Thursday, December 10, 2015

If Only I Still Had a VCR

Today, while rummaging through my closet, looking for a certain VHS tape that I'm hoping to get signed this weekend, I found 13 Florida State League games from 1994-96 on VHS tapes.
Time Warner Cable in Clearwater, Florida, used to broadcast several Clearwater Phillies games throughout the season. I would record the games for myself, mainly because I thought it would be cool to go back and watch these years later. What I didn't factor in was that the VHS format would not last forever.

A lot of these games were announced by Ryan Burr, who would later work for FOX Sports, ESPN, and NBC Sports.
Photo courtesy of
I was amazed that he went on to have a successful broadcasting career. I don't think this guy could pronounce any player's name correctly. Sure, these are just Minor League games with a tiny viewing audience, and no one probably thought or cared to bother creating a pronunciation sheet, but to my brother and I, we'd get a kick out of the butchering of even the simplest of names.

Anyway, back to the tapes. When the cameras were at the stadium, I'd hear players talking about how they wished they could get a copy of the game. I'd approach them letting them know my VCR at home was recording it and that I'd bring a copy to the next home game. It was usually the starting pitchers that would ask for copies, but then everyday players wanted them, too, not only for themselves, but also for their families. I didn't mind doing it. I spent a lot on VHS tapes and never got compensated. The worst part was bringing a tape to the game only to find out that a player who wanted a tape was promoted. Now I had to pay postage to ship tapes to the AA stadium. I used to include a note letting them know that if they needed more copies, just to let me know, and then I'd end it with my name and my e-mail address, which I still remember, That address must've looked so foreign to people. E-mail and the Internet were still quite new back then. Sadly, no player ever e-mailed me back.

Most of these tapes are labelled with the starting pitchers for each game.
This particular game from June 30, 1995 between the Charlotte Rangers and Clearwater Phillies featured Pete Hartmann against Rich Hunter, making his FSL debut.
Unfortunately, I can't find any box scores for these games, but I did find a brief synopsis from the Tampa Bay Times web site.

The Phillies squandered a seven-run lead, but staved off a late rally by the Charlotte Rangers to win 9-7 Friday night at Jack Russell Stadium. Charlotte scored five runs in the last two innings, but reliever Bronson Heflin struck out Edwin Diaz with two on in the ninth to end the game. Santy Gallone hit his third home run and Robert Estalella his ninth in support of Rich Hunter (1-0), who scattered seven hits in five innings to win his FSL debut.

Sounds like it was an exciting game to watch. Four out of the five players mentioned in the article went on to play in the Majors.

There's a shop near my home that digitizes video tapes. They charge $25 for 2 hours of video. Assuming these games are 2 hours or under, it would still cost me over $250 for digital copies of these games. I'd love to do it, but that's just too much.
I'm not quite ready to throw these tapes away, but I know they'll end up degrading sooner or later.
For now, they'll be moved back to the storage bin and stuffed in a closet, forgotten again.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

My 9

The Junior Junkie is asking card collectors to post their 9 favorite cards.

When I started this hobby in 1984, my policy was always quantity over quality. While my friends wanted higher dollar cards found in Current Card Prices magazine (yes, I collected before Beckett became the standard), I was focused on amassing as many New York Mets cards as possible.

In later years of collecting, I became obsessed with getting baseball cards signed. I'm just as excited getting a Hall of Famer's signature on a card as I am about getting a Minor League manager whose playing career topped out at AA. They're all equally special to me.
Having said that, you may find my 9 kind of boring, yet, also unique. I decided to do something different with my nine cards. I based mine on defensive positions.
Photo courtesy of
One favorite card for each of the nine positions on a baseball diamond.
And now, an explanation for why I chose each of these cards.

P - Dwight Gooden (1986 Fleer) - In the 80's Gooden was one of the most dominant pitchers of that decade. It was a really cool concept for Fleer to show Gooden's pitching motion on one card. Plus, as a 12-year-old, this card became an instant favorite.
C - Steve Lake (1984 Topps) - This set was my first exposure to baseball cards. When I was 10-years-old and able to venture out with my friends to the nearby 7-11 convenience store, I discovered packs of baseball cards mixed in between the various candy bars for sale. I spent that summer making multiple trips to that store buying several packs. This particular card especially stood out to me. I loved that pose. I remember hanging the card on a bulletin board in my bedroom, I liked it that much. About 10 years later, I was lucky enough to meet Steve Lake while he was employed by the Philadelphia Phillies. It was truly a thrill to meet him and get this card signed.
1B - Pete Rose (1985 Donruss) - He wasn't yet the Hit King when this card came out, but he would become it that same year. A mere pit stop in Montreal for the 1984 season was long enough for Donruss to capture this card of Rose as an Expos player. Maybe it was because I was so used to seeing him in Red, as both a player for the Reds and Phillies, but this card just fascinated me, and still does.
2B - Jose Lind (1993 Upper Deck) - Upper Deck made collecting so much fun with their great photography. Getting this card signed was pretty cool. A nice faux-action shot set against a clear blue sky.
3B - Josh Donaldson (2014 Topps) - I'll be completely honest with you, last year at this time, I had no idea who Josh Donaldson was. I'm a Mets fan, I only watch Mets games. I don't watch baseball highlight shows or pay attention to other teams. After years away from the hobby, I started buying cards again in 2014. When I pulled this card from a pack, I was confused as to why the border wasn't white like all of the other cards in the packs I was opening. Anyway, last December, less than 2 weeks after he was traded to the Blue Jays, Josh participated in a whiffle ball tournament near my home. When I saw the list of participants, I thought I was going to be seeing the Pirates infielder, Josh Harrison. It wasn't until I was getting my cards ready that I had the 2 players confused. I thought to myself, "great, I get to get this ugly blue card signed by someone I never heard of."
Well, let's just say that I'm very familiar with Josh Donaldson now. You see, when I get an autograph of a player, I like to follow their career and see how they're doing. Josh ended up being the American League MVP. I also figured out why the border was different. I've learned a lot since then.
SS - Derek Jeter (1995 Upper Deck Minor League) - Since 1992, Derek had been on my radar. I was a subscriber to Baseball America and remember seeing his name pop up in various articles. I was so happy when he was finally sent to the Florida State League to play for the Tampa Yankees. Although his stay was brief that season, I was able to see him play live and get an autograph that same day.
LF - Michael Conforto (2014 Bowman Draft) - Much like Derek Jeter's stay in the FSL, Conforto's was equally as short when he played in the league this year for the St. Lucie Mets. I was paying close attention to his stats and just looking at the schedule, knowing that St. Lucie wouldn't be traveling to my proximity until the middle of May. I was sure that he'd be promoted by then. I remember reading a scout's opinion of him a month into the season, "why is he still in this league?" Lucky for me, he was still with St. Lucie when they visited the Dunedin Blue Jays. A few days later he was promoted to AA. Whew! What a year for this guy. He ends up bypassing AAA and earning himself his own position in left field for the Major League team.
CF - Richie Ashburn (1993 Ted Williams) - I really liked this set. The design was classy and it showcased some great players that I never had cards of. This was the first card that I ever got signed from this set. At the time, Richie had yet to inducted into the Hall of Fame. So, it was nice that he eventually was enshrined in Cooperstown, and it's not a bad first card to get signed. I've added 11 since then.
RF - Darryl Strawberry (1984 Donruss) - Probably my all-time favorite baseball card set. Of course, my favorite player is going to land a spot in my 9. This card was so expensive to me when I was a kid. I don't remember how I ever obtained it, but I'm sure I forked over many cards in trade to get it.

Well, there you have it, my favorite starting 9 baseball cards.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Luis Torrens: A Tribute to Zippy Zappy

Being a baseball card blogger, is it possible to rip open a pack of cards, pull a Luis Torrens card and not think of Zippy Zappy at Torren' Up Cards?

I had an even bigger experience today. At the final Florida Instructional League game, the Yankees visited Clearwater to play the Phillies. Before the game started, I noticed Luis Torrens just wandering around the concourse of Bright House Field. Here I am, foolishly waiting in the hot sun by the dugout awaiting the players/coaches, when I could've been in the shade awaiting them. I headed up the stairs and approached him. I was almost tempted to tell him that I read his biggest fan's blog, but I didn't know if he knew him as Zippy Zappy or not, so I just asked for an autograph and wished him luck, and kept the possibly awkward conversation to myself.
I've never been Zippy Zapped and I don't think he follows me or is even aware of this blog, so hopefully he'll discover this someday and know that a reader was thinking of him while getting a card signed.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Opening a Few Packs

I visited my local card shop today. I had e-mailed them last night with a list of singles that I was looking for. I promptly received an e-mail this morning letting me know that the cards would be ready for me. While I was there I decided to buy 2 packs of 2015 Topps Heritage Minor League cards, as well a pack of 2015 Panini Stars & Stripes. I had never bought any of these before, so these were all new to me.
The first pack I opened was the Stars & Stripes. I wasn't familiar with the first 4 cards in the pack, but that 4th card was autographed and numbered 76/299.

The remainder of the pack had some much more familiar names to me, including the potential National League Rookie of the Year, Kris Bryant.

Next up were the Heritage packs. They weren't all that eventful, so I'll just share the highlights. The first being the first card in the pack, Michael Conforto.
The only insert in the 2 packs was this blue parallel of Touki Toussaint.
I'm happy with what I got, and glad to be able to help keep a card shop in business.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Wonder Water to the Rescue

On Tuesday, the Daytona Tortugas posted on their Instagram account an image announcing a celebrity softball game to be played at their home stadium, Jackie Robinson Ballpark.
Seeing Rollie Fingers on there piqued my interest. I immediately e-mailed my brother to let him know about the game and he got back to me right away letting me know that he wanted to go.

On Saturday we'll be making the 155 mile trek from the west coast of Florida to the east coast.
I contacted the organizer of the game to find out who the "many more" are going to be. He was nice enough to e-mail me the full list of participants.

  • Rollie Fingers
  • Jim Leyritz
  • Darrell Evans
  • Tim Foli
  • Jon Warden
  • Mike Torrez
  • Oscar Gamble
  • Jeff Nelson
  • Roger Maris, Jr.
  • Andy McGaffigan
  • Butch Benton
  • Jim Perry
  • Mark Whiten

The bad thing about finding out about this game so late was that I have no time to order any cards of players I need cards of.

I'm lucky enough to live near a baseball card shop, but I would never suspect that I could find a card of Butch Benton there. On a whim, I checked to see if they had a Facebook page, and they did, which really shouldn't have come as a surprise, but their personal website listed on there was a Beckett Marketplace site. I checked it out and started typing names on the list. I was shocked that most of the players I needed were available with multiple cards to choose from. Thankfully, Wonder Water was still open, so I called them to see if I could come into the store to pick these cards up in person rather than ordering and having them shipped. I was told "yes, just bring your list."

With list in hand, I walked in today. Unfortunately, my list was a little long (I also was buying cards for my brother and his son), so I was told next time to just e-mail it to the store and they could have the cards already prepared for me. Made perfect sense and I will definitely do that next time, but he was nice enough to pull all the cards from my list and it only took about 10 minutes.

I was surprised that I didn't have a card of Jeff Nelson, so I bought this 2002 Fleer Tradition.
I also didn't have a card of the aforementioned Butch Benton. Knowing my brother didn't have one, I bought him one as well. I would have bought 3, but the store only had 2. Butch didn't have any official MLB cards, but I was able to get 2 of these Senior Professional Baseball Association cards. What store has SPBA cards in stock? I feel very fortunate.
I also picked up cards that I felt would look better with autographs than the cards I already had.
I'll be replacing these:

With these:

The 1984 Topps card of Oscar Gamble is nice, but I have never gotten a 1983 Fleer card signed, so I decided to go with that one.
I wanted to get the iconic 1976 Topps card.
Photo courtesy of
Sadly, it was not to be found on Wonder Water's site.

I'm very happy with the cards I bought and grateful for Wonder Water for helping me out.
I spent under $4 for 13 cards. I certainly would have spent much more than that had I ordered from Sportlots or COMC. From now on, Wonder Water will be the first place that I check when I need certain cards.

The only player they didn't have a card of was Jon Warden. He has a 1968 and 1969 Topps card and they both look nice.
Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of
I may just order one of those cards from another dealer and hope that I get to meet Mr. Warden at a future event.

If you're ever in the Tampa Bay area, be sure to visit Wonder Water. I first started going there in the early 90's. It only took me 20+ years to realize I could buy random commons from them.
They're also on Twitter@WonderWaterSpts.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Charlotte Stone Crabs, 2015 Florida State League Champions

The Tampa Bay Rays affiliate, Charlotte Stone Crabs, won the 2015 Florida State League championship tonight, defeating the Daytona Tortugas (Cincinnati Reds).

In a best of 5 series, Charlotte won the first two games on the road. The series then shifted to Port Charlotte, where Daytona pulled out a win in a must-win situation. However, in game 4, with Charlotte leading the series 2-1, it took 13 innings for Charlotte to come out victorious. With 1 out and the bases loaded, Stone Crabs second baseman, Kean Wong (brother of Kolten) walked on 4 pitches, forcing in the winning run.

Charlotte were a fun team to watch. I even got to see a no-hitter thrown by Buddy Borden. They had the best record in the first half of the Florida State League season, going 45-25, but after some key players were promoted to AA, they ended up with a terrible second half with a 24-41 record.

I did manage to get some great autographs from this team.
Manager, Michael Johns
Pitching Coach, Steve 'Doc' Watson

Willy Adames
Kean Wong

Buddy Borden
Taylor Guerrieri

Jake Bauers
I was even lucky enough to attend a game where 2 Tampa Bay Rays' roving coaches were a part of the field staff.

Chad Mottola
Skeeter Barnes

Congratulations, Stone Crabs on your 2015 FSL championship!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The End of the 2015 Florida State League Season...Well, for Me at Least

Last night I attended game 2 of the Florida State League North Division Championship between the Daytona Tortugas (Cincinnati Reds) and Clearwater Threshers (Philadelphia Phillies).
It's a best of 3 series, which Daytona was leading, as they shutout the Threshers at home in game 1 by a score of 3-0.
The series then shifted to Clearwater, playing at the ballpark which I frequent the most since I live closest to it.

I am far from being a Phillies fan, but I was hoping for their FSL team to advance, only so that I could see a championship series take place, but alas, it did not happen. Daytona won game 2, 2-1, thus ending the Threshers season, and mine as well.

Daytona will face the South Division Champion, Charlotte Stone Crabs (Tampa Bay Rays), in a best of 5 series for the Florida State League Championship.
Game 1 is tonight in Daytona.

It was a fun season for me. My first full season of regularly attending games since 1999.

I visited 6 different stadiums, saw some impressive looking prospects, got to see Major League players working their way back from injuries, and of course, got a whole bunch of autographed cards to add to my collection.

It all started when the Lakeland Flying Tigers visited Clearwater in early April. My first autograph of the season was Scott Fletcher, the Detroit Tigers Minor League field coordinator.
The final autograph of the season came from Clearwater Threshers pitcher, David Whitehead.
In between those 2, I amassed 140 autographed baseball cards and 2 8x10 photos.

The two 8x10's were of New York Mets who were both on rehab assignments, Vic Black and Dillon Gee. Sadly, both of these guys seemed to have been ostracized by their club.
At the time I didn't have cards of them, so I opted on the photos.
Vic Black
Dillon Gee
It was good to be back to watching the FSL on a regular basis and returning to a hobby that I enjoyed so much.

Best of luck to both the Daytona Tortugas and Charlotte Stone Crabs.

Only 7 more months until the start of the 2016 Florida State League season.

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