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.