit in limited duty) - a .378 average, 3 homers, and a 1.054 OPS in 21 games - before getting traded to the Yankees for Joe Niekro. Salas did not have a card in the 1987 Donruss set, so I sent a Twins logo card from the Opening Day set to get one more signature in my quest for an autographed '87 Donruss card of everyone who played for the Twins during the first championship season.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Time: 118 Days
Address: c/o Connecticut Whale
Item Sent: 2005-06 Parkhurst, 2008-09 O-Pee-Chee Retro
Item Received: 2005-06 Parkhurst, 2008-09 O-Pee-Chee Retro. Both signed in black Sharpie.
Todd White was the Wild's first substantial free agent signing following the 2004-05 NHL lockout. Prior to the lockout, he put together three fine years in Ottawa. His production during his two years in Minnesota never did match what he accomplished with the Senators, but he was also playing within the confines of Jacques Lemaire's offensively stifling system. From Minnesota, he moved on to the Atlanta Thrashers. In his first year there, he continued his very gradual offensive decline that started with the Wild. In 2008-09, though, he was paired with superstar Ilya Kovalchuk and broke through with an incredible 51 assists and a career-high 73 points. He split last season with the New York Rangers and their AHL affiliate Connecticut Whale (owned by former Hartford Whalers owner Howard Baldwin and featuring a similar color scheme and logo as the sadly missed Whalers)
Time: 161 Days
Address: c/o Phoenix Suns
Item Sent: 1990-91 Star Pics, 1992-93 Fleer, 1992-93 Topps, 1992-93 Ultra
Item Received: 1990-91 Star Pics, 1992-93 Fleer, 1992-93 Topps, 1992-93 Ultra. All signed in black Sharpie.
Blanks was a prolific college scorer for the Texas Longhorns team that advanced to the Elite Eight of the 1990 NCAA Tournament. Off that success, he was selected at the end of the first round of the '90 NBA Draft by the World Champion Detroit Pistons. Stuck on the depth chart behind Hall of Famers Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars, he only saw occasional garbage time during his two years in Detroit. He played one season (1992-93) for the Timberwolves to cap his NBA career. He has had substantially more success in his second career as an NBA executive. After coming up through the San Antonio Spurs machine, he spent a few prosperous years as the assistant GM for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Last season he was named General Manager of the Phoenix Suns.
Time: 12 Days
Item Sent: 1984-85 Topps, 1990-91 Upper Deck, 1991-92 Score Canadian
Item Received: 1984-85 Topps, 1990-91 Upper Deck, 1991-92 Score Canadian. All signed in black Sharpie.
Reggie Lemelin was one of the more underrated goaltenders of the '80s, enjoying the best years of his career for less than amazing Flames clubs in Atlanta and Calgary. Calgary broke through in 1986, making their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance. Lemelin was their rock in the regular season, playing in 60 games. In the playoffs, though, he lost his job to rookie Mike Vernon. After a fine year as Vernon's backup in 1986-87, he moved on to Boston. With the Bruins he teamed with Andy Moog to form one of the most formidable goalie tandems in the NHL. His Bruins made their own run to the Finals in 1990, but again Reggie rode shotgun in the playoffs. The Bruins lost that year, just as the Flames did in '86. Lemelin ended his fine career in 1993 without hoisting the Cup.
Time: 48 Days
Item Sent: 1989 Pro Set, 1990 Topps
Item Received: 1989 Pro Set, 1990 Topps. Both signed in black Sharpie.
Jim Fahnhorst followed his older brother Keith to the University of Minnesota and earned First Team All Big 10 honors as a senior in 1981. He was drafted in the fourth round by his hometown Vikings in 1982 but never played a game in purple. After two years in the USFL, he joined Keith again with the San Francisco 49ers in 1984. He spent seven years in San Francisco beginning as a special teams player and culminating as a starting inside linebacker. He won three Super Bowls during his career with the Niners.