Monday, January 15, 2018

CubsCon2018

Sign located outside the entrance to the hotel.
My parents sent an e-mail to my sister and I, back in the fall, proclaiming that our Christmas present was going to be tickets and a room for the Cubs Convention in 2018. I attended my first convention in 2016 with my sister, ten months before they won the World Series. This time around we were able to attend with our mutual friends, Jim & Theresa.

We all took off work last Friday and arrived early enough to get settled into our room and check out some of the exhibitors, the minor league team booths, and the memorabilia room.

I had a mental checklist of what would make this not just a great weekend, but a truly memorable one:
1. Get lots of autographs and have some cool conversations with the players
2. Win Cubs Bingo
3. See the World Series Trophy

Boom! And we can cross one thing off the list right away!
It only took fourteen months, but I finally got to see the trophy I once thought wasn't possible. <Sigh.> Great moment for yours truly.  Pictured in the background are one of the four glass cases of memorabilia on loan from Cooperstown. Ryne Sandberg, my guy as a young card collector, had items in three of the four cases... so, yeah... I was pretty happy!

Here's a few pictures from around the hotel and some of the things found in our Cubs drawstring bags we received upon check-in.
 The three day schedule is on the left and summary of events and their locations is on the right.

All of the above information can be found in the program for the weekend, but you would need to be wearing a pass on a lanyard around your next to gain access.


Here's a picture of Saturday's schedule from inside the program:
Plenty of talks to attend, but eyes were meant for the spreadsheet at the top: the schedule of autographs.

Other items in the drawstring bag were a calendar and a pull tab.
The front of the calendar looks just like the program and convention pass, so I thought I would show the back.

The pull-tab is kind of like a lottery ticket.
Everyone gets one pull tab good for an A-list autograph or ... drum roll, please!
$5 off a $50 purchase in the team store. Yeah, the above picture is my pull-tab. My sister and I both got the silly coupon last time, too. I've never had much luck when it comes to games of chance.

Though this year was a little different. I may have gotten the coupon, but Jim & Theresa pulled a opportunity for an Addison Russell autograph and my sister received Ian Happ. Theresa, very generously, gave hers to me. Within two hours later I was able to trade Addison Russell for my favorite current Cub. Winner-winner!

Jim kept Russell, but my sister was able to wheel-and-deal. She turned Happ into Javier Baez, and Baez into Derrek Lee. D-Lee, a super nice guy and tremendous first baseman, was her favorite Cub from the previous decade. We were all walking on cloud nine.

There weren't many opportunities for autographs on the first night, but Gary Pressy, the Cubs' organist, was playing in the lobby.
I hope Gary doesn't read my blog, this is not a very flattering photo of him. Sorry, Gary!
 Gary is a treat. He seems to know everyone and if not, he talks to you like you're old friends anyway. He was gracious enough to sign a card commemorating the night the lights went on at Wrigley Field back in 1988. (I stole this idea from Daniel.) For the record, that was Gary's second year playing organ music for the Cubs.
Notice the little musical note he places after his signature. How cool is that!?!

I also stopped by the Cubs Charities room and dropped some cash for an autograph from Andre Dawson.
It was more money ($30) than I've ever paid for an autograph, but it all goes to charity. Hard to argue with that, especially when you get to meet Andre and watch him take his time with what is arguably one of the cooler ballplayer signatures.

That Friday night the big event going down was the Opening Ceremony. The Cubs invited a ton of alumni and the whole thing was live streamed on Facebook through Comcast Sports Net. Lots of videos, highlights and music made this feel almost like a huge party.
The ballroom was as full of fans as the stage was of Cubs. It was great to be with so many fans in the middle of winter. What a rough winter it has been!

Saturday morning began my autograph chase. The program had a schedule laid out with information about who was signing at what time and on which stage.  But, I found the number of signs hanging in the hotel just as helpful:
Between my 2016 and 2018 trips I was able to get everybody's autograph on Stage C, except for Ray Burris. Next time, Ray!  The ticket on the right guarantees you an autograph for the signer during that time slot. All you have to do is walk up to the Wrigley Field usher at the beginning of line and say, "Please." They're supposed to be collected by the usher at the end of the line, but when you're talking Cub baseball with them they sometimes get distracted. So, I got to keep one as a souvenir. Small victories!

I attended a couple of scheduled talks last time around, but this year was all about the autograph hunt! Many of the players invited this time around would be new to my autograph collection and from the 80s and 90s, when I was a young Cub fan.

To the autos!  I've got these grouped by card age.  Up first is Bill Madlock and his 1975 SSPC card.
 Also included in the picture are Pete La Cock, Paul Reuschel, Larry Biitner and Tim Stoddard. These guys were all played before I was truly a Cub fan, but they were all super nice.

These guys I know much better. Dave Otto fills in for the Cubs as an announcer. Shawn Boskie doesn't look like he's aged at all since his playing days.
 I was going to have Brian McRae sign at the top of his card, but he put marker to cardboard before I could get a word out. Still looks sharp! Also pictured above are Dwight Smith, Doug Dascenzo and Terry Adams.

 Juan Pierre was signing with Matt Murton at the same table. He made me wait so he could explain to Murton and myself that this was a spring training photo. Murton asked, "How can you tell?" Pierre replied, "I only wore my socks down in the spring!" I love little stories like this.
 For the record, Bobby Howry is ripped. Big dude! Also pictured above are Jon Lieber, Mike Remlinger and Glendon Rusch.

 I think Matt Murton still holds the record for most hits in a season over in Japan. John Baker works in the front office for the Cubs after a short stint as a back-up catcher with the team. About every fifth person or so tried on his World Series ring. LOL  He was a real fan friendly guy.
I shook hands with only two baseball related individuals over the weekend. One was Koyie Hill. I complemented him on his playing career and held out my held... he shook it. I had to get a closer look at his hand, which was once severely mangled after a run-in with a table saw. They stitched him back up while he held a ball in his hand, because he had a career to think about! Crazy.  Also pictured above are Mike Fontenot, James Russell (a very funny guy) and Ryan Sweeney.

 I was able to get two of the newer Cubs. Eddie Butler was added last off-season and he doesn't have a Cubs card that I know of.
Randy Rosario was added this off-season. Something about my encounter with Rosario has me rooting for him. He was modest, soft-spoken, and took his time with his signature. 

 Mark Zagunis does not take his time with his signature. We can't all be Andre Dawson or Randy Rosario I guess! LOL

Remember earlier in the post when I mentioned being able to trade Theresa's Addison Russell ticket for my current favorite Cub?  Here's my A-List player autograph:
Willson Contreras plays with energy and truly enjoys the game of baseball. He also knows something about baseball cards. As soon as he got the shiny Bowman Platinum card from me he started rubbing where the signature would go. I mentioned to him I had already done the prep work with an eraser and he smiled. After signing, he was about to give me back the card and then he said, "Hold on. I haven't seen this one yet." He looked at the card, paused, and handed it back while saying, "That was a home run." I replied, "Thanks, Willson!"

Again, I love the personal interaction with the players. He didn't have to take the time like he did, but because he did he's further entrenched me into the Willson Contreras Fan Club. I now have my first autograph of Willson and a memorable experience to boot. I'm a happy Cub fan.

Saturday night was Cubs Bingo! My sister and I both struck out in 2016... but, we had two more people to increase our odds this time. Didn't matter, we each wore the collar. O-for-20 games. Ouch.
I hit five of the first seven numbers called and thought I had a real chance. On the eighth number somebody else won. Bummer. The winner of any given game gets a gift certificate to a local Chicago restaurant, an player autographed baseball, and a flag that has flown above historic Wrigley Field. Some day that will be me!

The last morning my sister and I got up early to secure our last autographs and on the way out of the hall she spotted 670AM's radio booth.

Wait, I didn't mention that we caught Ron Coomer during a commercial break the previous day and got the Cubs' radio color commentator to sign for us.
I was lamenting to my sister afterwards how I would never find Pat Hughes at the convention and would have to try get his autograph by TTM (through the mail).

Yeah, this happened:
The legendary Pat Hughes. Legendary.

Pat and Ron might as well be family. I listen to far many more games on the radio than I watch on television. Pat is as decorated an announcer as you'll find, and so very much deserved.

I bought a copy of the Cubs World Series CD, which he has narrated.
 He graciously signed it and made it out to me. What a way to end the Cubs Convention!

There were plenty of other fun experiences I could write about, but this has already gotten longer than I originally planned. Let's just say it's safe to say I enjoyed collecting THIRTY autographs, meeting players, seeing the WS trophy, sharing stories with fellow Cubs fans and hanging out with Jim, Theresa and my sister.

Thanks for the Christmas present, Mom and Dad!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

One for the WS Binder

I absolutely love my World Series binder. Anything I can get my hands on that will somehow slip into a page within a 3-ring binder gets shoved in there. Most of the items are of the 2.5" by 3.5" cardboard variety, but that's okay for this collector.

Matt, a true fan and author of Once a Cub, sent a surprise PWE my way.
This is the New Era promotion card and I never thought I would add one of these to my collection. Check out the gold numbers on the back of Kris Bryant's jersey. Those are the gold uniforms they wore in April of 2017 to celebrate their 2016 World Series Championship. I still get joy from typing those words together.

One card PWEs can be the best. Can't they? 

Easy to catalog and blog about. Check.
Nice gesture from a fellow blogger. Check.
Makes your day. Double-check.

Thanks, Matt!

Monday, January 8, 2018

The Favorites of 2017

About five weeks ago I challenged the card collecting portion of the blogosphere to a contest where they write a post unveiling their favorite card of 2017. Details of the contest can be found here. We went through the same exercise in 2016 and saw thirty-four blog posts in all. Last year the big winners were Topps Now and the Red Sox who each were selected five times. David Ortiz had his name called more than any player with three cards in all. What brand, team and player will come out on top in 2017?  

Read on to find out! 

To start things off, Tony Burbs, from Wrigley Roster Jenga, gives us a Top 10 Countdown, with the Sports Illustrated Ben Zobrist card coming in at #1. I love a good Top 10 Countdown!

 John’s Big League Baseball Blog’s favorite is the Justin Verlander SP variation from Stadium Club.

Everyone's choice for tastiest blog, Nachos Grande, pulled a Frank Thomas Archives Originals Certified Autograph card of Frank Thomas. Nice pull, Chris!

Gavin, from the always entertaining Baseball Card Breakdown, gives us our second Stadium Club entry: Billy Hamilton. Billy's so fast the camera couldn't keep up!

Paul, a fisherman and author of the newly named Scribbled Ink, gives a Ted Williams SP variation from Topps Update. What wonderful photo selection!

Rekindling the Cardboard Flame checks in with a superb Corey Kluber auto patch card from the Heritage High Series. Ketchupman36 pulled this from a retail hanger bought at Fred Meyer. Wow!

Matt, from Diamond Jesters, gives us our second SP variation from Stadium Club. I love that Hanley Ramirez is photobombing on this card. LOL

More Stadium Club from "the dean" of the baseball card collecting blogs, Greg. Most know him as Night Owl though and he chose this epic card of Tim Raines. 

Billy, the author of Cardboard History, gives us a sticker, but we'll count it! This "card" is from Panini's '17-'18 NBA set and is thought to be the first card highlighting the NBA's championship trophy.

Matt, the guy who may or may not be in a cardboard war with Wes, gives us our first Topps NOW card. Knowing Bob Walk the Plank, as we all do, it wasn't a surprise it was of a Pirate, but I was really pleased to find his card is of a former Peoria Chief also. Nice!

I really enjoy when we get something a little bit off the beaten path. Dave, the author of Japanese Baseball Cards, can usually be relied upon for such a card. 
This is card #18 of BBM's "Successful Achievement" box set, which highlights a sayonara home run from Tsubasa Aizawa, of the Hiroshima Toyo Carp, to defeat the Baystars. I love the reactions of his teammates!

KBO Collections checks in with a card celebrating one of the more memorable moments of Lee Seung-yeop's career: a 3-run homer in 2002 to tie game six of the Korean Championship Series.
What's even cooler is that this card was a promotional giveaway at a game he attended in September of this year. Awesome!


Rob, from 1988 Topps, gives us three cards in a row which depict a baseball player not in a MLB uniform. I wish one of the card companies would have made a World Baseball Classic set, but the closest thing we got in 2017 were some random players in Bowman and some highlights from Topps NOW. Rob's card is this sensational catch from Adam Jones for the USA team.
If you have a second, then I would highly suggest clicking on the link above and reading Rob's description of the catch. It's magnificent!

Jason, the proprietor of Hoarding Cardboard, brings us back to Major League Baseball with a pink Topps Chrome refractor of Buster Posey. 

This next card was mentioned in a handful of posts around the blogs as being under consideration for their favorite card of the year. Tom, from Angels in Order, selected it as his. 
This Andrelton Simmons card is one of those rare flagship photos that really makes you go, "Wow!"

Roy-Z, the author of plain gray swatch, chosen a beautiful PNC ballpark  and skyline shot from Stadium Club. Oh, yeah, Jameson Taillon is in the photo as well. 

Collecting Cutch, gives a relic card x6. Yes, six! Panini's National Treasures cards are magnificent. 
Oh, and it is a one-of-one and is autographed. Crazy!

Peter, from Baseball Every Night, has chosen Michael Taylor's inside-the-park grand slam Topps NOW card. 
Peter's sister was at the game and they were texting back an forth throughout the contest. I love those personal moments that tie us to cardboard. 

Bru, from Remember the Astromdome, traded me my favorite card of 2017 and in his post he gives a Top 5 Countdown with some honorable mentions. 
His #1 card is George Springer's Topps NOW catch from the ALCS. 

Kin, from I Feel Like A Collector Again, gives us an Upper Deck Parkhurst and a pack-pulled Alex DeBrincat card. Meow.

A Saskatchewan-born baseball player? That's enough of a reason for Rosenort, a Saskatchewanian (?) and author of Condition Sensitive, to choose this Andrew Albers card from Heritage as his favorite of 2017.

Angus, from Dawg Day Cards, picks a running back the Dawg Pound surely adored. 
The above card is a press proof Donruss red parallel of Cleveland legend back Jim Brown. Very nice!

The hot stove this winter has been about as cold as the weather outside of all the Shohei Otani noise early in December. Laurens, the author of Card Buzz, busted a Bowman Mega Box and found this card waiting for him inside. 
Otani's career is going to be a fun follow!

Another Cubs card! Woo-Hoo! Trevor, from Bump and Run, gives us the Cubs' parade card from the Topps flagship Postseason Celebrations insert set.  

Next up we have Matt, from the very active Sport Card Collectors blog, and his favorite is this In The Name Letter Relics Patch from Topps flagship product, which is a 1-of-1 card of Edwin Encarnacion's All-Star Game workout jersey.

Douglas, another one of our blogging brethren from up north and author of Sportscards From The Dollar Store, has chosen P.K. Subban's card from Upper Deck Series 1. It features a non-game emotional moment from Subban's return to Montreal. Very nice!

I believe with this card Wrigley Wax puts the Cubs out in front as the most common team within our list of favorites so far. Paul is the longest tenured Cubs baseball card blogger I know of, so it's no surprise he would choose a card to highlight the end of the longest championship drought in sports history.

Henry just started his blog this past August and I'm hopeful this post will bring more followers to his corner of the blogosphere: Cardboard Greats. He's averaged a little over twenty posts a month and has some interesting posts covering his top five Trammel & Morris cards, 1981 Scratch Offs and his favorite releases of 2017. Speaking of which, his favorite card of 2017 is another one from Stadium Club, Brooks Robinson. 
Look at all of that glorious orange!

I'm in my third day of writing this post, so forgive me if I'm wrong, but I think Chris, from The Collector, has given us our first female on cardboard. 
This card is from the MLB Network insert set which Topps placed in its flagship product. Heidi Watney. Nice. 

If you're a fan of Aaron Judge, then you need to hit up this post by The Lost Collector. AJ tossed in every Topps NOW card he's acquired, including his favorite card of 2017.

More Cubs! Matt, the author of Once A Cub, has found his writing mojo once more and offered up this Jose Quintana card from Topps Update.
Turns out Matt was at this game with his sons, which was Quintana's Cubs debut. Love the personal connection!

Dime Boxes are Nick's forte and he comes across more great cardboard in one card show than what I'll see in a calendar year. So, I was really pleased when he tossed his hat in the ring. His post gives a look at his Top 10 Countdown. You should take a look if you haven't already. 
I'm glad this SP variation of Sandy Koufax from Topps got some love. It's a beautiful photograph and could look better on vintage. 

Huh. We've come across our first duplicate... and since I'm listing these by the time stamps in the comments of the contest post I find it very peculiar it's the exact same Koufax card we just saw. Crazy. cards as i see them is gcrl's new-ish blog and this was also his favorite card of 2017:
I still want to know if that's a camera in the front row of the bleachers or if that's a person. Either way, it's a card so nice it was chosen twice!

I Love the Smell of Cardboard in the Morning. Great blog name. Tim found this SSP variation of Kris Bryant in a pack and then turned it into something even more phenomenal. 
You'll have to click on the above link to see for yourself!

Our next one comes From a 1980s Baseball Card Collector. DMA is another collector who also just started blogging back in August, and he has been posting nearly on a daily basis since then. According to the post, he only has 17 cards in his collection printed after 1994. Yep, I think he chose his blog name wisely! DMA has selected this Paul Goldschmidt Donruss card as his favorite of the year. 

The Chronicles of Fuji gives us an A&G mini framed auto of super-fan Krazy George. 
Krazy George, the self-proclaimed father of "The Wave",  is a Bay Area legend and one of Fuji's favorite memories from attending A's games in the early 1980's. More cardboard with personal connections!

Adam, from Infield Fly Rule, has chosen German Marquez' Topps NOW card. Adam, a Rockies fan, bought the card to commemorate the birth of his nephew. Again, another personal connection to card. Cool!


Dion's IP Autos only, gives an In Person autograph of his favorite Baltimore Raven, Justin Tucker, on a Panini Football card. I wouldn't expect anything less from Dion. Well done. 

SumoMenkoMan, the author of Japanese Sumo Wrestling Cards and Menko, treats us to a card from one of the best mini insert sets from A&G ever... The Dudes.  Behold, the Japanese Sumo Dude!
I don't know if there is another card out there which matches a blogger more perfectly.  

Greg, from The Collective Mind, gives us another variation. Variations seem to be all over the place on this list. This one is of Bryce Harper and is an SP variation from Topps' Opening Day.

Lastly, Judson, the author of My Cardboard Habit, gives us a mini framed autograph card of ESPN anchor Sage Steele. Wow!

And just for good measure, here's my favorite card of the year from Topps Fire one more time. 

How about a quick summary of the cards chosen this year? We had thirty-four entries last year (thirty-five if you count my card) and we topped that by seven this year. Well done, folks!
For the record, of the ten Flagship cards and Inserts, there were only three inserts and three regular base cards. Four of the ten cards were variations. Wow, it was a big year for variations!

Now, on to the contest portion of this post.

Three times through the randomizer and we have:
Congratulations to Night Owl and Roy-Z on your first and last place victories, respectively.  Greg, I'll send you a blaster of 2018 Topps Series 1 when retail reaches my area. Roy, you'll be rewarded for your hard earned last place finish, as well. Not sure what I'll send you yet, but something is better than nothing. Right?

Lastly, thank you to everyone who participated in this year's second annual Favorite Card Contest. I love having new blogging material to read and I also found a few new blogs to visit. It was a win-win for me as well!

Thanks again! We'll do it all again in December!