Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Vintage New York Jets Mailday

If there is one team that rivals the Yankees for my affections, it's the New York Jets. While most of the people I know are Giants fans, I have loved Gang Green since I first watched them play at Shea Stadium back in 1980. I have gone through my ups and downs with this team (mostly down), but I have never rooted for any other football team save the 2 years when I followed my then best friend and rooted for the Steelers.

When I restarted collecting cards, I knew I wanted to have a Jets collection as well and started to hunt down different cards to fill my binder with. My Jets collection is not as large as my Yankees one is, but I am very pleased with the collection have amassed thus far. I grabbed cards through trades, eBay, card shows and from the kindness of strangers.

My collection is not just cards. I have figures, bobbleheads, autographs, books, pins and a vintage pennant in my Jets collection. As long as it has the Jets logo on it, I will always try to find a way to add it to my collection. There are things I would love to add to my Jets collection like vintage yearbooks, programs and cards, but I know I will have the opportunity to add them to my collection at some point.

Thanks to Mark over at Mark's Ephemera, I was able to add two pieces to my Jets collection, and they were two pieces I have been wanting to pick up for quite some time.

Mark's Ephemera has quickly become one of my favorite blogs to read and I never miss a post of his. One particular blog post was about the old Sunoco football stamps. I mentioned in the comments section that I have been wanting to pick up the Jets stamps from those sets. Mark reached out to me via email and offered me a packet of Jets stamps and another vintage item I have been wanting for a while. After a few emails, I got a package from him in the mail. When I opened the package, I saw this first:

A packet of the 1972 Sunoco NFL Stamps. I just love, love the lithography on the envelope. As tempted as I am to tear it open and check out the stamps, I made a decision to keep it as is. I do not want to ruin the packet, thus ruin the lithography. It will stay as is for me to admire whenever I want.

Then I saw this tucked in behind it:

A 1971 Topps Pin Up of Joe Willie Namath! I knew Mark was sending this over, but I was still floored when I saw it. Namath is one of my all time favorites, despite my never seeing him actually play. But I have seen enough video to know that the man had an absolute cannon for an arm. I love this mini pin up. It just screams 1970's with the color scheme to the fact that Topps couldn't show the players in their helmets. It's a thing of beauty.

After watching that awesome Namath HBO special I have started a Namath PC (like I need another player to collect). It's pretty small at this point, mostly recent product. Namath's cards can get pretty pricey, so for now I will add what I can here and there and anything helps. I also have the new Namath McFarlane and a couple Namath books, even a vintage Namath picture book that I assume a 5 year old read back in the day. I will look to add more Namath to my PC and show off what I do add right here.

I want to thank Mark for the awesome mailday. I have to return the favor and I hope to soon. In the meantime, if you haven't had the chance to read Mark's Ephemera, do so right here: http://marksephemera.blogspot.com/. Check it out, it's a great read.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Yankee Stadium Tour

It's cold outside. It's snowing. So, what do I do? Do I curl up in front of the T.V. and watch some Yankeeography? Do I go and build a snowman? How about none of the above. When it's colder than cold and the snow is blowing in my face, I want to be reminded how soon it will be warmer than Hades so I go to my summer home. I take a trip to Yankee Stadium.

My girlfriend, Gina, was in town for Valentine's Day Weekend and one of the places we both wanted to visit was the home of our favorite team. So, we went on Saturday afternoon to see if there was any tickets available for any of the remaining tours that day. Luck was on our side and we were able to score tickets for the 3:20 tour.

Before the tour started, we walked around and took some pictures outside the ballpark.

Once we were let inside, we were treated to a fantastic view of the Great Hall.

And The Hard Rock Cafe

And The Yankees Clubhouse Store right next to the Hard Rock

Once the tour started, Carlos, our tour guide, led us up to the Yankee Museum. We stopped by the Mickey Mantle Exhibit first. Mantle is one of my favorite Yankees, so this was a real treat for me.

There are a lot of those pieces on display I would just love to add to my Yankees collection, especially those vintage magazines, the movie poster and pin collection. I just wish I got a better picture of the pin collection.

After the Mantle display, we got a look at all the Yankees World Series rings. The Yankees got pocket watches instead of rings. The first year the Yankees got a ring was 1927 when they swept Pittsburgh. Due to the crowd, I was unable to take pictures of all the rings. I just got a few quick shots of the more current rings.

After the rings, we were bought to the Babe Ruth exhibit.

Lou Gehrig Exhibit

After the Museum, We were then taken to the Press Box. The view of the field from there is real nice. Makes me wish I finished my journalism degree so I could have worked from there as newspaper reporter.

Then we went down to one of the suites. This particular suite goes for 385.00, which includes an all you can eat buffet. A great view and food makes me consider this deal.

Yes, they serve Blue Moon here. Deal maker.

Gina and I even got to take a picture on the Suite deck.

After this they took us to a more expensive suite, which was pretty unimpressive. Just a couple of tables and pictures. I didn't really take any pictures in this suite. I was too busy talking to Carlos, our tour guide. We found out he is a 19 year old who is a student at St. John's University, taking Sports Management as his major. He's working his way through college by being a tour guide at the Stadium. Carlos seemed to be pretty smart person. I hope he goes pretty far in life.

OK, I lied. I did get to take a picture with the huge Tino Martinez picture in the suite.

After, we were led back downstairs and given wrist bands and that was the end of the tour. A bit disappointing because we couldn't go into the players locker room, dugout and on to the field. Carlos told us that because they were still dismantling the hockey rink we couldn't go down there. Great. First my Islanders lose to the Rangers, now we were denied access to the field. I was told to come back for a later tour during the season and we could go to the locker rooms and field, so I'm thinking that's what Gina and I will do.

Afterward, Gina and I picked up a few items at the Clubhouse Store and left the Stadium.

Outside the Stadium, I noticed a life sized bobblehead. I have this same bobblehead on my shelf, which is an all star bobblehead. I don't remember which All Star game it was from though.

Then Gina and I decided to hit the Yankee Tavern. Rumor has it that Babe Ruth actually used to get drunk here so I thought it would be a great place for Gina to visit.

It's a nice little place. In between drinks and some Motown on the jukebox, we got to take a quick picture.

Dispite the snow and the fact we weren't able to visit the locker room or field, this turned out to be a great day at the Stadium. I now we will take the tour again and now Gina can say she had a drink in the same bar that Babe Ruth did. Isn't that what dreams are made of?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Oh Captain, My Captain

I had a feeling this was going to happen. I just didn't think it was going to happen before the season started.

By now, you all know that Derek Jeter announced that the upcoming 2014 season will be his last. He suffered more injuries the past few seasons, his fielding has regressed and he will be 40 years old this season. I did think this would be his last season, but I'm still a bit shocked at the news. Just because Jeter was going to be 40, I always believed that he would rebound. It would not have shocked me if he batted around .290 and had over 200 base hits as he usually does. I still think he will have those kind of numbers. Maybe I have been a bit spoiled, can you blame me? Jeter has been putting up these numbers year in and year out.

What has always gotten my goat is how all the Yankee haters would say things like "If Jeter played in Kansas City, no one would know him." I have always believed that was an insult to Kansas City, plus you are just selling the man short. Jeter has played in 13 All Star Games, has won 5 Gold Gloves and 5 Silver Slugger Awards. He was the Rookie Of The Year in 1996 and was the first player to win MVP of both the All Star Game and World Series. Oh yes, he has 5 World Series rings. How many players are around that has that much hardware? Not a lot, if any.

Like Rivera, Jeter is going to be one of those future first ballot Hall Of Fame players I can say I may have seen about 95% of his games played. I have seen his first hit in 1995 against the Mariners, saw his first home run against the Indians in 1996. I watched dive into stands, become Mr. November, save a playoff game with "The Flip", kill the Mets in the 2000 World Series, become the all time Yankees hit leader, then score his 3,000th hit in Boggs-like fashion with a home run off David Price. Overrated? Yeah, sure he was.

What I'm going to do, from time to time, is show off various Derek Jeter items in my Yankees collection through out the year. Over the years, I have accumulated some nice Jeter pieces. From inserts to game used. From figures to bobbleheads and so forth.

Today, I am going to show off my Jeter autographs. I have yet to be lucky enough to score a signed baseball, picture or bat. My autographed Jeter items are certified cards I have either pulled or bought and I am extremely proud to have these signatures in my Yankees collection and I will never give these up.

2003 Fleer Showcase Sweet Sigs

This was my first Derek Jeter autograph and the only Jeter autograph I paid for. This was bought at the White Plains Sports Card show back in either 2005 or 2006. I had wanted a Jeter autograph for sometime and I had some extra money to play with. I do remember I went into that show determined to pick up a Jeter autograph. After comparing prices, I settled on this card. I got a deal on it, paying $75.00 after getting it down from $100.00.

2008 Upper Deck Spectrum Retrospectrum # 1/2

This was the first Jeter auto I pulled, or should I say, had pulled for me. This was part of a group break with my team collectors group. I actually missed this pull and when I went logged on in the middle of the break and asked if I missed anything it was met with a somewhat sarcastic no, I didn't. Guess I shouldn't have been late.

2009 Upper Deck Baseball Signature Stars Superstar Portraits # 26/35

This Jeter autograph was also pulled during one of the Team Collector group breaks. This time, I got to see the pull. Needless to say, I've been pretty lucky in the group breaks, as far as Jeter pulls goes. I wish he didn't sign this in silver ink though. A darker color would have stood out better, in my opinion. Still, I am proud to own it.

I'll probably show a different Jeter item once a week until I have nothing left to show or when his career ends, whichever comes first. With the amount of Jeter cards I own, I could probably show off one card a week for the next couple of seasons. Going forward, I'll probably just show one Jeter item per blog, just to make sure I have something to show.

Now that Jeter announced his retirement, the 2014 Yankees season will be a season you won't want to miss. Yes, the Yankees added players like Beltran, McCann, Tanaka and Elsbury. But we will all be focusing more on Derek Jeter than any of those stars, as it should be. I wouldn't be surprised if the Yankees win it all in Jeter's final season. Don't laugh, it could happen.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Random Thoughts

I usually keep my Random Thoughts to my pop culture blog, but today, what the heck? I can do the same here. I have a lot of sports thoughts running through my head and lord knows I do like to share my opinions.

-Why in the name of Thomas Vanek does it take the Islanders to be down 3-0 before they wake up and play hockey? And why does John Capuano still have a job when Peter Laviolette is still available? The Islanders season is done. They just lost to Colorado, so it's time to start getting rid of players. Vanek, Andrew McDonald and Josh Bailey, in my mind, are the top three candidates to get the heck out of NY. Fire Capuano either during the Olympic Break or after the season.

-So Alex Rodriguez decided to drop his lawsuit against MLB and the Players Union. Well la di freaken da as Matt Foley used to say. He knows that he there would be no way the players would let him back without a riot as long as that lawsuit was still on going. He knows that he screwed up and dropping the lawsuit was the smart thing for Rodriguez to do. Do I think he will be back in baseball in 2015? Yes, I do. Will it be as a Yankees? God, I hope not. At that point, he will be a 40 year old third baseman who will be out of baseball a year and has a bad hip. Time to cut the baggage and start over at third.

-I don't know about you, but I love seeing NHL players compete in the Olympics. I know the owners hate taking 3 weeks off because of all the lost revenue. Suck it up. This is a chance for your players to represent their respective countries. Most athletes would kill for that chance. Baseball players can't do it, that's why they compete in the World Baseball Classic. I can see hockey doing something similar if the owners insist on the players abandoning going to the Olympics. I mean, when they go, we lose out on that oh so exciting All Star Game.

-I've already participated in a case break of 2014 Topps Baseball. I cannot wait until my Yankee cards get here. I didn't get any hits, but I should have at least one team set and a few cool inserts.

-The Knicks are a mess. But they can still make a run at the playoffs. It's not because they have a good team. It's because the East is so lousy.

-Who else here is excited to see Masahiro Tanaka pitch? If he comes as advertised, the Yankees will be a contender. I have faith that CC Sabbathia will make some necessary adjustments to be competitive again and Hiroki Kuroda will be his usual solid self. If Nova can finally put together a full season, the Yankees could have the best staff in the AL East.

-I hate seeing that Geico Geko dance in front of Pat's and Geno's in that new commercial. Makes me want a cheesesteak sandwhich.

-I notice advertisements on Plexiglas behind some nets in a few NHL arenas. Isn't that obstructing the views of the fans that pay top dollar for those seats?

-I really like those Islander Stadium Series jerseys. What I like even better is that they are now the new alternates. The Islanders decided we have been punished enough and got rid of those horrendous black alts they sported for the past few years.

-Speaking of Islander jerseys, I am wondering if they are keeping the current jersey when they move to Brooklyn in 2015. If they do, they are going to have to add Brooklyn and Queens to the current logo, I would think. Or maybe the new alts will be the new home jerseys. I know that there is no geographical logo on it, but I would hate it if that happened. They changed the logo once and we all remember how that turned out.

-Say what you want about Curt Schilling and Lord knows I have called him everything under the sun, but I know how horrible a disease cancer is. My grandma passed away this past New Years Eve and seeing how much she suffered and I would hate to hear of someone else going through it. I will say a prayer for Curt Schilling.

-I was saddened to hear of the passing of Ralph Kiner the other day. Growing up a Yankees fan doesn't mean I didn't watch my share of Mets games. I've always thought Kiner was a great color man. He explained the game in a way that I was able to understand as a kid growing up. I got to meet Kiner a few years back at a card show and got him to sign a baseball card for me and was able to take a picture with him, which I still wish I had. He was extremely nice and we talked baseball for a few minutes before I went on my way.

Here's a picture of the card. Sorry it's a bit blurry.

Rest In Peace, Mr. Kiner.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

1997 Kenner Starting Lineup Mickey Mantle & Babe Ruth Cooperstown Collection

Before McFarlane's Sports Picks figures came out all of us sports fans were collectors of Kenner's Starting Lineup figures. These 4 inch figures that had no articulation what so ever and questionable likenesses to the players were ultra popular within the collecting community.

Except for me that is.

Let me explain. When Starting Lineup debuted in 1988, I was a junior in high school. I really wasn't doing much collecting at that point. I was too busy writing articles for the school paper, memorizing lines for the school plays and singing for the school choir. Toys? I had no time to collect. Heck, I barely had time for actual classes, but that's another story for another time.

I had friends who had some and I thought they were pretty cool. My buddy had all the Yankee releases and I thought that one day I would start picking them up, but that day never really came. All the money I made working went to other things. CD's, movie tickets, clothes, lunch money. I didn't ever think about spending any of my green backs on action figures. At this point, I had even given up collecting cards.

Fast forward about 15 years later. At this point, I am back into collecting cards and I also had started picking up McFarlane's Sports Picks. I was grabbing as many Yankee players as I could as well as Jets. So, it was just a matter of time before I would look towards the past and look into Starting Lineup figures for my Yankees collection. I would pick up a couple here and there, but I never really got too into them.

At one card show in White Plains, I came a cross a table that was selling various items for $5.00 and under. After looking through it, I came across 2 large Starting Lineup figures that featured Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth. I was intrigued by them and paid the man 10.00 for the pair and took them home. I then put them away and they have been in my closet for about 7 years. I found them the other day and bought them out, figuring I could put up a blog post about them.

I picked up these figures for a few reasons. I liked that these figures were larger then the usual Starting Lineup figures. I also loved that the bases for the figures was plastic molds of the original Yankee Stadium. That was something I had not seen at that point and that to me was the selling point.

The back of the packages has vintage shots of all the stadiums featured in this series. Only two stadiums that was in this series are still standing today. If you guessed Fenway and Wrigley, then you win absolutely nothing!

Kenner listed the players in this series on one side of the box. All of these players are Hall Of Famers and I would think a must for any Hall Of Fame/team/player collector.

I opened the Mantle first. This would be the first time I would be opening these figures. I wondered at first if I should be doing that, but I'm an opener and a firm believer that toys must be opened in order to truly enjoy them. Once I pulled the Mantle from out of the box, I noticed the backing had a shot of Mantle behind the figure. Then of course, I forgot to take pictures of the backing. Trust me, it was a nice shot of Mickey.

After struggling with the multiple twist ties that held the figure firmly in the box, I was able to pull Mantle off the backing. Looking at it, I was actually impressed with it. The figure itself is pretty simple in it's beauty. The figure is made of hard plastic with everything painted on. The stadium was made of a thinner plastic, but still solid nonetheless.

The paint job on this figure is pretty accurate to how the uniform looked when Mantle played. That was very important to me. Starting Lineup always did a pretty decent job of recreating the uniforms of different eras.

The Yankee Stadium base is very charming. The detail Kenner put into to it is simple, but effective, Not a ton of painting on it except for the green roofs, green grass and blue seats. I'm sure the stadium was molded in the stone color you see and the rest was painted in. Love the tab that let's you know that is indeed Yankee Stadium.

Some other shots of the stadium base it's self.

I think Kenner did an excellent job on the base. I never was able to see the original Yankee Stadium. I became a Yankees fan in 1976 as a 5 year old, the first year the second Yankee Stadium opened. I missed the original by 4 years. Then again, I would have been only 1, so I doubt I would have even remembered going anyway.

A close up of Mantle. Again, Kenner wasn't exactly known for their likenesses, but I think this one is pretty close to the Mick. I am a Mantle fan and I really don't have a lot of Mantle memorabilia so this one is pretty special to me.

Let's take a look at the Babe.

Same concept that the Mantle figure had. Twist tied to the backing board which featured a picture of Babe Ruth at the plate.

Again, Kenner nailed the uniform. Even right down to not having the interlocking NY on his jersey. I have seen a lot of Ruth figures that made the mistake of including it when in fact, Ruth never wore that version of the Yankee uniform, professionally. The team didn't start using the interlocking NY until 1936 and Ruth left the club in 1934. Ruth did wear it once or twice when he returned to Yankee Stadium for appearances after he retired.

That number is iconic. I have never understood why it's not retired throughout baseball. Ruth saved the game single handed after the Black Sox scandal. He bought in unforeseen revenue to both the Yankees and baseball. Crowds from all over would pack their teams stadiums when the Yankees were in town, just to see the Babe. To this day, people talk about Babe Ruth and the name still carries a lot of weight .

I decided not to take pictures of the Yankee Stadium base as it's the exact same one as the Mantle base.

Kenner did a decent job of getting the likeness. I mean, if you saw this figure, you would think it's a Ruth. Not the greatest, but it gets the job done.

I think these are two fun pieces to have in any baseball collection. They were different than most of the other figures Starting Lineup put out. I'm not sure if they were successful or not as I don't see any others made other than the series shown on the side of the box. If you're interested in picking these or any of the others, I have seen them on eBay go for fairly cheap. I do have a few other Starting Lineup figures I'll show from time to time, but I can honestly say that these two are my favorites and I can't wait until I can display them with my Yankees collection.