Friday, September 27, 2013

Alexandre Volchkov Autograph card

It's been a while, eh? Sorry, I've been really busy at work, and my childhood friend is jailed in Russia, so I kind of have to play news reporter to our other friends...

But back to the reason I'm writing this, Alexandre Volchkov, the player the Washington Capitals chose with the 4th-overall pick in the 1996 draft ahead of such players as Jonathan Aitken (8th), Ruslan Salei (9th), Josh Holden (12th), Dainius Zubrus (15th), Marco Sturm (20th), Daniel Brière - yes that one - (24th), Jan Bulis (43rd), Mathieu Garon (44th), Zdeno Chara (56th) annd Pavel Kubina (179th). Ok, so it wasn't that deep a draft, and the few stars that did emerge were almost-accidents, but Volchkov is nonetheless considered a ''bust'' by most standards.

He had lit up the OHL a bit by accumulating 82 points in 56 games with the Barrie Colts (by comparison, though, Bulis had 102...), but he wasn't part of the league's top-10 in any category...

The card I'm featuring does show him wearing the Colts black (away) uniform, though the team's logo has been airbrushed off for copyright issues:
Here's how I described this set from The Score Board in this post about Joe Thornton:
The card is an insert, signed in blue sharpie, from the 1997-98 The Score Board collection. The way TSB worked, essentially, was they would purchase packs of cards like you and I, from all the other manufacturers, sell the valuable cards to hobby shops and repackage the rest in new packs combining those of all brands (but inevitably more of those they got for cheaper, like Pro Set or Parkhurst), and adding signed inserts of prospects from Canadian junior leagues and American colleges to 'up' the value of their packs.
And so it is that we have this Volchkov card signed in blue charpie. Awesome penmanship for a guy with just 3 NHL games on his resume, though he was still playing professionally in the vicinity of Russia in 2010 (I have no idea where he could be these days, since even Hockey DB stopped listing his statistics in 2003).

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Michael Barrett Autographed Card

Michael Barrett was a great hitter. He set high school records with a .624 batting average, then went on to be named the 7th-best hitter in the Gulf Coast league before coasting through the Montréal Expos' farm system, eventually earning a roster spot in 1999 , at 22 years old.

He could be counted upon for 10-15 home runs, 25-30 doubles, 50-60 RBIs and a batting average over .250 in the majors; he won the Silver Slugger award in 2005 as a member of the Chicago Cubs although it wasn't his best season - he hit .276 that year which was only his fourth-best showing, as he once even batted for .307; he had 61 RBIs compared to 65 the year before; it was one of three straight seasons in which he hit 16 homers; and his 117 hits were only his 4th-best career total.

He wasn't one of the greatest of all time, and he never played in more than 134 games, but he was dependable until injuries started taking their toll. That, and he had a temper, having gotten into fights with opponents as well as teammates.

The following card is from Topps' 1996 Bowman set (card #249), clearly stating on the front of the card it's his first Bowman card (he wouldn't make his MLB debut until the end of the 1998 campaign):
That leads me to believe the signature on it (in blue sharpie) is likely from 2000 or 2001, when I had almost stopped paying attention to baseball but would have taken my little brother to the Olympic Stadium to give him a taste of what my childhood had been like (we have a 12-year difference).

As a matter of fact, he gave me all of his cards last Spring, and this one was in the lot. And since I don't actually remember getting it signed, chances are they're from a batch that he got signed on one of our outings. It matches all the other signatures I've seen, just more tightly squished and less rehearsed; I guess he was still feeling it out.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers Autographed Card

In a battle with Devan Dubnyk for a roster spot with the Edmonton Oilers since 2007, the team made the tough decision to part ways with Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers - their second-round, 31st overall pick of 2002 - leaving him to pursue free agency in 2011.

He opted for the Anaheim Ducks, but with Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth well in place, they sent him to the Minnesota Wild last April. However, with Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding, both of their roster spots are taken as well.

It also marks the third NHL franchise he's a part of where there is another lefty ahead of him on the depth chart, Mathieu Garon having held that position in Edmonton.

This card is is from In The Game's 2007-08 Between The Pipes set (card #17, the Future Stars sub-set); it shows him playing for the Springfield Falcons in the AHL:
Ironically, I also have Dubnyk's signed.

JDD's a fine talent, and he has shown flashes of greatness at the NHL level, usually followed by long bouts of difficulties. If he can work on his consistency a bit, he might have a future as a back-up, if not, perhaps Europe will come calling. Then again, consistency goes both ways: if he could have some stability rather than keep moving from league-to-league and franchise-to-franchise, maybe that would help. In the one season he stayed in the NHL, he managed a respectable 3.26 GAA and .901 save percentage in 48 games - with an Oilers team that went 27-47-8, no less, a last-place team that scored over 100 goals less than the league's best and whose leading scorer - I repeat: LEADING SCORER - was Dustin Penner, followed by two guys who played less than 70 games. With eight players at -18 or worse.

I had sent him this card in 2009 or 2010, care of the Oilers.

Monday, September 16, 2013

2012-13 Upper Deck Series 1 Blaster Box Break


I saw this at the drugstore earlier tonight and was so excited about finding hockey cards there I didn't even bother to check what year they were from... I was hoping for some of Upper Deck's 2013-14 Series 1, but instead purchased a blaster box of 2012-13 Series 1, for $24 (or $2 a pack). Oops.

The box has 10+2 bonus packs, which in normal human terms means 12. Each pack has 5 cards, for a grand total of 60. I'd rather look at it as ''$2 a pack'' than what it actually is... ''40 cents a card'', which it most certainly is not.

The cards look nice, with terrific photography, as evidenced here with a nice selection of close-up pics, alternate jerseys, action poses, while the player is always very clearly front and center:


Except for this oddly blurry Bian Gionta card:


Here's how it broke down:

Regular cards: 53

Young Guns (Rookies): 2

Checklist: 1


UD Canvas: 1


MVP (which used to be a set of its own): 2


Silver Skates (foil): 1


Montréal Canadiens (my home team): 2 (including the Gionta, plus Lars Eller)

Unless I hear from anyone interested, I'll be putting the ''hits'' on Ebay next weekend, since none of them are cards I really feel I need in my collection, except perhaps the Patrice Bergeron canvas, but someone who's actively collecting the set would definitely have better use for it than me.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Happy Birthday Tim Wallach: 4 Autographed Cards


My birthday is September 14th. I share it with a number of celebrities, but one that was always somewhat available to me as a child was Montréal Expos five-time All-Star third baseman Tim Wallach. And in most seasons, there was an Expos home game at the Olympic Stadium on that day.

Over the years, I have gotten Wallach to sign a bunch of cards for me, usually during batting practice before games, at times in charity softball games some Expos players took part in with or against local celebrities, be they radio or TV personalities, actors, musicians, or even hockey players (Stéphane Richer was a particularly avid ball player).

I chose to feature these four cards first because, judging by the blue sharpie type of pen used and signature, they seem like they're from the same era. Also, they show him wearing a wide variety of uniforms, something I like.

Let's start with his rookie card, from Fleer's 1982 Fleer:

It's card #210 in the set, and on it he's sporting the Expos' red Grapefruit League (training camp) jersey, with the then-regular powder-blue pants. Oh, and an awesome mustache. You'll notice there's more white on one side of the card than the other; that's not part of the design, the card was just cut off-center - the back has the same defect, one usually more synonymous with the Topps brand...

Speaking of Fleer, there's this card:

It's card #291 in the 1984 Fleer set and shows him wearing the Expos' white (home) uniform. The back of the card mentions he hit a home run in his very first Major League at bat (he also did the same thing in the minors). It's a simple card design, but beautiful and clear; as a matter of fact, the Vachon line of Québec desserts made an Expos team set in the late 1980s using the same scheme, pretty much, as did the Provigo chain of supermarkets.

The next two cards are cool on a whole other level: Wallach was more than just a pretty boy who could hit homers and play in All-Star Games: he was also a three-time Gold Glove winner (1985, 1988 and 1990), in an era when Mike Schmidt, Terry Pendleton and Matt Williams were at their peak and playing in more baseball-friendly markets. They're also from sets I collected over the summer while vacationing in Florida with my parents when I was 9 years old.

On the first one, he has an almost goalie-like stance, reminiscent of Mike Veronon or Ron Hextall when they had that ''I dare you to shoot it glove-side'' look:

It's card 70 of Score's 1988 Score set. The dent at the top is from the plastic penny sleeve, not the card itself, though I'm surprised the card is in the condition it's in: I would actually play with them, laying them on the living room carpet as if it was a baseball field, two opposing teams, throwing a dice and hitting it with the cards, making them run around the makeshift diamond. Most cards I bought that summer have creases and round corners.

But this card really rocks:

Not as crouched, sunglasses under his cap, Wallach looks all-business here, fitting considering he led the Majors that year with 42 doubles and was second in the NL with 123 RBIs. His specialty, actually, was a stat no longer kept track of by MLB, called ''Game-Winning RBIs'', which is exactly what it sounds like, and at which he usually led the majors. Clutch player, right here.

As for the card, it's from Leaf's 1988 Donruss set (card #222).

Friday, September 13, 2013

François Groleau Autograph Card

Today we look at François Groleau, a 40-year old defenseman drafted in 1991 (41st overall by the Calgary Flames) who is still active today, albeit it in the LNAH, a minor pro league based essentially in Québec.

A veteran of 4 AHL teams, an IHL team, and 5 teams in 3 European leagues, he managed to play 8 games in the NHL over three seasons with the Montréal Canadiens. They did take place after the team had traded Patrick Roy, though, so the team was in disarray.

He played most of his Juniors career with the Shawinigan Cataractes, of which I have this card to show for:
It's their white (home) jersey, and is from Classic's 1991-92 Draft Picks set, numbered 1075/1150, a number so high it almost didn't exist.

Other Cataractes alumni include Enrico Ciccone, Sergio Momesso, Alexandre Burrows, Mario Gosselin, Stéphane Robidas, Radim Vrbata, Jason Pominville, Alexandre Bolduc, Marc-André Bergeron, Zbyněk Michálek, Jean-Claude Bergeron, Jean-François Jomphe, Timo Pielmeier, Patrick Lalime, Patrick Lebeau, Stéphan Lebeau, Dominic Roussel, Daniel Shank, Patrick Traverse, Stéphane Morin, Steve Penney, and Claude Pronovost. Not a bad history, eh?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Two Jamie Benn Autographed Cards

Going into training camps 7 NHL teams (out of 30) are without a captain. Here are my picks:

Tampa Bay Lightning: Martin St-Louis
Edmonton Oilers: Jordan Eberle
Buffalo Sabres: Thomas Vanek, assuming he remains past this season (otherwise, Steve Ott)
Ottawa SenatorsJason Spezza
Calgary Flames: Mark Giordano and Michael Cammalleri
Columbus Blue Jackets: Brandon Dubinsky
Dallas Stars: Stéphane Robidas

A lot of people would rather see Tampa go for Steven Stamkos, and I respect that, but as a gesture of recognition for his work, St-Louis should get the nod for his last two seasons or so, then Stamkos will have the team to himself for the next decade.

The Oilers have to decide which of their young stars will be the designated leader, and though Taylor Hall also has a few years of experience, I think Eberle is the wisest choice because he doesn't already come with the pressure of being a former first-overall pick that Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins do. He's also proven to be a clutch performer at all levels, including internationally.

If the Sens don't go for Spezza, the only other logical choice is Chris Phillips. And while I love the idea of going with role players for captain, Spezza's learned a lot under Daniel Alfredsson, and is still an elite player. He is the face of the franchise now, along with the goalies and Erik Karlsson.

In Calgary, both guys are deserving, and both crave it. They should alternate, until one of them leaves, leaving the other as the stand-alone guy until one of the kids is ready to take the mantle.

Dubinsky is ready in Columbus, and already had a leadership role on his former team, the New York Rangers. But Marian Gaborik is a steady force on offense, and has already sported the 'C' with the Minnesota Wild. One of the defensemen could also take the mantle.

Which leaves us with Dallas, and the consensus choice of Jamie Benn, which I passed over in favour of veteran defenseman Robidas. Robidas is 36 and has two or three seasons left; he has represented Canada twice and played in an All-Star Game, despite being more of a dependent defensive force than an offensive powerhouse - precisely the type of guy who embodies ''team spirit''. Benn, on the other hand, while constantly improving and deemed worthy of keeping instead of James Neal, just isn't there yet.

Sure, he can be counted on for some 20-25 goals, eventually 30, perhaps even 40 once or twice - and his point production went from 41 points in his rookie year to 56 to 63 to 33 last season (in 41 games, which makes for 66 pro-rated to 82 games). But is he an undisputed leader on a team that has former Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff, lettermen Sergei Gonchar and Erik Cole, and high draft picks Tyler Seguin and Valeri Nuchushkin? Probably not. He may even be the odd man out in three or four years.

Which isn't to say I don't like the guy. I do. He even signed these two identical cards for me:
They're from Upper Deck's 2010 National Card Day collection (card #HCD-3), a set I don't usually go after (my weekends are hectic, Ebay gets expensive) but for some reason I got a hold of that year through trades, even managing to nab a few doubles; getting both of these signed in beautiful (albeit fading) blue sharpie, though, means my set is now incomplete - guess I'll (try to) have them all signed, then!

I'm open to trading one, if anyone's interested.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Jacques Cloutier Autographed Card

Jacques Cloutier was an average back-up goaltender in an age where 100-point scorers were a dime a dozen - there could be more than 10 in any given year in the 1980s and early 1990s. That's one of the reasons why the 5'7'' goalie never posted a GAA under 3.00 and even went above 4.00 a few times. Then again, playing for the 1990-91 and 1991-92 Québec Nordiques didn't help, either.

Cloutier spent 4 years playing Juniors in the LHJMQ, then most of 7 seasons in the AHL with the Rochester Americans before the Buffalo Sabres gave him a chance to back up Tom Barrasso and Daren Puppa.

He only played 40 or more games twice in the NHL, but during one of those seasons, in 1989-90, he was the Chicago Blackhawks' best goalie, one of three Quebecers to tend the net for them (the other two being Jimmy Waite and Alain Chevrier), with Greg Millen also appearing in 10 games. Cloutier had a 3.03 GAA that season, to go along with 2 shutouts, a team-leading .888 save percentage (yes, you read that right) and a 18-15-2 record. That year, the Mike Keenan-coached team finished first in the league's worst division (the Norris) and went to the Conference Finals.

Upon retiring in 1994, he made the transition to goaltending coach with the Nordiques and their AHL affiliate Cornwall Aces, then made the move to Denver with the rest of the team as they became the Colorado Avalanche. It wasn't long before head coach Marc Crawford made him a full-time assistant, a position he has held ever since, usually following Crawford's replacement Bob Hartley wherever he went, including behind the bench of a reality series about hockey (Montréal-Québec, in 2010-11), in Zurich, Switzerland in 2011-12, and with the Calgary Flames as of last season.

I got him to sign this card for me in black sharpie in the mid-1990s (I'm educated-guessing 96-98), after a game pitting the Avs to the Montréal Canadiens at the then-Molson Centre:
It's from the 1990-91 O-Pee-Chee set (card #378) by Topps. He'd just had his fine season with the Hawks and probably didn't expect to be traded in the middle of the following season to make room for two rookies who'd end up in the Hall Of Fame, Ed Belfour and Dominik Hasek.

I'll likely try to send him some Nordiques cards TTM this season.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Yanic Perreault Autograph Card

In addition to being the best face-off man of his era, Yanic Perreault is also the man who eclipsed Eric Lindros - who was the unanimous #1 pick for the 1991 draft since he was a child - in a CHL All-Star Game prior to the 1991 draft. Perreault wound up being chosen 47th overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs because he was deemed ''too slow'', despite leading the LHJMQ in points, while being its MVP and most gentlemanly player. His points totals improved every season in the ''Q'', from 108 to 114 to a whopping 185.

The Leafs sent him to their AHL affiliate St. John's Maple Leafs for three seasons, and he still owns the franchise record for goals (132) and points (276). But he only played 13 games for the Leafs before they sent him to the Los Angeles Kings... until they brought him back via trade at the end of the 1998-99 season.

He signed with the Montréal Canadiens as a free agent going into the 2001-02 season, starting with his then-career-best 56 points, only to drop to 46 and 31 as Saku Koivu was healthy and Mike Ribeiro's stock was rising.

He sat out the locked-out 2004-05 season and signed as a free agent with the Nashville Predators, then the Phoenix Coyotes, where he posted his best season (57 points) and played in the All-Star Game, something he hadn't done since his days in Juniors, where this card is from:


It's from Classic's 1991-92 Draft Picks set (card #39, usually, but the signed versions don't have a proper back, just a note saying ''You have just received this extremely Limited Classic Draft Pick Collection Autograph Card''). It's signed in blue sharpie, and numbered 593/1100 - makes you wonder what a not-limited card would get numbered to...

On it, he's wearing his league's white All-Star Game uniform, which would face off once against each other CHL league's All-Star teams (WHL, OHL).

He would wind up playing for the Leafs one more time (17 games at the tail end of the 2006-07 season), but refused to retire, instead playing 53 games in 2007-08 with the Chicago Blackhawks, with 9 goals and 14 points to show for it. He was usually the only face-off man in the league to win close to or over 60% of the draws he took, even in his waning years.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Darrin Fletcher Autographed Card

I don't know if it's the fact that they wore more equipment than their teammates, of they were crouched, or that they were the last line of defense against the opponents scoring, but I was always had a fascination for goalies in hockey, and catchers in baseball. Maybe the ones in town just had the most personality (Patrick Roy, Gary Carter).

When Carter was traded by the Montréal Expos, my attention was often on the catcher, except for my favourite player (Tim Raines, who had two stints with the team). One of these catchers was Darrin Fletcher, who played for the Expos from 1992 to 1997; it was in Montréal that he became a starter, and 1994 was a particularly good season for him (and the team), as he led the National League in sacrifice flies and played in the All-Star Game (alongside Expos teammates Ken Hill, Marquis Grissom, Moises Alou and Wilfredo Cordero).

In 1995, in addition to being the regular catcher, he also kept a .364 batting average as a pinch-hitter. He could usually be counted on to bat .260 and provide 50-60 RBIs.

But he had to leave a traitor, signing as a free agent with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1998. Urgh, Toronto. Gross. At least I got him to sign this 1996 Upper Deck card by Upper Deck (card #391 in the set) in 1996:


It shows him wearing the Expos' grey (away) uniform most fans under the age of 30 associate them with. The back has the blue alternate/training camp jersey to go with the grey pants, also a nice look:


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Sam Gagner Autographed Card

I'd been holding out, not writing about this card for a while, because of the numerous rumours about Sam Gagner eventually getting traded by the Edmonton Oilers over the years. Many writers, particularly journalists assigned to the Oilers, were losing patience over a perceived ''regression'' in his play, which I always thought were unfounded:

- he got 49 points, including 13 goals,  in 79 games in his rookie year.
- he got 41 points on 16 goals in 79 games his sophomore season.
- he got 41 points (on 15 goals) again in his third year, but in just 68 games.
- he played 68 games again in his fourth season, with one more point (42).
- in 2011-12, he got 18 goals and 45 points in 75 games.
- he got 20 points in 21 KHL games last year, to go with his 14 goals and 38 points in the NHL's lockout-shirtened season last year.

Goal totals up and/or steady, point totals as well, playing on the first line at first, then more and more sparsely as the Oilers drafted better and younger centers (Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov). Along the line, he now owns three Oilers team records: most points in a game (8, tied with Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey), most points in a period (5, tied with Jari Kurri), and most consecutive points (11).

Reading some papers and comments on the web, you'd be under the impression he'd played himself out of the top-9; looking at the statistics, he's a definite top-6. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, as consistency isn't his strongest suit. 11 points in three games can easily follow four scoreless games that also happen to fall in a two-week span so it looks and feels even longer. The reality of it is most NHL players nowadays go on roller coaster-like highs and lows throughout a long, arduous 82-game schedule, and Gagner's more talented than the majority of them.

He's 24 years old and for the next decade or so, he'll likely climb into the 60-70 point range with one or two peaks over the 80-point mark. With the talent level in Edmonton, it's quite possible he might even register 100 points in a season/playoff combination.

I have faith. Then again, it's easier to have a 45-point man hover between your second and third lines for years than to have a top-3 defenseman struggle, or worse, put the wrong starting goalie in net for years while trading away others who do a much better job.

I met the Oilers' first-round pick (6th overall in 2007) after a game at the Bell Centre in 2009-10. He signed this card for me in blue sharpie (though, honestly, it looks like he signed it and didn't care, as it just drifts off, probably thinking because I was older than he was and a tad overweight I was going to sell it on Ebay or something):
It's card #44 in Upper Deck's 2007-08 Rookie Box Set (all Rookie Class cards). On it, he sports the Oilers' first Reebok Edge white (away) uniform, which totally look like practice jerseys with awful piping; I'm sure glad they went retro with their uniforms.

I had tried to send him 4 cards in January 2011, to no avail.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Carlos Perez Autographed Card

His MLB career was short-lived - 5 seasons in 6 years, one season, 1996, completely lost to injury - but he shall be remembered, especially in Montréal. The younger brother of Pascual Perez and Melido Perez, Carlos Perez burst onto the scene in 1995, finishing 4th in Rookie Of The Year voting, but - more importantly - getting named to the All-Star Game as the lone Montréal Expos representative.

In his first 13 games, he went 7-1 with a 2.30 ERA and a 5:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, reminiscent to Montréal fans of his brother Pascual. He played himself into the middle of the rotation, and ended up with a winning record (10-8) on a losing team (66-78). And while the elder Perez had a rainbow ball that was otherworldly, Carlos had a split-fingered fastball and a crazy change-up that confused batters. He also had a habit of over-celebrating every strikeout by out-monkeying the umpire... which could anger opposing batters. And on a team with Pedro Martinez who had a knack for hitting batters on the noggin, the Expos built a reputation as arrogant kids with attitude problems. But they had the full support of the fans.

I snagged this card in a trade last week, after failing to purchase it on time on Ebay - it cost me an autographed Dennis Martinez, but I had a spare one:


It's card #317 from Donruss' 1996 Donruss (a set I didn't collect that year), the Rated Rookies sub-set. It shows him wearing the Expos' wonderful grey uniform they wore on the road in their last decade or so.

After a league-leading 5-shutout performance in 1997, he struggled in 1998, which led to his being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, where his statistics would plummet for his last two-and-a-half seasons in the majors. His 1999 season was particularly disastrous, as he went 2-10 in 17 games, with only 40 strikeouts and a 7.43 ERA. He retired from the majors following the 2000 season, but was still playing in the Dominican Republic as late as 2009.

In his autobiography called Game Over, Éric Gagné says that Perez, a teammate with the Dodgers, never carried less than half a million dollars in cash on him at all times.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Lanny McDonald Swatch Card

As many of you know, I'm a big fan of Lanny McDonald - both the player and the mustache. I received a TTM answer from his last year, resulting in these three signed cards; I also pulled this jersey card a year or two ago.

I also got this one around the same period, perhaps in 2011, from a pack of Upper Deck's 2009-10 Trilogy set:

It's card #HS-LM in the set (the Honorary Swatches sub-set), and features two decent-sized swatches of ''NHL game-used memorabilia'', one blue and one white, obviously from his days with the Toronto Maple Leafs, despite picturing him with the Calgary Flames on the card. And since it was released the same year as the Champs card I mentioned earlier, it's probably from the exact same jersey.

I don't mind that UD would use the same jersey to stock cards from different sets, but I really don't like their habit of not associating the player with that team on their card. It makes you doubt the validity of their white swatches at all... say they purchase a white Atlanta Thrashers jersey of Chris Chelios, likely at a bargain price, but insert pieces of it in cards of his with teams in which he mattered, like the Montréal Canadiens (Stanley Cup, Norris, co-captain, first American-born captain), Chicago Blackhawks (captain, Norris, hometown hero) or Detroit Red Wings (multiple Stanley Cups), wouldn't it alter the intrinsic value of the cards themselves? Doesn't the guarantee of being ''game-worn'' lose a tad of its credibility, since it wasn't worn with the team labeled on the card? How far do they have to stretch the truth before it becomes a lie?

I really didn't want to use a Lanny McDonald card to make this point, because I respect him so much, as one of the two Flames I identify as their all-time best captains (along with Jarome Iginla, of course). But I've been siting on this card for so long because of that exact point, so I figured I might as well get it off my chest.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Leonard Hankerson Swatch Card

Leonard Hankerson was a third-round draft pick of the Washington Redskins in 2011, and he made the team right away, playing in 4 games - 2 as a starter - with 13 receptions and 163 yards for an average of 12.5 per catch.

He got even better in 2012, playing in all 16 games, starting 5, and gaining 543 yards, for an average of 14.3 per catch. He also had his first three touchdowns.

Though he isn't the fastest runner, he rarely misses a catch, and I think eventually he can become a reliable 1000-yard man for a few seasons, especially on a team with standout quarterback Robert Griffin III.

So I was more than happy when I pulled this card out of a pack of Panini's 2011 Rookies And Stars Longevity (card #9 of the Freshman Orientation sub-set, serial numbered 133/249):


It features a patch that Panini guarantees is made of ''event-worn material''. It'd be kind of weird if it hadn't, but then again, Upper Deck has made some of those...

Monday, September 2, 2013

Kevin Gross Autographed Card

Having just come off a dream 1988 season that saw him lead the National League in walks (ok, not a positive statistic!), rank 6th in shutouts and 9th in strikeouts, culminating in a scoreless inning at the All-Star Game, the Philadelphia Phillies sent Kevin Gross to the Montréal Expos for utility player Floyd Youmans and star middle reliever Jeff Parrett (who had just concluded a 12-4 season).

Gross would play two years in Montréal, never posting a winning season, and both times ranking third in the pitching rotation. In 1989, he finished 8th in the National League for hitting batters with pitches - the only season in his first 6 that he was out of the top-5...

After a disappointing 1990 season (9-12, a 4.57 ERA, only 111 Ks, one of his lowest career totals) , he left for the Los Angeles Dodgers as a free agent, the Expos unable to match his salary demands (over $2M per season, which amounts to nearly 4 pro-rated to today's value).

I stopped following baseball so closely after the 1994 strike, so I never noticed he spent his twilight years with the Texas Rangers and Anaheim Angels. A career National Leaguer, it's no surprise he finished with ERAs of 5.54, 5.22 and 6.75 in his final three seasons (the Designated Hitter makes a huge difference in how a pitcher confronts a batting order).

I guess he could have been considered a polarizing player. I, for one, liked his mustache, and I'm sure I told him so when he sigend this card fro me in 1990:


It's from Fleer's Fleer '90 set (card #348) and shows him wearing the Expos' classic powder-blue (away) uniform they wore in their first 25 years in the Majors.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Timo Pielmeier Autograph Card

Always a fan of journeyman goaltenders, I was more than happy to find this card in a pack of In the Game's 2010-11 Between The Pipes back in the day:


It's card #A-TP of the Future Stars and GoalieGraphs sub-sets, signed in black sharpie on a sticker. It shows German goalie Timo Pielmeier, a former San Jose Sharks third-round pick in 2007, seen here wearing the Syracuse Crunch uniform, at the time the Anaheim Ducks' AHL affiliate.

He played his only NHL game with the Ducks in 2010-11, letting in 5 goals in two periods for a 7.50 GAA, and played his Junior hockey in Québec's LHJMQ.

The Ducks sent him to the New Jersey Devils in 2011, who pretty much buried him in the ECHL, so last season he went back to Germany, played for the tier-two team Landshut Cannibals (yes, you read that right!), where he posted his best stats ever (including Juniors), playing in all 48 games, posting a 2.27 GAA with 4 shutouts and two assists, which earned him a promotion in the form of a contract offer for the top-tier team ERC Ingolstadt for the upcoming season.

His two assists aren't his best offensive feat, as he's actually scored a goal in the ECHL in 2009-2010, whilst playing for the Bakersfield Condors, the 10th-ever goalie to do so in league history.