Sunday, January 29, 2012

2000 SAGE Autograph Jamal Lewis

Who is this? Former Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns Running Back Jamal Lewis.
What is this? An autograph card from 2000 Sage.
Where'd I get it? I got it at the Mansfield Holiday Inn Card Show on January 29, 2012.
How much did it cost? $1.50 (That's right, One-dollar and fifty-cents!)

Why is this so special? Jamal Lewis was drafted in the first-round (5th overall) by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2000 NFL Draft out of the University of Tennessee and played nine seasons (he missed the entire 2001 season) in the NFL and when he retired he was ranked #21 All-Time in career rushing yards with 10,607.

As a rookie, Lewis was the Ravens starting running back on their Super Bowl XXXV winning team. In the Ravens victory over the Giants, Lewis became only the second rookie to rush for over one-hundred yards and the youngest player to ever score a touchdown in a Super Bowl.

Lewis' best season was in 2003, when he rushed for 2,066 yards and 14 touchdowns. At the time, Lewis was one of only five running backs to ever rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season. The highlight of the season was when Lewis set a new NFL record for rushing yards in a single game when he ran for 295 yards against the Cleveland Browns on September 14, 2003. At the end of the season, Lewis was named the AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year, AFC Player of the Year, and was named to the All-Pro and Pro Bowl teams. (Suprisingly, 2003 was his only Pro Bowl season.)

Before the 2010 NFL Pro Bowl, it was announced that Jamal Lewis was named to the NFL's 2000s All-Decade Second-Team.

To be honest, I was shocked to see this Jamal Lewis 2000 Sage Autograph rookie card in a $1.50 bargain box. I have found lots of great deals in bargain boxes over the years, but a rookie autograph of one of the best running backs of the 2000s for less than a pack of cards might be one of the best deals around.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

2003 Topps All-American Fabric of the Game Ty Warren

Who is this? Former New England Patriots Defensive Lineman Ty Warren
What is this? An autograph card from 2003 Topps All-American Fabric of America.
Where'd I get it? I got this card signed by Ty Warren at Patriots' Training Camp in 2003.
How much did it cost? I pulled this card from a blaster box of 2003 Topps All-American in 2003.

Why is this so special? Ty Warren was the Patriots first-round pick (13th overall) in the 2003 NFL Draft out of Texas A&M. Warren made an immediate impact, playing in every game his rookie season, including the Patriots' victory in Super Bowl XXXVIII. The next year, Warren became a starting defensive end on the Patriots' team that won Super Bowl XXXIX.

Although he did not become as popular as his fellow Patriots' defensive linemen Richard Seymour and Vince Wilfork, Warren was a team leader and key piece of the Patriots' potent defenses. Warren was elected a team captain in 2007, earned All-Pro honors in 2007, and was named to the Patriots All-2000s Decade Team.

Regarded by coaches and teammates as a hard worker and a dedicated member of the community, Warren's career suffered a steep decline due to injuries beginning in 2009, when he missed most of five games because of injuries. The injury bug found Warren again in 2010, when a hip injury during training camp forced him to miss the entire season. After being released by the Patriots on July 29, 2011, Warren signed with the Denver Broncos, but missed his second consecutive season, this time with a tricepts injury.

Given his recent injury history, I think that it is fair to question whether or not Warren will ever again play in an NFL game. But, regardless of what happens in the future, Warren will always have a place as a fan favorite and productive member of the Patriots' 2000s Dynasty.

I was lucky enough to get Ty to sign at least one card almost every summer at Patriots Training Camp, but the signed 2003 Topps All-American Fabric of the America card is my favorite. Unlike some of the other cards that he signed, his signature is clear, easy to see, and well-placed on the Fabric of America card. In addition, I really like that the game-used jersey piece is from a painted part of the jersey and that you can see the white paint. Here are three more cards that Ty signed for me over the years:

Sunday, January 22, 2012

2009 TriSTAR Prospects Plus Seth Schwindenhammer

Who is this? Red Sox Minor League Outfielder Seth Schwindenhammer
What is this? An autograph card from 2009 TriSTAR Prospects Plus
Where'd I get it? I got this card signed by Seth at the 2011 New York-Penn League All-State Game in Lowell, MA in August.
How much did it cost? I got it when I bought a set of 2009 TriSTAR Prospects Plus.

Why is this so special? If he ever reaches the Major Leagues, Seth Schwindenhammer (15 letters) will break Jarrod Saltalamacchia's (14 letters) record for the longest last-name in the history of Major League Baseball. Fortunately for Salty, that record seems safe for at least a few years.

Seth Schwindenhammer was drafted in the Fifth-round of the 2009 MLB Draft out of Limestone Community High School (IL) and given a $140,000 signing bonus. Since then, he has spent his first three professional seasons playing in the rookie Gulf Coast and New York-Penn Leagues.

Seth's best season came in 2011, when he hit .213 with 9 homeruns for the Lowell Spinners, the Red Sox Short-Season affiliate. For that, he earned a spot on the New York-Penn League's American League All-Star team.

And while his statistics may not stand out, his last name has made quite a "name" for itself. In fact, Seth Schwindenhammer was a candidate in's 2010 and 2011 Minors Moniker Maddness, a competition that allowed fans to choose their favorite player name in Minor League Baseball.

2005 Press Pass SE Alex Smith

Who is this? Cleveland Browns Tight End Alex Smith.
What is this? An autograph card from 2005 Press Pass Signature Edition.
Where'd I get it? I got this card signed by Alex at Patriots' Training Camp in 2009.
How much did it cost? I got it when I bought a set of 2005 Press Pass SE in 2005.

Why is this so special? On the day of the NFC Championship Game when QB Alex Smith will lead his 49ers against the Giants, I am shamelessly trying to generate a little site traffic with some old-fashioned "bait-and-switch."

But, since you're already here and reading this, why not learn a little bit about Edwin Alexander "Alex" Smith?

First, he was born Edwin Alexander Smith on May 22, 1982 in Nassau, Bahamas. His father, Ed Smith, played for the Denver Broncos and is believed to be the first player born in the Bahamas to be drafted in the NFL.

Second, Alex Smith attended Stanford University, where he was a three-year starter. In 2004, Alex was a runner-up for the John Mackey Award, given to the nation's top collegiate Tight End and a second-team All-American.

After college, Smith was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Third-round (71st overall) in the 2005 NFL Draft. That was 70 picks after QB Alexander Douglas Smith from the University of Utah was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers with the First-overall pick.

Overall, Alex Smith has had a solid career. So far, Smith has spent seven years in the NFL, playing for the Tampa Bay Bucaneers, Philadelphia Eagles, and Cleveland Browns catching a total of 147 passes for 1,414 yards 12 touchdowns.

In April of 2009, Smith was traded by the Bucs to the New England Patriots, but he was cut at the end of the preseason and signed with the Eagles a few days later. It was during his brief stint with the Patriots that Alex signed these cards for me. He seemed like a nice guy and cool enough to sign a total of four cards for me.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

2006 Topps Total Matt Light, Dan Koppen, and Stephen Neal

Who is this? New England Patriots Offensive Linemen Matt Light, Dan Koppen, and Stephen Neal.
What is this? An autograph card from 2006 Topps Total
Where'd I get it? I got this card signed by Light, Koppen, and Neal after a practice at Patriots Training Camp in 2010.
How much did it cost? Not much.

Why is this so special? These three offensive linemen have a combined eleven AFC Championships(4 Light, 3 Koppen, 3 Neal), eight Super Bowl Rings (3 Light, 2 Koppen, 3 Neal), four Pro Bowls (3 Light, 2 Koppen), two members of the Patriots All-2000s Decade Team (Light and Koppen), and one member of the National Wrestling Hall-of-Fame (Neal).

Matt Light was drafted by the New England Patriots in the second-round of the 2001 NFL Draft out of Purdue University, where he was a First-Team All-Big 10 selection in 2000. He was the starting Left Tackle on the New England Patriots Super Bowl XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX, and XLII teams.

Stephen Neal did not play football in college; he was a Division I Wrestling Champion at Cal State-Bakersfield, where he won the NCAA Division I Collegiate Champion as a Junior and Senior. In fact, in his last championship match in 1999, Neal defeated future WWE and UFC legend Brock Lesner, who was wrestling for the University of Minnesota.

Despite not having played football since High School, the Patriots invited Neal to Training Camp in 2001, but cut him on August 26. He was then signed to the Philadelphia Eagles Practice Squad until the Patriots claimed him and added him to their 53-man roster on December 12, 2001. Neal continued to improve on the field and eventually became the Patriots starting Guard, including a start in Super Bowls XXXIX and Super Bowl XLII. He retired from football after the 2010 season.

Dan Koppen was drafted in the fifth-round of the 2003 NFL Draft out of Boston College and quickly became the Patriots' starting Center. He was the Patriots' starting Center in Super Bowls XXXVIII, XXXIX, and XLII.

I am a fan of multi-player cards, especially if I can get them signed. I think that this card looks cool, even though Neal's signature is king of smushed-in. (Neal was the last of the three that I got to sign) With three important members of the New England Patriots Dynasty, this signed card is a nice addition to my collection.

1980 Topps Steve Grogan

Who is this? Former New England Patriots Quarterback Steve Grogan

What is this? An autograph card from 1980 Topps.
Where'd I get it? I got this card signed by Grogan at the 2011 Patriots' Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in September 2011.
How much did it cost? 5 or 10 cents for the card.

Why is this so special? Steve Grogan was (when healthy) the Patriots starting Quarterback from 1975 until 1990. After being drafted in the fifth-round of the 1975 NFL Draft out of Kansas State University, Grogan wasted no time and successfully overtook former Heisman Trophy Winner and Number-One Pick Jim Plunkett as New England's starting Quarterback.

In his second season, Grogan led the Patriots to an 11-3 record, the best season in franchise history and their first playoff appearance since 1963. In addition, Grogan set a NFL single-season record for Quarterbacks by rushing for 12 touchdowns. (The record stood for 35 years until Cam Newton rushed for 14 in 2011.)

Grogan went on to lead the Patriots to the playoffs again in 1978, 1982, and 1985. In 1985, Grogan completed 17 of 30 passes for 177 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions after relieving struggling starter Tony Eason in the Patriots' 46-10 loss to the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XX in 1985.

When he retired in 1990, Grogan was the Patriots All-Time leader in passing yards (26,886) and passing touchdowns (182). Since then, Grogan has been honored as a member of the Patriots' 35th Anniversary Team in 1994, All-Decade Teams for the 1970s and 1980s, and elected to the Patriots' Hall-of-Fame in 1995. In addition, Grogan had his #11 retired and he was added to the Wildcats Football Ring of Honor at Kansas State

While his records have since been broked by Drew Bledsoe and Tom Brady, Steve Grogan remains a fan favorite and Patriots' legend. He has returned that affection by being very friendly and generous to Patriots' fans and the community. Grogan brought his own sharpie to the Hall-of-Fame ceremony in September and seemed more than happy to sign autographs for fans of all ages.

Steve was nice enough to also sign a 1986 Topps card for my wife.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

2010 Bowman Topps 100 Jesus Montero

Who is this? New Seattle Mariners Catcher/Designated Hitter Jesus Montero.
What is this? An autograph card from 2010 Bowman Topps 100.
Where'd I get it? I got this card signed by Jesus Montero before a Pawtucket Red Sox v. Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees game last Spring.
How much did it cost? I paid about 25 cents for this card last winter.

Why is this so special? Jesus Montero has been one of the most highly-touted and closely scrutinized prospects in the Minor Leagues for the last few seasons. Montero has been championed as an elite power-hitter who can handle advanced pitching, while his critics point to his lack of a clear defensive position as a weakness.

After two years of trade talks and rumors, the Yankees (finally) traded Jesus Montero to the Seattle Mariners on January 14, 2012 for Pitcher Michael Pineda. Looking forward, Montero could help bring some offensive fire-power to that Seattle has been lacking in recent years.

In my experience, Montero is a reluctant signer, AT BEST. In the four or five times that I tried to get him to sign some cards, he only signed once. Luckily, I had two clipboards hanging over the SWB Yankees dugout during batting-practice and he signed two cards on each.

Unfortunately, Montero's signature isn't much to look at and he smudged his autograph on the 2009 TriSTAR Obak card. Nonetheless, I am happy to have these cards signed and I (reluctantly) wish Jesus good luck with the Mariners.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

2009 TriSTAR Obak Pedro Alvarez

Who is this? Pittsburgh Pirates' Third Basemen Pedro Alvarez
What is this? An autograph card from 2009 TriSTAR Obak
Where'd I get it? I got this card signed by Pedro Alvarez when he was a member of the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians playing against the Pawtucket Red Sox in 2010.
How much did it cost? I got this card when I bought a set of 2009 TriSTAR Obak in the Spring of 2010.

Why is this so special? When I got this card signed, Pedro was one of the best prospects in Minor League Baseball. Alvarez was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 14th-round of the 2005 MLB Draft, but chose to attend Vanderbilt and was later drafted in the First-round (Second-overall) by the Pirates in the 2008 MLB Draft.

After a solid-if unspectacular- Major League debut in 2010, Alvarez had a disappointing sophomore campaign, hitting .191 with a .561 OPS in 74 games.

Fortunately, each new season brings hopes of better things. And that hope is essential to Pirates' fans, whose historic futility needs no exaggeration. If the Pirates are going to turn things around, they are going to be counting on Alvarez to help make it happen.

Alvarez was nice enough to also sign this 2008 TriSTAR Prospects Plus card for me.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

2010 Bowman Sterling Team USA Game-Used Tony Wolters

Who is this? Cleveland Indians Prospect Tony Wolters.
What is this? An autograph card from 2010 Bowman Sterling Team USA Game-Used.
Where'd I get it? I got this card and several others signed by Tony during batting practice at the 2011 New York-Penn League All-Star game in Lowell, MA last August.
How much did it cost? I paid $2 for this card at a card show last summer.

Why is this so special? Tony Wolters was a member of the Team USA 18 & Under squad in 2009 and 2010 before being drafted and signed by the Cleveland Indians in the third-round of the 2010 MLB Draft. In order to secure Wolters, the Indians had to offer him a $1.35 million signing bonus, over three-time MLB's recommendation for a third-round pick.

Wolters, who currently plays shortstop, but is expected to move to second base after the Indians drafted SS Francisco Lindor in the first-round of the 2011 MLB Draft, was recently ranked as the Indians #3 prospect by John Sickels and played well in his first season of professional baseball, hitting .292 with 10 doubles, 3 triples, and 19 steals in 69 games for Mahoning Valley in 2011.

Wolters has a loopy and kind of sloppy signature that seems to be made of a T and W with some loops. He was nice enough to sign six cards for me when the American League All-Star Team was taking batting practice. Although he was only playing in Short-Season A ball, he seemed to have the swagger of a Major Leaguer and looked good at the plate and in the field.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

2001 UD Tour Time Sergio Garcia

Who is this? PGA and European Tour Golfer Sergio Garcia.
What is this? An autograph card from 2001 Upper Deck Tour Time.
Where'd I get it? I got this card signed at the 2006 Deutsche Bank Championship in Norton, MA.
How much did it cost? About 25 cents.

Why is this so special? A member of the PGA Tour since 1999, it is hard to believe that Sergio is still only 31 years-old. (He turns 32 on Monday 1/9/2012) Since turning pro, Garcia has earned over $28 million and won seven PGA Tour events, including the 2001 and 2004 Buick Classics, and the 2008 Players Championship. During that time he has also been one of the most dominant players on the European Tour.

Garcia was a phenom as a teen, becoming the youngest golfer to ever participate in the Ryder Cup as a 19 year-old in 1999. His early success and advanced skills made many think that he would be the biggest threat to Tiger Woods' dominance on tour, but he has often fallen short of expecations.

For a short time in 2011, Garcia actually walked away from golf. Fortunately, after some time away from the links, Garcia returned and has begun to remind fans why he was considered one of the best golfers in the world.

Sergio was nice enough to sign this card for me during a practice round at the Deutsche Bank Championship. He had just completed some practice on the putting green and was headed to the First Hole to tee-off and I was the only fan there at the time.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

2010 Donruss Elite Extra Edition Mike Nesseth

Who is this? Phillies Minor League Pitcher Mike Nesseth.
What is this? An autograph card from 2010 Donruss Elite Extra Edition.
Where'd I get it? I got this card signed by Mike at the 2011 New York-Penn League All-Star game in Lowell, MA.
How much did it cost? I got this card when I bought two sets of 2010 Donruss Elite Extra Edition last year.

Why is this so special? Mike Nesseth was the Philadelphia Phillies Seventeenth-Round pick in the 2010 MLB Draft out of Nebraska. After undergoing Tommy John Surgery in 2010, Nesseth made his professional debut with the Williamsport Crosscutters of the New York-Penn League, a Short-Season A-League, where he pitched well, posting a 3.21 ERA.

So, why is Nesseth notable? Perhaps it is because he has an excellent signature. But it could also be because of the way that he reminds some people of another Phillies pitcher.

As Paul Hagen wrote in the Philadelphia Inquirer in May 2011:

"(Phillies Catcher Carlos) Ruiz grinned. "He surprised me. He has great stuff," he said. "And his body reminds me of Roy."

That would be Roy Halladay, one of the best pitchers in baseball. And while the comparison is grossly unfair, it's also one that's heard repeatedly around the Carpenter Complex these days. Little Doc, they call him.

The physical resemblance is unmistakable. Halladay is listed at 6-6, 230; Nesseth at 6-5, 210. They both have short, sandy colored hair. Their deliveries have much in common.

They're even both represented by the same agents at CAA Sports.

And then there's this: Like Halladay, Little Doc has also become known as a workout fiend. "He's outstanding, one of the best workers and competitors we have in our system," assistant general manager, player development and scouting Chuck LaMar said."

It might be quite awhile before Nesseth joins Doc in the Phillies rotations, but if it does happen, remember: you (probably) read it here first.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

1995 Topps Kerry Collins

Who is this? NFL Quarterback Kerry Collins
What is this? An autograph card from 1995 Topps.
Where'd I get it? I got this card signed in 2001 when the NFC Champion New York Giants practiced against the New England Patriots at Bryant College in Rhode Island.
How much did it cost? I got this card out of a pack in 1995.

Why is this so special? Kerry Collins was a Quarterback in the NFL for 16 seasons, playing for the Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Titans, and Indianapolis Colts.

While he is unlikely to be ever by elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he would be an ideal candidate for a Pro Football Hall of a Good Career. Collins was a two-time Pro Bowl selection (1996, 2008) and led his team to the playoffs four times (1996, 2000, 2002, 2008), highlighted by his Quarterbacking the New York Giants to an NFC Championship and the Super Bowl in 2000.

Collins was the first draft pick in the history of the Carolina Panthers franchise when he was selected fifth-overall out of Penn State, where he was an All-American and recipient of the Maxwell Award, Davey O'Brien Award, Sammy Baugh Award, and College Quarterback of the Year in 1994.

Kerry was very nice about signing after the scrimmage, especially considering that almost all of the fans at Bryant College were Patriots' fans.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2008 UD Football Heroes Jim Brown

Who is this? Legendary Cleveland Browns Running Back Jim Brown.
What is this? An autograph card from 2008 UD Football Heroes.
Where'd I get it? I got this card signed by Brown after a lecture that he gave at Williams College on October 29, 2009.
How much did it cost? I paid 1 dollar for the card.

Why is this so special? Jim Brown is arguably the best running back to ever play in the National Football League and his signature is probably the best autograph that I have in my collection.

When I heard that he was giving a lecture about "Social Justice" and his "Amer-I-Can" Program at Williams College, located just a few miles from my alma mater, the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, I decided that the opportunity to get his autograph was too good to let it slip by.

So, I bought this card for $1 with free shipping on eBay, got to the lecture hall about an hour-and-a-half before the program, and tried to find the best location to wait for Jim Brown. After failing to get his autograph before the show, I grabbed a seat towards the front of the auditorium, on the aisle near the stairs to the stage.

After the lecture and a question and answer session, Brown came down the stairs (just as I expected), and I asked him if he would sign my card. And he said no. But, after more people gathered, he began to (reluctantly) sign for some kids, then took my card, and signed his name.