Monday, March 9, 2015

2014-2015 Panini Prizm Green Refractor Jerry Lucas Autograph

I'm a huge fan of the history of the New York Knicks, specifically their two championship teams. Back in 1969-70, the Knicks won the first of two NBA Championships. Led by the Captain, Willis Reed, Walt "Clyde" Frazier, Bill Bradley, Dave DeBusschere and Dick Barnett, The Knicks steamrolled over the NBA and beat the Los Angeles Lakers in 7 Games in an exciting series that saw Jerry West hit a half court shot to send Game 3 into overtime, Reed getting injured in Game 4 and making the miracle return for Game 7 at the Garden that shocked everyone, especially the Lakers who stopped their shoot around to watch Reed take warm ups when he emerged from the locker at MSG, then scored the first two buckets of the game before Frazier took over an dropped 36 points to seal the Knicks first ever championship.

The Knicks would return to the NBA Finals in the 1971-72 season, but would lose to the Lakers in five games. The Knicks would get their revenge the next season when they not only returned to the Finals, but would beat the Lakers in 5 games for their second and final championship.

One of my goals is to try to collect as many autographs of the players who played on those two Knicks championship teams. Today, I received another autograph to add to the collection when I got my most recent eBay win in the mail, a 2014-15 Panini Prizm Green Refractor autograph of NBA Hall Of Famer, Jerry Lucas.

Lucas was traded to the Knicks prior to the 1971-72 season from Golden State for Cazzie Russell. He was a back up to Willis Reed, but Reed went down with an injury for the entire season and Lucas helped bring the Knicks back to the NBA Finals. Lucas led the Knicks in rebounding and was second in scoring and assists and was named the club's MVP. He would win his first and only NBA Title the next season. The Knicks made it to the Eastern Conference Finals before losing to the Boston Celtics in 5 games. After that season, Lucas retired from basketball and became an educator and a memory expert, writing three best sellers on the subject.

For his career, Lucas won Olympic gold as a member of the 1960 US Basketball team, won an NCAA National Championship as a member of the 1960 Ohio State Buckeyes. He is a seven time NBA All Star and a two time inductee into the Naismith Basketball Hall Of Fame as a player and as a member of the 1960 US Olympic Team. He was also named as one of the NBA 50 Greatest players and was named to Sports Illustrated's five man College All Century Team.

I have been wanting a Lucas autograph for a long time. Before his autographs were scarce and expensive. The only ones I found in my price range were his autographs on college products, which I wasn't picking up. I only wanted his autograph on a card with him in a Knicks uniform and thanks to my patience, he started signing for Panini and I was able to pick this up at a great price.

Now, I just need to find autographs of Dave DeBusschere and Bill Bradley at decent prices and I can move on to other players on those teams. There are certified autographs of DeBusschere as he signed before he passed away. Those are pricey, but  think I may be able to find one at a price I'm willing to pay. Bradley is a bit more difficult as I only seen his autograph on 2005-06 Topps Fan Favorites and that is a high dollar card. I do hope I can get lucky and snag it at a decent price, but his I may have to get on a card that is slabbed by PSA or a PSA authenticated signed book.

If you wish to learn more about the 1969-1970 and 1972-73 Knicks and have Netflix, I urge you to watch ESPN's 30 For 30 film called "When The Garden Was Eden". It's based on a book by the same name. Directed and narrated by uber fan Michael Rapaport, the film chronicles the history of the Knicks and interviews players from the two teams as well as other NBA players from that era and writers and announcers. It's a great watch from a super Knicks fan point of view. I highly recommend this if you have an hour to spare.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Joltin Joe DiMaggio Came In A Tin Case

As a Yankees collector, I get a lot of Yankee related gifts from some very generous people. One of my team collectors, I forget who at this point, sent some pretty interesting Joe DiMaggio cards a few years back. I had put them in a drawer and forgot that I had them. While I was doing some cleaning, I found the cards and took a close look at them.

Back in 1993, Score released an exclusive 30 card set of Pinnacle Joe DiMaggio cards. It was limited to 209,000 sets and comes with a certificate of authenticity. The tin these cards come in is very nice. I can see myself putting the tin on display with my Yankee statues or figures when I do put some shelves up. I really like it a lot.

When you open the tin, the first thing you see is the felt that protects the cards while they are in the tin. Then you see the authenticator lens. What you do is put the lens on the back of one of the cards and you should see the word "DiMaggio" on the bottom. Also, without the lens, all you would see is a blurred image. Score really went the fancy route with these cards.

Here's a shot of the lens, which is just a piece of plastic. Also, my certificate of authenticity. I have number 140,038 of 209,000.

And what about the cards?

There are some very nice shots of DiMaggio in all stages of his baseball career, not just with the Yankees. The top middle card is a picture of Joe in his San Francisco Seals days.

I love the picture of Joe with Lou Gehrig. When they played together in the mid 30's they were every bit as good as when Gehrig played with Ruth. Check out the color photos on these cards. There are some crystal clear shots on there.

There's are some pics of Joe with Bob Feller and Dizzy Dean. I really like the one of Joe signing autographs for the kids hanging around the Yankee dugout. I like it a lot better without the flash from my phone shining right on Joe's face though.

I love that card on the bottom right corner. DiMaggio wore number 9 during his rookie year before switching to his more familiar number 5 the following season.

Finally, you have a couple of cards that show DiMaggio sliding into home. Every time I see anything of DiMaggio sliding, I always hear Daffy Duck in my head screaming "Slide DiMaggio, Slide!"

As much as I like having these cards in my collection, I am trying to figure out what is so special about them. They feel like a normal card would in weight and size. The lettering isn't made of gold or anything, so I don't know why this set came with the fancy tin, lens and certificate of authenticity. Just knowing that this is a numbered set would have been good enough for me. I'm guessing that, since numbering was still kind of new at that time, Score made a big deal about this set and it was probably sold for a higher price at the time as well.

Even still, anytime I can add some nice Joe DiMaggio cards into my collection, I will always do so. DiMaggio was one of the greatest players to ever play the game and should be represented in any baseball collection, if you collect the Yankees or not.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Bernie Is Not The Only New Addition.

If you ask my opinion on who the best free agent signing Brian Cashman has made in his time as Yankees GM, I would say Mike Mussina. After the 2000 season, the only free agent I wanted was Mussina. The Yankees had a solid rotation of Clemens, Cone, Hernandez, Pettitte and Denny Neagle, but Cone was showing signs of slowing down, going 4-14 that season. In his walk year, you knew the Yankees would let Cone go and I was ecstatic when Moose was tabbed to be Cone's replacement.

That signing was a great one as Mussina went 123-72 in 8 seasons as a Yankee. His winning percentage in that time was .631 and he pitched to an 3.88 ERA. He also won 3 Gold Gloves and pitched in 2 World Series with the Yankees before winning 20 games in his final season in the Bronx before retiring.

As much as I liked Mussina, I never really picked up any Mussina merch. Aside from a McFarlane Sports Pick, a signed baseball and cards, there isn't a lot of Mussina in my Yankees collection. I have wanted a bobblehead of Moose for sometime, but never found one to add to my collection.

Until now...

Arriving at my door the same day Bernie did was this sweet Forever Collectibles Legends Of The Diamond Mike Mussina bobblehead. This is a limited piece # to 5,000 nodders. I got 1350 of 5,000. The reason I got this was it looked a lot like Mussina. That is an area that Forever usually fails on, but here, they got the likness on point.

The back has a quick write up of what the Legends Of The Diamond line is all out as well as one about the company it's self.

Both sides of the package feature the same art and cellophane window offering you more peeks at the bobblehead.

Out of the package this bobblehead looks even better than I thought. Love that it captures Mussina in mid pitching motion. Looks like he's ready to step off the mound and fire a strike to Posada. The bobblehead has some weight to it as well.

Like I mentioned before, I think Forever did a great job capturing Moose's likeness. I would probably say it looks better than most of their other efforts. I have a Forever Whitey Ford and Phil Rizzuto bobbleheads. Neither of them looked even close to the actual players.

Another reason why I'm digging on this booblehead is the base. I love that it's a stadium with a diamond, grass and stands instead of a pitching mound or something. The one thing I will give Forever their due on is the imaginative bases they've used on bobbleheads and this one is no different.

The pinstripes were painted on this bobblehead and Forever did a great job at it. The number in the back as well as the interlocking NY on the cap and front of the jersey are stickers. I really have no problem with that. I have seen the NY look so off on other bobbleheads and I would rather it look as good as possible.

I have to say that I am absolutely thrilled I now have a Mike Mussina bobblehead in my Yankees bobblehead collection. Especially one that looks as good as this one. It makes me less squeemish about adding more Forever bobbleheads into my collection. I do wish the Yankees would give away bobbleheads in this size instead of the mini ones they've been giving out the past few seasons. I almost wish Forever would start producing the give away bobbles, If the batch we get this season look anything like the Teixeira I got last season then maybe I will be wanting Forever to take over.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Welcome Back To My Yankees Collection, Bernie Williams

Aside from Bobbleheads, I love collecting figurines. I used to pick up every McFarlane Sports Pick Yankees figure that came out. The quality of the figures isn't as good as when they first came out and have a tendency to lean. I have a Jorge Posada that is literately using his bat to stay up. I only buy the ones I really want now.

I do love the Yankees figurines that are given out every year. ever since 2006, when the Yankees gave away a figurine of Derek Jeter in his "Jump Throw" pose, the Yankees have partnered with Sports Authority to give away these beautiful pieces, usually to the first 18,000 fans. I was at the first give away and loved the Jeter I got, which I still have. Unfortunately, the only other one I was able to go to was the Yankee Stadium give away in 2008 when I got to add a statue of the second Yankee Stadium to my collection.

A few years ago, I was able to pick up the second figurine that was given out in 2007, Bernie Williams. I actually had gotten a great deal for it and it was proudly displayed on my shelf, right next to the Jeter. Unfortunately, clumsy is my second middle name (Right after hungry) and while dusting the shelf, I accidentally knocked over Bernie and his leg went crunch.  I knew at that point it would be a while before I could pick up another Bernie statue.

Well, today I was able to re-add Bernie back to the Yankee collection. Say hello to my little friend!

This is not a large figurine by any stretch, but it doesn't have to be. This thing is freaken killer! Love that it's in the classic Yankees home uni and Bernie is batting from the left hand side (He was a switch hitter, for the unknowing) and looks like he's about to mash a home run into the right field upper deck.

This figure was made by Alexander Global and if we know anything about Bobble Dobbles, then we know that they are close enough in the looks department. That is to say they are not 100% accurate, but close enough. This figurine is that exactly.

Base has the standard name of player, uniform number, sponsor and facsimile autograph. If I was into having my figurines autographed, I would definitely try to get Bernie to sign in the middle of the base in Gold Sharpie or Decco.

These are numbered out of 20,000. So I guess they gave away 20,000 of these. Mine is numbered 3005, but you can see that can't you?

The back has that familiar number 51 that will be retired by the Yankees later this season. At first, I wasn't sure if I was ok with 51 being retired, but the more I think about it, the more I am OK with it because, my opinion only, he is the third best Yankee center fielder in their history behind Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. I'm sure that remark will spark some debates.

Here's a comparison with the Don Larsen statue I got at the 2013 All Star FanFest.

And here's the figure comparison with the Jeter figurine I got at the first give away in 2006. Remember what I said about likenesses being close enough with these? That goes double for this Jeter. Also, do not do what I did. Save the boxes, I was stupid and threw out both boxes because I needed room. I now know you should hang on to them.

Now that I have the Bernie back in my collection, I think I will be going for the others in the series. Here's the checklist:

2006-Derek Jeter Jump Throw (check)
2007-Bernie Williams (check)
2008-Yankee Stadium (2nd) (check)
2009-Yankee Stadium (3rd)
2010-Mariano Rivera
2011-Jorge Posada
2012-Mark Teixeira
2013-Andy Pettitte
2014-Derek Jeter Batting
2015-Dellin Betances

Right now, the Teixeira and Pettitte are the more reasonably priced figurines, but with Pettitte's number also being retired this season, as well as Posada's, I can see these figurines going up in price.

I love it when I have a project to try and complete and I know there are other figurines that I will be going after. The Yankees also gave away some statues that resemble the Don Larsen I have. They were of the of players who were enshrined in Monument Park. Then, I want to grab the Heartland, Salvino and Sports Impressions (Not expensive) and Danbury Mint (expensive). Hopefully, I can grab as many of these pieces as I can and not have the dealers back the pieces away when they see me coming.

Friday, February 27, 2015

I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends...And eBay.

I have been wanting to start an Islanders collection for a while now. I have a small, but growing collection of cards and autographs, but if you know anything about me, then you know that collecting just cards ain't my bag. I don't know if it's the hoarder in me, but I will also grab anything I can display.

I have been dying to start a bobblehead collection of my favorite hockey team. I had originally wanted to start that with picking up a bobblehead of my all time favorite Islander, Mike Bossy. Unfortunately, that is one expensive bobble. I do intend on picking it up as soon as it's a bit more affordable.

Thankfully my buddy, Kerry, helped out with that. He was a Rick DiPietro collector and was extremely generous to send me some cards for my Islanders PC as well as the DiPietro mini bobblehead that was given away by the Islanders a few years back.

The box it came in is a small box that has a nice sticker picture of Ricky D. I think that this sticker could have made a nice hockey card had the Islanders decided to produce a set of cards to give away that season.

The back of the box offers nothing more than a warning not to ingest any part of the bobblehead. I guess Rick doesn't taste very good.

Out of the box, Ricky is all wrapped up in bubble wrap. That's a good thing. Nobody likes a cracked goalie. No jokes, please.

Here's little Ricky. I'm not a huge fan of mini bobbleheads, but I like this one. It's pretty detailed for a bobblehead of this size. It has Rick sporting a faux hawk as he is dressed in the Islanders jersey from the 2007-2010 seasons as he appears to be making a kick save. There is a Geico plate on the front of the base, so I'm guessing that was the sponsor for this give away.

The back of the bobblehead gives you a better view of the base, which I really like. Too bad the Geico nameplate blocks the view on the front, but I guess you have to have the sponsor's name somewhere. I would have preferred the back though. The jersey nameplate and number looks pretty clean on the back.

Ricky looks rather content to be joining the Sports Room. Thanks so much Kerry for my very first Islanders bobblehead.

My second Islanders bobblehead came way of eBay. I was able to get a a great price on a bobblehead of one of my favorite Islanders, Clark Gillies. Gillies was a no nonsense type of player. The guy could score and had 319 goals and 378 assists in a 14 year career. But he wasn't the type of guy you would want to mess with as he also had 1023 penalty minutes. Was an integral member of the Islanders 4 Stanley Cup championship teams. He is a member of the Hockey Hall Of Fame and had his number 9 retired on December 7th, 1996.

This was another giveaway bobblehead by the Islanders. These are the Alexander Global bobbleheads that I love so much and wish they were given away still at ballparks and arenas. This one looks a lot like Gillies. That alone, I had to have this in my collection. Plus, he's wearing the Islanders jersey I grew up watching the team play in, Back in my day, these were the home jerseys. I wish they still were. No, I'm not turning into the angry old man. OK, maybe,

The sponsor nameplate on this bobblehead is a lot less gouache than the nameplate on the DiPietro bobblehead. Unlike the Ricky D bobblehead, this one sports a plain base and his name on the front. Not sure if you can see it, but there is a tiny crack on the base, which explains why I got this for so cheap. I knew about it and quite frankly, it's not really so bad.

On either side of the bobblehead is the familiar number 9 that Gillies wore during his Hall Of Fame career. One other thing I love about this bobblehead is the colors. The blue and orange just pops off the white jersey.

The back of the bobblehead looks as good as the front. I think I may have used overused the word bobblehead in this blog post.

Stop laughing at me!

Being made fun of by an inanimate object aside, I am very happy I can pick up these bobbleheads up and begin what I hope will be a sweet Islanders collection. I plan to also pick up other goodies like pucks, McFarlanes and other Islanders collectibles. With the season they are having and their move to Brooklyn next season, there is sure to be more Islanders merch for me to grab and add to my growing Islanders PC. Hopefully, I can add a pennant that will read "2014-15 Stanley Cup Champions"

Monday, February 23, 2015

Ever Meet You're Favorite Player And He Turns Out To Be A Jerk?

When your a kid,if you're lucky enough you start enjoying a sport and quickly latch on to a team that you will love the rest of my life. I was. I fell in love with the New York Yankees at the age of 5 and have had a love affair with the Bronx Bombers for almost 39 years. That makes me loyal and old!

When your a kid, if you're lucky enough to find a player who captures your imagination in a way no other player can and he becomes your idol. The guy whom you shower all your admiration for. Buy his jersey. Pick up his bobblehead, Have posters of him on your wall. Trade cards with others to have a collection of cards of your favorite player. And if your really lucky, you will get to meet him and it will be a memorable experience, one that will positively be with you the rest of your life.

I got to meet my favorite player. There's a reason why I don't really have a PC of his.

When I first started watching the Yankees, I didn't have a favorite player right away. My mom, was a massive Reggie Jackson fan, so like a good little mama's boy, I started following him. But there was something about him that didn't appeal to me. Maybe it was I noticed his fielding wasn't that great or that he struck out a lot, but I wasn't down with Reggie as much as my mom was. Don't get me wrong. I didn't dislike Reggie, I was thrilled he was a Yankees, but he wasn't my guy.

During that 1977 season, I started to notice one particular player who was hitting home runs and driving in runs at a more rapid pace than Reggie was. Then, one afternoon, I can't remember who the Yankees were playing or when during that year it took place, but a screaming line drive was rocketed down the third base line, sure to be extra bases. Then, out of nowhere, a diving Yankee snared that ball, got up and threw the ball to Chris Chambliss at first base, nailing the runner by a couple of steps. I remember staring at the replay, mouth wide open, wondering what in the Brooks Robinson just happened. It was the greatest play my widdle eyes had seen at that point and I knew I had found my favorite Yankee. His name, as if you haven't guess by now, was Graig Nettles.

From that point on, I was a Nettles fanatic. I watched the Yankees and hoped to see a fantastic play by the man they called "Puff". I prayed I'd see Nettles hit one out of the park. I had a couple of t-shirts made up as I grew up with the Yankees interlocking NY on the front and Nettles name and number 9 on the back. When I played ball, I was always at 3rd, wore number 9 and was diving for every ball, even if it was a routine grounder. Pretty soon, all the kids called me Nettles and it made me proud. When I started collecting baseball cards in 1979, I always made sure I had his card in my collection and traded with other kids to get his other cards I didn't have. Heck, I was player collecting before it became the thing to do.

I started going to Yankee games with my buddies who lived across the street from me around 1982. We used to go to all the giveaway games, which is why I had a ton of Yankee goodies (God, I wish I still had all that stuff). We made sure to get to the Stadium early to watch batting practice in the bleachers (I was a Bleacher Creature before....ah, who cares.) and we would go and try to get autographs when the players would leave Yankee Stadium. I remember getting some good players to sign my program or baseball cards. Players like Lou Pinella, Bobby Murcer, even a young Don Mattingly. But never Graig Nettles.

Then one day, for some reason I was walking between the buses that would take the Yankee players and staff to the airport to catch their flights when out of the corner of my eye I saw him, Graig Nettles was coming at me. It was just me and my favorite player, mano y mano. I was sure he would want to hear how I idolized him and would be glad to sign my baseball card. Boy, how wrong I was. He brushed me off without even looking at me and avoided the crowd and got in the bus. My heart was broken, yet I rationalized that he had to get on the bus and make his flight, so all was forgiven. I would get him again.

The next chance I got was at a card show, 25 years later. I attended the Long Island card show, which is held at Hofstra University. There a few other players I wanted to meet, but to me, the main event was a meeting with Graig Nettles. Now, mind you, I was just getting restarted collecting autographs and didn't even think of having him sign a photograph or baseball. I plucked down my $30.00 to have him sign my baseball card.

When I finally got up to his table, I was more nervous then when I met Gene Simmons. I started telling him how I idolized him growing up. How I used to play third base and wore number 9 and dove for baseballs and how it was an honor to finally meet him. Nettles looked up at me and said, in the most obnoxious way, "Gee, that's great kid. You must have been really popular". I wasn't sure if he was being a jerk, so I didn't say anything but thanked him for making a die hard fan's day and left the table.

After walking around and looking at a few tables, I looked at my buddy and asked him if Nettles sounded sarcastic to him. My friend confirmed this and told me the look on my face reminded him of a child who was told the last showing of Star Wars was sold out. With my fears being confirmed I decided I wouldn't actively collect Graig Nettles like I was planning. In fact, I was planning on picking up his 1969 Topps rookie card that day.

I met Nettles a couple times after to get a ball signed or an 8x10 signed for a friend and each time I barely said anything to him and he never acknowledged my presence. He would just sign the item without a word to me. If I was lucky, I might get a hello from him after I exchanged the pleasantry to him. The "meeting" would take about 2 minutes, tops. Each time, I would get less disappointed and more angry because I would always look for something that would redeem himself to me. A nice remark or a warm smile that would get me to like him again so I can start that PC of his.

It's not like I don't already have a small PC of him already:

Here's the signed card from that first meeting. I wanted to rip up the card soon after, but remembered I paid $30.00 to have him sign it.

Some Nettles Game Used Cards

Some Nettles autographs

Obviously, my personal feelings about Nettles hasn't stopped me from getting stuff signed by him or adding his Yankee cards to my Yankees collection. I just never started a separate binder for him like I have for Tino Martinez, Mark Teixeira, Mickey Mantle and Derek Jeter or wanted to for Paul O'Neil. I have toyed with the idea of just letting bygones be bygones and starting a PC for Nettles, but I could never bring myself to do it. As I get older, the anger in me has subsided and I can see myself starting one in time. I just don't think that time is soon. I already have too many player PC's going and to start another may put my collection in even more chaos than it already is in. Maybe after I get my cards in order and I have some Nettles doubles, I will open up a binder for him.

I would really like to remember him for the plays at third base than my encounters with him. I would prefer to remember how he litterly stole Game 3 of the 1978 World Series from the Dodgers with the plays he made at the hot corner or how I used to argue that Nettles was just as good as Brooks Robinson and he should be in the Hall Of Fame (Naive of me. That .248 life time average will keep him out of the Hall Of Fame). Maybe one day I can fully forgive and forget my meeting with him and instead remember how he capture my imagination and helped a young boy fall in love with a game that after 39 years, the love still burns stronger than ever.