Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Still Call Them "Trading Cards"

I was looking through some things and just realized that I forgot to enter a blog post for a big trade I made last month! One of the real fun parts of working on Project87 these past few months has been connecting with a community of people who are also collecting '87 Topps autographs. Through Twitter, I've "met" a bunch of people who are further along than I am and some who are just getting started. It would seem that none of them is pursuing this goal with quite the tenacity that Ryan Schear is. Ryan lives in Arizona and (like me) just started going after 87s this year. Unlike me though, he has already accumulated 450 of them!

As sort of a "project within a project," I'd especially like to get all of the Cardinals cards signed in the set. When Ryan heard this, he mentioned that he had duplicates of Jack Clark, and asked if I had any that I'd be willing to trade. I looked through my old cards I had gotten signed at games back in the 80s and found two that I had "doubles" of that he needed: Tom Hume and Luis Aguayo. He said he'd include another of his extras (Ken Schrom) and we had a deal! We sent each other the cards through the mail and in a couple days the trade was completed.

Clark was the one big bat in the Cardinals' pennant-winning lineups of 1985 & 1987. In '85, he only hit 22 home runs, but Andy Van Slyke was the only other player on that team with more than 10, and he only had 13! In 1987, Clark was the most dominant offensive player in the National League with a 1.055 OPS. Unfortunately, with 24 games remaining in the season he injured his ankle and was unable to start another game. Cardinal fans were left to wonder how things might have been different if only they'd had "The Ripper's" big bat for the World Series, which they would lose to Minnesota in seven games.

What Clark is best remembered for though is the two-out, ninth inning blast he hit off Tom Niedenfuer in Game 6 of the NLCS to send the Cardinals to the World Series. The image of (future Cardinal) Pedro Guerrero slamming his glove to the ground and Clark's tortoise-like trip around the bases will forever be cemented in the minds of fans of the 1980s Cardinals!

As for the second card in the deal, I honestly didn't even remember Schrom as a player. Turns out that he pitched exactly 900 innings in his seven year MLB career, going 51-51 with a 4.81 ERA. Mostly used as a starter, he pitched for Toronto, Minnesota and Cleveland, representing the Indians in the 1986 All Star Game. 1987 would turn out to be his final season in the majors.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Getting Caught Up

What a great run I've had lately in terms of TTM returns!

Lance Parrish played the first ten years of his 19 year career with the Detroit Tigers, but this was his last card with them as the 1987 season would be his first in a different uniform, playing for the Philadelphia Phillies. The second half of his career was nowhere near as accomplished as the first, but all told, he put together quite a career. Parrish made the All Star team eight times, won the Silver Slugger six times, and was a three time Gold Glove winner.

I'm not exactly sure why I sent this card to Parrish without sending the All Star card that is also in the 1987 Topps set. Regardless, I did. Turns out there also is a Parrish card in that year's Traded set, so I guess we'll send those to him together.

My favorite team ever is the 1985 Cardinals. Perhaps more than any of the Whitey Herzog-led teams of the 1980s, they embodied what came to be know in St. Louis as "Whitey-Ball," relying on speed, pitching and defense. The team's only true power hitter was Jack Clark (and he only had 22 home runs). But as for speed, boy did they have speed! The team stole an amazing total of 314 bases, almost two per game. Three players (Ozzie Smith, Tom Herr & Andy Van Slyke) exceeded 30 stolen bases in addition to MVP Willie McGee, who had 56, and Rookie of the Year Vince Coleman, who stole 110! Defense-wise, Ozzie and Terry Pendleton gobbled up basically every ground ball hit on the left side of the infield, while Herr played a steady, if not spectacular second base. In the outfield, hardly anything dropped in as Coleman, McGee and Van Slyke comprised perhaps the fastest outfield ever. Pitching-wise, Danny Cox won 18 and Joaquin Andujar won 21 (topping 20 wins for the second straight year), but the star on the mound was first-year Cardinal left-hander, John Tudor. Tudor started out the season 1-7, but from June 1 on, he was virtually unhittable, going 20-1 with a 1.37 ERA. In his 26 starts over those four months, he averaged over eight innings pitched per start. Perhaps the most amazing stat that season was how successful he was pitching on three days rest. Going into the seventh game of the World Series, he had started on three days rest eight times. In those eight games he went 8-0 with a 0.66 ERA, while averaging 8.5 innings per start. Unfortunately, nothing went right in game seven, and the Cardinals fell to the Kansas City Royals. Tudor would never quite return to the level of success he had in 1985, but he was very good for the remainder of his career. In his five years pitching for the Cardinals, he went 62-26 with a 2.52 ERA, and he will forever be one of my favorites to don the Birds on the Bat.

When I first started collecting autographs through the mail a few months back, I noticed that NBA Hall of Famer and former US Senator, Bill Bradley sometimes signed through the mail. I didn't have any pictures or cards of his, but I decided to send a couple index cards his way in hopes that I might get them back. Over three months later, I was thrilled to open my mail and find the index cards signed and returned! Bradley is a native of Crystal City, Missouri, not far from St. Louis. The father of one of my high school friends/teammates actually played with him there. And my uncle Jay went to Princeton to play basketball with him as well

About ten years ago, I read the Roger Kahn classic, The Boys of Summer. Though my dad had grown up a New York Giants fan, I must admit that the book more than piqued my interest in the Dodgers of the 1950s. Of course there were the mong the Hall of Famers (Robinson, Campenella, Reese, Snider) as well as other greats (like Newcombe & Hodges), but for some reason, Carl Erskine grabbed my interest. A 20-game winner in 1953, Erskine started seven World Series games, including three in 1953, a season in which he went 20-6.  I picked up this card at a card show in Fort Worth, and was thrilled to not only get it back signed from the 90-year old Erskine, but to receive it with a note thanking me for writing him!

In 1987, I had one of the great summers of my life. That baseball season I was perpetually at Busch Stadium, going to a total of 25 Cardinals games. The Redbirds rewarded me with an NL Pennant, and once more made it to game 7 of the World Series, before falling to the Twins. One of the key players on that Minnesota team was slugging outfielder, Tom Brunansky. The Cardinals would actually acquire Brunansky early the next season in exchange for Tom Herr. He would be a key component to a 1989 Cardinals team that would battle the Cubs all season long for the NL East title, but would be dealt to Boston early in 1990 for closer Lee Smith. In retrospect, it seems like Brunansky was with the Cardinals for more than just 24 months, and looking at the numbers, it's amazing that they were able to get Lee Smith for him!

Another member of the 1987 world champion Minnesota Twins was manager Tom Kelly. Along with his 1987 Topps card, I sent a Fleer team sticker to have him sign. I think it turned out nicely and was a kind of neat, unique item. Kelly twice won the World Series with the Twins (1987 & 1991).

For a ten year period from 1985-1994, Jimmy Key was one of the best lefties in baseball. For that decade, he averaged a 15-9 record with a 3.32 ERA. He played with the Blue Jays and went 2-0 in the 1992 World Series, starting game 4 and then picking up a win in relief in the 11-inning game 6 clincher. After the season, he signed a free agent deal with the Yankees, where he experienced continued success, and was ultimately a member of the 1996 world champs, before moving on to the Orioles for the final years of his career.

Jim Acker had a solid ten year career, spent mostly with the Atlanta and Toronto. He was drafted by the Braves with the 21st pick of the 1980 draft. Two years later, the Blue Jays acquired him in the Rule 5 draft. In 1986 they traded him back to the Braves, who three years later traded him back to the Blue Jays.

After bouncing back and forth between the two teams for more than a decade, Acker signed a free agent deal with the Seattle Mariners heading into the 1992 season. Ironically, that October the Blue Jays and Braves would meet in the World Series, thanks in part to the NLCS-clinching hit by Francisco Cabrera, who just happens to be one of the players for whom Acker was once traded.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

There's No Place Like Home

Last time we checked in, I was on vacation in St. Louis, where my grandmother gave me her autograph book. Today I want to share the autographs that were waiting for me when I returned home:
As I've mentioned before, I already had Greg Brock's Dodgers card from the regular set thanks to my friend Alex Hyde, but Brock also had a Brewers card in the Traded set. I figured I might as well send off one of the Dodgers cards with it to have available for trade if nothing else. Brock spent his ten-year career split evenly between the Dodgers and Brewers, but had his best success in LA where he was a decent power hitting first baseman, hitting a home run every 21 at bats on average.
 I remember back in the mid 80s when Rick Schu seemed to be the heir apparent to Mike Schmidt at the hot corner in Philadelphia. In 1985, Schmidt was even moved to first base to give Schu the job at third. Schu only hit .252 with 7 HR and 24 RBIs. Schmidt was moved back to third and Schu became a part-time player, which hewas for the remainder of his nine-year career. He currently serves as the hitting coach for the Washington Nationals, a position he has held since 2013.

Among the returns I got while on vacation were two from Hall of Famers. The first of these was from Tony LaRussa. After managing the White Sox to an AL West championship in 1983, he led the A's to three straight AL Pennants (1988-90) and won the 1989 World Series. It was during the second half of his career that I became a huge fan of LaRussa's though. In his 16 years with the Cardinals, he won seven division titles, three NL pennants (2004, 2006 & 2011) and two World Series (2006 & 2011). He finished his career as the third winningest manager in MLB history (and the winningest of anyone to begin their managerial career after 1900).And to top it all off, he and I share a birthday!

My other Hall of Fame return was from Wade Boggs. A five-time batting champ and twelve-time All Star, Boggs retired with a career average of .328. As good as that is, it pales in comparison to the first eight seasons of his career. As the 1980s came to a close, he had a career average of .352 and an OBP of .443. He would finish his career with eight Silver Sluggers, two Gold Gloves, and 3,010 base hits, the 3,000th of which came on a home run, making him the first player to have such a designation.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Grandma's Autograph Book

My grandmother's autograph book

The roots of my existence as a Cardinals fan date back (at least) to my grandmother. She grew up in St. Louis and tells stories of her memories as a member of the Knothole Gang in the late 1930s. In this program, students were allowed to attend weekday games for free. My great-grandmother would give her a quarter on occasion and she would spend ten cents to ride the streetcar to the game and ten cents to ride it home. That would leave her with a quarter that she would alternately spend on either a snow cone or a scorecard. And on at least some of those occasions, she would seek out autographs from her baseball heroes, collecting their signatures in her autograph book.

My grandmother on the Cardinals Cruise
In January of 2004 my grandmother went on the trip of a lifetime: the annual Cardinals Cruise. And sixty-five years after her days in the Knothole Gang, she took her old autograph book with her, and added to it with the Cardinals who were on the cruise. Recently she gave me that old autograph book, knowing what a big fan (and collector of autographs) I was.

The following autographs were in it from the Cruise:

Bo Hart was a rookie second baseman with the Cardinals in 2003. He burst onto the scene, batting .489 in his first nine games, ultimately finishing the season with a very respectable .277 average. The following season though, he only came to the plate 14 times before being sent back to the minors at the end of April, never to return to the bigs.

A St. Louis native, Kerry Robinson played for five teams in his seven-year MLB career.The only stop that lasted more than one season was with the Cardinals, for whom he played outfield from 2001 to 2003. He is perhaps most remembered for a game-winning home run against the Cubs that was chronicled in Buzz Bissinger's book, Three Nights in August.

Before he was the Cardinals' manager, Mike Matheny was a four-time gold-glove award winning catcher, including three times with the Cardinals. Even as he has faced mounting criticism from many Cardinal fans, my grandmother still is a steadfast supporter, in no small part due to her time spent with him on the cruise some 13+ years ago!
Tom Herr came up with the Cardinals in 1979 and was a mainstay at second base for the better part of a decade. His best season was unquestionably 1985, when he had 110 RBIs despite hitting only eight home runs. He batted .302 and stole 31 bases while only being caught three times, finishing fifth in the MVP voting.

Bob Gebhard pitched 31 innings in the early 1970s, but he was on the Cardinals Cruise because he served as an assistant to Cardinals GM Walt Jocketty from 2000-2004. Before that, he was the original GM for the Rockies, serving there from 1992-1999 and being responsible for building that team from the ground up.

Another person who came to St. Louis from the Rockies was Wayne Hagin. Hagin had the unenviable task of replacing a legend. Jack Buck manned the mic for nearly half a century. After he passed away in 2002, Hagin had served as a radio play-by-play man in Colorado since their inception in 1993, but he only lasted four years in the Cardinals' booth. That notwithstanding, my grandmother has very fond memories of his kindness.

Remember though, that the autographs my grandmother got on the Cruise were not the only autographs she gave me. She also had gotten the following 65 years earlier:

Buzzy Wares played for the old St. Louis Browns in 1912 & 1913. Two days after he made his MLB debut though, a new manager took over for the Browns. His name: Branch Rickey. Rickey must have been impressed with the baseball acumen of Wares, even if his playing ability was unspectacular, because when he was the Cardinals' GM in 1930, he hired Wares as a coach. Over the next 17 years, the Cardinals would win seven NL pennants and five World Series. Wares would coach a total of 23 seasons in all for the Cardinals, remaining on their staff through the 1952 season.

Don Padgett came up with the Cardinals in 1937 and hit .288 with them over five seasons (including a 1939 season when he hit .399 in 233 at bats). He served in the military from 1942 to 1945 and then finished his career with a couple seasons in which he played for the Dodgers, Braves and Phillies.

I'm frankly not sure who this autograph belongs to. My grandmother thinks it must have been from either the 1938 or 1939 season, and when I inspected those rosters, my best guess was that it was Micky Owen. I'm reasonably certain it's not his autograph though because...
...THIS is Micky Owen's autograph. Owen came up with the Cardinals in 1937 and played the first four seasons of his 13 year career in St. Louis. After being traded to the Dodgers, he put up four consecutive All Star seasons, but he is most famous for dropping a third strike with two out in the ninth inning of game four of the 1941 World Series. Tommy Heinrich reached base lsafely and the Yankees would go on to win both the game and the Series.

Hall of Famer Enos Slaughter played for the Cardinals from 1938-1953 (excepting the three seasons he served in the military during World War II). He is best known for his "mad dash" from first base to score the winning run in game seven of the 2946 World Series. He would also play parts of six seasons with the Yankees as well as spending time with the Braves and the A's, but his greatest success was in St. Louis where he was an All Star in all 10 seasons he played between 1941 and 1953.

Hall of Famer Johnny Mize played the first six seasons of his career, and held the franchise record for home runs in a season (43 in 1940) until a fellow named Mark McGwire donned the Birds on the Bat. Mize hit .329 with 19 HR and 93 RBIs his rookie year of 1936. He followed this up with five straight season in which he finished in the top twelve of the NL MVP voting.

Despite having averaged 26 HR, 109 RBIs and a .336 batting average, he was traded to the Giants after the 1941 season. This move seems like a terrible one, considering the minimal return the Cardinals received. It turns out though, that this trade opened up a spot in the lineup that would be filled in 1942 by a rookie from Donora, Pennsylvania named Stanley Frank Musial.

Grandma and Fredbird

Monday, July 24, 2017

Expanding the Strike Zone

As I followed along on Twitter and watched other folks get their TTM autographs back, I noticed two things:

1) Almost everyone was getting multiple (sometimes three, four or five) cards signed.
2) Often folks have an extra autographed card from one set that they are willing to trade for a card from another set that they are collecting. 

While I am intent on working on the 1987 Topps set specifically, I figured it might be a good idea to start sending out an additional card with my requests, be it either to keep for my collection or to possibly trade for a 1987. Because I have a couple friends collecting the 1985 Topps set (and because I'm crazily nostalgic about 1985 in general), I figured I'd send out one of them with my 1987s on most requests.

Against that backdrop, I had a day last week when I got TTM requests back from three different former players:

I can't exactly remember why I sent out a 1986 to Mark Gubicza instead of a 1985, but for some reason I did. I guess maybe I hadn't settled on the 85s yet. Regardless, Gubicza was a mainstay of the Royals pitching staff for 13 years, ultimately becoming the last remaining player from their 1985 World Series championship team. His best year was 1988 when he went 20-8 with a 2.70 ERA. The two-time all star could never quite regain that form, as he battled injuries throughout much of the remainder of his career. He finished up his playing career hurling 4 2/3 innings for the Angels in 1997 and ultimately ended up in their broadcast booth as a color announcer on their television broadcasts. I got back his cards in 23 days.

Ted Power was another pitcher who has remained involved with the game. Power had a 13-year playing career in which he played for eight teams (including the Cardinals in 1989). Although he did start 85 games in his career, he mostly was a reliever, leading the NL with 78 appearances in 1984, and then registering 27 saves in 1985. Power was a pitching coach in the Reds' minor league system for 17 years before finally getting promoted back to the bigs in 2016. Now the Reds' bullpen coach, Power signed and returned my cards quickly, getting them back to me in just 10 days.

Also getting cards back to me in just 10 days was Bill Almon. A former #1 overall draft pick (note the 1985 special card!), Almon never became a star, but he did manage to put together a 15-year MLB career, playing for seven teams. In addition to his two cards in the 1985 set and his regular 1987 card, Almon also had a 1987 Topps Traded card. He only had 62 plate appearances for the '87 Mets (who Cardinal fans of that era not so affectionately referred to as "Pond Scum"). I guess this accounts for why I have no recollection of him playing for such a heated (and hated) rival. Almon's best year was the strike-shortened 1981 season when he batted .301 and finished 19th in the AL MVP voting.

All in all, the eight cards from three players represented the best day of TTM success that I've had so far. Hopefully we'll have more days like this in the future!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

A Pair of Clubbing Cubbies

Kind of a funny story here. I wrote a request letter to Ron Cey very early on in this project, but I didn't send it. The reason was that I had Cey's A's card from the 1987 Topps Traded set and I had the Cubs Leaders card featuring him and teammate Steve Trout, but (to my amazement) I couldn't find his regular card amongst my collection.

As I mentioned in a previous post, when we were on vacation, I went to a card show and picked up a complete 1987 Topps set  to fill in the various cards I couldn't track down. So finally, almost two months after I wrote the request letter, I was able able to send it off. In just eight days, an envelope appeared in my mailbox containing the three cards. As you can see in the picture though, only two of them are signed. Turns out (upon closer inspection of the Sports Card Forum Mail Manager) that Cey's normal practice is to just sign two cards, even if more are sent. Turns out I could've just sent the ones I already had a long time ago! Oh well. Next up I guess I'll send the Cubs Leaders card to Trout and we'll just go from there.

A day after getting the mid-1980s Cubs third baseman and six-time all star,  I moved around the diamond to second base and got their ten-time all star, Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg. The 1984 NL MVP, Sandberg is the third Hall of Famer I've gotten through the mail, and (I would argue) the best player yet.

If you're in the Hall of Fame, there are probably a lot of teams you've had success against. That said, Sandberg always seemed to be REALLY tough on the Cardinals. I checked on it and sure enough, he hit more home runs against the Cardinals than any team in baseball. None of those home runs were more memorable (or more infamous for Cardinal fans) than the game-tying home runs he hit off Bruce Sutter in the ninth AND tenth innings one Saturday on the NBC Game of the Week in his MVP season of 1984. A lot happened in the game: Willie McGee hit for the cycle, the game went eleven innings, and the Cubs won 12-11. Despite everything else that happened though, it is simply known as "the Ryne Sandberg game."

Monday, July 17, 2017

Back from Vacation

We took a trip to Dallas to visit my wife's parents, and had our mail held while we were gone. I looked forward to coming home to a number of TTM success stories. Unfortunately that number ended up being just one. That one was former pitcher and current Washington Nationals pitching coach, Mike Maddux. The brother of Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux, Mike spent 15 years in MLB as a pitcher (1986-2000) and has now equaled that total with 15 seasons (since 2003) as an MLB pitching coach for the Brewers, Rangers and Nats. I got the card back in 31 days, my longest successful wait yet.

Technically speaking, I also got another card through the mail when I got back from Dallas. Alex Hyde (@AlexHyde21 on Twitter) is the person who inspired me to get back into autograph collecting, and is kind of a mentor to me in the hobby. He recently purchased a couple Greg Brock cards from Signatures for Soldiers (@Sigs4Soldiers). Alex is collecting 1985 Topps autographs so he got that one for himself. The second card he got was the 1987 Topps one though, and he very generously had them send it to me for my fledgling collection. Thanks again, Alex!

One of the really neat parts of getting into this hobby in this day is the fact that via Twitter, I really feel like I've joined a community of really nice folks who are working on similar projects. One of those people is Gary Vassar (@garyvassar3), who I "met" on Twitter when I saw that he (like Alex) was trying to get the whole 1985 set autographed. When he found out I was going to be in Dallas, he informed me of a card show that he was going to be at and invited me to meet him there. It was fun to meet a great guy like him in person and get to know him a little better.

I had a real fun time at the show, talking to some of the dealers as well as picking up some cards. I was really impressed with the kindness of the folks that were there, especially the gentleman from Dallas Card Show (@DallasCardShow) who sold me a complete set of 1987 Topps for $5.00 and straight up GAVE me this card that he had gotten signed by Tatu when he heard me mention that I had been a fan of the MISL back in its heyday

One final thing: While in Dallas, I found out that there was a great card shop not far from my in-laws' house. Somehow, I've failed to realize this for the 18 years that we've been visiting them, but I was glad to finally find Nick's Sports Cards (@NicksSportCards). It's a real nice shop with lots of older cards that were a blast to look through. I even picked up one of fellow Webster Groves High School alum and former St. Louis Cardinal Charlie James that I hope to send to him and see if I can get it signed. Amazingly, one of the guys who works at Nick's actually lived in Webster Groves briefly  back in the 1960s!

Monday, June 26, 2017

TTM: Making Up for Lost Time

Over the last couple weeks, I've recounted the tale of the trip I took with my friend Eric Hendrickson some twenty-five years ago. In order to have my daily posts about that trip uninterrupted, I've refrained from any updates on the autograph collecting front. So as I get things caught up today, we have a couple weeks worth of TTM autographs to share:


Some of my earliest sports memories are those of watching the Mizzou Tigers play football in the late 1970s, with exciting quarterback Phil Bradley throwing the ball to Kellen Winslow, handing off to James Wilder, and running the ball himself. Nevertheless, it was baseball that Bradley would go on to play as a professionally, putting up a career .286 batting average in a career that included one all star season (1985: .300/26 HR/88 RBIs).

Another of the cards I was excited to get back was that of Vance Law. The son of former Cy Young Award winner, Vern Law, Vance follows the 1985 Cardinals Twitter account I run (@HeckOfAYear). It was thrill to see the first time Law "liked" one of my tweets recounting the 1985 Cardinals season day-by-day, and it was a thrill once again when I not only received his 1987 Topps card back in the mail, with a note written on the envelope commending the Twitter account!

Another player whose cards I was especially excited to get back was Sid Bream. I've written about him before, and he was one of my favorite non-Cardinals in the late 80s and early 90s. He had his bes years with the Pirates, but is most well-known for his time with the Braves, specifically when he scored the NL Pennant-winning run in 1992.


Frank Tanana won 240 games throughout his 21-year career. A three time all star, Tanana accumulated a career WAR of 57.9, which is higher than that of Whitey Ford and many other Hall of Fame pitchers. A native of Detroit, he spent eight seasons with the Tigers.

Greg Gross hit .287 over a 17-year career. He now puts to use those skills as hitting coach for Diamondbacks' AAA affiliate, the Reno Aces, a post he has held for five seasons. He previously had two stints as hitting coach for the Phillies.

His 143 pinch-hits ranks fifth all-time in MLB history, and at one time he was only seven short of Manny Mota's then record total of 150 pinch hits.

Gary Pettis was a speedy center fielder who won five Gold Gloves and stole 354 bases during his eleven-year MLB career. What I'll always remember about Pettis though is the fact that he had his 16-year-old brother Lynn pose for his 1985 Topps baseball card! If I were pursuing the 1985 set, I'm not sure who I'd send it to to get it signed, Gary or Lynn. Maybe both of them?

Without question, one of the favorite Cardinals of my youth was Bob Forsch. I had four different cards he signed for me when I was a kid, not to mention a 1986 pocket schedule.

Forsch is the only Cardinal to throw two no-hitters, and is (with Ken Forsch) part of the only brother pairing to each throw a no-no. A member of the Cardinals Hall of Fame, he started Game 1 of the NLCS & World Series for a World champion (1982) and is 3rd all-time in wins by a Cardinal. He even started perhaps the most memorable game I ever attended.

I don't think he really enjoyed signing autographs, but I also don't think I ever saw him turn someone down. One Saturday afternoon, after he had starred in the  NBC Game of the Week, I witnessed him signing for nearly a half hour as his family waited for him.

Sadly, Mr. Forsch passed away a few years ago, so I had to purchase this card. I was more than happy to do so though, as his 15 years with the Cardinals comprised the bulk of my youth and given the fact that my memories of him are so fond.

Finally, what a joy it has been to have carried on a running correspondence with NFL Hall of Famer, Raymond Berry. I finally purchased an 8x10 of this great wide receiver and even finer gentleman, and sent it to him. Not surprisingly, he quickly returned it personalized and signed.

Thursday, June 22, 2017


What a trip it was, indeed. Looking back over the entire trip, it really is amazing the things we experienced:

  • Goose Gossage
  • Paul Molitor
  • Robin Yount
  • Wade Boggs (3x)
  • Dave Winfield (who hit a home run for us)
  • Eddie Murray
  • Cal Ripken (who hit a home run for us)
  • Jose Canseco
  • Harrold Baines
  • Mark McGwire
  • Albert Belle
  • Lou Whitaker
  • Cecil Fielder
  • Roger Clemens (2x)
  • Joe Carter
  • Jack Morris (who pitched like every bit the ace he was)
  • Don Mattingly (3x)
  • Lee Smith
We saw a Major League record set one night and celebrated the next, as Jeff Reardon became the all-time saves king.

Phil Plantier became a favorite of mine by hitting clutch home runs for us on back-to-back days.

We visited the Baseball Hall of Fame, the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum, and Mickey Mantle's Restaurant.

We went to the top of the Empire State Building to behold the breathtaking New York skyline, and we beheld the amazing natural beauty of Niagara Falls.

We saw a softball game, played a little wiffle ball, and played A LOT of Strat-o-Matic Baseball!

We of course got to see seven ballgames in six ballparks, three of which no longer exist.

I caught a souvenir ball in batting practice.

And Eric and I got to create shared memories that will forever seal our friendship. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Day 14...Manitowoc and Home

Sunday was Father's Day, and Eric and I spent it with his girlfriend and her father. He owned a sailboat and took us out for a sail that morning on Lake Michigan. It was a great time, unlike anything I had ever experienced.

I had never been sailing before, even on a small lake. And to sail on Lake! What an experience! I remember having the opportunity to take control of the vessel, which was a sailboat about 30 feet in length. As the sail caught the wind, the boat began to list, and I quickly shifted the rudder in fear that we might capsize. I was assured that I needn't worry; they had tried to bury the wooden rail that ran around the top of the boat's hull, but never been able to. "Really?" I asked. Again, I was assured I needn't worry.

Emboldened now, I steered once more so as to catch the full force of the wind, and like we had been shot out of a cannon, we were off. I'll never forget the amazing opportunity to feel like you had captured the wind and were drawing out all its power to be utilized under your control. It was an absolute thrill!

That afternoon, still flying high from our boat ride, we had to carry on to the conclusion of our trip. We drove back to Northwestern, where we dropped Eric off at the fraternity house where he would be living as he took summer classes. And after that, I made the drive south myself, down Interstate 55 and back to St. Louis. It was fairly late when I returned home and the next day I would have to return Mr. Hendrickson's car to him. Sadly, the trip was at this point nothing but a memory. But it what an amazing memory it was!

Distance driven today: 478 miles
Total distance driven: 3,723 miles

Click here for the previous post in the series.
Click here to see other entries in this series.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Day 13...The Longest Drive

We had to wake up fairly early on Saturday morning because we had quite the drive in front of us: nearly 875 miles from Baltimore to Manitowoc, Wisconsin, where Eric's girlfriend lived. I'm not exactly sure why we incorporated this into our trip, but we had to get him back to Northwestern for summer classes, and though Manitowoc certainly wasn't on the way, it didn't add that much to our trip.

The plan was to hit the road by 6:00 am, so I was up and in the shower not long after 5:00. While the water fell on my very tired body, I heard Eric’s voice in a loud whisper from the bathroom door asking where I put the keys to the car. The night before, I had borrowed them to get something from the car. Unfortunately we soon came to find out that I must have set them down on the dashboard and locked them inside the vehicle because that’s where they were!

After the two of us tried fruitlessly to break into the car, Eric called AAA. They said they’d send someone out and they’d be there in the next hour. Or two. Long story short, by the time we actually got out it was after 8:00 EDT. After a later than anticipated start, we were on the road. 

There are two other things, I remember about that day. When we arrived in Manitawoc it was 10:30 pm CST. The reason I remember that is that the opening to Saturday Night Live was on as we came into the house. The other thing I remember is that in the 15 1/2 hours on the road that day, we played A LOT of Strat-o-matic baseball.

The trip was winding to a close, but what an adventure it had been!

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Miles driven today: 873 miles
Total miles driven: 3,245 miles