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.