When 2016 Topps Allen & Ginter came out a few months ago one of the first cards I pulled was that of Heidi Watney, the Fresno, Calif. native who currently hosts “Quick Pitch” on MLB Network. It’s no secret that the television network is my favorite. So one of my goals was to get this card signed.
Moments after I pulled it I posted a picture of the card on Twitter and tagged Heidi, asking her if she’d sign the card. Much to my surprise she answered the question — and it was in the affirmative.
Before I penned my letter to Heidi I managed to acquire another copy of the card so I felt it right to send one for her to keep and one that I hoped she would return inked. And along with the cards I sent to the Network address a letter asking her about cards focusing on the Network personalities.
You see, the Network had a soft launch in late 2008 and then went full boar in January 2009. I was right there from the beginning. My daughter was born in January 2009 and in the days before her birth and in the weeks after I spent many a night and early morning with my eyes clued to the TV network. Heck, I wrote this piece titled “Dear MLB Nework, I Love You” on Jan. 1, 2009, after I discovered that an item that I picked up at a flea market months earlier was the object being showcased in an original commercial shown during the full airing of Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series. Check out the post if for no other reason to see some cool baseball nostalgia.
In the years after the Network’s launch I contact a few different people at the Network about a baseball card set that may or may not exist featuring some of the personalities of the early days of the network. I still have not pined down if the set exists.
Nonetheless, when I wrote my letter to HeidI I let her know that I was a fan of the Network and wanted to know if she had any information about the rumored set. On Friday I received my return envelope with the above shown signed card and this hand-written letter on MLB Network stationary giving me a scoop:
So, while the mystery still remains about the rumored existing set, apparently there IS one on the way. (It should be noted I haven’t confirmed this with Topps.)
Thanks to Heidi for the autograph and for the hand-written note.
It’s been almost a week since my last post. I feel horrible. Really, I do.
As some of you may know, I’ve moved yet again and am in the process of unpacking. This move, however, is going to impact my collecting habits once again, and very soon there will be The Purge Part II. I’ve kind of started (see eBay link on the home page — click the banner) but there will be more to come.
A couple of things before I get back to my home life:
*Topps 206 seemed to have come out a bit earlier this year. And except for the addition for Stephen Strasburg, it pretty much feels the same as it did last year. That said, I opened a few packs and want to unload the base cards and SPs for any and all baseball minis you may have. Working on this set — or Allen & Ginter? — hit me up.
*Speaking of Strasburg: I know I bought my fair share of 2010 Bowman hunting for Strasburg rookies, but I do not feel as though I threw my money in the trash. Sure, the phenom will be on the shelf for about 18 months, but I had a ton of fun busting this stuff, and I have a fair share of shiny goodness, like …
*Aroldis Chapman. I missed the boat on this by a few hours. I meant to post a lot on eBay a day before he got called up but didn’t because of the packing process. In the end I posted a lot that failed to sell. Boo.
*On that note: Wednesday was the last day of eBay’s one-month free auction listings. I posted stuff over the last week and a half or so at starting prices I thought were fair. The result? One sold out of a dozen auctions. Damnit. Ebay has been frustrating lately. Lots of stuff out there from which you can chose, meaning less sales for most of us.
*A few weeks ago I discussed — for the 154th time — changing the way I store my cards. I’m officially in the process of switching to binders. They take up less room, and it is more practical given my current and future situation. Sometimes I just want to flip through some cards without lugging a massive box of cards in top loaders from one room to another. There are dangers with binders, however, which I plan to write about later this week. Have a good story.
*Football: I’m all over the place, I know, but I learned several years ago that “notes” columns can be useful. Believe it or not, I’m actually excited about the forthcoming season. I still can’t identify with any of the players, and my favorite team — the Bills — will still suck, but I am looking forward to watching the games for what they are worth. Well, that and I got hooked into a sweet pick ’em league.
*Topps football: This product hit shelves a few weeks ago and being the card degenerate that I am I busted a few packs even though I don’t collect the sport. The results: lots of rookies, none of which are worth a damn. Best one was probably Toby Gerhart and a CJ Spiller Wal-Mart exclusive thing.
*About five years ago I sold off my “entire” football collection, but I held some stuff back, namely my Peyton Manning rookies and my 1981 Joe Montana rookie. I think I will sell my Mannings (Topps Chrome, Bowman Chrome, Upper Deck) this year and take the money and buy something in baseball — maybe a Bob Gibson rookie, or another original T206 HOFer. Montana? Not going anywhere.
*Speaking of “Joe Cool,” if you’ve yet to look at my eBay auctions, I’ve got a sweet lot containing two game tickets (Goal Line, baby!) from SuperBowl XIX and a game program up for sale. Montana was the MVP of that SuperBowl. I’ve also added a Montana jersey in the lot.
*Whenever I think of Montana, I always think of his successor, Steve Young. No worries, not pitching any items for sale here. Just wanted to note that I saw Young on NFL Network the other day on the Top 100 Players in the History of the NFL — great series. I’ve professed my love for the MLB Network a few times since it started almost two years ago, but NFL Films really has done the absolute greatest job of creating a cinematic experience with sporting events from the past. You feel the passion and drama.
OK, that is all for now. Just a quick reminder that I am on Twitter. I’m more active there, although it has been slow lately since I can’t seem to find an app/client that works on my BlackJack2. Yes, I know, that is soooo 2009.
Mark McGwire and Roger Maris rookie cards will forever be linked.
1999 Topps HR Record, No. 61
My jaw dropped, my heart skipped a beat; for a few seconds I wondered if someone had sent the Associated Press a false statement reportedly on behalf of Mark McGwire. But within minutes, it became increasingly clear. This was not a joke: Mark McGwire was admitting to using steroids.
Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Mark McGwire was absolutely one of my favorite baseball players. Before he even stepped into a St. Louis Cardinal uniform, McGwire was a baseball hero to me. I had the Jose Canseco-Mark McGwire “Bash Brothers” poster on my wall; I emulated his swing when I played sandlot ball; I rushed home after school to catch the last inning or two hoping that Bill King, who announced the A’s games over the radio, would call another of McGwire’s homers. All of this was before the 1998 season, the one that turned McGwire into a figure that transcended sports.
The fact that McGwire used steroids is not what shocked me; it’s the way the news came out. There wasn’t some reporter who broke the story, it came from McGwire himself in a statement to the Associated Press, and then the rest of the world. And it happened on a Monday, not some Friday afternoon as these things usually go down.
And on the same day, McGwire agreed to an hour-long interview with Bob Costas — who is a baseball fan like you and I — but also a damn good broadcast journalist. This wasn’t an Alex Rodriguez moment where he threw on some lip gloss and had a sitdown with softball thrower Katie Couric in prime time. This was Bob Costas, who McGwire knew was going to pelt him with real question after real question.
1989 Upper Deck
I watched that interview three times Monday night, and each time I winced at what I was hearing. If you ask the big-time baseball writers, they’ll tell you McGwire failed because he didn’t confess to everything. There were no details about where, when and how much. But rather some vagueness to the amounts of performance enhancing drugs. McGwire says he experimented with them in 1989, and then started using them in 1993 to help recover from injuries. He then used them on and off throughout the rest of the decade, and added in some Human Growth Hormone, as well as the then over-the-counter supplement Androstenedione.
To a person looking for every little detail, the answers were not enough. In fact, even if he had told us tons of details, many would still be dissatisfied with his confession because a person who has lied rarely tells a complete truth; they always hold something back. At least that is the perception of many.
Ball signed by Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco; obtained in person by a friend who gave the ball to me.
For me, and many fans, I do think McGwire has given us what we needed to hear. We needed to know that he used performance enhancing drugs; that he did so early in his career, and that he did so during his single-season home run record-setting season. What no one is buying is that he used them solely for healing his injuries à la Andy Pettitte; so that “my body can feel better.” I’m calling B.S. I mean it’s not like people play the lottery just to feel the thrill of winning, they love the prizes that come with it too. I digress.
What McGwire did do though, was tackle this problem head-on, even if it was several years after it really started to boil over. I believe the timing of his answers were in-fact linked to a perceived legal issues about his non-statement statement to Congress five years ago. But the timing was also strategic in the fact that it came still two and a half months before the baseball season started. Sure the issue will crop up at different points in the future, but it will, for the most part, die down unless someone unearths some stunning fact that will need yet another confession.
What we did learn on Monday, though, that I think is telling is that McGwire still believes there is a shred of credibility in his career statistics. There is no way we as fans can simply look at McGwire’s home run and walk-rate totals and say he is qualified to be a Hall of Famer; I don’t think McGwire would argue that. That is why he ducked that question at the end of the interview: “I’ll let those with votes decide.” We can remember him as being one of the best of his generation, and I think that’s about as far as we can go at this point. His achievements of the 1998 season are already commemorated in Cooperstown, I think that is good enough for now.
As news of the McGwire confession broke on Monday, I did start thinking that if anyone else was going to confess to using performance enhancing drugs, then that would have been the best day to do it. What better way to end the years of suspicion than to have some of the biggest names suspected of using enhancers to admit their guilt all at once. It would have been a massive pill to swallow, but we all could have moved forward. But the problem is that some of the suspected cheaters — including a guy who is my favorite all-time player — are facing legal troubles linked to their deceitfulness. They’ve dug themselves so deep in a hole that it is impossible for them to get out of it unless they are granted immunity … and we all know that’s not going to happen.
As far as collectibles, I really am not sure what bearing this will have on McGwire’s items. They’ve pretty much already hit rock bottom. I remember giving a speech during college as an assignment discussing the increasing price of Mark McGwire’s rookie card. I spoke about how the card went from $15 to more than $250 during the 1998 season. I almost feel like I should go back and do another speech given that his rookie can be had for about $10 now. I digress.
I do wonder if interest in McGwire’s items will pick up a bit. In the short-term, people may go nuts for his autograph just to say they have one. But long-term I wonder if his confession will resonate with collectors, who may find themselves again interested in the items they had once abandoned as suspicion of guilt built around the slugger. Will McGwire’s rookie ever reach the heights they once had? No. But that does not mean that some collector’s can’t find it in their hearts to pay an extra couple of bucks for good condition McGwire cards. I do think he still has a following, even if much of his achievements were built through the ingestion of a pill.
For the last five years Red Sox fans have had it good with their two World Series titles, and to some degree, a great deal of success over the Yankees. But I also feel that Sox fans have become a bit complacent in the notion that the team from Boston has been better in theory than the team from the Bronx, New York. This Yankee title should fire up the Red Sox Nation and put a charge into BoSox management to make the moves that will again put the Red Sox on top. Seeing the Yankees raise the trophy Wednesday brought back a lot of negative emotion for me, the same kind I felt in 2003 when Aaron Boone took Tim Wakefield deep in Game 7 of the ALCS. I would hope that those who call the shots in Boston feel the same way.
As for the true baseball fan in me, I will say that I am happy that Derek Jeter got his fifth ring and A-Rod his first. I am also pleased that with the team of hired guns, the World Series Most Valuable Player was a player who was on the outs, Hideki Matsui. However, I am saddened that the season is over and for the next six months there will be little baseball to be watched. I am just hoping that the MLB Network can give us something worth watching, not just replaying this 2009 World Series on a loop.
Ever since the MLB Network went live in January, it seems as if a night doesn’t go by without there being some reference to Bob Gibson, the great Cardinals pitcher. Most recently, it seems the network has been running on a loop the highlights of the 1968 World Series, the Fall Classic that featured Bob Gibson and the Cardinals against Al Kaline and the Detroit Tigers. In Game One, Gibson struck out a record 17 hitters.
About two weeks ago, while wasting time on eBay, I stumbled upon this beautiful little card that commemorates that performance. The cost: $1. Truthfully, this thing isn’t worth much; Beckett has it listed at $8 and if you really wanted one, I’m sure you could find one for the same price I bought my copy. But as it turns out, this is my first vintage Bob Gibson card. I’m still aiming to add his 1959 Topps rookie to my collection, but I’m not going to be doing that any time soon. For the time being, this card will have to do.
As a side note, this card has a story to go with it. I actually forgot about this card after I paid for it. And I did not remember it until the seller contacted me apologizing for delayed shipping. The reason: She was busy helping her brother move out of Arkansas where tornadoes recently hit. Continue reading →