Monday, December 31, 2012

I met Pete Rose in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania at an autograph signing in the year 2000.  He greeted me with a smile, signed my card, I said thank you sir and he replied, "You're Welcome son."  As a 19 year old hot head in my first year of college I could appreciate Pete's history.

What is & What should be are seldom the same.  The Natural Laws of Opposites or Opposing forces are stated in Newton's Law, Cause & Effect Theory and Philosophical Contemplations dating back to 500 BC.  One man positively lauded and admired for his relentless attitude of absolute determination is also negatively ostracized and punished for his selfish pursuits and accomplishments which create feelings of jealousy and disdain.  A team athlete is meant to perform for the success of his team, but individual greatness can lead youthful minds to act in vain.

We live in a society that functions on a rule system and when people choose to disobey the rules they face the consequences.  However, not every person or crime is treated the same.  Peter Edward Rose was raised in Cincinnati, Ohio and as a youth became a member of the Order of DeMolay, an organization that mentors young men, teaches them leadership skills and personal & civic responsibility.  Rose excelled in baseball and football, but was not especially enamored with academics so after high school he opted to play AA baseball.  Rose had an uncle who was a scout for the Cincinnati Reds which helped Pete get a shot with the Big club, although with Pete's ability and hard work he would've eventually made it to the Majors.

Pete Rose played baseball with a reckless abandon.  He brought that football player's mentality of toughness and grit onto the baseball field.  Pitcher Whitey Ford gave Pete the nick-name "Charlie Hustle," because of his garish play.  Rose drew a walk against Ford's Yankees and proceeded into a full-out sprint to first base in a spring training game.  This manner of play earned Pete the recognition of his peers and fans.  He exuded a love of the game & a desire to be great that which had never been seen.  Not everyone appreciated the way Rose played the game, but they had to respect his tenacity.  Pete broke Ty Cobb's All Time Hit Record and finished with 4,256 career hits, 3 World Series Titles, 18 All-Star Games and an MVP Award in the 1973 regular season as well as the '75 World Series.

Rose lived life just as he played baseball; Fast & Hard.  Suffice to say Pete bent the rules because when one is so great and loved so much, consequences don't exist.  He bet on himself and his team.  He knew a wager on himself was as sure a bet as any because no one would ever try harder for the victory than Pete Rose would.  Unfortunately for Pete, the rules do apply to everyone, even those with superior talent and enthusiasm.  Pete Rose will get in the Hall of Fame one day, probably posthumously, and he deserves the distinction.  He may have lacked in ethics & morals off the field, but Rose brought so much love & passion to the game of baseball on the field, his legacy will always be of the latter.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Is there anything this guy can't do?  The first time I heard his name I thought, "Wait, didn't I go to high school with him?"  I did, except it was a different Calvin Johnson.  In the quarterback-driven NFL, only a star player with the alias "Megatron," could float under the radar.  Hard to believe a guy nick-named Megatron could be considered inconspicuous.  I mean when I saw him in the Acura car commercial I didn't even know who he was till they flashed his name on the screen.  For the most part these guys are just jersey's and helmets when you see them on Sunday.  It's only the Peyton's and Brady's that get big endorsements and first name & face recognition.  But that is no longer the case for Calvin.

Jerry Rice was recently voted, by NFL Players and Coaches, the greatest football player ever.  Rice holds almost every receiving record with the exception of touchdowns scored in a single season and the recently eclipsed, receiving yards in a single season.  The stats read like 'Ruthian' records that appear to be unreachable by human beings.  When Babe Ruth finished his career in 1935, his closest competitor had 336 fewer HRs.  Jerry Rice has 208 total TDs, 2nd place is Emmitt Smith with 175(closest receiver is R. Moss with 154 TDs).  Rice's total receiving yards are even more ridiculous.  His 22,895 receiving yds are 6,691 yds greater than Terrell Owens' mark of 16,204 yds.  Career receptions is the other record Rice holds by a wide margin, over Tony Gonzales(1,549 to 1,104).  Three amazing marks which are likely to stand for half a century or more.  Or will they?

That Single Season record I mentioned before of receiving yards being surpassed was done by none other than Calvin Johnson.  Right now CJ's 6 total NFL season stats are 483 receptions, 7,764 receiving yards and 54 TDs.  Doing the Math, if Johnson keeps this pace in about the year 2024 he'll be close to the receiving yards mark and total receptions, but he'll still be way behind in TDs.  Mind you, those projections are quite a stretch.  Megatron may be super-human right now, but does he have the desire to be the greatest ever?  Will his resolve be as potent if he suffers a career threatening injury, as Rice did in 1997 when he blew out his left ACL & MCL on a reverse.  Jerry Rice's overall talent was by no means exceptional.  He ran a 4.71 40yd dash and was not the physical specimen of Johnson's ilk.  Rice stood 6'2 200lbs, Johnson stands 6'5 236lbs, runs a 4.35 in the 40 and has a 43
inch vertical leap.  But when those freakish natural talents diminish with age, will Calvin Johnson have the mental fortitude and focus to work harder to remain great?

The consensus so far says, "Yes" to these questions about Johnson.  Coaches and teammates rave about his character.  But once again there is no metric for HEART.  Calvin 'Megatron' Johnson's Rookie Blue Refractor is as visually impressive as the man himself making a leaping catch over three defenders.  Detroit Muscle, Platinum Trim and Electric Blue Prisms capture Calvin Johnson in this Gem Mint Masterpiece.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Good Decision

I am Lebron James.  I am Lebron James.  I am Lebron James.  Damn it didn't work.  Nike should do it again with Lebron like they did with Tiger.  It was a great commercial but did anyone actually buy Tiger shoes?  Lebron's got the cache to sell anything, just like Tiger once did and Jordan before him.  Who wouldn't want to be Lebron James?  Living in Miami, playing hoops with D-Wade and Chris Bosh.  No wonder people hate on this guy so much and for what?  Cuz he left Cleveland, for the Decision?  For seven years he carried the franchise and made that city a billion dollars.  Lebron did everything he could to bring a championship to Cleveland.  So the guy has a little Hollywood in em, so what.  And remember he took a major pay-cut to go down south.  17 million a year would be 25 or 30 if still in Cleveland.  But again, championships evade small markets for the most part.

Collecting memorabilia is like buying stock if you're in it for the $.  I'm not 12 years old anymore and selling an item can be just as fun as buying.  It's a sport.  Just like putting the ball in the basket, seeking a good deal whether buying or selling is an artform.  Lebron was seeking a better deal for himself.  He learned a few things in Cleveland as a young guy.  He learned money didn't buy happiness.  Now it sure does bring comfort but happiness... no.  The Title evaded him so he went from the best player in the game to the guy who can't deliver in the clutch.  The story changed & the love waned so it became time to move on.

I thought Lebron was going to the Nets.  Russian, Billionaire Owner, Brooklyn NY, Jay-Z and the world at his feet.  It was the story I would've written.  But hey South Beach is probably the next best thing.  I saw Lebron play last year in Philadelphia against the Sixers.  He didn't do anything amazing in the game, but he scored the easiest 29 points you could imagine.  James being bigger, stronger, faster and better than everyone else on the floor is obvious.  It's how easy he makes it look and the power with which he plays that draws our awe.  Literally the guy does everything on the basketball court better than everyone else with the exception of distance shooting and he can do that pretty well too.

A Finest Rare Redemption Refractor sent out by the Topps Company to lucky ones who found the promo redeemer amongst the thousands of regulars.  Now that King James has claimed the Title and fortified his Crown, it's value continues to rise.  James predicted Championships and nearly delivered 2 in 2 seasons.  1 down and plenty more to go, Lebron will compile statistics and shatter records in the years to come.  The Greatest Rotisserie Player who's ever lived & the Best All-Around Game... and he ain't done yet

Saturday, December 22, 2012

This One's for you Spike

Have you ever bought a pack of cards?  Have you ever bought a box of cards?  24, 36, 48, maybe even a 72-pack box that gave you five hours of pain-stakingly, careful unwrapping joy.  Hell yeah!  We've all done it before.  Remember when they sold em in gas stations?  I guess they still do in some 7-11's and Exxon's.  Used to be I couldn't go into a convenience store without buying a pack or two.  It's that thrill of searching for a gem.  I always imagined as a kid what it must have been like for someone back in 1952 to open up a pack of Topps to find the Mickey Mantle card.  Of course at the time they would've had no idea exactly what they were holding.  My uncle's favorite player was 'the Mick,' and when he and his friends bought cards they went right into the spokes of their bicycles.  My uncle can only look down and sigh when he tells that story.  We're all hoping and searching for that gem.  It's out there hidden in a pile of packs like a golden ticket in a Wonka bar.  A foolish pursuit to be sure, but fun nonetheless.

But this post is in no way dedicated to Rookie Cards or Rare Inserts.  I'm not talking about pulling hundred-dollar cards from packs.  I'm talking about the exact opposite.  The post is titled, "This One's for you Spike."  Only my best friend knows what I'm talking about here so let me let you in on it.  Spike Owen is the guy I'm referring to and his cards to be specific, were the ones we dreaded getting the most.  It's not that we had anything against Spike personally.  Well actually yeah it was personal.  The idea behind pack searching is to find cards that are valuable.  Spike Owen's are what Beckett Price Guides refer to as "Commons," or common players whose cards aren't worth shit.  The big, thick Beckett books from the early 90s always listed Common cards as being worth 3 cents.  Now there's something for your Bike spokes.  We knew, even back then, when you buy packs of cards you're going to get a bunch of them that are worthless.  Spike Owen just so happened to be the card we got the most of.  It seemed like every time we opened a pack, inevitably we were going to get a Spike Owen.  It became a joke.  We used to set fires, like most happy, out-going kids of our day, and we took pleasure in using stacks of Spike Owen cards for kindling.  We were pissed off when
an action shot of Spike peeled off the deck we were flipping through from the pack we just spent money on.  But like I said, it became an on-going joke for us when it got to the point when finding a Spike Owen meant laughing our ass' off.  We knew it would be put to good use for the fun later that day.

I can't believe I took the time to find and photograph these Spike Owen cards from my collection.  While digging through the boxes, I couldn't help but laugh at the irony.  "Now I'm actually searching for this guy's card and hoping to find em." The Pathetic Irony was palpable.  But it also serves to provide a little perspective, which I really appreciate as a writer.  It takes time to find what you're looking for.  It takes work to accomplish a pursuit.  Money is well spent when it goes toward a pleasurable experience.  These are the simplest of addages, but appreciating the simple things is very important in life.  Making someone laugh or smile is no small thing.  Giving someone a gift can be life affirming.  Collecting sports cards is worth while if you enjoy it. 

I no longer hate Spike Owen and his cards.  I love Spike Owen's now.  Sentimental value is what they have.  I plan on giving a few to that best friend of mine this Christmas.  I'll wrap his gift and place a few Spike's inside the packaging.  You know Spike Owen made over 11 million dollars as a player and has been a long time coach in the Minor Leagues even to this day?  That's no Common thing.  The Major Leagues are the best of the best and having your picture printed on thousands of cards is an accomplishment worth being proud of.  So my hat is off to you Spike Owen.  I display your Cards with the Pride and Symbolism of enjoying the Card Collecting Hobby and never taking for granted the small things.  The Search goes on so Happy Hunting.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thank you Jackie

Those of us born pre 1990 are well aware of Jackie Robinson and his many contributions to society & baseball.  Most people are unaware of his military and educational background.  Robinson graduated from UCLA where he was the first in school history to letter in baseball, basketball, football and track.  After college, Jackie was drafted into a segregated Army unit in Fort Riley, Kansas where he enrolled in an Officer's Academy.  Robinson achieved second lieutenant status and was reassigned to a non-segregated unit at Fort Hood, Texas.  After a bus incident similar to that of Rosa Parks, Jackie was transferred to another unit where he endured more poor treatment and eventually had to legally fight for an honorable discharge, which he rightly got, after false accusations of misconduct.
In 1944-45, before being offered a contract to play baseball for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues, Robinson was Athletic Director for Sam Huston College in Austin, Texas.  He also served as coach of the basketball team.  But when professional baseball came calling for Jackie, he couldn't pass on the opportunity.  Robinson played 1 season in the Negro Leagues where he batted .387 in 47 games, the year 1945.  1946 Jackie was recruited by Branch Rickey to play for the Montreal Royals of the International League to prepare him for a potential call-up to the Brooklyn Dodgers, whom Rickey was club president and general manager.  Rickey chose Jackie from a number of black players because of his sheer character.  Rickey told Robinson what he would have to endure in order to reach the Bigs.  Jackie was well aware and agreed to stay his temper.

The Rest as they say is History.  In 1947, Jackie Robinson made his Major League debut breaking the color barrier in baseball and began a Hall of Fame career with The Brooklyn Dodgers.  Jackie kept his word and restrained himself from retaliating to the vicious abuse thrown his way, despite having the kind of disposition anyone close to him would tell you, was not reserved or non-confrontational.  Robinson chose to keep a cool head for the betterment of the game and more importantly for the advancement of Black People.  He may not have been the greatest ball player, but Jackie's temperament and grace made him the kind of man Legends bow down to.

This card is special beyond aesthetics, dollar value and rarity.  The Story and His-tory is measurable in looking at where we've come from and where we're going as people.  I try to tell Jackie's story to every young person I meet interested in baseball.  I always ask them, "Do you know about Jackie Robinson?"  His story and his life are inspiring.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Alright, so I began with Vintage Jordan & Old School Schmidt.  Now it's time to get present.  The Man of the moment; Mr. RG3.  The HOTTEST name in the Hobby and the best up-and-coming star in sports today.  The Colts made it a point to "Suck for Luck" and they got rid of Peyton Manning, but the Redskins mortgaged the future (three 1st rounders and one 2nd rounder) to get the 2nd pick in the 2012 Draft so they could select Robert Griffin III from Baylor University. 

You wanna talk about risk?  Heisman winners have been drafted 1st and 2nd many times before and amounted to nothing.  NFL Combine stars have had superior workouts, then did squat on the field.  And quarterbacks are the most difficult/riskiest players to draft.  They are never a sure thing aside from Elway, Manning and Luck and even those guys had a few detractors that said they might not pan out.  Fact is, you can't predict how a quarterback is going to play when he reaches the NFL.  You can't assess how he will react to the speed of the game.  You don't know what he'll do when the pocket collapses and three 330lb DE's gang-tackle him.  Some QB's can deal with it and make the adjustment, but simply put, most can't.

RG3 appears to be the future barring injury(he's already had a concussion and missed a game from a bad leg hit).  If you thought Mike Vick was a freak of nature, the species just evolved another two or three millenia in 10 years time with Bobby.  Griffin's got it all.  He's no dumb jock and he reads defenses in slow motion.  That means where you and I see 11 defenders running so fast our mind's panic and our body's follow, RG3 is like 'Neo' where all he sees is zero's and one's in green coding.

I think he may be from the future, genetically altered and came back in time just to have a little fun while saving the world.  If you need a translator how bout this: Robert Griffin III will be better than everyone else.  And just like Neo can be killed in the Matrix, Robert must learn that discipline doesn't mean relenting.  Once again translating: though you can dodge bullets, you can still bleed and still break.  Take a little advice from Bruce Lee and practice, 'the art of hitting without being hit.'

This card has no romantic story or special meaning, but it sure does photograph nicely.  Like a supermodel, there are no bad angles or throw-away shots.  This thing grabs the light and transforms it through the entire color spectrum.  It's 1 of 10 in existence and the autograph is written on the card, not on a fucking sticker.  The Market for Mr. Griffin is white-hot and still has upside.  He's been proven almost human but with super-rubbery legs.  Hopefully he's Microsoft, not Enron:)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

This card has a special place in my heart.  Back in the late 80s I learned that I was to be a Philadelphia Phillies fan from my Grandma.  She told me about Richie Ashburn, Michael Jack and Johnny Podres.  My Grandma and my Dad were the 'phanatics' and it was decreed that I too was to become one.  Then in the Fall of 1987, we took a ride down old PA-95 to Veteran Stadium to see Michael Jack Schmidt and the Phils take on the arch rival, hated nemesis New York Metropolitans.  Ok we never called them the 'metropolitans' for christ's sake.  It was 1987, not 1887.  Anyway that was my first MLB game, sitting in the upper deck in the freezing cold.  It had to be Fall, late in the season and I'm sure the Phillies were in last place.  The experience was terrible cuz I was 6 years old and the players looked like the little plastic cowboys and indians I played with at my Grandma's house.

Though my first baseball experience was traumatic, somehow my infatuation with the game developed and progressed into a love of cards and memorabilia.  Mike Schmidt was the best player on the Phillies so therefore he was my favorite player.  My Dad told me all about the 1980 World Series and how Mike was the star of that team.  I learned from some Steelton-Highspire elementary school libary books that Michael Jack was a Gold Glove Winner and a member of the 500 Home Run Club.

Front Street in Steelton, or Route 441 for you map readers and truckers, was the site of my favorite Card Shop.  Spank's was the name of the shop where young boys like myself would run after school with their lunch money to buy a few packs of Topps, Donruss and Fleer cards.  I especially liked looking at all the old cards Mr. Spank had in his glass case collection.  I remember looking in awe at his 1968 Nolan Ryan Rookie card and a Pro Set Raghib Ismail card where the 'Rocket' was running down the field for the Fighting Irish to score a touchdown.  And of course the creme dela creme, 1973 Topps Ron Cey, John Hilton and Mike Schmidt Rookie Card was the one I marveled at most.  "That one's a little out of your price range sonny," he told me.  Mr. Spank had that Schmidt on sale for $500 so I could only dream about owning that prize of a possession.

So here she is in all her glory.  Any prized collectible or gun or fine automobile is always referred to in the female gender.  And though this isn't the one from Mr. Spank's shop, it might as well be because it's not just a Mike Schmidt Rookie Card.  And it's not just a pretty piece of cardboard with pictures on it.  It's every thought and every word and every memory I hold dear about my childhood.  In that regard, I think I speak for every collector and I know all of you out there have a special 1 in your collection just like this.  Someday my son or daughter will feel the same way about it.


The 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan Rookie Card is a piece of art regardless the history of the man and the memorabilia itself.  Red, white and blue encase Jordan in a shot depicting his Airness rising above any and all disciples.  If his legs were spread wide, the picture would mirror the Nike logo and famous shot of Michael flying through the 'Air' to slam dunk.  The greatest basketball player to ever live is captured in this image, beautifully showcasing the man, the sport, the spectacle and the artform.

Considered the gem of Basketball Memorabilia, this picture can be found only in the finest collections.  With a value ranging from 500 to $200,000 in Pristine Condition, the card is not so rare as being impossible to find, but is truly a collector's treasure, widely sought and selectively procured.

This one was found in a shop along the Jersey Boardwalk, purchased for a pretty penny and a high mark-up as one might expect walking into a tourist attraction.  That shop no longer exists now that mother nature has marked her turf, but as the thinking goes the memory of that trip, that day, the ocean, the smell, the shop, the boardwalk, the hurricane, the cash and this card will forever be a story of my time and experience linked with this piece.