Sunday, December 23, 2012

Ara Parseghian, Neil Worden, Tom Clements, Tom Schoen, Dick Ambrose

I have been lucky recently in my returns and my Notre Dame run continues.  The first return I got was from the great Coach Parseghian.  I told in my last post about Nick Rassas and his gift of the book called Resurrection.  It was about Coach Parseghian's first season at Notre Dame.  He brought Notre Dame back to prominence and won two National Championships during his time there.  I am grateful to receive his autograph for my collection.

Neil Worden was another excellent Notre Dame player.  He was a fullback who helped lead the way for Heisman trophy winner Johnny Lattner.  He was on the No. 2 ranked team in 1953 as a senior.  His nickname was Bull.  He scored 29 touchdowns and left school as its third leading rusher. 

Tom Clements was the starting quarterback for the 1973 National Championship team for Notre Dame.  He was the MVP of the Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama.  Mr. Clement went on to a Hall of Fame career in the CFL.  He is now the offensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers.

Tom Schoen was a member of the 1966 National Championship team under Coach Parseghian.  He came to Notre Dame as a quarterback and would leave as an All-American safety.  He intercepted 7 touchdowns (2 returned for TDs) in the championship year.  He also was an excellent punt returner. 

The last return was from Dick Ambrose.  He was an excellent linebacker for the Cleveland Browns and played in the first game that I ever saw in person.  His nickname was Bam Bam.  After his career he became a judge. 

I am grateful for all of these returns and want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas!!!!!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Cade McNown, Bruce Armstrong, Jacob Tamme, Tim Biakabutuka, Neil Parry, Nick Rassas

I have had some fantastic returns this past week!! 

The first return was from Cade McNown.  I loved watching him play for the UCLA Bruins and rooted for him during his NFL career.  His junior and senior years were awesome.  He led the Bruins to identical 10-2 record and Top 10 finishes.  Over two seasons the Bruins won 20 straight games.  They were undefeated his senior year before the great game against Miami where they were ROBBED! LOL  The wide receiver's knee was down before he fumbled.  Where was instant replay when you needed it.  I would have loved to see them win the National Championship.  I rooted for Mr. McNown throughout his NFL and was sorry that it didn't work out better for him.  I asked him what his favorite memory was and it was the pursuit of perfection along with his teammates.  I asked if he could rewatch one game he played in, what would it be and he said the Miami game that I mentioned earlier.  I asked what was he most proud of outside of football and he said his family...including his football family.  I had him sign a football photo and the cover of a Playstation video game manual that I had saved purposely to try and have him sign it. 

The second return comes from one of the best offensive lineman in Patriots history-- Bruce Armstrong.  He had an incredible career with multiple awards and an awesome stretch of games started in a row, especially for a lineman.  He ranks right with John Hannah as the best Pats linemen.  Even after he was hurt and missed a chunk of time, he came back and was as good as ever.  He signed a Patriots helmet photo for me.

Jacob Tamme is an excellent tight end for Peyton Manning-both with the Colts and now with the Broncos.  I became a fan of his while he was at the University of Kentucky.  That offense was so fun to watch with him, Keenan Burton, Stevie Johnson, and Dicky Lyons Jr.  They seemed to be on the cusp of being an excellent team but they couldn't quite get over that hump that separates a very good team and a great team.  Mr. Tamme is an excellent blocker and has great hands.  He signed a football photo for me.

Tim Biakabutuka was a star at Michigan and had some great seasons with the Carolina Panthers.  I remember watching him with Tyrone Wheatley at the University of Michigan.  Talk about a talented backfield.  He had an unbelievable career at Michigan.  It was highlighted by his 300 yard performance against Ohio State (could that have happened in a bigger game) and setting the single season rushing mark.  If he could have stayed healthy in the NFL I think he would have been stellar.  He scored two 60 yard touchdown runs in the same game.  He signed a Carolina Panthers helmet photo for me. 

The next two returns were so awesome and the fact that they came the same night makes it even better.  The first return was from former San Jose State player Neil Parry.  Mr. Parry was hurt in a game and ended up having to have his foot amputated.  He never gave up and would return to the San Jose State football team two years later.  He played special teams with a prosthetic leg.  What an unbelievable example of the human spirit.  He is back at SJSU as a graduate assistant and when I saw that I knew I had to send a request to him.  He signed a football photo for me.  He answered my questions and said that he didn't think he was back until he made a tackle in the East West Shrine game.  I asked if he had any advice for my second graders and I loved his response so much I typed it out and made a poster of it to go above my whiteboard.  He said:
          Never Give Up!  Don't ever let anyone else tell you what can or can not be done.  If you want something, work for it and don't let anything stop you from accomplishing your goal.  There will always be setbacks and obstacles; it's how you deal with them and move on that makes you who you are or who you want to be.

The final return was probably the most fantastic and one of my best ever.  I have been working on a Notre Dame project since earlier this year and I wrote to Nick Rassas.  He was a player for the Irish in the 1960s.  He was an excellent defensive back and punt returner who would play for the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL.  He was an All American in his final season after starting his career as a walk-on.  He was drafted by both the Falcons in the NFL and the Chargers in the AFL.  I asked what his favorite memory and he said tons of them including asking Ara Parseghian for a scholarship.  I asked why he chose the Falcons (inaugral season) over the Chargers and he said money and the AFL was just starting and that he wanted to play for Green Bay (didn't happen).  I asked what he was most proud of outside of football and he said his 4 college degrees and his last job was as Senior VP of U.B.S. (swiss bank that is the 2nd largest in the world).  He signed a Notre Dame helmet photo for me.  This return would have been great by itself but what else was in the envelope made it unbelievable!  He sent along a copy of the book Resurrection written by Jim Dent and signed it to me.  He said: Thank you for including me in your collection.  Thought you might enjoy a good Notre Dame football story.  Best wishes, Nick Rassas #27 The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame and the Atlanta Falcons.  The book is about the 1964 season- Ara Parseghian's first with Notre Dame.  The previous season the Irish went 2-7.  It is a GREAT book and I loved it. It was awesome to read the back story of some of the players and what they had to go through before getting to have this great season.  I started reading it Sunday (read 20 chapters) and finished it on Monday!  This return will always be one of my favorites. 

It was such an enjoyable read that I have already sent to a couple of the players from it this week to hopefully be able to add them to my collection. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

William Floyd, Dallas Clark, Jim Fahnhorst, Keith Fahnhorst, Gene Mingo, Kirk Cousins, Ron Powlus, Gino Cappelletti

It has been awhile.  I was planning on updating this week with my last returns and then today I got a 4 return day!  It was a nice walk back from the mailbox.

I really was happy to get the return from William "Bar None" Floyd.  I became a big fan of his while he was at Florida State.  He looked like a monster in his Seminoles uniform.  I was lucky enough to get to watch him play a lot (on tv) while he was with the 49ers, living in the Bay Area.  He was a great fullback and I still remember a card that I had that was his jersey on one side and Moose Johnston's on the other to depict the top two fullbacks.  He had excellent hands out of the backfield.  I wish he could have stayed with the 49ers but he did well with the Panthers.  He signed a 49ers photo helmet for me.

I was lucky to get back a return from Dallas Clark, a great tight end that is extremely kind to collectors.  I remember watching him when he was playing at the University of Iowa.  He had a great career there and man did he do well with Peyton Manning and the Colts.  He had an amazing 2009 season where he caught 100 passes.  He went to Tampa Bay this season and it has started to look up for him and the Bucs. 

I had a very cool/coincidental thing happen to me this past week.  I grew up in the Bay Area and watched a lot of 49ers games.  I decided to write to both Keith and Jim Fahnhorst.  They played together on the 49ers and I thought it would be cool to get their autographs.  The coincidental thing is that I got their returns on the same exact day.  Keith was a fixture on the offensive line from 1977 to 1986.  He won two Super Bowls.  His favorite memory was "The Catch".  He said it was great fun to play with his brother on the 49ers.  The toughest player for him to block was Jack Youngblood.  His favorite part of the game was "kill the clock".  It meant that they were won.  He answered my character question-honesty.  Jim was a backup linebacker for the 49ers and won 3 Super Bowls.  He had his best season in 1986 when he was given the opportunity to start and had 4 interceptions.  He was surprised to hear that the USA Today had named him as one of the Top 55 players since 1953 at the University of Minnesota.  I am sending a copy of the page to him.  His favorite memory was Dec 11, 1988 where he played great against the Saints to lock up the division.  He said that it was great just having my brother in the same locker room.  His favorite non football memory is watching his children grow up. 

Gene Mingo was the first African American placekicker.  He twice led the league in scoring.  With the Denver Broncos he ran the ball, caught passes, and kicked.  He also played for the Oakland Raiders which is the helmet photo that I had him sign.  He has written a book that is available on Amazon. 

Kirk Cousins is an excellent young quaterback that is in a tough position (in my opinion).  I really enjoyed watching him play at Michigan State.  I thought he was a very good quarterback and I was looking forward to seeing who would draft him.  I was SHOCKED that the Redskins drafted him in the fourth round.  I feel bad for him that he is basically going to be stuck on the bench and used as trade bait in a year or two.  That is a tough situation.  I hope it works out for him like it did for Matt Schaub.  I will be rooting for him.  He said his favorite Michigan State memory was the Hail Mary game against Wisconsin.  His goals for the NFL is to become a starter and win.  The person that has helped him the most is his dad.  He answered my character question with integrity. 

The next return was from Ron Powlus.  I think he is a guy that was put into a tough position and handled it very well.  He was proclaimed to be a multiple Heisman trophy winner by Beano Cook before he ever played a game at Notre Dame.  That is tough.  He got better every year at Notre Dame.  I was hoping that he would get a chance in the NFL but it never happened.  He has become a very good coach.  He is a coach at the University of Kansas.  He thanked me for my letter which always makes me feel good.  His favorite memory is beating undefeated #5 ranked USC at home in 1995. He said it was a great day for the Irish.  Hopefully tomorrow will be another great day for the Irish!  I asked if he had any regrets about attending Notre Dame and he said no.  The best part of coaching for him is helping young people develop into better people on and off the field.  The person that had the biggest impact on him was Rocky Balboa :)  Love that response!  He answered my character question with character, confidence, and conviction.  I like it.

The final return was from one of the greatest Patriot players of all time---Gino Cappelletti.  He was an amazing player.  He played wide receiver and kicker for the Pats.  He is on every All-time Patriots team that ever existed.  He was a five time Pro Bowler and AFL MVP.  He led the AFL in scoring 5 times and one season ranks as the 11th most points in NFL history.  Outside of a bias against AFL and kickers I have to wonder why he hasn't earned a place in the Hall of Fame.  He signed a Patriots helmet photo for me.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Pat Fitzgerald, Don Blackmon, Steve Nelson, Milt Plum, Perry Williams

I have had some great returns recently.  I received a signed photo from Pat Fitzgerald who is the great coach of the Northwestern Wildcats and one of the best players I have ever seen play for the Wildcats.  I loved him and the 95 team and really enjoy rooting for Northwestern now.  He was an awesome linebacker who won many awards.  I feel very lucky to have gotten his autograph.  He also answered my questions- he said the 95 season was the best time of his life as an athlete.  He never wonders what would have happened if he hadn't been hurt for the Rose Bowl.  He says the best part of coaching is player development.  He will soon be Northwestern's all time wins leader.  He said that character is defined as who you are when no one is watching. 

Another return was from Don Blackmon.  He was an excellent linebacker for the New England Patriots and was part of their 1985 Super Bowl team.  He was named to the Patriots All 80s team.  He tied the NFL record for safeties in a season.  He could sack the quarterback as well as a sure tackler.  He said his favorite memory is being a career Patriot.  He said being named to the All 80s team was an unbelievable honor.  He spent time as a coach and his favorite part was strategizing.  He signed a photo for me.

The next return was from another awesome linebacker for the New England Patriots--Steve Nelson.  He started pretty much every game he played in.  He was a three time Pro Bowler and had a nose for the football.  He was also a member of the Pats 85 Super Bowl team.  He has been named to multiple Patriots all time teams and has had his number retired.  Unfortunately he didn't sign my photo (or maybe I forgot to send it LOL) but he was generous to answer my questions.  He said his favorite memory was winning the AFC championship versus the Dolphins.  His favorite part of playing for the Pats was the fans.  The toughest player for him to tackle was Earl Campbell.  He said never giving up was his most important character trait.

Milt Plum was a quarterback for the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions.  He performed well for both but his best years were probably with the Browns.  He had one of the best passer rating seasons EVER for a quarterback in 1960.  I mean ever ---in 1960 ---crazy.  He said the most important character trait was honesty.  He signed a Lions helmet photo for me. 

The final return was from Perry Williams, a cornerback for the New York Giants.  He played his entire career with the Giants and had 18 career interceptions with 4 seasons of 3 or more.  He was part of two Super Bowl winning teams.  His favorite memory was being drafted.  His second favorite memory was winning Super Bowl in 1986 with his third favorite memory is winning the Super Bowl over the Bills.  He signed a Giants helmet photo.

Photos to follow later.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Jamie Williams, Tim Krumrie, Darnell Autry, Nick Anderson, Kendall Gill, Thomas Randolph

I received two returns this week.  The first was from Jamie Williams.  Dr. Williams was a tight end for the Oilers, 49ers, and Raiders.  He started his career with the Oilers.  He was a very good player for the Oilers and was used the most of his career as a pass receiver.  He went to the 49ers and won a Super Bowl.  He has the distinction of catching a touchdown pass from 3 Hall of Famers- Moon, Montana, and Young.  That has to be pretty awesome.  His favorite Oilers memory was his first conversation with Earl Campbell.  His favorite 49ers memory was walking out for the start of the Super Bowl.  Dr. Williams went to the San Francisco Academy of Art and created an intercollegiate program.  Now he is back at his alma mater-Nebraska.  I asked him what it was like to be back at Nebraska and he said every day is one of nostalgia.  He answered my character question- "in my opinion, my ideal character trait that I would consider most important is being a team player."

The second return is from Tim Krumrie.  He was an outstanding defensive lineman for the Cincinnati Bengals.  He is best known for the leg injury he suffered in the Super Bowl versus the 49ers.  The amazing thing is that he was ready for the start of the next season and played for years with a rod in his leg.  He has been an excellent assistant coach after his retirement. 

I have sent off a request to Pat Fitzgerald and it made me harken back to the incredible 1995 Northwestern team.  I loved that team and what a story it was.  Northwestern, a long time dormat in the Big 10, goes to the Rose Bowl and ends the season in the top 10.  I loved watching Fitzgerald, Darnell Autry, and D'Wayne Bates.  I was lucky enough to get Darnell Autry a couple of years ago for my coffee table.  He was an excellent running back and finished high in the Heisman voting.

I recently watched the 30 for 30 special about the Chicago basketball player that was killed and one of my all time favorite players was in it--Nick Anderson.  I loved watching him starting with his time at the University of Illinois.  I still remember him hitting a turnaround half court jumper to beat Indiana in Bloomington.  I am a lifelong diehard UNC fan but there have been two teams that have broken into my all time favorites-the 1989 University of Illinois Fighting Illini (Anderson, Gill, Bardo, Battle, Hamilton, Liberty) and the 1990-91 UNLV Running Rebels (Johnson (of course), Augmon, Hunt, Anthony, Ackles, Butler, Scurry).  The 1989 Illini were awesome and if they had called the blatant push in the back that Sean Higgins did on Kenny Battle, the Illini would have won the title no doubt.  I have been lucky enough to get Anderson and Kendall Gill on boards and one day I hope to track down Kenny Battle.  He would be an awesome addition to my collection. 

I have enjoyed watching the success of the Kansas State Wildcats and I hope it continues.  It has made me remember the 1993 team that I enjoyed watching (Thomas Randolph, JJ Smith, Andre Coleman, Kevin Lockett, and Chad May).  I recently was able to get Thomas Randolph thanks to a member on  I am very thankful for that.  I want to get more players from that team (the 1st ever bowl victory for Kansas State) which is why I have just sent out a request to Andre Coleman.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Bill Kilmer, Larry Johnson jersey, pictures

I received a return from Bill Kilmer on a Redskins helmet photo.  Mr. Kilmer had an excellent career at UCLA and finished fifth in the Heisman voting in 1960.  He was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers and was used primarily as a running back.  He was involved in a car accident that made him miss the whole 1963 season.  He went to the New Orleans Saints and became a starting quarterback.  When he went to the Redskins and George Allen was when he had the most success.  He led the Redskins to the Super Bowl.  I asked him if it was tough to battle Sunny Jurgenson for the starting job and he said no.  I had read that the fans were kind of split between the two.  His favorite memory was beating the Cowboys.  He loved everywhere he played.

The second item I am going to mention I bought.  But it is extremely special to me.  I loved watching Larry Johnson play.  I became a fan of his when he was at UNLV and followed him throughout his career.  He was my favorite player.  I bought many of his shoes and started calling my grandma grandmama.  I did that for the rest of her life.  When I saw this autographed Charlotte Hornets jersey with the Grandmama inscription, I had to have it.  I bought it and as soon as it came it went onto my wall. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Luther Blue, Joe Bellino, Jon Condo, Harrison Smith

I have received a few more returns recently.

The first was from Luther Blue who was a receiver for the Detroit Lions when I was growing up.  His best season with the Lions was 1978 when he was a starting wide receiver.  He had 31 receptions for 350 yards.  I am surprised that he wasn't used more as a kick returner as he was an excellent one for the Iowa State Cyclones.  He had a great career for the Cyclones and was inducted into their Hall of Fame.

Joe Bellino was another return.  He was a Heisman Trophy winner for Navy.  He was an excellent all around football player as well as a great baseball player.  He served in the Navy/Naval Reserves for 28 years.  His favorite memory is watching his son score his first touchdown in a high school football game.  I asked him if he regretted choosing professional football over baseball and he said no, but he does think he could have been a pro baseball player.  His favorite part of playing with the Patriots was that some of his best friends today are his ex-Patriots teammates. 

Jon Condo of the Oakland Raiders signed my helmet photo.  He is the excellent long snapper for the Oakland Raiders and has been to the Pro Bowl.  I would not want that job.  You are on the spot every time that you step onto the field.  You saw the impact of his absence earlier this season when he was injured.  He answered my character question with hard work because it builds mental toughness.

The final return is from Harrison Smith.  He is a rookie for the Minnesota Vikings after an excellent career at Notre Dame.  He has stepped right in and is the starter at safety.  He actually returned an interception for a touchdown yesterday.  I hope he continues his success.  He said his favorite Notre Dame memory is beating USC in 2010.  I asked him about starting his first game and he said it was nerve racking but also fun.  The hardest part of the NFL so far for him is that everyone's very good every week.  He answered my character question with loyalty.

I will post pictures soon.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Jim Kleinsasser and picture updates

I also received another request back today from Jim Kleinsasser.  He was an excellent player for the Minnesota Vikings.  He came out of the University of North Dakota which shows that good players can be found anywhere.  He could do whatever was asked of him.  He was a great blocker who was used a lot on run plays but he also had great hands when given the opportunity.  It seemed like whenever there was a tough third down, he could be counted on.  I am very glad to add this autograph to my collection.  I love the players that will do whatever is asked without needing the recognition. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Doug Plank, Tim Harris, Chuck Foreman, Tootie Robbins, Gary Beban, Jordan Pacheco, Pat Neshek, Alex Karras

It has been a little while and the returns have piled up a little.  It is so great when you go to the mailbox and see your own handwriting. 

Doug Plank was my first return.  He was an excellent defensive back with the Chicago Bears.  He teamed up with Gary Fencik to form a hard hitting pair.  His number 46 was what Buddy Ryan named his defense after.  That is respect.  The hits he put on others really hurt him physically.  That is the sad part of the game.  He has done very well as a coach.  He answered my character question: everything is built on trust; trust is knowing that you believe, understand, can count on another to the right thing and be there when you need them.

Tim Harris was an excellent pass rusher who had double digit sacks three times including 19 in one season with the Packers.  He was part of the San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl Championship team. I remember his sack celebration.  I enjoyed watching him play for the 49ers.  He was someone you had to account for.  He said that honesty was the most important character trait.

Chuck Foreman was an excellent running back for the Minnesota Vikings.  He broke the 1,000 yard mark in three straight seasons and was a five time pro bowler.  He was more than just a runner, he had incredible hands.  He led the NFL in receptions (!!) in 1975.  How many times has that happened?  I love the fact that he was such a great all around back.  He went to multiple Super Bowls with the Vikings.  In addition to signing my picture, he signed my character question card, added a signed card, and a signed ticket from a Vikings game.  What a great return!

Tootie Robbins was an offensive lineman for the St. Louis and Phoenix Cardinals.  I watched Tootie Robbins play while I was a kid living in Belleville, Illinois.  I have the upmost respect for offensive lineman.  It is a tough position where you take a lot of grief.  He said his favorite memory is being drafted.  He prefered Phoenix to St. Louis.  He said Phoenix is real nice and clean, and he can wear shorts year round.  The toughest player to block was Reggie White.  His family had the biggest impact on him. 

Gary Beban was a Heisman Trophy winner at UCLA.  I really like UCLA football and it is an honor to his autograph in my collection.  He was an athlete and academic.  He had a huge game in a victory over USC and OJ Simpson.  It probably helped him to beat OJ for the Heisman.  He also led UCLA to an upset victory over #1 Michigan State in the Rose Bowl.  He also has been very successful after his retirement.

My final return is Jordan Pacheco.  I was able to see Jordan Pacheco play in the minor leagues so it has been really cool to see him in the majors with the Colorado Rockies.  I wish him all the best in his career.  His favorite memory is have his family name on the back of his major league jersey.  His favorite part of playing for the Nuts was his teammates.  His career goals are to be the best person and baseball player he can be.  He said that honesty is the most important character trait.

A few thoughts:
My prayers go out to Pat Neshek and his wife on the loss of their son.  I am a fan of his and the A's and it was tough to hear about their loss.  As someone who has lost two children, I can imagine a little of what they are going through. I wish them all the best.

I remember watching Alex Karras on Webster.  I liked him.  I was lucky enough to get his autograph last year.  I send my thoughts to his family.  RIP. 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Wade Boggs, Tony Greene, and Vagas Ferguson

I am going to update a couple of recent successes.

I was able to get HOFer Wade Boggs on a pocket pro Boston Red Sox helmet with a donation to the charity he supports.  It came out looking great and it is so awesome to add him to my collection.  Mr. Boggs was an incredible hitter and was one of the best in my era.  Tony Gwynn and Wade Boggs were the top skill hitters I watched.  People always talk about the great Ted Williams and his ability, I think Gwynn and Boggs were the Williams of my youth. 

Tony Greene is another Buffalo Bills player for my collection.  He spent his entire career with the Bills and was an excellent defensive back.  He had 37 interceptions in his career and twice intercepted 9 passes in a season.  He returned one interception 101 yards for a touchdown.  He answered my character question with being true to yourself and you can do anything you want if you just try.

Vagas Ferguson was a Notre Dame star.  He was an excellent running back for them and was part of the 1977 National Championship team.  He was also named to the All American after the 1979 season.  He twice surpassed the 1,000 yard mark.  He finished fifth in the Heisman voting in 1979.  I asked him his favorite memory and he said it was the people he met.  The best part of Notre Dame was developing life long friendships.  He loved being at Notre Dame because it was biblically based.  He said he has been blessed.  His answer to my character question was love!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Mark Kelso

The Bills are kind to me again.  I received a return today from Mark Kelso, an excellent player for the Bills.  Mark Kelso was drafted in the 10th round and turned into a starter.  I love it when they show that the draftniks don't know everything.  He had a nose for the football--30 career interceptions.  I am really surprised that he didn't make the Pro Bowl.  He was part of the great Super Bowl run by the Bills.  I don't care if they never won one--it is still totally unbelievable and will never be duplicated.  I want to get as many players from those teams as I can.  I get more impressed with them every year.  His favorite memory is all the friends that he made during his career.  He still lives in Buffalo- he said there are no better people in the world- philanthropic, kind, and loyal.  I asked if he believed that players should be required to wear the soft shell like he did- he said that he thinks the soft shell technology is the future of all the helmet industry in every sport and recreational activities that requires a helmet.  He answered my character question with integrity.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Derek Brown, Anthony Johnson, Cedric Jones, Jeff Wright, Henry Jones, Danny Hultzen

It has been has been a little while since I have updated this.  I had a slow week but when it came it came in a group.  I received 3 one day and 3 another day.  The first return was from Derek Brown. He was a tight end that went to school at Notre Dame.  I enjoyed rooting for him at Notre Dame.  He was a Freshman on the 1988 National Championship team.  The Irish finished in the Top Ten in three of his seasons there.  He was drafted in first round by the New York Giants.   He didn't have a great chance in his NFL career.  I enjoyed when he played for the Raiders but it was a tough season for the Raiders.  He said his favorite memory was winning the National Championship, being drafted, the 1996 season with the Jags, 1998 with the Raiders, 1994 Giants, and the Cards.  I asked him if he missed the game and he said yes and no :-).   He answered my character question- be a hard worker, regardless of your talent give your best effort, you can only control 2 things in life--your attitude and your effort. (What a great statement)

My second return was from another former Notre Dame player-Anthony Johnson.  He was another member of that 1988 National Championship team. He had an excellent career for the Irish.  He scored double digit touchdowns twice during his time with the Irish.  He was a great all around back and broke the 1,100 yard barrier for the Carolina Panthers.  He said his favorite memory was winning it all at Notre Dame.  The best part of playing at Notre Dame was the commaderie fo the guys.  He said that he was humbled by the fact that God allowed him to break the 1,000 yard mark.  He answered my character question- he believes that faith is the most important.

The third return was from Cedric Jones.  He played his entire career with the New England Patriots and was part of the 1985 Super Bowl team.  His best season was in 1989 when he had the opportunity to be a starter.  His favorite memory was beating the Dolphins in the AFC championship game in the Orange Bowl.  I asked if he keeps in touch with his ex-teammates and he said he does with Tippett, Grogan, and Stanley Morgan.  His father had the biggest impact on him- he set a great example on how to be a great man, a great father, and a great husband.  He answered my character question- integrity.

Two more returns I received were from ex-Buffalo Bills.  They were Henry Jones and Jeff Wright.  Both of these players were part of the great Bills teams that went to multiple Super Bowls.  Henry Jones was a great safety who played almost his entire career with the Bills.  Jeff Wright was an excellent defensive lineman.  I love those Bills teams and don't think they get enough credit. 

The last return was from Danny Hultzen, the young pitcher who I think is going to be a great pitcher for the Seattle Mariners.  He has pitched extremely well this year and I am looking forward to following his career.  I am hoping that he can help return the Mariners to respectability.  I know one pitcher can't do it alone but if they keep Hernandez and add Hultzen...... maybe they are starting something. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Lindon Crow, Marc Edwards, Randy Beverly, Joe Cunningham, Dave Parker, Mike Renfro

I am going to update some returns that I have received over the past week.  The first one was Lindon Crow.  Mr. Crow had an excellent career as a defensive back.  He started out with the Chicago Cardinals (that sounds so strange), went to the New York Giants, and finished with the LA Rams.  He led the league in interceptions with 11 and went to multiple Pro Bowls.  He played in the "Greatest Game Ever Played" which was his favorite memory.  His favorite place to play was Yankee Stadium.  He keeps in touch with some of his ex teammates but says that many have left us.  The person with the biggest impact on him was his high school coach.

My next return was from Marc Edwards.  I became a fan of his while he was playing at Notre Dame.  I loved that he played for the 49ers.  He was an excellent fullback, sadly a position that is being phased out.  He was an excellent blocker and had good hands coming out of the backfield.  He won the Super Bowl with the New England Patriots.  His favorite memory was the Super Bowl victory.  I asked him who he loved to block and he said no one, blocking was hard!!! I asked whether he enjoyed blocking or catching a pass more-he said either, if it led to a big play.  I asked him what it was like to play at Notre Dame and he said it was the best time of his life.  He included 4 extra signed cards.

Randy Beverly was another return.  He played on the Super Bowl winning New York Jets.  He had two interceptions in that Super Bowl.  It is surprising you don't hear more about him but Joe Namath kind of stole the show LOL :)  He went from being an undrafted rookie to starter for the Jets.  He played really well for them.  He included an extra signed photo which he inscribed with "Continue the good work".  This is one of the things I love about this hobby, you can learn about players that you might not have heard of otherwise.  You learn some great stuff.

Joe Cunningham was an excellent player for the St. Louis Cardinals.  He was a great hitter who had 8 straight seasons of double digit doubles and three times hit over 300.  He hit 2 home runs off Warren Spahn in his second career game.  I really admire the fact that he never struck out more than he walked which rarely happens in today's game.  His favorite memory was breaking into the majors and hitting 3 HRs and 9 RBIs in his first two games.  His favorite place to play was Sportsmen Park in St. Louis.  His father helped him most in his career. 

I also received a return from Mike Renfro.  He was a wide receiver for the Houston Oilers and the Dallas Cowboys.  He had a very good career and is probably known best for the non-TD that was actually a TD in the playoffs against the Steelers.  His best season was 1985 with the Dallas Cowboys where he caught 60 passes for 900 yards and scored 8 touchdowns.  He had a great college career at TCU.  His favorite Oilers memories are the playoff games against the San Diego Chargers and the Pittsburgh Steelers.  His favorite Cowboys memory was beating the rival Giants and Redskins.  I asked if playing for Coach Landry was hard and he said that if you respected your job and worked hard- he was great.  He said his dad had the biggest impact on him and that his dad played in the NFL.

The final return was actually from a private signing conducted on  It was Dave Parker.  Dave Parker was an awesome player who won the World Series with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Oakland A's.  I was very excited to get this Mother's Cookies A's card signed for my collection.  It came out looking great. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Charles Smith, Chris Hanburger, Dennis Smith, Joe Schmidt, Gary Reasons

My first return was from Charles Smith of the Philadelphia Eagles.  He played his entire career with the Eagles after playing his college ball at Grambling.  He caught one pass as a rookie but became a starter in his second season.  He was a starter for pretty much the rest of his career.  He had four seasons of at least 30 receptions and averaged 15 yards a catch.  He was an excellent complement to Harold Carmichael and was a member of the Eagles 1980 Super Bowl team.  He said that his favorite memory was the day that he made the team in 1974.  He said playing for Eddie Robinson was the greatest.  He became a coach after his career and his favorite part of coaching was seeing the success of his players.  His answer to my character question was honesty.

The second return was from Chris Hanburger.  I am a big UNC fan so this was a great return for me.  He was a great Tar Heel and had an incredible career with the Redskins.  He was a 9 time Pro Bowler, 4 time All Pro, and earned a spot in the Hall of Fame!  He was an excellent tackler and was nicknamed Hangman for it.  He also was good in coverage.  He had 19 ints and scored 5 tds (2 ints and 3 fumbles).  He played both ways in college and was a great center for the Tar Heels.  He said his favorite UNC memory was winning the Gator Bowl.  His favorite NFL memory was being selected to his first Pro Bowl team.  The toughest person for him to tackle was anyone bigger than him.  His father has had the biggest impact on him.  His answer to my character question was to always strive to be the best at whatever you do in life. 

The next return was from the excellent defensive back for the Denver Broncos-Dennis Smith.  He was a great player for the Broncos and has been put into their Ring of Honor.  It is too bad that he wasn't able to win a Super Bowl with the Broncos.  He deserved to.  He was a 6 time Pro Bowler and had 30 ints.  He played college ball at USC with Ronnie Lott and Joey Browner among others.  Mr. Smith is someone that I always remember.  He answered my character question with the answer of honesty. 

Joe Schmidt was a great player for the Detroit Lions and became their coach later on in his career.   He was successful as both a coach and player.  He was 8 time All Pro and went to the Pro Bowl 10 consecutive years.  He was elected to the Hall of Fame.  He had a definite nose for the football - 24 ints and 17 fumble recoveries (including 8 in one season).  He is truly one of the all time great Lions and has such a special place in the Lions history.  It is too bad that his coaching career kind of ended with a sour taste.  He answered my character question with the word honesty.

My final return was from Gary Reasons.  He was an excellent linebacker who was part of an incredible linebacking core- him, Lawrence Taylor, Carl Banks, and Harry Carson.  Mr. Reasons doesn't get the notoriety as the others but he played a big part.  His most famous play was actually on special teams- the fake punt against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Jimmy Orr, Gary Glick, Wayne Hawkins, John Settle

My first return was from Jimmy Orr.  He played for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Colts.  One of the things that made me want to write to him was that he has two out of the top ten all time yards per reception average.  The thing that I thought was cool was that he did it 10 years apart.  He definitely kept his speed/skills throughout his career.  Mr. Orr said that there were too many memories to pick a favorite.  He said that Night Train Lane was an awesome defensive back.  He says that he misses playing  but that he watches a lot of college and pro games and that he doesn't miss many.  He also answered my character question- he said honesty.

Gary Glick was an interesting player.  He was the first pick in the NFL draft out of Colorado A & M (now Colorado State).  It was a surprise to a lot of people.  He said he was surprised with going number 1 with all the great prospects that year.  He had a good career as a defensive and had 14 interceptions combined from the Steelers, Colts, Redskins, and Chargers (AFL champs).  He said his favorite memory is playing in the NFL - there were 12 teams with a 32 man roster and he played both ways (also a kicker for a couple of years).  He loved all the teams that he played on but he said the Baltimore Colts was the classiest.  He said that the people that had the biggest impact on him were Bob Davis (coach at Colorado A&M), Walt Ewbank (Colts), and Sid Gilliam (Chargers).  He answered my character question as well - treat others as you want them to treat you, respect their thoughts even if they might differ from yours.  Really love that final part.  Mr. Glick sent along two extra cards and two extra photos.  It was awesome!!!  (side note:  when I get a really cool return I will sometimes look to see if there are other items from that player that I can add to my collection.  So I looked up Gary Glick and was really disappointed to see that someone was selling three of the extras that he had sent to me.  That really makes me mad.  A player sends you free items and you put them on EBAY.  Look up Virgil Trucks and see how many of the free items that he sends are on EBAY.  Then collectors wonder why players start charging or stop signing. Sorry, off my soap box now.)

My next return was from Wayne Hawkins, a former Raider.  He was close friends and teammates with Tom Flores.  He was an original Raider.  He was part of the 1963 team that went from 1 win to 10 wins in Al Davis's first season as coach.  He went to 5 straight Pro Bowls and was named to the All AFL team.  He played in Super Bowl II.  He said his favorite memory was playing in the Super Bowl.  He said the toughest person to block was Ernie Ladd.  He said it is a great feeling to know that he was part of the building blocks to help make the Raiders the Raiders.  He answered my character question as well - honesty.

My final return was from John Settle.  He was a running back with the Atlanta Falcons and became the first undrafted free agent to rush for 1,000 yards. He said that was his favorite memory.  He made the Pro Bowl that season and said that it was a great honor to be rewarded and recognized by his peers.  He had an incredible college career at Appalachian State where they retired his number.  I was surprised that he would go undrafted after rushing for over 1,600 yards and scoring 20 touchdowns as a senior.  I don't care what conference you are in, those are great numbers.  He has had great success as a coach and I asked what he felt was the key to his success.  He said that it is hard work and honesty.  He tells the players what they need to hear and not what they want to hear.  The person that has helped him the most was his college coach Sparky Woods who wouldn't let him quit when he tought he wanted to.  He also answered my character question- honesty, always tell the truth and you will never have to defend your answers. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Ray Wersching and Jayson Langfels

I received two returns recently- Ray Wersching (San Francisco 49ers) and Jayson Langfels (Modesto Nuts).  Ray Wersching was the kicker for the 49ers for most of the 80s.  He was very good from less than 50 yards.  He was the hero of the 49ers first Super Bowl victory over the Cincinnati Bengals as he kicked 4 field goals.  I loved the fact that he would never look up until after the kick.  He would run in from the sideline and never look at the uprights.  He had to have some faith in his holder.  :)  He signed a photo of a 49ers helmet for me.

The second return was from Jayson Langfels who plays for the Modesto Nuts. I saw him play for the Nuts and he had a good game.  It was for my 40th so I thought I would try and get some autographs from players that played that night.  The Nuts are right in the thick of the pennant race and I hope they make the playoffs.  His goal is to make the big leagues.  He is from Kentucky so I of course asked about Kentucky basketball and he said he was a fan and was upset that he missed the celebration in Lexington.  I asked him what he liked about Modesto and he said very that Mexican food was his top choice.  He seems like a nice guy and I hope he reaches the majors when all is said and done. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Pete Banaszak, Steve Sylvester, Autry Denson

I received three more returns recently.  The first one was from Pete Banaszak who was an excellent player for the Raiders.  He played 13 years with the Raiders and played in two Super Bowls.  He scored two touchdowns in the Super Bowl victory over the Vikings.  He scored 52 regular season touchdowns.  He was an excellent short yardage back.  His favorite memory is winning Super Bowl XI- he called it the greatest!  I asked him what it was like to play in so many big/name games (holy roller, immaculate reception, Super Bowls) and he said it seems like a dream.  "You don't see games like that anymore!"  The person that had the biggest impact on him was George Blanda who he called the greatest competitor he ever had seen.  He signed a Raider helmet photo for me.

Steve Sylvester was an offensive lineman with the Oakland Raiders and was a starter for the Raiders when I saw my very first NFL game.  That season was the only season where he was a full time starter.  The Raiders had such a great offensive line back then that it was tough to break into.  He attended Notre Dame and was part of the 1973 National Championship team which he called his favorite Notre Dame memory.  His favorite Raiders memory was the Super Bowl victory over the Eagles.  The person that had the biggest impact on him was Gerry Faust, his high school coach.  I asked him if he missed the game and he said that he missed the guys/teammates.  

The last return was an awesome return from Autry Denson. In addition to signing my photo he wrote me a page long letter.  He was glad to know that people appreciated his love for the game and the hard work he put in.  I never understood why he didn't get a better chance in the NFL.  The man is the all time leading rusher in Notre Dame history!!  His favorite ND memories are breaking the rushing record and graduating from the best university in the world.  He thought that graduating was a great way to honor his mother.  I asked if he had any NFL regrets and he said no.  He is coaching at Bethune Cookman and I asked what his coaching goals are.  He said his main goal is to be a positive influence on his players.  He also feels that he will be a head coach at a major college or NFL team.  His response to my character question was a quote: character is what we do when no one else is watching plus reputation is what other think about us, Character is what God and the angels knows us to be.  

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Daryle Lamonica and pics of recent returns

Hello again,

The Raiders alumni continue to be very good to me.  Today I received the Mad Bomber back on a photo of a Raiders helmet.  I found it interesting that he chose to go to the AFL and the Buffalo Bills rather than go to the NFL and the Green Bay Packers.  He played well for the Bills but really had his best days with the Raiders.  He was named to 5 Pro Bowls and named Player of the Year.  He threw for over 3000 yards three times which was great back then. He twice led the AFL in touchdown passes thrown.  He also had an awesome win loss record with the Raiders.  In response to my character counts question, he wrote that honesty is the most important. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Odis McKinney

I received another Raider in the mail today.  It was Odis McKinney who played for the two Raiders Super Bowl winning teams in the 1980s.  He was a very good cornerback.  He also played for the New York Giants before the Raiders.  He was part of the Miracle at the Meadowlands.  He got his first NFL interception off of Ron Jaworski to "seal" the game or so everyone thought.  If you don't remember, the Giants fumbled trying to run out the clock and Herman Edwards picked it up and ran it back for the game winning touchdown.  I asked Mr. McKinney about how he felt at the end of the game and he said he went from being a hero to a zero.  What a crazy game.  He also said he preferred playing in Oakland than in Los Angeles.  He also loved playing against Kellen Winslow twice a year.  He signed a Raiders helmet photo with the Super Bowl years.

Andrew Walter and Dave Browning

I received two more returns yesterday-both from former Oakland Raiders.  I have spent most of my life living about 30 minutes from the Oakland Coliseum so I am a Raiders fan though they are not my number 1 favorite team--that will always be the Cowboys!

The first return was from Dave Browning.  He was with the Raiders for 5 years.  One of the reasons that I wrote to him was because he was a starter for the Raiders at my first in person NFL game.  It was December 9, 1979 against the Browns.  I am going to try and get autographs from players from that game.  I also wrote to him because he was part of the 1980 Raiders Super Bowl winning team.  I still remember watching that game.  It was exciting for my local team to be in it and win it.  He said a photo of a Raiders helmet for me.

The next return was from Andrew Walter.  I wrote to Andrew Walter for a couple of reasons.  First, I am a fellow ASU alum.  I just missed watching him play at ASU as I graduated right before he got there.  I thought he was an excellent quarterback for the Sun Devils.  I was excited that he was drafted by the Raiders.  I thought it would be a good fit for him but it just didn't work out.  He was thrown in during a bad season and didn't play up to his potential.  But the Raiders were not very good - they ended up with the number one pick.  Instead of giving Mr. Walter another chance, they drafted JaMarcus Russell and we all know how well that turned out.  I wish it would have turned out better for him but he seems to be in a good place.  He said that he just finished his MBA at ASU and is working in Arizona.  His favorite memory was in 2002, the victory at Oregon where they came back from 21 points down to win.  His favorite Raiders memory is throwing Randy Moss's 100th TD reception.  The person that has helped him the most is Jesus Christ.  He signed an ASU Topps Magic card and a Raiders card.

On a side note, a thing that always blows me away is when players will thank me for writing or for the kind things I said.  Here I am sending them unsolicitated mail and they are thanking me.  One of my favorite things in this hobby is when they answer my questions or write something back.  It makes the autograph even a little better.  I am always thankful for any response!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Character Counts

Our school district is doing a program called Character Counts.  I decided to include an index card in my requests and ask what character trait they thought was most important.  Then I turned their responses into a bulletin board.  I have been doing it for about a year.  I touched on this idea briefly in my earlier discussion about Shane Nelson and how his response affected my classroom.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Gerald McNeil, Akili Smith, and Adam Eaton

I am going to discuss a return that I got yesterday as well as one that I got back early in the baseball season.  The first return is from Gerald McNeil.  He went to Baylor University and then went to play in the USFL with the Houston Gamblers.  I loved watching the Houston Gamblers with their run and shoot offense.  Of course having one of the best QBs didn't hurt-Jim Kelly.  Mr. McNeil surpassed the 1000 yard receiving mark with the Gamblers.  When the USFL folded, he went to the Cleveland Browns.  He was an excellent return man and made the Pro Bowl.  I had him sign a 1987 Topps card and a picture that I found online.  I really love the picture-it is him returning a kick for a touchdown (was called back) in Cleveland and there is a police officer in the background that is jumping with his arms up.  It is awesome.  He signed both cards with his name and nickname (ice cube).  

The second return was from Akili Smith.  I got him through a private signing on I was born in Astoria, Oregon and as a kid I always thought I would attend the University of Oregon. I love the Ducks and really enjoyed watching Mr. Smith play there.  I rooted for him with the Bengals and was sad to see it not work out.  I don't think he necessarily got a great chance or a second chance (like some seem to always get) but what do I know. LOL  A few years ago I got an extra card from Dan Fouts that he signed.  It is a two sided card with Fouts on one side and Smith on the other.  I sent it in and it came out looking great.  

The last return was from Adam Eaton.  I am not talking about the former major league pitcher but the minor league (hopefully soon major leaguer) outfielder in the Diamondbacks organization.  I really like Adam Eaton and hope that he gets a real shot in the majors.  The only reason that he hasn't already been brought up (in my opinion) is that he is only 5 foot 8 inches.  He is hitting over 380 for the Reno Aces and has stolen a bunch of bases (over 30).  He was an all star last year in single A and this year in triple A.  He has been successful everywhere he has played.  I told him that he was in the perfect place this year because of his coach-Brett Butler.  If anyone can talk to him about the challenges and how to succeed as a smaller ballplayer it is Brett Butler.  One of the reasons I chose to write him was an interview I saw with him online.  He was talking about a bus ride home in the middle of the night and what happened when they came upon construction.  It was funny.  I also found a great picture of him online where he is acting silly in the dugout.  I loved the fact that he is enjoying himself while playing a game.  Mr. Eaton wrote me a note back where he said: He loved Missoula and that it was a great town and team.  His career goals are to be the best player/person that he can be.  The biggest influence on him are his dad and brother Dale.  He plays for them everyday.  
Everyone should root for him to be successful :)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Fair Hooker and Terrell Buckley

I decided to write my fellow ASU alum Fair Hooker to have him autograph an ASU collection card.  He signed it with a great clean signature.  Mr. Hooker was an excellent wide receiver for ASU.  He had 42 catches for over 660 yards in 1968 and six touchdowns.  He caught 25 passes for 322 yards in 1966.  You have to remember that ASU was not a big passing offense during this time.  In 1968 he amassed half of the passing yards.  He played in the NFL for the Cleveland Browns.  He had some good seasons for the Browns. He caught almost 30 passes or more in three straight seasons and had over 400 yards receiving in each of those seasons.

I also received a return from Terrell Buckley who I loved watching him first at Florida State and then in the NFL.  He was during that great run of cornerbacks that FSU.  In the NFL he had 3 or more interceptions in all but 2 of his seasons.  He returned 6 interceptions for touchdowns plus a punt return as a rookie.  When he intercepted a pass you thought that he might take it back.  I will always remember him with the Dolphins but I am sure that he loved going to the Patriots and winning the Super Bowl.  He signed a Florida State pocket pro for me.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Birthday Presents

On my birthday my wife was extremely generous to me.  I received a few autographed items from her plus a box of 1987 Fleer Baseball cards which I will use in my hobby.  One of the autographed items was a Washington Huskies mini helmet signed by Warren Moon with the inscription of Rose Bowl MVP.  I have always wanted to add an autographed piece from Mr. Moon.  I loved watching him play and he was an incredible quarterback.  I loved watching him in Houston and the run and shoot.  It is amazing to think that no one wanted him out of college because of the black quarterback stigma back then.  The helmet really looks great!!  Another item was an autographed 8x10 of Fred Jackson, the excellent running back for the Buffalo Bills.  I love Fred Jackson!  He is a great runner as well as receiver.  He was having such a great year last year before he got hurt.  I find it truly hard to believe that the Bills want to reduce his use so that they can use Spiller more.  No offense to C J Spiller but I think they are CRAZY!  I also got a tristar Dallas Cowboys hidden treasure photo.  The Cowboys are my favorite team so I was very excited about that.  I received Robert Newhouse which was very cool.  I remember watching him play while growing up.  Who can forget his touchdown pass in the Super Bowl victory over the Broncos.  I hope that he is still doing well after the stroke he had last year.   

I also received some money from family and used it to order some other items.  My first was from the Insider Deals from Tristar.  I bought the package that had 3 autographed 8x10s: Ray Guy (best punter I have ever seen!), Jim Otto (met him once when I was a boy and his hands were HUGE), and Ben Davidson (wanted to send to him before his passing but never did).  I have lived most of my life in the Bay Area so it was great to get this deal.  Ray Guy should be in the Hall of Fame and I can't believe that he isn't.  Hopefully this wrong will be one day righted.  I have wanted a photo of Jim Otto for while.  I had thought about buying an unsigned one and sending it to him with his fee.  I still may down the road.  The toll that his playing career took on his body is just amazing.  It definitely demonstrates the dark side of the NFL.  One of the things that I liked about Ben Davidson was that he was on two of my all time favorite shows: CHiPs and Dukes of Hazzard.  I hope he is in peace in heaven. 

The other money was spent at mainlineautographs and Claremont Shows and I will talk about those items when I receive them. 

More Recent returns

Hello again,
     Since we are having our carpets cleaned I have some free time so I figured I would update my recent returns. 
     The first one I will talk about is the great Virgil Trucks.  I have to first send my best wishes to Mr. Trucks as I have read that he took a fall and is in the hospital.  I received my items from him a couple of days prior this.  I really hope he is ok.  He truly seems like a really nice man and I am not saying that just because he signed for me.  I have sent to him before but I had to send to him again because I found this cool artwork greeting card of him.  It is on  It is an artist rendition of him on the mound and you can put whatever you want on the inside.  I put his name and major accomplishments.  He signed it on the inside.  I thought it was an unique item to get signed and included an extra copy for him.  I also had him sign a Ronnie Joyner bio-illustration.  Mr. Trucks wrote me a letter back and in it stated how much he enjoys peoples interest in his career.  I included a donation to his church. 
     Another return was from Bill Stein.  I remember watching him play for the Seattle Mariners and the Texas Rangers.  I always liked his baseball cards because in a lot of them he is smiling.  He just seemed to be a nice guy and that he enjoyed playing baseball.  One of the best is his 83 donruss where he is in the process of fielding a grounder (or it could have been posed) and he is smiling.  I asked him what his favorite memory is and he said playing against Willie Mays and Hank Aaron.  His favorite place to play was Fenway Park.  His former head coach at Southern Illinois Joe Lutz had the biggest impact on his career.  I also asked if he collected baseball cards growing up and he said that he did. 
     I also received a return from Jack Faszholz a former pitcher with the St. Louis Cardinals and Rochestor Red Wings.  I read about Mr. Faszholz on the blog baseball interactions.  He is a great story.  He had a great career in the minor leagues and due to the time period and circumstances never really got a great chance in the majors.  I think he would have had multiple chances if he played in today's game.  He set the record for all-time wins for the Red Wings.  The fact that I thought was so cool was that he struck out both Jimmie Foxx and Mickey Mantle.  There are probably not too many people who can say that.  Ultimately he had to make a choice between staying in baseball and pursuing his other passion-the church.  During his playing days he was also studying to become a minister.  He chose to leave baseball and work for the church.  He said that although his career was basically in the minor leagues-it's great to look back to competing with players who later ended up in the Hall of Fame.  He also played a season with his brother Gene and he said that it was the most enjoyable season of any he played.  They both had good seasons.  Brother Gene played every inning of every game in 154 game season.  He thinks his brothers numbers would have been better if he had been given some days off.  His favorite biblical passage is Ephesians 2:8-9:  "For by the grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of your own doing, IT IS THE GIFT OF GOD - not because of works lest any man should boast."  In addition to signing for me, he sent along copies of newspaper articles for the games he struck out Foxx and Mantle. 
      I turned 40 last week so I have started to do a collection of autographs of players from 1972.  I was looking for players that had done something on the day of my birth or during that year.  One player I sent to was Denis Menke.  (Side Note: one of my peeves with today's game is all the strikeouts!!) On my birthday he walked 4 times in a nine inning game and this was the second time he had done that in a month (no intentional walks in either game).  The high for the year was 5 and those were in extra inning games and included at least one intentional walk.  I thought that was cool and then I come to find out while researching his career that he was born the same day as me (July 21st).  He signed a custom photo for me.  Another player that I received was Bill Stoneman who threw a no hitter in 1972 (also had one earlier in his career).  He signed the same custom photo card for me.  Mr. Stoneman also was the general manager for the Angels and helped build the team that won the World Series over the San Francisco Giants. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Roland James, Ed Mayer, and Ed Mickelson

I received some other returns recently. I had sent two cards to Roland James which he returned signed. He was an excellent cornerback with the New England Patriots after an excellent career at the University of Tennessee. He was part of the Super Bowl team in 1985 that lost to the Chicago Bears. He said that going to the Super Bowl was his favorite memory and even though they didn't win, it taught him so much. I also asked him about the snow game against the Miami Dolphins where they plowed a clean spot for the winning field goal. He said it was a great win for the Pats and he believes that after the game Coach Shula said they would never come to New England that time of the season again. That is pretty funny. I asked him who had the greatest impact on his career and he said that it was his junior high football coach. He taught him so much about working through adversity and playing as a team. He still stays in contact with him. I love to hear things like that since I am a teacher and always hope that I have made a difference in my students' lives. The second return was from Ed Mickelson. I sent him a Ronnie Joyner bio-illustration. I really love these. He returned it signed as well as another photo. He sent me information about the book he wrote which I hope to purchase down the road. Mr. Mickelson got his first major league hit off of Warren Spahn (which he stated was his favorite memory). He was subbing for the great Stan Musial that day. Unfortunately he was blocked in St. Louis so he became kind of stuck in the minor leagues. He put up great numbers and if he would have played in today's era he would have had a lot more opportunities in the majors. A cool point of trivia is that he drove in the final run in St. Louis Browns history. I asked him about his time in Portland, Oregon in the minors. He said that he loved Portland and that it was a great town, great people, and great ballpark. He also said it was his favorite place to play. The last return I will talk about is Ed Mayer. I had read online how Mr. Mayer became a teacher after his baseball career so I knew that I needed to write him. He signed two photo customs (for a lack of a better term) and sent along a card and photo of his own. Mr. Mayer had very good numbers in his limited action. He sent along some information about his career and it was very cool reading. The HOFers he faced had a .210 batting average and all hitters he faced hit .209. He would have made a lot of money in today's game as a lefty reliever! He said that he is very happy-has a large family with five great-grandchildren, he and his wife travel a lot, and they are avid birders. He loved pitching in Wrigley Field-great fans, beautiful ballpark, interesting city. He said that Willie Mays is the best ballplayer that he ever saw. He could do everything. He said he was one of many pitchers that gave up a homer to Willie.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

two posts in one night :-)

Since I am on a roll I will talk about two more returns that I received recently. Both are for my Oakland A's coffee table project. They were Harold Baines and Ron Hassey. Harold Baines was a great addition to the A's and is one of the best DHs in the history of the game. Personally I would like to see him get Hall of Fame consideration. It was great to watch him in person and on tv. He was a superb hitter. I got him through a private signing on Ron Hassey was a catcher who became the personal catcher for Bob Welch and helped him win the Cy Young. Another note about him is that he caught two perfect games in his career- Len Barker and Dennis Martinez. That is pretty awesome. I sent to him in care of the New Orleans Zephyrs where he is the manager. These are great additions to my coffee table.

it's been over a year and not done very well : (

Hi again, I knew that I wouldn't be able to update this blog nightly but I thought that I would do better than what I have done. I was busy with my wife and two daughters, teaching, writing letters to expand my collection, and being lazy :). I have an idea about what I want to do going forward and we will see if I can do it LOL. I want to talk about what returns I have gotten as well as anything else I can think of. It will be similar I am sure to some of my favorite blogs like baseball by the letters, baseball interactions, baseball historian, etc. I love to read about players and their thoughts. There are so many great stories out there that I have never heard. I have been able to expand my collection with some great pieces because of the blogs mentioned above and My first return that I will discuss is my most recent: Roy Gleason. Some of you probably know his story but some may be like me and don't. He was a young hot prospect with the Los Angeles Dodgers and received his major league debut in September of 1963. He was primarily used as a pinch runner and did receive one at bat. He doubled and would come around and score. His future looked bright but then he was drafted and went over to fight in Vietnam. While over there he was injured and received the purple heart. He returned the US hoping to return to the major leagues but it just wasn't meant to be. He ended his major league career with a 1.000 batting average. He signed a photo of a baseball and included a signed picture of himself from 1963. He also answered my questions. He was heavily recruited by the Red Sox who sent out Ted Williams to woo him. He said that they hung out, hit in the batting cages, went to a bbq, and talked some more. He said Ted Williams wrote him letters when he was over in Vietnam and that he still cherishes those letters today. I also asked him what it was like to put on the Dodgers uniform and he said that he felt professional and proud and that he felt like he belonged. Thanks for reading and hopefully I will do better in the future.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Basketball returns

I loved watching the NBA growing up and really until the last few years.  It was a great game and I was able to witness a lot of great players.  I still love college basketball and recently I have gotten a couple of returns from some college greats (in my opinion at least).  The first was from Milt Wagner.  He was an excellent player for the University of Louisville and helped to lead them to the 1986 NCAA championship along with Never Nervous Pervis.  My two favorite Louisville players ever are Milt Wagner and Lancaster Gordon.  Milt Wagner won a title in high school, NCAA, and in the NBA.  Quite a feat!  He is now an assistant coach at Auburn.

My second return was from Quinn Buckner.  I loved watching Quinn Buckner.  He was an excellent guard and defender.  I always lean towards the guards.  Mr. Buckner was a member of the undefeated 1976 Indiana basketball team.  He also won an Olympic medal and an NBA championship.  I always remember him as a Boston Celtic though he had his best years with the Milwaukee Bucks. 

The final return was also from an ex-Indiana NCAA basketball champ-Keith Smart.  He of the famous last second shot in the 1987 victory over the Syracuse Orangemen.  I enjoyed watching him and Steve Alford play together.  I was surprised that he never really had a shot in the NBA.  He has had a good coaching career.  He was a longtime assistant to Don Nelson at Golden State and when he was given the head job last year I thought he did an excellent job!! I was not happy he was fired.  He went to the Sacramento Kings as an assistant coach but since has become the head coach.  I think he is doing well with a very young team but I am worried it will all be for not at the end of the season. 

Steve Garvey and Gil Coan

I received two great returns recently.  Steve Garvey returned my LA Dodgers pocket pro helmet signed and added his number and the inscription 1974 NL MVP.  I grew up rooting for Steve Garvey. He was a great first baseman and part of the famous Dodger infield-Garvey, Lopes, Russell, and Cey.  He was a player that went out there and played every day.  I was hoping that he would be the one to break Lou Gehrig's record.  (Actually I wanted him to tie him, never wanted to see anyone break it)  I tried to copy his compact swing but it never worked for me, probably because I wasn't very good :)  I hated to see him leave the Dodgers but was extremely happy to see him with the Padres and help them reach the World Series.  I was hoping that they would beat the Tigers.  I am so happy to get this return.

I never got to see Gil Coan play but I have learned things about him from the book When the Boys Came Home and through old Baseball Digests.  He is a very interesting story.  He had an offer to play ball but chose to work in a factory instead because he didn't want to leave the woman he loved.  After they were married and worried about his own safety in the factory, he signed with a minor league team.  He made his major league debut with the Washington Senators.  He ended up getting a fractured skull in a later season and came back to hit over .300.  He has a very nice signature and he answered my questions.  I had asked about his mother (there is a great picture of them in the book above) and he said extremely nice things about her.  I really enjoy learning about the players in the past because there are some great stories there. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Shane Nelson

I wanted to talk about another cool return that I received recently.  It was from Shane Nelson, former linebacker for the Buffalo Bills in the late 70s and early 80s.  He signed a pocket pro helmet for me and wrote me a 5 page letter in response to my questions and his playing days.  It was just incredible.  He also included 4 8x10s of his own.  One was of him talking the great Walter Payton and another one was sacking Bert Jones.  He also included his email and I have corresponded with him a couple of times.  I have used two of the things that he wrote in my classroom.  One of the sayings he wrote was focus, effort, and commitment leads to success. I loved that and put it up on my wall above the whiteboard and have my students repeat it probably once a day.  It really resounds with me because all three of those things are important.  The other thing he discussed was that in his family they celebrate effort and that trying your best is celebrated no matter the outcome.  I think that was important for my second graders to hear so it is also on my wall now.  If they give their best, I am happy.  We can work on what they are struggling with but if the effort isn't there, it makes it tougher. 

I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to get Shane Nelson's autograph and it is so funny how sending someone a letter asking for an autograph could change my classroom for what I believe is for the better.  Thank you Mr. Nelson.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Been awhile

I have been slacking a lot on this blog and hopefully I will do better.  I have received a lot of returns and I will update them as I can.  One of the coolest returns I have received recently is from Tommy Mason.  He was the number one pick of the Minnesota Vikings and was the very first player in Minnesota Vikings history. I thought that was so cool so I had to research him and send him a letter.  The coolest part of the return was that Tommy Mason called me.  I never put my phone number in my letters.  He looked up and found my phone number and called me.  He wanted to let me know that he had received my letter and item to be signed.  He also took the time to answer the questions that I had written and talk about my teaching career.  It was a truly special moment for me.  It is amazing what some of these former players will do for fans, even fans that never got to see them play.  This hobby is truly awesome. 

I have never gotten to talk to a former player before on the phone.  There was one other player who called me once but unfortunately I missed the phone call.  This is an interaction that I will always remember.