Thursday, September 18, 2014

Kimmo Timonen Jersey Card

When I received these four signed cards of Kimmo Timonen last June, the future was still up in the air; since then, he re-signed with the Philadelphia Flyers for one year, and - more importantly - was diagnosed with blot clots, which puts not just his season (and career) but his very life in jeopardy.

I waxed poetic about his career in my last post, so I won't be doing a repeat episode just quite yet, but it'd be sad if this were how it ended for him, and 2013-14 had been the final season for three of the biggest Finnish hockey legends (not named Jari Kurri), considering Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu just retired.

However, Timonen and the Flyers admitted earlier today that his chances to ever play again were ''very slim'', considering he may be on blood thinners for the rest of his life - like his mother and brothers; if on blood thinners, he won't be able to play, because the slightest cut could result in tremendous loss of blood.

And so I present this card of him wearing the Flyers' black (home) uniform from a few years back, from Upper Deck's 2009-10 Series 1 set, card #GJ-KT of the Game Jersey sub-set featuring a white game-worn swatch:

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Omar Jacobs & Charlie Whitehurst Jersey Card

This card comes from a pack of Upper Deck's 2006 Sweet Spot (#SPD-JW of the Sweet Pairings sub-set) football cards I must have bought in 2009 or 2010:

Granted, neither of these quarterbacks has become a superstar, but they aren't in jail either, which is a small victory for the NFL these days.

Omar Jacobs is the type of QB who is a superstar at lower levels (Arena Football MVP and playoff MVP titles) and in College (GMAC Bowl MVP), but just hasn't been able to move past the practice squad at the NFL level on three separate teams - the Pittsburgh Steelers (who drafted him 164th overall in the 5th round in 2006), Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs.

He has moved from minor league to minor league, and played for the Wichita Falls Nighthawks of the Gridiron Development League (GDFL) in 2013... but the team folded mid-season. His longest tenure with the same team was with the AIFA's (Arena Football) Jacksonville Sharks, from 2010 to 2013.

Charlie Whitehurst, on the other hand, has been on active NFL rosters since he was drafted in the third round (81st overall), also in 2006. Being the son of a former NFL QB keeps a few doors open that way. His first game as a member of the San Diego Chargers, ironically, was against the Tennessee Titans, who now employ him. All told, he spent 6 seasons with the Chargers in two stint, and may have had his best games in his two seasons with the Seattle Seahawks (2010-2011).

He is nicknamed ''Clipboard Jesus'' because he is a career back-up and has long hair.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Gilbert Dionne: 6 Autographed Cards (Part 1)

Gilbert Dionne has always - unfairly - been compared to his older brother, Marcel Dionne. I mean, sure, they share parents, but they're 19 years apart, and the elder brother is a Hall Of Famer - that's putting undue pressure on the youngest.

Not only did they not have the same playing styles, but Marcel was short at 5'8'' and 185 pounds, while Gilbert was a tall and lanky 6'1'' and 190 pounds. And while Marcel won the Art Ross trophy, the Lester B. Pearson award, two Lady Byngs, was second of all time in goals, assists and points when he retired and holds the third-most 100-point seasons in NHL history (behind Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux), played in 8 All-Star Games and was on four end-of-season All-Star Teams, won three World Championship bronze medals (1978, 1983 and 1986) and one Canada Cup with Team Canada, one trophy he could never get his hands on was the Stanley Cup; Gilbert won it with the Montréal Canadiens in just his second season, in 1992-93.

He had also had a fine rookie season, making the All-Rookie Team and finishing second among rookies in powerplay goals despite having played less than half the season in the NHL; indeed, he had 21 goals and 34 points in just 39 games with the Habs, after spending the first half of 1991-92 with the AHL's Fredericton Canadiens.

I do have this card from his days in Fredericton, from Classic's 1992-93 Pro (Hockey) Prospects set (card #87),  wearing an identical replica of the Habs' classic red uniform:

For comparisons' sake, here he is wearing the Habs' regular uniform, with the NHL's 75th Anniversary patch thrown in for good measure, on card #92 from Pro Set's 1992-93 Pro Set collection:

Eerie, right?

Pro Set also produced these two cards of his wearing the Canadiens' white (then-home) uniform, from the 1992-93 Parkhust set (French Canadian Edition):

On the left is his regular (Rookie) card, #313 in the set; on the right is his League Leaders sub-set card as the rookie with the best shooting percentage, which is #447 in the collection.

The last three also count towards fulfilling #45 of my Habs Numbers Project.

             (continued in the following post)

Gilbert Dionne: 6 Autographed Cards (Part 2)

        (continued from the previous post)

Gilbert Dionne's true rookie card, however, is this one, from Upper Deck's 1991-92 Series 1 set (card #448, part of the Star Rookie sub-set), showing him not just wearing the Montréal Canadiens' white (home) uniform, but also #22, which he has never worn in an actual game:

I had written him at home on March 3rd, 2014, and received all cards back on September 15th, 2014, a cool 195 days later, signed in black sharpie, with his uniform number (45) tagged to each - even the cards where he's sporting #22. This brings my 2013-14 statistics to 34/74 cards returned.

I respected him so much as a member of the 1993 Stanley Cup-winning Habs team that I even went to see him play with the IHL's Cincinnati Cyclones in the late 1990s.

He played three full seasons and bits of two others in Montréal, scoring 60 goals and 130 points in 196 games; he was part of the infamous trade that sent Éric Desjardins and John LeClair to the Philadelphia Flyers for Mark Recchi, but barely played 22 games with the Flyers over two seasons, not scoring a single goal and just having seven assists to show for it; he finished his NHL career with the Florida Panthers, going 1-2-3 in 5 games to finish off the 1995-96 season before settling in the minors and dominating at the AHL and IHL levels. His last two seasons of pro hockey were played in Germany, where he was almost a point-per-game player in his early 30s.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Taylor Hall Jersey Card

Taylor Hall is a tremendous hockey talent; he wasn't chosen first overall in 2010 (ahead of Tyler Seguin) for no reason. He's also a kid of a generation who has to learn to mature under intense scrutiny and at times over-bearing cameras and attention - in his case, from the general public as well as the media.

Because of that, every time he slams a water bottle and sprays his coach - or every time he knees another player - the story will make the news for a longer period than when he's breaking one of Wayne Gretzky's records.

He's well on his way to becoming a true NHL superstar, with two point-per-game seasons in four years, two top-10 finishes in points and assists, a top-5 finish in powerplay goals and three career hat tricks.

It's hard to believe he's barely 22 years old. He has finally grown into his 6'1'' frame by topping the 200-pound mark, which should help him down the line.

Internationally, he has won four medals with Team Canada thus far: silver at the World Juniors (2010), and gold at the U-17 Worlds (representing Team Ontario), as well as the U-18 Worlds and Ivan Hlinka Memorial U-18, all held in 2008.

He and Jordan Eberle are key to making the Edmonton Oilers contenders again. Both have proven to be leaders in lower levels, with Hall leading his Windsor Spitfires to two Memorial Cups, with two tournament MVP titles to go with them.

I couldn't complain when I pulled this card from Upper Deck's 2013-14 SP Game-Used Edition set (card #AF-TH of the Authentic Fabrics sub-set), showing him with the Oilers' classic blue (home) uniform, with a big orange swatch:

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Tim Raines: 5 Autographed Cards

I usually post personal stuff on my birthday, and this year I'd planned on doing the same as last year: feature Tim Wallach, who shares a birthday with me. Unfortunately, I haven't unpacked those cards yet, but I did find a dozen or so of Tim Raines, my favourite baseball player of all time. I chose to feature the following five cards first because, judging by the pen and signature, they may have been from the same period; I never get more than two signed at a time in person unless I know the person, or know it's totally cool - particularly if I plan on going for, say, three straight days, which may have been the case here in 2001. So here they are:

The Rock may very well have been the second-best lead-off hitter of all time; unfortunately for him, he was a contemporary of Rickey Henderson's, undoubtedly the best off all time, and the only player in Raines' career who could even come close to him in the stolen bases department.

Which hinders him when it comes to Hall Of Fame voters, obviously. There are, however, sites using advanced metrics to make a strong case for him. I'll tell you, 808 stolen bases, and a stealing percentage of 84.5% - second-best of all-time for players with at least 500 attempts - bests even Henderson. 2605 hits, 430 doubles, 170 home runs, 980 RBIs, 1330 walks for 966 strikeouts...

From the very beginning, in the strike-reduced 1981 season, Raines proved he was for real: sure, he was second for the Rookie Of The Year award, but he also garnered some MVP votes on the strength of 71 steals in just 88 games - the National League record was 75, by Benny Kauff, in a full season. His 27 steals in his first 27 attempts remains a record, though. In the American League, he set a record with 37 straight stolen bases in 1995.

The seven-time All-Star will be remembered for one of them in particular - in 1987 in Oakland - as he went 3-for-3, and produced both of his team's runs in a 2-0 victory with a two-out, 13th-inning triple against Jay Howell.

My defining Raines moment came in the 1990s, when he must have been nine feet away from first base, in a stealing attempt, and the pitcher pretended four or five times to throw to the first baseman to get him out; not only wouldn't Raines budge, but he stared straight into the pitcher's eyes, not just daring him to, but pretty much defying him to, and there probably was a beating going his way of he did. The pitcher eventually threw to home plate, and Raines stole second.

Rained got used to sliding into second head-first from the beginning, because he was a pretty big cocaine addict in 1982 (his stats did slip noticeably that year) and kept his vial in his back pocket, because had he kept in in his locker, he could have gotten caught; sliding feet first gives the runner the advantage of leading with his shoe, which strikes the fear of some pain in the second basement - but Raines had his drugs to protect, and was quick enough that he didn't need the extra intimidation sliding cleats would have provided.

He also voluntarily checked himself into rehab following the season - after spending upwards of $40,000 on cocaine that summer (those are 1982 numbers, by the way).

Gary Carter was a legend, Pedro Martinez and Vladimir Guerrero were the purest raw talents, but Tim Raines, to me, defined the Montréal Expos. And, like Carter, he eventually came back in his twilight years. The Expos did him a favour by trading him to the Baltimore Orioles at the tail end of 2001 so he could play with his son, Tim Jr.

He won two World Series with the New York Yankees (1996 and 1998), and batted for .299 with them in three seasons of part-time work (a high of .321 in 1997, a high of 109 games in 1998).

He also played with the Chicago White Sox, Oakland Athletics, and 98 meaningless games with the Florida Marlins.

There are many ways I could get into the specifics of the cards - all of them signed in blue sharpie - but I decided to go my usual route and separate them by uniform, starting with the Expos' classic powdered-blue (away) uniform:

The card on the left is from Fleer's 1988 Fleer set (card #193), probably showing him during pre-game warm-ups or between innings; in the middle is card #40 from Score's 1989 Score, showing the ambidextrous hitter in his most common plate position, hitting lefty; on the right is a card from Leaf's 1990 Donruss set (card #BC-7 of the MVP insert sub-set).

Card companies rarely sent photographers to Montréal, probably because they were afraid of summer snow, igloos, and us not having electricity (or Doritos) and only speaking French; that's why when the powdered-blue uniform wasn't chosen on cards, it'd usually be the red t-shirt from Spring Training, which took place in Florida:

The card on the left is from Fleer's 1987 Fleer set (card #328) in an obvious ''pose for the camera, Tim'' shot, while the one on the right is from Leaf's 1988 Donruss (card #345) in another ''official team photo'' type of pose.

By the way, check out the consistency / lack of originality of the Donruss backs, two years apart:

If it wasn't that he gained 15 pounds and had two more career highlights to speak of, it'd be the exact same back; same design, same ''last five seasons'' statistics, same font...

I have never visited the (Baseball) Hall Of Fame in Cooperstown. And I don't plan to, any day soon. That might change if they come to their senses and induct Tim Raines.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Ryan Suter 8x10 Autograph Card

I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the passing of an important American hockey player, Bob Suter, a member of the 1980 Miracle On Ice team, brother to Gary Suter, and father of Ryan Suter and up-and-comer Garrett Suter.

He had won an NCAA championship with the Wisconsin Badgers, and was one of the rare players on the 1980 Team USA who didn't go to University of Minnesota or Boston University.

He was a scout for the Minnesota Wild at the time of his death, with whom his son Ryan now plays. I didn't have a card of Bob's, nor one of Ryan with the Wild, but I have this 8x10 insert, signed in black sharpie on a sticker, from Upper Deck's 2006-07 Be A Player Portraits set (#SP-RS of the Signature Portraits sub-set):

It is from the same set from whence the jersey card of his I featured in May came; it also shows him in the Nashville Predators' former blue uniform which, all things considered, may have been their best-looking by a fair margin.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Stéphane Quintal Autograph Card

I wanted to take a post to congratulate Stéphane Quintal, who was officially appointed as the NHL's new discipline czar earlier this week. He was originally an assistant to Brendan Shanahan when he held the position, and had replaced him for the playoffs in an interim role.

As chief disciplinarian, Quintal will oversee all actions that, in his playing days, would have resulted in his dropping the gloves to defend his teammates - only this time, he will punish culprits with suspensions and fines.

The 14th-overall pick of the 1987 draft (one spot ahead of Joe Sakic) had a decent career as a stay-at-home defender, spanning 16 seasons and 1037 regular-season games in which he scored 63 goals, was credited with 180 assists (good for 243 points) and totaled an impressive 1320 penalty minutes; he also played in 52 playoff games, in which he 'only' spent 51 minutes in the sin bin with two goals and 12 points in total.

Seven of his 16 seasons (and 507 games) were spent with the Montréal Canadiens, including his 1000th NHL game. He also played with the Boston Bruins (who had drafted him), St. Louis Blues, Winnipeg Jets, New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks; he played on two-thirds of the Original Six teams.

Here is a card showing him with the Habs' classic red (then-away) uniform, from Pinnacle's 1997-98 Be A Player set (card #94), an autographed insert signed in black sharpie:

I had originally featured him in the Habs' white (then-home) uniform five years ago, in the second-ever post on this blog. Back then, I wasn't trying to tie my show-and-tells with the news...

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Mike Fitzgerald: 2 Autographed Cards

Mike Fitzgerald started his career with a bit of pressure: drafted by the New York Mets, he hit a home run in his very first at-bat, then became the first rookie catcher ever to lead his position in field percentage in 1984. Following that tremendous rookie campaign, he was traded to the Montréal Expos for future Hall Of Famer (and fan favourite) Gary Carter, who left the starting catcher's job wide open for Fitzgerald to fill.

And he filled in admirably. You could count on his fielding to be impeccable, he helped pitchers to wonderful seasons, he could be counted on for a decent .250 average (and had a career-high of .282 in 1986), was among the National League leaders in stolen bases against, (fewest) errors, double-plays and pretty much all areas of fielding.

He stayed with the Expos until he became a free agent, playing his final season with the California Angels in 1992. He must have signed a dozen cards for me from 1988 to 1991, mostly in ballpoint pen or black sharpie; for some reason, these are the two I'm left with, both signed in blue sharpie. I know why I held onto them, though: they show both of the team's classic uniforms.

First, a rare feat on a brand-name baseball card, sporting the Expos' white (home) uniform, from Leaf's 1987 Donruss set (card #345), showing him between pitches in full catcher regalia:

And from Topps' 1988 Topps set - perhaps my favourite baseball set of all time - here is card #674, showing him in the team's powdered-blue (away) uniform, probably warming up for his next at-bat:

I've seen Carter play before him - and he was amazing; I've seen Nelson Santovenia, Darren Fletcher and Michael Barrett after him; but Fitzgerald will always be my Expos catcher. He'd definitely make my All-Time 40-Man Roster:

C: Gary Carter, Mike Fitzgerald
1B: Andres Gallaraga, Al Oliver
2B: Jose Vidro, Delino DeShields, Ron Hunt
SS: Spike Owen, Wilfredo Cordero, Tom Foley
3B: Tim Wallach, Bob Bailey, Larry Parrish
LF: Tim Raines, Moises Alou, Warren Cromartie
CF: Andre Dawson, Marquis Grissom, Ellis Valentine, Rondell White
RF: Rusty Staub, Larry Walker, Vladimir Guerrero
Rotation: Pedro Martinez, Steve Rogers, Dennis Martinez, Bill Lee, Pascual Perez
Closers: John Wetteland, Tim Burke
Other Pitchers: Mel Rojas, Ugueth Urbina, Jeff Reardon, Jeff Fassero, Ken Hill, Carlos Perez, Dennis 'Oil Can' Boyd, Claude Raymond, Mark Langston, Woodie Fryman

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Mikko Koivu Jersey card

I thought I had another Saku Koivu jersey card to feature, to coincide with the announcement of his retirement, but I can't seem to find it; I debated whether to instead feature another Montréal Canadiens first-round draft pick, or the player who I think will take his place as the clear #1 center, or another soon-to-be Finnish star.

But I went with another choice, Minnesota Wild captain Mikko Koivu, Saku's brother, and possibly Team Finland's next full-time captain (he did captain them to a gold medal at the 2011 World Championships). Mikko had kind words for Saku in the Star-Tribune.

Mikko Koivu was also a first-round pick, the sixth-overall player chosen in 2001, but he's more physically imposing than Saku at 6'3'' and 222 pounds. He also produces a little less offense in the points-per-game department, though he's the Wild's all-time leading scorer for the time being. One thing he has over Saku is recognition for his two-way play (he always gets Selke votes and even finished fourth in 2008-09) - and he's much more disciplined, particularly in the offensive zone.

The Wild now have a powerhouse team that can take on any other team in the league and contend for the Stanley Cup for at least the next three years, in part because Koivu and Zach Parise are exactly on the same talent and effort levels in the #1 and #2 center spots, and both are proven leaders who have worn the 'C' on their chests and who have shown they were good choices for it.

What started out as a boring, middle-state expansion team has grown into a team that's hard not to respect and even admire (unless you're a fan of the natural rivals Chicago Blackhawks, I guess), and the transformation happened with Koivu at the helm of that dressing room, under his watch. And there's a reason why management chose to retain him while they added and changed the talent around him: he's that good.

And so here's a card from Upper Deck's 2013-14 SP Game-Used Edition set (card #AF-MK of the Authentic Fabrics sub-set), showing him with the Wild's white (away) uniform, with a big green swatch: