Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Time: 10 Days
Item Sent: 1991 Score, 1991 Stadium Club, 1991 Topps, 1991 Upper Deck
Item Received: 1991 Score, 1991 Stadium Club, 1991 Topps. All signed in black Sharpie.
Stay with me here. Do you watch American Pickers on the History Channel? You know how they like to go on "freestyle" picks? This is like my version of a freestyle autograph request. I have two boxes full of cards that I have already picked out, with the intent of sending autograph requests. When I'm writing letters, I usually take from those two boxes. Every once in a while, though, I'll scan recent successful returns on SCN and something will catch my eye -- someone I hadn't considered sending to before, but upon seeing another collector's success I'll instantly search for a couple of cards and whip off a quick letter.
I had not thought of the name Thane Gash in years. But as soon as I saw his name, I had to go for it. He had such a great name. Thane Gash. Perfect name for a hard-hitting safety. He didn't have a long career and was hardly a star. Just a really cool football name, and sometimes something like that is enough to earn its way into my collection. Thanks, Mr. Gash!
Monday, January 30, 2012
Time: 8 Days
Address: c/o Minnesota Timberwolves
Item Sent: 1986-87 Fleer, 1991-92 Hoops, 1991-92 Upper Deck
Item Received: 1986-87 Fleer, 1991-92 Hoops, 1991-92 Upper Deck. All signed in black Sharpie.
When I first started following basketball in the late 1980s, Jack Sikma was instantly recognizable. Because of his hair. He was a big, slow white guy with a big, curly blond perm. To 12 year old me, that was more significant than his outstanding NBA career. I know better now. I know he was one of the most consistent and most underrated big men in the league during his time with the Sonics and Bucks. And I am thrilled that he is now a part of the Timberwolves coaching staff. I still love that blond perm, though!
Time: 9 Days
Item Sent: 2000-01 Upper Deck Vintage, 2008-09 O-Pee-Chee Retro
Item Received: 2000-01 Upper Deck Vintage, 2008-09 O-Pee-Chee Retro. Both signed in blue Sharpie.
Zhitnik was an excellent NHL defenseman, primarily with the Buffalo Sabres. He was selected for two All-Star Games during his time in Buffalo and finished his 15 year career with 471 points. As for the cards I sent, I'm pretty excited about my recent discovery of the 2000-01 Upper Deck Vintage set. I'm already casually working on four different hockey sets, so the last thing I need is another. But, this is a nice, simple design on gloss-free cards, and they look great when signed. It should be a nice option to have from here on out when writing to players from that era.
Time: 273 Days
Address: c/o Tampa Bay Lightning
Item Sent: 2008-09 O-Pee-Chee Retro
Item Received: 2008-09 O-Pee-Chee Retro, signed in blue marker.
I wrote to longtime Blues captain Eric Brewer last spring, right after he had been traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning. I was hoping for a quick return. When a guy switches teams, it can be an ideal time to snatch a quick TTM autograph if you can get your letter into a fresh pile of mail, before it accumulates. I obviously didn't get the fast return that I thought I might, but I did get a return. And a successful return is always worth the wait.
Time: 12 Days
Item Sent: 1985-86 7-11 Minnesota North Stars, 1986-87 O-Pee-Chee
Item Received: 1985-86 7-11 Minnesota North Stars, 1986-87 O-Pee-Chee. Both signed in black ballpoint.
Scott Bjugstad was an incredible high school and college hockey player. For one year, he looked like an incredible NHL player, too. In his four years with the Gophers, he was a Hobey Baker runner-up, a WCHA scoring champion, and played on two Final Four teams. Bjugstad stayed in Minnesota and made his debut for the North Stars late in the 1983-84 season. During his 1984-85 rookie season he played in 72 games but scored just 15 points. His 43 goal, 33 assist sophomore NHL season in 1985-86 was unexpected, to say the least. It should be noted that he spent the majority of that year playing on a line with Neal Broten and Dino Ciccarelli. That's not to diminish what Bjugstad accomplished that year, but it is a great example of being in the right place at the right time. Unfortunately, injuries hampered Bjugstad for the rest of his career and he never came close to repeating his magical '86. He is back in the Minnesota hockey limelight now by association. His nephew Nick Bjugstad is a superstar for the University of Minnesota and is a surefire NHL prospect, a 2010 first-round pick of the Florida Panthers.
Time: 7 Days
Item Sent: 1983 Fleer, 1983 Topps, 1987 TCMA Richmond Braves
Item Received: 1983 Fleer, 1983 Topps, 1987 TCMA Richmond Braves. All signed in black Sharpie.
Floyd Chiffer pitched for three seasons for the San Diego Padres, including 15 games for the 1984 National League Champions (though he was not on the post-season roster). His spot in my collection, though, was earned by logging time in the Twins' minor league system in 1985. I figure that if I'm going to collect autographed Twins minor league cards, I should also include guys who played in the Twins system even if they didn't have a card depicting them as a member of the organization. I'm actually pretty surprised that Chiffer didn't get a call-up to the Twins. He had a great year at Toledo in 1985 with 9 wins, 13 saves, and a 2.49 ERA. As brutal as the Twins bullpen was in the mid '80s, he couldn't have been any worse!
Time: 10 Days
Item Sent: 1987 ProCards Pittsfield Cubs, 1989 Donruss Rookies, 1990 Donruss, 1990 Upper Deck, 1993 Fleer/ProCards Nashville Sounds
Item Received: 1987 ProCards Pittsfield Cubs, 1989 Donruss Rookies, 1990 Donruss, 1990 Upper Deck, 1993 Fleer/ProCards Nashville Sounds. All signed in blue Sharpie.
What a cool guy! Rick Wrona was a quality backup catcher who was huge for the Cubs in the 1989 pennant chase. With starter Damon Berryhill injured, Wrona took over the everyday catching duties in September. He expertly handled the pitching staff and went on the best offensive run of his big league career to help lead the Cubs to the NL East title. Being a big catcher guy, and a fan of the Cubs from that era, he won me over with that month. Now, 23 years later, I'm a huge fan. Mr. Wrona beautifully signed five cards in bold blue Sharpie. He also added a letter where he thanked me for writing, complimented me on sending the minor league cards ("Those minor league cards are cool!") and, in closing, added "Write my anytime!" I don't want to take advantage of his generosity, but he seems to really enjoy signing autographs. So, I may just collect every different Rick Wrona card I can find and write him again. This kind of response is so rewarding for a collector.
Time: 257 Days
Item Sent: 1986 ProCards Orlando Twins, 1987 ProCards Portland Beavers, 1988 CMC Portland Beavers, 1988 ProCards Portland Beavers
Item Received: 1986 ProCards Orlando Twins, 1987 ProCards Portland Beavers, 1988 CMC Portland Beavers, 1988 ProCards Portland Beavers. All signed in black marker.
As great as the Twins were in the late 1980s, they were not exactly bursting at the seams with major league quality talent in the minor league system. Few names really stood out in their minor league baseball card team sets. Phil Wilson did stand out... not because he was on the fast track to the big leagues (he never did make it), but because he had the name. He was the brother of Mets star* Mookie Wilson. [* "Star" not meaning "elite player" in this case, but rather meaning "average player with a big smile, popular because he played in New York and his name was Mookie."]
Phil Wilson did look like he had a chance to be a major league player for a couple of years. In 1985 at Visalia, he hit .297 with 49 stolen bases. More impressively, he posted a .389 on-base percentage. He carried that performance to AA Orlando in 1986, hitting .293 and showing a tad more power. There were signs, though, that the higher level was giving him more trouble. His walk rate plummeted and, most important to his game, he stole 25 fewer bases than the year before while getting thrown out just as many times. Promoted to AAA in 1987, he badly struggled to a .227/.317/.288 slash line. His 35 steals proved he had big league wheels, but he just didn't have the bat and he ended up getting passed on the Twins depth chart by similar but younger players like Jarvis Brown and J.T. Bruett. After a half-season in the Expos organization in 1989, Wilson's playing career was over.
Time: 12 Days
Address: c/o Stockton Thunder
Item Sent: 2005-06 Victory, 2008-09 O-Pee-Chee Retro
Item Received: 2005-06 Victory, 2008-09 O-Pee-Chee Retro. Both signed in blue Sharpie.
Matt Foy was not exactly a top NHL prospect, but in the Minnesota Wild's sad state of player development under former GM Doug Risebrough, the ex-sixth round pick was about as exciting of an offensive prospect as the Wild could boast. His highlight was a two-goal game early in the 2007-08 season. All told, he scored 13 points (six goals and seven assists) in 56 NHL games over parts of three seasons with the Wild. He signed with St. Louis in 2008 but never played in a regular season game for the Blues. After a year off, Foy is now playing with the Stockton Thunder of the ECHL. He is one of the team's elder statesmen, along with another former Wild player, Jason Morgan.
On February 27, 2012, I received an envelope post-marked from Canada with no return address. I opened it and found these two "custom" signed Matt Foy cards, printed on HP photo paper. There was no letter or note. I can only assume that Mr. Foy saved my address from the initial request and decided to mail me these, too. That's a first! And it's awesome.
Time: 8 Days
Item Sent: 1986 ProCards Toledo Mud Hens, 1987 ProCards Visalia Oaks, 1988 Cal League Visalia Oaks, 1989 ProCards Visalia Oaks, 1990 ProCards Orlando SunRays, 1991 ProCards Portland Beavers
Item Received: 1986 ProCards Toledo Mud Hens, 1987 ProCards Visalia Oaks, 1988 Cal League Visalia Oaks, 1989 ProCards Visalia Oaks, 1990 ProCards Orlando SunRays, 1991 ProCards Portland Beavers. All signed in black Sharpie.
First of all, I'd like to say this: You can scan the archives of this blog and you'll find many requests where I sent two to four cards to the recipient. This is the only one to date where I have sent six. Here's why: I had six different Gorman Heimueller cards in my box of Twins minor league cards. I couldn't decide which three or four to send, so I simply sent them all. I asked if he could sign a few of them and told him he could keep any he wanted. Mr. Heimueller graciously decided to sign and return all six. He also included a note answering a question for me.
Gorman pitched briefly in the big leagues for the Oakland A's in 1983-1984. In 1985 he signed with the Twins as a minor league free agent. He retired following the 1986 season and immediately accepted a pitching coach position for the Twins' Visalia Oaks affiliate. I had read somewhere a long time back that the Twins had given World Series rings to all the coaches in the entire organization in 1987 and 1991, so I asked Mr. Heimueller if that was true. He confirmed that he is the proud owner of three World Series rings: from the 1987 and 1991 Twins and from the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies, for whom he was the minor league pitching coordinator.
Time: 8 Days
Item Sent: 1996 Topps, 1997 Topps
Item Received: 1996 Topps, 1997 Topps. Both signed in black Sharpie.
Schulz was a seventh-round pick by the two-time defending AFC Champion Buffalo Bills in 1992. He was a reserve on the Bills' third and fourth consecutive Super Bowl squads during his first two years. He eventually took over the starting free safety job from Mark Kelso and quickly earned a reputation as one of the league's hardest hitters. He also had a knack for the ball. He snagged 21 interceptions in his five seasons as a starter for the Bills, leading the team in each of those years.
Sunday, January 29, 2012
Time: 63 Days
Address: c/o Ottawa Senators
Item Sent: 2008-09 O-Pee-Chee Retro, 2008-09 O-Pee-Chee Update Retro
Item Received: 2008-09 O-Pee-Chee Retro, 2008-09 O-Pee-Chee Update Retro. Both signed in black Sharpie.
Not to be confused with the 1970s folk-rocker of the same name, this Jesse Winchester is an under-the-radar grinder for the surprising Ottawa Senators. I am completely perplexed by his inclusion in both the regular and updated 2008-09 O-Pee-Chee sets. In every other case, players who were featured in both series were done so because they had changed teams. Best I can figure, the low-scoring Winchester is such an anonymous player that Upper Deck simply forgot they had already featured him in the set!
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Time: 62 Days
Item Sent: 1995 Ultra, 1996 Ultra, 2004 Topps Heritage
Item Received: 1995 Ultra, 1996 Ultra, 2004 Topps Heritage. All signed in black Sharpie.
I'm not sure why I'm such a random fan of crafty lefties. But, here we are. Kirk Rueter and me. He was always a winner. How or why? Who knows? But he pitched and won some awfully big games for the Giants. All throughout his career he was the best fielding pitcher in baseball, no matter what the Gold Gloves on Greg Maddux's mantle might have to say. His stats were underwhelming, he wasn't exciting to watch, but Rueter was a total pro.
Time: 316 Days
Address: c/o Oakland Athletics Spring Training
Item Sent: 2010 Bowman Gold, 2010 Topps
Item Received: 2010 Bowman Gold, 2010 Topps. Both signed in blue Sharpie.
What a difference a year makes. Prior to the 2011 season the A's were the hip pick to win the AL West, primarily because of their talented young starting rotation. Brett Anderson was the ace-in-waiting, Trevor Cahill was coming off an breakthrough All-Star season, Dallas Braden had a perfect game to his credit, and Gio Gonzalez had as much raw talent as any lefty in baseball. Fast forward a year. Gio is in Washington. Cahill is in Arizona. Anderson and Braden are working their way back from major, season-ending injuries. Anderson will hopefully be back in the second half of 2012 after undergoing Tommy John Surgery last July.
Time: 70 Days
Address: c/o Florida Panthers
Item Sent: 2010-11 O-Pee-Chee Update, 2011-12 O-Pee-Chee
Item Received: 2010-11 O-Pee-Chee Update, 2011-12 O-Pee-Chee. Both signed in black Sharpie.
Giant (6'6") Swede Jacob Markstrom is the Florida Panthers' goaltender of the future. He has spent a fair amount of time on the Panthers roster this year, thanks to injuries to veterans Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen. Unfortuantely, Markstrom is himself hurt at the moment. Still, I would be shocked if the 21 year old is not the main man in South Florida by next season.
Thursday, January 12, 2012
Time: 33 Days
Item Sent: 1991-92 Score Canadian Series 1, 1991-92 Score Canadian Series 2, 1991-92 Score Rookies & Traded, 1999-00 Upper Deck
Item Received: 1991-92 Score Canadian Series 1, 1991-92 Score Canadian Series 2, 1991-92 Score Rookies & Traded, 1999-00 Upper Deck. All signed in black Sharpie.
Jeff Hackett was the starting goalie in the first game in San Jose Sharks history. He had a rough first two seasons for the expansion club, including a historically bad 1992-93 season (2-30-1 with a 5.28 GAA) and was shipped off to Chicago to back up Ed Belfour. Hackett turned his career around with the Blackhawks, and was very good when he assumed the number one spot following Belfour's trade to San Jose in 1997. Hackett's bloodlines have returned to the NHL this year with the arrival of his nephew Matt Hackett to the Minnesota Wild lineup in November.
Time: 73 Days
Item Sent: 1989 Pro Set Update, 1989 Score, 1989 Score "Speedburner," 1989 Score Supplemental
Item Received: 1989 Pro Set Update, 1989 Score, 1989 Score Supplemental. All signed in blue Sharpie.
Herschel. Does any other name draw the ire of Vikings fans quite like his? You know, it's not Herschel's fault that the Vikings gave up five players and six draft picks to the Dallas Cowboys for one man. It's also not really Herschel's fault that Jerry Burns didn't adapt his offense to take advantage of his new toy's immense talent. Herschel didn't come close to fulfilling expectations, but he had his moments. His Vikings debut against the hated Packers, where he barely knew the playbook but managed to rush for 150 yards was one of the most exciting Vikings games of my youth. Along with my mom and brother, I had the opportunity to meet Herschel Walker during the grand opening of the Target store by our house. He could not have been a nicer man. I've always thought it was a shame that he was such a punchline in Minnesota. He was a remarkable athlete and a very good football player.
Time: 56 Days
Address: c/o Ecole de Power Skating Julie Robitaille
Item Sent: 1990-91 Score, 1991-92 O-Pee-Chee, 1991-92 Score Canadian, 1991-92 Stadium Club
Item Received: 1990-91 Score, 1991-92 O-Pee-Chee, 1991-92 Score Canadian, 1991-92 Stadium Club. All signed in black Sharpie.
Marc Bureau is one of my favorite obscure Minnesota North Stars. He only played in nine regular season games after coming over in a trade from the Calgary Flames in 1991, but asserted himself as an elite defensive center in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He played in 23 playoff games during the North Stars' Cinderella run to the Finals. He scored three goals and added two assists, but most importantly he was a shut-down defender. He was a regular for the Stars the following season, but the year after that he headed to the Tampa Bay Lightning via the expansion draft. For most of the rest decade, with the Lightning, Montreal Canadiens, and Philadelphia Flyers, he was a wonderful penalty killer and faceoff man. For me, his performance in the 1991 playoffs has a special place in my heart. I am very happy to get these cards back!
Time: 138 Days
Address: c/o Kansas City Chiefs
Item Sent: 1982 Topps, 1983 Topps, 1986 Fleer Team Action Green Bay Packers
Item Received: 1982 Topps, 1983 Topps. Both signed in black Sharpie.
Jim Zorn teamed with Steve Largent to put the Seattle Seahawks on the map in the late 1970s. He was a freewheeling, left-handed quarterback, unlike anything my young eyes had seen when I first became a football fan. I had been meaning to send him an autograph request for a while. I finally did so after flipping through a pile of 1980s Fleer Team Action football cards, trying to identify the players. The 1986 Green Bay Packers offense card pictured a quarterback wearing #18. Zorn played one season for the Packers in 1985 and started three games. This was his only card in a Packers uniform, so I thought it would be cool to package it with a couple of his Seahawks cards. I'm very happy to received the signed cards I did from Mr. Zorn -- he has a great signature and I've wanted to get him for a long time. I am a bit disappointed, though, that he decided to keep the Packers card. That would have been a unique addition. Perhaps I'll try him again someday.
Time: 69 Days
Item Sent: 1991-92 Score Canadian, 1991-92 Score Rookies & Traded
Item Received: 1991-92 Score Rookies & Traded, signed in black Sharpie.
Ken Hammond was an All-American and National Champion defenseman at R.P.I. before going pro. He was up and down with the Los Angeles Kings for a few years before brief stints with the Maple Leafs (14 games), Oilers (5 games), Rangers (3 games) and Bruins (one game). He finally got some regular NHL playing time with the expansion Sharks in 1991-92 and scored 15 points in 46 games. At the end of the year, he was dealt to the Vancouver Canucks. He did not play a regular season game for Vancouver but did make two appearances for them in the playoffs.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Time: 8 Days
Item Sent: 1978-79 Topps, 1979-80 Topps
Item Received: 1978-79 Topps, 1979-80 Topps. Both signed in black ballpoint.
Russ Anderson was a big, physical defenseman who teamed with the more offensively inclined Reed Larson to form one of the great defense pairings in Gopher hockey history. He took his rough and tumble game to the NHL with the Pittsburgh Penguins and was a staple on the blue line (and the penalty box) there for the first 5 1/2 of his nine NHL seasons. Russ added a post-it note with this return thanking me for being "a real fan" and informing me that the 1978-79 card actually pictures his partner Tom Edur. ("Notice right hand shot.")
Time: 8 Days
Item Sent: 1977-78 Topps
Item Received: 1977-78 Topps, signed in black ballpoint.
Several years before the Brotens, Earl Anderson was the pride of Roseau High School hockey. He starred for the University of North Dakota for four years, played in the U.S. National Team in 1973, and within two years was in the NHL with the Detroit Red Wings. He had his best NHL season in 1976-77 with Don Cherry's Boston Bruins, scoring 21 points in 40 games.
Saturday, January 7, 2012
Time: 29 Days
Item Sent: 1980 Topps, 1983 Minnesota Vikings Police
Item Received: 1980 Topps, 1983 Minnesota Vikings Police. Both signed in black ballpoint.
Dennis Swilley spent ten years with the Vikings, and was the successor to the legendary Mick Tingelhoff at center. He was an important second cog in what has turned out to be a truly remarkable run at the position for the Vikes. Tingelhoff held the job from 1962 (the second season in team history) until 1978. Swilley took over after that, and when his decade was up he passed the torch to Kirk Lowdermilk. Lowdermilk gave way to a couple of All-Pros in Jeff Christy and Matt Birk. And now, in 2011, John Sullivan finally stayed relatively healthy and was the lone bright spot on a porous offensive line. Sullivan was so good, in fact, that he earned himself a five-year contract extension near the end of the season.
Back to Swilley, though... he was very good for a long time. Since football he has taken a path not often associated with pro football players. Dennis Swilley is a renaissance man. He's an architect. He's a painter and sculptor. He's a designer. And he's a musician who recently released his debut album, Contrasts (available at DennisSwilley.com). (I haven't had a chance to listen yet myself, but may give it a shot somewhere down the line.)
Time: 29 Days
Address: c/o St. John Sea Dogs
Item Sent: 1987-88 Topps, 1990-91 Pro Set, 1990-91 Upper Deck, 1991-92 Score Canadian
Item Received: 1987-88 Topps, 1990-91 Pro Set, 1990-91 Upper Deck, 1991-92 Score Canadian. All signed in black Sharpie.
Was there anything better in '80s hockey than a little guy who could fill a stat sheet with both points and penalty minutes? Gerard Gallant was Detroit's version of Dino Ciccarelli before Dino donned a Red Wings sweater. At the end of the decade, he rolled out four consecutive seasons of over 30 goals and over 200 penalty minutes, peaking in 1988-89 when he buried 39 goals and dished out 54 assists for a career high 93 points, all while spending 230 minutes in the sin bin. Since his playing career ended, he has been coaching. He spent a couple of years behind the Columbus Blue Jackets, and is currently experiencing great success with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL.
Time: 6 Days
Address: c/o Stauber's Goalcrease
Item Sent: 1990-91 ProCards New Haven Nighthawks, 1990-91 Topps, 1990-91 Upper Deck, 1992-93 Ultra, 1993-94 Ultra
Item Received: 1990-91 ProCards New Haven Nighthawks, 1990-91 Topps, 1990-91 Upper Deck, 1992-93 Ultra, 1993-94 Ultra. All signed in black Sharpie.
Robb Stauber is the most decorated goalie in Minnesota Golden Gophers history, and one of the best goaltenders the State of Hockey has produced. He won the Hobey Baker Award as top collegiate hockey player during his junior season in 1987-88. He was the first goalie ever to win the most prestigious award in college hockey. Two years later, he was in the NHL on Wayne Gretzky's Los Angeles Kings. Stauber didn't have a particularly notable pro career, but he did have a fine season as Kelly Hrudey's backup for the Kings in 1992-93. He went 15-8-4 that season, helping the Kings advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. As a collector of Minnesota athlete autographs, these cards are essential additions to my collection!
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Time: 46 Days
Address: c/o Minnesota Wild
Item Sent: 2008-09 O-Pee-Chee Retro
Item Received: 2008-09 O-Pee-Chee Retro, signed in black Sharpie.
It wasn't nearly as high-profile as the pair of trades with the San Jose Sharks that brought Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi, and Charlie Coyle to the Wild, but Chuck Fletcher's acquisition of Darroll Powe from the Flyers has already paid huge dividends. Powe has emerged as the best penalty killer on the Wild and has quickly gelled with Kyle Brodziak and Nick Johnson to form a high-energy, high-intensity third line.