Monday, January 10, 2022

Roadie Time


It's official. It's happening. And here's my schedule of games...

Friday July 22
AA Birmingham (CWS) @ Rocket City (LAA), 6:30 pm

Saturday July 23
AAA St. Paul (MIN) @ Indianapolis (PIT), 7 pm

Sunday July 24
AAA Columbus (CLE) @ Toledo (DET), 4 pm

Tuesday July 26
AA Harrisburg (WSH) at Akron (CLE), 12 pm

Wednesday July 27 through Sunday July 31
National Sports Collectors Convention, Atlantic City

Thursday July 28
DL Williamsport @ Trenton, 7 pm**

Friday July 29
Hi-A Jersey Shore (PHI) @ Wilmington (WSH), 6:30 pm

Saturday July 30
AtL Lancaster @ Staten Island, 6 pm**

Tuesday August 2
AA Erie (DET) @ Portland (BOS), 6 pm

Wednesday August 3
AAA Durham (TBR) @ Worcester (BOS), 12 pm
AA Richmond (SFG) @ New Hampshire (TOR), 7 pm

Thursday August 4
AAA Buffalo (TOR) @ Scranton-WB (NYY), 6:30 pm

Friday August 5
MLB Pittsburgh @ Baltimore, 7 pm

Saturday August 6
AA Bowie (BAL) @ Harrisburg (WSH), 6 pm

Sunday August 7
AAA Nashville (MIL) @ Norfolk (BAL), 4 pm

Tuesday August 9
AAA Jacksonville (MIA) @ Durham (TBR), 6:30 pm

Wednesday August 10
Hi-A Jersey Shore (PHI) @ Greensboro (PIT), 12 pm
Hi-A Bowling Green (TB) @ Winston-Salem (CWS), 7 pm

Thursday August 11
AA Montgomery (TBR) @ Chattanooga (CIN), 7:15 pm

Friday August 12
AA Northwest Arkansas (KCR) @ Arkansas (SEA), 7 pm

Saturday August 13
AA San Antonio (SDP) @ Frisco (TEX), 7 pm**

Anything with a double asterisk (**) is subject to change.

Draft League and Atlantic League may not be worth the time when I could spend it just relaxing in Atlantic City.

And I'll be seeing San Antonio in Frisco in May so I may not want to do it again when I can just spend Saturday arriving home and recovering.

There are three teams we'll see twice (Harrisburg, Jersey Shore, and Durham) and nine organizations where we won't see one of their teams at all. If you go across my whole life, after this trip I will have seen a minor league affiliate for every Major League team.

I don't know what all I will do on here related to it, but I do plan on doing video as much as possible at each stop.

17-20 games, 6000 miles on the road. I'm thinking 500 autographs is a pretty solid goal for it, not including what I purchase at the National-- just IP graphs. In 2018, I set a goal of 300 and got 343 across 12 games (and 574 including purchases). 500 is doable across this (that's 25 per game), especially if I do some custom 4x6 photos and grab team sets.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

A Return?

 Nah, just an announcement. Maybe next summer though.

So in 2018 you may remember I went on a roadtrip to the National when it was in Cleveland. And I've been planning on going to the 2022 show as well. Even though it was moved from Cleveland when it appeared the IX Center was closing (spoiler alert: it's not anymore!) and moved to Atlantic City, I'm still planning on repeating the trip with Arron, but a week longer this time.

Yes, it's officially on.

The affiliated minor league schedules have dropped, and here's what we're looking at potentially doing...

FRIDAY JULY 22: Birmingham Barons at Rocket City Trash Pandas
SATURDAY JULY 23: St. Louis Cardinals at Cincinnati Reds or St. Paul Saints at Indianapolis Indians
SUNDAY JULY 24: Columbus Clippers at Toledo Mud Hens or Erie Seawolves at Akron Rubber Ducks
MONDAY JULY 25: Off Day at Cedar Point
TUESDAY JULY 26: Reading Fightin' Phils at Erie Seawolves
THURSDAY JULY 28: National; indy league?
FRIDAY JULY 29: National; Jersey Shore Blue Claws at Wilmington Blue Rocks
SATURDAY JULY 30: National; indy league?
SUNDAY JULY 31: National; indy league?
MONDAY AUGUST 1: Off Day at Baseball Hall of Fame
TUESDAY AUGUST 2: Durham Bulls at Worcester Red Sox, Richmond Flying Squirrels at New Hampshire Fisher Cats, or Erie Seawolves at Portland Sea Dogs
WEDNESDAY AUGUST 3: Durham Bulls at Worcester Red Sox, Richmond Flying Squirrels at New Hampshire Fisher Cats, or Erie Seawolves at Portland Sea Dogs
THURSDAY AUGUST 4: totally depends on game times
FRIDAY AUGUST 5: Pittsburgh Pirates at Baltimore Orioles (IF Boog Powell is back in Baltimore)
SATURDAY AUGUST 6: totally depends on game times
SUNDAY AUGUST 7: totally depends on game times
MONDAY AUGUST 8: Off Day, hell if I know what we'll do!
TUESDAY AUGUST 9: totally depends on game times; likely Lynchburg Hillcats at Charleston River Dogs
WEDNESDAY AUGUST 10: totally depends on game times
THURSDAY AUGUST 11: totally depends on game times
FRIDAY AUGUST 12: Northwest Arkansas Naturals at Arkansas Travelers
SATURDAY AUGUST 13: San Antonio Missions at Frisco Roughriders

The days of the National could also see us hitting games in the independent Atlantic and/or Frontier Leagues, or the College Development League depending on what teams are at home. Teams nearby include Staten Island, Lancaster, Sussex County, New York Boulders, New Jersey Jackals, and Trenton.

We're trying to limit to only driving 300 miles a day at most. Five days in August are currently wide open with so many teams all lumped close together in the northeast and on down to the Carolinas. And even the Pirates-Orioles game is open to change. I have two cards I need Boog Powell to sign. If he's not going to be there, we'll check out something else. We may also be able to do a few two-a-days if afternoon games happen to pop up.

Lastly for anyone looking to follow along with what I've been getting signed lately, a few links...






Monday, April 19, 2021

In Memoriam: Chris from SASESportsSigs

Temporarily bringing this blog out of retirement to send out a RIP to a pillar of the hobby.

No one had heard from Chris over at SASESportsSigs for about two months, and his last Instagram post mentioned going to the ER with a fever and breathing troubles, followed by a positive Covid test. It wasn't like him to go that long with no info, so apparently someone reached out to him and got a response from his mother, informing that Chris died on February 23, 2021, only a week after his diagnosis.

For those who never saw his site (it's been linked here for a year), Chris was active in the online TTM community through his site and various forums for a good fifteen years, and had been a collector since at least the late 90s, maybe before.

The hobby has lost one of its best. I had it back in December, and it's not something I'd wish on anyone. I was lucky as I didn't land in the hospital and only have mild residual effects, but now this is the second person I know who has died from it.  So for those of you who aren't taking this virus seriously: why? When is enough enough?

Go get vaccinated. Seriously. And we'll see you soon at the ballpark, hopefully.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

October 2020: The series finale

There's a lot to unpack here. Let's start with the month's autographs.

Charlie Watts

Storm Davis
Steve Swisher

Craig McMurtry
Eric Plunk

Johnny O'Brien
Glenn Borgmann
Ed Johnston
Luis Pujols
Billy Dea
Kiko Garcia
Mike Nykoluk
Marty Pavelich

Tim Scott
Rene Lachemann
Don Marcotte
Ed Glynn

Bob Paradise

Scott Ruskin
Pat Rapp
David Newell
Len Matuszek

Steven Rice
Marv Foley
Lou Angotti
Matt Ravlich
Floyd Smith
IP: Toby Harrah at a card show in Arlington

Mark Miller
Jack Perconte

Brian Noonan
Dick Groat
Trever Miller
Spike Owen

Steve Comer
Frank Bolick

Tom Runnells

John D'Acquisto

Scott Servais
Damir Haramina
Felix Millan
Tom Hutton
Jack Brohamer
Mike Tyson

Mike Bielecki

Del Unser
Denny Lewallyn
Mike Sadek
Jim Tracy

Steve Renko

John O'Donoghue
Dave LaRoche

Wayne Gross (may be using a ghost-signer...)
Mark Kiefer

Barry Foote

Gary Roenicke

Something to Address
This week I stepped down from the Administrator position of the main Facebook group I was running. I was already planning to leave the position at the end of the year, but my timeline for it has moved up. My attorney has advised me not to comment further. The group has been left in highly-trusted hands and I believe Craig and Josh are more than capable as Administrators.

Among all of this, I spoke to a person regarding a known forger that I continuously try to flush out whenever his head pops up in the hobby. He expressed that the forger wants to go about making things right with the autograph community, but that constant exposure has left him unwilling and fearful of doing so. That seems to be a pretty flimsy excuse to me, but okay.

So look off to the right of the page: my lengthy warning about him is gone, leaving only links to other pages that warn about bad traders. It's been eight years, and even items on a credit report only last seven. If that's what's keeping him from stepping up and making amends, my contribution to that hurdle is now gone.

Your move, Mr. Miller. Here's your chance to do the right thing.

TGC: The Series Finale
Lastly, after seven and a half years of writing, nearly 250 posts, and over 67,000 views, I believe this will be the final post I make on this blog.  When I started it in 2013, I was excited to have a place to write every few days about my doings in the autograph world: the good/bad/ugly of in-person outings, TTM successes and failures, interview profiles of other collector friends, and really anything else that came to mind. I was about to return to a hobby I greatly enjoyed in a way that I hadn't been able to do since 2005 and I wanted to go all-in.

In that first year I was typically putting up multiple posts a week. For the last couple of years, it's been one a month. In 2015 and 2016 I was getting hundreds of reads per post within hours of posting. My latest one got 8 in six days. I'll be shocked if even fifty read this in a month. Print-only media is dying. Blogging isn't what it used to be, at least not on a larger platform without loads of links and non-text content. Microblogging, sub-300-character tweets, images, and videos have taken control, as we are first-hand witnesses to the phenomenon of our attention spans growing shorter but our lives growing longer. To quote my wife's favorite musician Kacey Musgraves, "Mary Mary quite contrary, we're so bored until we're buried." We as a culture have grown tired of any information that's larger than bite-sized and not entertaining enough. It's why the insultpolitik of Donald Trump & Co. is effective now after it spent decades failing: it's memorable, quick, to the point, and provokes immediate visceral reaction. Riding it to victory proves that the end justifies the means in American culture. Talking about the important things-- policies, plans, ideas-- at length gets boring and forgotten even though it's the meat of the future.

It's easier to have daily (or near-daily) updates elsewhere. So that's what I'm going to do.

Over the last few years especially while leading a Facebook group, I've had to endure doxxing, accusations of playing favorites, threats of litigation, use of my life and views outside the hobby as ammunition against me, threats of violence, and more "F you, Stalin" type of messages in my inbox than you can possibly imagine. I even had someone make ridiculous accusations of me showing up at his friend's job and getting him fired via a sexual assault claim-- either a case of recklessly mistaking my identity for someone else or an attempt at a completely fabricated hatchet job against me. It has gotten to a point where especially over the last two months I have had to ask myself numerous times if it is really worth waking up and wondering what sort of crap I'm going to end up taking from people. And all of this over a personal autograph collection!

I've hit a point where I feel like I can't make fair criticism and raise concerns without significant fear of overly-strong retribution. I'm even sitting here wondering who's going to take offense to this as I write it. Welcome to journalism in a post-Trump world.

Trying to put yourself out there to be a force for positive feels great until it turns on you. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Trying to constantly fight against me-first hobby negativity and unethical acts has led me to bordering upon paranoia about deciphering the meaning behind people's actions and words. I don't particularly enjoy that. I always joked I'd have a heart attack by 40 but this week has made me think it might not be a joke. The victories in this pro-hobbyist battle are largely Pyrrhic.

It's weird to call Twitter and YouTube positive places but in the autograph hobby they are so far. None of them have the cobwebs of a mostly-text blog. Disagreements I've had with people on YouTube have remained remarkably civil discussions of opinion; via Twitter I'm trying to avoid and unfollow accounts that are not 100% about the hobby; whereas the Facebook flareups I've seen and been involved in get out of hand quickly, and if I lay the hammer down from a position of authority I'm automatically the bad guy. Enough already! I've been banned from groups and accept that I probably deserved it when it happens. Many people I've dealt with while working with similar situations from the other side refuse to ever make that concession. The old "They hate us 'cause they ain't us" line is a load of crap: they probably hate you because you're an ass.

I've tried to be a positive in the autograph hobby. I want to keep out those who would do it harm, reduce the number of those who act solely with self in mind, and educate newcomers wherever possible. My favorite phrase is "The overall health of the hobby is more important than the size of your collection." And I truly believe that, for the size of your collection won't matter if the hobby is dead or at least unattainable for most.

And the number of positive comments I got from people about the effort I put in for so long following my decision to step down from the Facebook group is evidence to me that at least my intentions have been understood and appreciated. In fact, I have not had a single negative one put to me directly from it, and that means a lot in something that has largely been a thankless job for four years. You're never going to please everyone, so all you can really focus on are those who are important to you and those who appreciate your efforts.

If a hobby is getting to where it's not as fun for you anymore, you have to ask why you're trying to preserve it for others at such a cost to yourself. I already lost all enjoyment in my previous sports broadcasting career, something that has just now started to come back after leaving it for most of a decade. I haven't hit the point I did when I left it, but I want to stop any potential skid before it hits that crash point: I don't want to have my preferred avocation completely ruined for me too.

Every collecting world seems to hit a point of unsustainable growth. How many booms and busts can you name? You had the sports card boom of the 80s and early 90s where every product had cards and every town had multiple card shops, followed by its bust in the late 90s as overproduction brought about a diluted market; Beanie Babies had their boom in the late 90s that went bust just as fast; comic books, antiques, stamps, coins, toy fads... Even each of these areas has their own internal mini-booms and busts-- Kevin Maas, anyone? Cards are seeing a crazy boom again as well: how long will it last?

We're seeing a huge bubble happen in the autograph world in terms of participation. When I came down to DFW in 2013, Rangers games had a dedicated group of maybe 20-30 collectors at the average game. I knew most of them by name quickly and we helped each other out. The last game I was at, there had to have been over a hundred, and the only ones I recognized were a few I didn't like much. When I went to an Angels-Indians game in 2018, I didn't bother graphing and I'm glad I didn't: watching from a distance, the group was ten-deep all the way down the fence. The minor leagues are getting overrun by prospectors. People who had never TTMed before or hadn't in years are getting back into it during pandemic boredom. Players are getting swamped with mail to where many excellent free signers have stopped (Rick Reuschel) or are charging fees (Jerry Browne and Tom Brunansky), and many who already charged small fees are raising those (Bob Grich). While it has brought a few tough signers out of the woodwork (Harold Baines), is it worth the cost of losing so many others? A comment from a person helping to go through five years of Dave Stieb's mail mentioned that he has gotten numerous requests of 8 or more cards, some with lazily copied letters with another player's name crossed off and his written in, return envelopes with no postage (perhaps even no envelope at all), and even one person that requested a heap of both cards and index cards with specific inscriptions requested on each with no compensation-- and sent it twice. Billy Sample said he now tends to get an average of five requests a day whereas a decade ago, it was maybe five a week.

You may not care since you already got Reuschel, Browne, Brunansky, and Grich, or you're okay with paying for the latter trio, but what about a newcomer to to the hobby? What about a kid who loves baseball history but whose $10 a week allowance would take him almost a month to get Grich? They no longer have that ability. And someday you might end up in their shoes and miss out on someone who stops because it's gotten to be too voluminous, or whose fee is through the roof. This is why I think fighting to limit hobby greed is such an important enterprise. The hobby should be accessible to all who want to participate. Think before you act out of self-interest.

Unfortunately, there will always be those who care about the monetary profit more than the hobby enjoyment, and those types will be its downfall. Collectors who go in with profit in mind first tend to have a problem with self-control when it comes to milking their newfound cash cow, much to the hobby's detriment. It's the same with riding any other boom to (or past) its bust point.

Even non-monetary gains: do you really need 20 cards a year signed by Rick Reuschel, Frank Tanana, Danny Darwin, Charlie Hough, and Tom Foley? I've sent to Tanana twice in my life. I probably have another 50 cards of him sitting here. I have no desire or need to mail out even 1/10th of them. I gave four to a friend to mail off. If someone else wanted a few, I'd give to them too.

I know I'm not going to reach every collector with my reasoning, nor am I trying to be the autograph police, nor do I think I'm going to somehow spark a worldwide change (no matter how many times people try to strawman that those delusions of grandeur are somehow my goals). All I've ever wanted to do is whatever is within my grasp to help keep the hobby civilized and thriving. Think globally but act locally; be the change you want to see in the world; we not me; you know the cliches.

So, I'm scaling back. I'm focusing on my own collection and on continuing to practice those ethics myself. And that's going to mean less public involvement and leadership. If you get anything out of this (besides off my lawn), I hope it's heeding my request to exert self-control. Take those ten cards you want to send and pare it back to four.

Thanks for reading Texas Graphing Chronicles. As the great Hal Lebovitz used to sign off: "Stay well, and see you somewhere, I hope."

Friday, October 23, 2020

So... Atlantic City it is.

 The National officially announced that the 2022 show will be, as I suspected, in Atlantic City.

And thus begins the planning. On an even more positive note, I have a friend who may be able to hook us up with some amazing lodging as well.

So this actually works out well. Arron and I can expand our travel a bit and add New England to the itinerary. It's not out of the realm of possibility that we might drive up to Portland, ME and/or Manchester, NH for games in those cities before looping back down to New Jersey. That would also knock out two states I have yet to visit, and I could make it three if we drive through part of Vermont on our way to another spot like Hartford, Worcester, Syracuse, Binghamton, or Scranton-Wilkes Barre. Yeah, it's not direct but everything is close enough up there that it's certainly doable.

Yes, I plan to taunt them about how much better Ohio's maple syrup is. Vermont makes the most; Ohio makes the best. Don't @ me on this.

On the way up I can also knock out South Carolina with relative ease. Even if we can't go to a Charleston, Columbia, Myrtle Beach, Greenville, or Augusta game we likely will pass through it.

Midweek, we'll have Wilmington (1:40 drive time), Trenton (1:30), Jersey Shore BlueClaws (1:00), Philadelphia (1:00), Reading (2:00), and Lehigh Valley (2:00) as possibilities. Not quite as convenient as Cleveland's under-an-hour for the Indians, RubberDucks, and Captains, but still, we could handle this alright if a few of them play at home (preferably the first three).

Delmarva would be doable if they would just build something like the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel instead of making us take a ferry. Monday after, maybe?

So my goal of All 50 Before 50 will be even closer-- just lacking Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota in the following twelve years if we can hit all four aforementioned ones. And if we come back via the Midwest, I could knock out Nebraska with a game in Omaha, then Montana when my wife and I go to Yellowstone for a combination birthday/anniversary trip.

Here are the VIP free autograph signers for the last Atlantic City show in 2016: Ron Blomberg, Dave Cash, Von Hayes, Jim Lonborg, Greg Luzinski, Gary Matthews, Bake McBride, Kevin Mitchell, Don Money, John Montefusco, Bobby Shantz, Nate Archibald, Maxie Baughan, Bill Bergey, Seth Joyner, and Pete Retzlaff. Unfortunately, I only have a major need for a few of them (Blomberg 72 Topps, McBride 04 ATFF, Mitchell 90 DK) but I may be able to dig out a few photos on guys. Retzlaff died this year so he won't be on the list, clearly.

2020 was supposed to have Mickey Morandini, Tommy Greene, Everson Walls, and Joe Klecko (04 ATFF) to start with before its cancellation. So that gives something of an idea as to who we might see in 2022. I'll be hoping for some hockey, personally.

So, as plans come together in the next 21 months I'll keep posting on them here. Hopefully it'll be about this time next year that we start hammering down on teams' schedules-- and even their existences-- and start planning around where we can and can't go.

Other stuff: if you're on the Twitter, give me a follow @DFWGrapher. I'm shutting down my current account when it hits 10,000 tweets (hopefully that last one will come on November 4) and starting this new one up, dedicated solely to autograph content and things that don't make me want to dropkick things across a parking lot. I made the mistake of following a bunch of political shit on my regular account which can be great at times (like the three tweets I've made with over 100 likes, including one with 2000) but I'd like to just eliminate most of the infuriating stuff-- which I think will be easiest to do just by starting over again.

Lastly, bad news: the Texas Air Hogs are no more, announcing today that they are terminating operations immediately. A shame, because it was close by, had cheap tickets, and had opportunities for autographs from some former MLB players and prospects, some of whom have even returned to the majors (Tyler Matzek and Brett Eibner, anyone?). It's a nice ballpark, and I'm hoping someone will move in there. The American Association said they anticipate further 2021 Texas expansion; if so, I wonder if someone will buy the franchise's entry and bring back a team in the near future.

Then again, I've hoped for the same with the Fort Worth Cats and LaGrave Field, and that's clearly not happening.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

August and September Mail

It feels weird to say September was slow, but compared to July and August, it was. August set me a new personal record for most autographs obtained TTM at 235 cards signed. July/August combined to a two-month record of 459, and July/August/September combined to a three-month record of 619.  I also had 38 sigs on 8/31 (record) in 9 successes (tied a record).  And lastly, I have surpassed a new record for most TTM-signed cards in a year (1067).

Anyways, I'll try to do better with a single month updated at a time. Granted, I said that on SCF too, and even have fallen off on daily updates of the YouTube channel.

I have a lot to list here, so I'm keeping it shorter than usual: date, name, fees, and just for the hell of it if I got a set card signed or something. Any specific questions (where I sent, how many, how long, etc.), just leave a comment.

Rafael Palmeiro
Deron Quint - added two Russian cards

Charlie Frye
Yvon Labre
Rob Ray
Kelly Miller
Roy Smith
Dan Schatzeder

Calvin Schiraldi
Doug Simons
Rob Ramage
Pat Peake
Bob Kudelski

Bob Shirley

Vladimir Malakhov
Mike Smithson

Zane Smith

Mo Sanford

Shane Schwab - Pacific soccer set project

Chad Kelly

Tim Cheveldae

Ken Linseman
Allen Pedersen

Juan Guzman
Dave Mlicki
Bob Aspromonte - 1972 Topps

Joe Negri
Davey Johnson
Tim Thompson
Larry Stahl
Burke Waldron

George Fernandez - Pacific soccer set project
Roger Federer
Brian Rafalski
Ed Asner

Jose Canseco - Paid signing with Chris Rifon

Stan Bahnsen - 1972 Topps

Al Santorini - 1972 Topps
Chuck Brinkman - 1972 Topps

Billy Jo Robidoux

Derek Lilliquist
Tom Kurvers
Steve Shields
Jeff Nelson
Jimy Williams
Joe Sambito

Phil Coyne
Billy Demars
Eddie Taubensee

Oddibe McDowell
Ron Brand - 1972 Topps
Kevin Mench

Garry Howatt
Doug Lidster
Mike Lalor

Charlie Puleo
Steve Dunning - 1972 Topps

Bill Virdon - 1972 Topps

Buzz Schneider
Jeff Johnson
Jeff Tackett
Dennis Rasmussen
Tom McCraw - 1972 Topps
Dyar Miller
Dave Roberts
Pete O'Brien
Joe Moeller

Justin Masterson
Gary Mielke
Frank Thomas

Craig Muni
Charlie Manuel
Gorman Thomas - Diamond Kings and ATFF

Frank Seminara

Scott Pellerin

Scott Ruffcorn
Scott Kamieniecki

Will Middlebrooks - 1972 Minis

Rich Monteleone

Scott McGregor

Bill Haselman
Brooks Robinson - 1972 Topps
Lee Norwood
Ron Pruitt
Johnny Grubb

Xavier Hernandez

Russ Springer
Joe Randa
Mark Eichhorn

Jamie Langenbrunner
Dennis Powell
Paul Mirabella
Bobby Morgan

Rejean Lemelin
Dane Iorg

Bill Campbell
Bill Stein

Doug Sisk
Warren Morris
Bill Long
Derek Plante

Tom Poti
Matt Laporta

Brad Marsh
Barry Bonnell

Rey Sanchez
Blas Minor
Dan Rather

Roger Mason

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

OH SHIT NO!!!!!!!!!!!

 Well. About that 2022 Cleveland roadtrip?

The notice...

...and my reaction.

So. There's that.

What's going to happen?

Atlantic City?


The new Huntington Cleveland Convention Center downtown?

A roadtrip will be happening in some way as long as there is baseball-- bank on that. We just don't yet know where it will be going. Or when exactly.

Smart money right now is either the Huntington Center in Cleveland to keep from having to make a huge change or Atlantic City to make up for the loss of this year's show. I'd set Baltimore third, and almost guarantee there's no other location. The last time the National was in a place other than Chicago, Cleveland, Atlantic City, or Baltimore was 2006 in Anaheim. Last one before that: 2000, also in Anaheim. And before that: the lowest-attended National of all-time, the 1999 Atlanta show.

To make the most of this on a baseball 'graphing perspective, I need it to stay east of the Mississippi, and honestly the further east the better. In Cleveland, that's potential access to the Indians, Pirates, Lake County, Akron, Toledo, Columbus, and Erie all within about two hours; plus Mahoning Valley if we want to try a short-season (we don't, and frankly they may not exist by 2022). Atlantic City gives us the Phillies, Mets, Yankees, Trenton, Lakewood, Lehigh Valley, and Wilmington, plus Staten Island and Brooklyn (meh; I hear Brooklyn's ballpark is nice at least). Baltimore gives us the Orioles, Nationals, Phillies, Trenton, Wilmington, Bowie, Frederick, Fredericksburg, Hagerstown, Delmarva, Harrisburg, and Reading, plus Aberdeen (short-season, blech). Anaheim would give us the Angels, Dodgers, Lancaster, Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino, and Lake Elsinore; but the teams in between here and there are FAR more limited than they would be going back east.

The National also has its hands a bit tied in terms of venues though. From speaking someone familiar with their selection procedures, they need 250K+ contiguous square feet of space, limited union restrictions on setup and takedown, willingness to book two-plus years ahead and not bump it off for something more lucrative, solid presence of hotels and/or public transportation nearby, and a major airport within a short distance. So for everyone asking "DOOD Y U NO PUT IN [insert city here]," that's probably why: they don't meet at least one part of these criteria.

So hopefully Huntington's 225K feet of space is enough and that they have an opening. If not, then it looks like our travel is going to shift to another city.

Well, damn.

I'll have an update on the TTMing soon. Been posting video of them all, but lazy about doing it here.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

2022 NSCC Roadtrip? Yes!

Is it too early to start talking about the 2022 National?

We don’t know where anything is going with COVID-19. The 2020 National has already been postponed once. Many are wondering if it will be outright canceled (apparently the Philly Non-Sports Card Show rescheduled for October has already been given the axe).  If it’s still on for December, I’m exploring the possibility of flying up for a couple days of it.  The plans right now are to hold it December 12-16 in Atlantic City-- that’s a Saturday through a Wednesday. If it’s still on, and if people actually do the right thing and mask up and distance themselves from now until then (haha yeah ok), and if we have a new president-elect who actually takes this seriously and has a plan to figure it out, then I may fly up late Friday to Newark, drive down to a hotel near AC, go to the show Saturday and Sunday, maybe part of Monday, and fly out late Monday night.

If it gets canceled outright, do we see some movement with Atlantic City getting the 2021 or 2022 show, thus delaying the trip to 2023 or 2024?

(MID AUGUST EDIT: It got canceled. As of right now, no, they aren't pushing everything back a year. 2021 is still Chicago, so I'm hoping/assuming 2022 is still Cleveland).

Right now, the trip is still on for 2022. Arron and I have talked about extending the 2022 trip by a week if we can.

Another problem: field netting and minor league contraction. We’re still planning on getting crazy with the minor league ‘graphing if we can. But how are teams going to handle the ever-growing scourge of pole-to-plate-to-pole netting? Will they have a few open spots for ‘graphers? Will they do like the Rangers did at the old Ballpark with the over-the-dugout netting and have it at least partially raised until the National Anthem?

And what teams will be there in 2022? Will contraction even take place by then? I’ll be honest with an unpopular opinion: I LOVE the idea of minor league contraction. Baseball does not need three different levels of A-ball and a AAA level that is largely a storage spot for has-beens and won’t-bes. More and more players are making the jump from AA to the MLB level. Contracting the minor leagues will hopefully help to keep teams from wasting time, space, and money on the Zach Cones, Cody Buckels, and Royce Bolingers of the world and perhaps use the AAA level as something more than just a storage spot for veteran replacements for injured players.

Knock out 30 to 60 teams-- have each team get affiliated AAA, AA, High-A (now to be known as just plain A), and Rookie teams (formerly Low-A), with short-season development done via the GCL and AZL teams at Spring Training complexes. Low-A and Rookie ball are redundant when you have High-A and short-season A. Five levels are plenty. Right now we just don’t know who’s in and who’s out-- and don’t give me this crap, it’s not even remotely official and still changing. The contraction will likely be across all levels, which means some cities will need to change levels. There’s talk of demoting some AAA teams and adding others in from Sugar Land, St. Paul, and New Orleans, maybe moving Brooklyn and Bowling Green from A to AA, and more. It sucks for fans of the teams that are cut, but if the contracted teams are truly viable, independent leagues will take them in. Maybe you’ll even see an expansion of indy ball-- speaking of the Cones, Buckels, and Bolingers. Farm systems and affiliation killed the independent minor leagues that thrived from the dawn of baseball through WWII. Maybe this will help bring something of a renaissance for it.

Even if we go by that not-even-remotely-official list linked above, Binghamton, Erie, Lancaster, Frederick, Hagerstown, and all the short-season squads would fit fine into the Atlantic League. Perhaps the New York-Penn league continues its existence as an indy. Beloit, Burlington, and Clinton would fit into the American Association. Daytona and Florida could go to the Empire League to help out the Georgia and Puerto Rico teams to not be so isolated. Lexington, West Virginia, Jackson and Chattanooga could go to the Frontier League. The western Rookie teams could go to the Pacific or Pecos League, and the eastern ones could go to the Frontier, Empire, Atlantic, or the aforementioned newly independent New-York Penn League.

So maybe it’s a little early to start talking about a huge ‘graphing trip, but at the same time I’m seeing stuff from the 2014 National and 2018 National Road Trip coming up on my Facebook Memories and it’s making me antsy. So, let’s imagine that COVID-19 is under control by late 2021, the 2022 National remains in Cleveland,  and teams still make it possible to ‘graph pre- and postgame inside the ballpark. Let’s take a look at some plans…

For the 2018 trip, we left Texas the Saturday before the National started. For 2022, we’re looking at going a week earlier than that. The show is likely to run Wednesday, August 3rd through Sunday the 7th. So I’m thinking we’ll leave Friday, July 22. That way, we can leave maybe at like 6 or 7 pm, drive 3-5 hours, and just get a jump on everything so we don’t have a 10-hour first day the way we did in 2018. We likely will try to limit ourselves to 300 miles of driving per day; so 3-5 hours from here in DFW puts us in Shreveport or Monroe.

So Saturday July 23 would be our first game. If we hold tight to the 300-miles-per-day maximum, we’re pretty well limited from Shreveport-- the Mississippi Braves and the Memphis Redbirds are our only hopes.  From Monroe we would have those two, plus the Jackson Generals as options, and if we violate the 300-mile rule just a little bit, we could do Birmingham or Montgomery, perhaps the Rocket City Trash Pandas if we want to really push it.  I liked Birmingham, but it would also be nice to see another city.  My vote would be either Rocket City, Montgomery, or Mississippi.

Let’s say we push it to Rocket City for a Saturday game (450 miles... oof). Stay there for a night and on Sunday we have a lot of options. That’s why I like having the extra week-- we won’t have to hurry to Ohio and can stay south and east where teams are a lot closer together. Maybe we’ll even get lucky with some two-a-days with a 1 pm game in one city then a 7 pm in another one close by.  Probably not Sunday though: twelve teams all fall in that 300-mile zone but unless it’s some combo of Rome, Chattanooga, and Gwinnett, it’s not happening. But sometime during the weeks, it’s happening. I mean, we did it once in 2018 and had planned to do it twice.

Several teams are 120 miles or less apart from each other. I was going to list them all here, but it’s too many. Arron and I were able to do Cedar Rapids (noon AND ‘graphed postgame) and the Iowa Cubs (7 pm start time) both in one day and they’re 128 miles apart, so I figure that’s a good maximum target distance for any potential two-a-days.

Let’s see how many teams will be in our potential range. I’m skipping Short-Season A and Rookie ball since it’ll be tough to get cards of those guys; granted, some teams may get moved up following any contraction that may or may not happen, but we’ll tackle those once those decisions are made. I’d like to stay north of I-20, west of I-95, south of I-90 and east of I-35 for everything-- both the trip up and the return. I could go a little outside those (Michigan, looking at you with this one) but I wouldn’t want to stray too far. Realistically, we could hit some combination of these teams on the way up and during the show:

MLB: Atlanta, Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, NY Mets, NY Yankees, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh.
AAA: Memphis, Nashville, Gwinnett, Charlotte, Durham, Lehigh Valley, Scranton-Wilkes Barre, Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, Toledo, Columbus.
AA: Mississippi, Montgomery, Birmingham, Rocket City, Jackson, Chattanooga, Tennessee, Richmond, Bowie, Trenton, Reading, Harrisburg, Altoona, Binghamton, Erie, Akron
High-A: Fayetteville, Carolina, Winston-Salem, Lynchburg, Salem, Fredericksburg, Frederick, Wilmington
Low-A: Rome, Augusta, Columbia, Greenville, Asheville, Hickory, Kannapolis, Greensboro, Bowling Green, Lexington, West Virginia, Delmarva, Hagerstown, Lake County

On the return, possibilities include:
MLB: Detroit, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, St. Louis, Kansas City
AAA: Columbus, Toledo, Indianapolis, Louisville, Iowa, Omaha, Wichita, Oklahoma City
AA: Springfield, Northwest Arkansas, Tulsa
High-A: None
Low-A: Dayton, Lansing, Fort Wayne, South Bend, Kane County, Clinton, Peoria, Quad Cities, Burlington, Cedar Rapids

I’d like to try to avoid the non-Ohio ballparks we’ve already seen, but I’m not dead-set on that either. But still, if we can pass up on Birmingham, Lexington, West Virginia, Fort Wayne, Cedar Rapids, and Iowa, I’d like that. I know Arron wants to hit up Quad Cities if possible, and I’m definitely down for that: Chuck Grassley has apparently been told that Iowa, Cedar Rapids, and Quad Cities are all safe (Clinton and Burlington, not so much) after QC was on the original leaked list of possible cuts. Now, that list implied either Quad Cities or Beloit would be on the list, but with QC being declared safe and Beloit getting approval for a new stadium that should save them, who knows what’s going to happen.

Clearly a lot more will go into it than just plotting crap on a map depending on what teams are still around. Who’s at home on what days and at what time; who can we see on the road (gotta maximize the sheer number of teams we get to see-- there’s no sense in going to Bowie if we’ll see them in Akron, for example); what teams will have the most cards for my set needs (don’t forget, the 2021 Heritage sets will be in the 1972 design; I’d like to knock out as much as I can on those); what teams have players we’ll be likely to see in the near figure in Frisco (since we’ll see their AA squads we could eliminate the A-level affiliates of Texas, LA, Seattle, Kansas City, Oakland, San Diego, St. Louis, and Houston… or we could get them and use that as a time to grab team sets on them for future Frisco use); what ballpark giveaways will be going on. We’d also like to plan some rest days and some activities that don’t involve ‘graphing: maybe a day in Cooperstown, maybe a day out at Cedar Point, laundry time so we can lighten the clothing load, etc.

We learned  a lot about trying to construct the perfect baseball road trip in 2018; 2022 will be a good test for these things. Rest is good and sleep is important. We don’t need a cooler or even many snacks in the car because gas stations are a thing: only buy or bring what you will eat that day. I’m not going to practice the guitar and probably won’t need to do any busking so it can stay home (maybe the mandolin… maybe). Pack fewer clothes, get a roll of quarters, and spend a couple hours doing laundry each week. Stay in a hotel closer to the IX Center, even if it has to be in Parma: it’s not worth it to save $20 a night vs. trimming significant time off driving to and from five days of the show. Have small bills to buy VIP autograph tickets and carry extra cards to get signed; someone is always looking to dump a ticket or two and plenty of people need autographs of guys like Steve DeBerg and Andy Van Slyke to where you’ll have some great trade bait. 

Plenty of things we did worked out well. The small folding stool and water bottle are worth their weight in gold. Pay the extra money for the All-Access upgrade. My big folding map of the show was unnecessary but a notebook to jot down booth numbers is crucial. Buy important stuff early and frivolities late. Grab a minor league box the first day because you’ll undoubtedly pull cards of guys you need at games during the week and the way back. Ride the ferris wheel.

I’m mostly just thinking out loud here. Or on paper. Or really into electrons. So much is still up in the air for the 2022 National, but it’s never too early to start at least considering some ideas and options. But again, going back to my original question…

Is it too early to start talking about the 2022 National?

Yes. Yes it is. My apologies for this Shaggy Dog Story of a post.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Finishing Off July

May may have held the record for most items signed TTM for a bit, but that record has been shattered in July. Here's a list of new personal records now that we're through month #7...

Most TTM sigs in a single day: 37 (July 6, 2020)

Best single month of TTMs: 224 items signed

Best two-month period of TTMs: 374 items signed in June and July

Best three-month period of TTMs: 570 items signed from May through July

All of those come up well short of my all-time record of TOTAL autographs in those categories (131, 270, 528, and 767, respectively), but considering I can't do any IP graphing and even TTMs are starting to see some changes due to the volume of collectors looking for a new project, I feel like those are some nice numbers.

Speaking of new projects, I've been helping a friend who is using TTMs as a summer geography lesson for her kids.  She's started out with just Kansas City Royals (with successes from Mark Gubicza, Greg Gagne, Terry Leach, Kevin Koslofski, Jerry Don Gleaton, Jim Eisenreich, Rick Luecken, and Jeremy Guthrie all coming back in under two weeks so far) but plans to expand out to other teams soon.

Anyways, here's the rest of my month after the previous entry...

Mark Teahen, c/o Sorso Wine Room, 4/4, 2 months
John Gordon, c/o home, 1/1, 2 weeks
Damian Rhodes, c/o home, 4/4, 2 weeks
Wallace Johnson, c/o home, 4/4, 2 weeks
David Maley, c/o home, 4/5, 2 weeks (did not sign Fleer Throwbacks or explain why he won't sign it)
Bob Rodgers, c/o home, 6/6, 2 weeks

David Segui, c/o home, 4/4, 2 weeks

Keegan Thompson, c/o home, 3/3, 1 month

Rich Becker, c/o home, 4/4, 2 months (postmarked from FL)

Steve Smith, c/o home, 6/4, 3 weeks (wrote back a short note and signed protective index card)
Lenny Randle, c/o home, 1/1, 2 weeks

Steve Searcy, c/o home, 5/5, 1 week
Mike Peluso, c/o home, 5/5, 1 week

Charles Hudson, c/o home, 4/4, 1 month
Sergei Gonchar, c/o home, 6/6, 1 month (postmarked from TX)
Jose Cruz, c/o home, 2/2, 1 week (paid $3 each)
Scott Pearson, c/o home, 5/5, 1 week

Olaf Kolzig, c/o home, 4/4, 2 weeks
Rick Schu, c/o home, 5/5, 2 weeks

Dustin Hermanson, c/o home, 4/4, 6 weeks
Steve Trachsel, c/o home, 3/4, 1 month, returned one unsigned

Jim Slaton, c/o home, 5/5, 2 weeks
Rem Murray, c/o home, 4/4, 2 weeks
Jerry Reed, c/o home, 5/5, 2 weeks

Mark Kerlin, c/o home, 2/2, 1 month
Jeremy Sowers, c/o home, 4/4, 1 month
Don Robinson, c/o home, 4/4, 2 weeks
Marty McInnis, c/o home, 6/6, 2 weeks
Wayne Rosenthal, c/o home, 4/4, 2 weeks
Kevin Romine, c/o home, 6/6, 1 week

Clint Malarchuk, c/o home, 3/5, 2 weeks, kept 2 cards
Troy Loney, c/o home, 4/4, 2 weeks
Troy O'Leary, c/o home, 4/4, 1 week

Bryn Smith, c/o home, 4/4, 2 weeks
Rob Mackowiak, c/o home, 3/3, 2 weeks
Kevin Miller, c/o home, 6/6, 2 weeks

Ryne Sandberg, c/o home, 2/2, 6 weeks (paid $5 each)

Lastly, I forgot to mention I did a second appearance on the TTMCast podcast back in early June. Make sure you check it out (as well as all their other episodes)!

Saturday, July 11, 2020

June and first half of July update

If you've subscribed to my YouTube channel you've likely seen these already. But June was a month almost on par with May for quantity of success and July is shaping up to be similar.

My daily success streak ended at 25 days on June 9, but I did manage to set a few more personal records: most autographs obtained TTM in a day, second highest number of individual successes in a single day, second fastest response, most TTM autographs in a two-month span, and working on most in a three-month span.

I've mailed out a ton and have even more ready to go soon. I should likely break my record for most mailings in a single year as well: I sent 357 in 2017 and I'm at 226 this year. I should be close to 300 by the end of the month. I could potentially hit 400-700 this year if I keep this up.

Made a bunch of trades too, adding to several of my sets.

And, if the current pandemic is manageable by December, I'm considering a trip to the National-- just for a weekend and not the full five-ish days. I can fly here to Newark late on Friday for $200 roundtrip, drive two hours down to AC, and stay outside the city in like Millville or Vineland and go to the show Saturday, Sunday, and maybe even early Monday, flying out late Monday.  We'll see. Being close to Philly and NYC, perhaps the hockey content will be better than that of the Cleveland shows.

Anyways, the TTM recap...

Billy Sample, c/o home, 3/3, 2 weeks

Dan Pasqua, c/o home, 3/3, 3 weeks

Don Hood, c/o home, 4/2, 2 weeks, added two signed photos, personalized all
Keith Lockhart, c/o home, 4/4, 1 week

Jim Palmer, c/o home, 2/2, 1 month, $10 each fee
Steve Braun, c/o home, 2/1, 1 month, wrote note back, $4 fee
Dan Ford, c/o home, 4/4, 3 weeks
Dan Peltier, c/o home, 4/4, 1 week

Richie Scheinblum, c/o home, 2/2, 2 weeks
Bob Grich, c/o home, 1/1, 2 weeks, $5 fee

Don Aase, c/o home, 4/4, 1 month
Ricky Bones, c/o home, 3/4, 2 weeks, kept one card

Lee Guetterman, c/o home, 5/4, 1 month, added signed card

Willie Fraser, c/o home, 5/5, 2 weeks
Terry Leach, c/o home, 4/4, 2 weeks

Buck Showalter, c/o home, 3/3, 1 month

Kelly Holcomb, c/o home, 2/2, 2 months
Dave Goltz, c/o home, 3/3, 1 week

Mike Paxton, c/o home, 3/2, 2 months, signed protective index card
Bruce Gossett, c/o home, 2/2, 2 weeks

Ted Power, c/o home, 3/3, 1 month
Dave Lemonds, c/o home, 1/1, 2 weeks
Vance Law, c/o home, 6/6, 2 weeks

Buddy Groom, c/o home, 4/4, 5 days

Joe Morgan, c/o home, 4/3, 1 week, wrote note back
Art Howe, c/o home, 4/4, 1 week

Mario Marois, c/o home, 6/6, 6 weeks 

Jay Howell, c/o home, 4/4, 2 weeks

Bill Mueller, c/o home, 3/3, 2 months
Ed Hobaugh, c/o home, 3/2, 2 weeks, signed letter

Bob Bailor, c/o home, 4/4, 6 weeks
Pat Neshek, c/o home, 4/6, 2 weeks, kept two cards

Rich Amaral, c/o home, 5/5, 7 weeks
Dave Johnson, c/o home, 4/4, 2 weeks
Scott Terry, c/o home, 5/5, 1 week
Anthony Telford, c/o home, 4/4, 1 week

Don Gordon, c/o home, 5/4, 3 weeks, added signed card
Rick Kehoe, c/o home, 2/2, 1 week
Bob Tewksbury, c/o home, 5/5, 1 week
Jim Johnson, c/o home, 5/5, 1 week
Alexei Gusarov, c/o home, 6/6, 1 week

Vincent Damphousse, c/o work, 4/4, 2 months
Brad Jones, c/o home, 3/4, 2 weeks, returned one unsigned
Yuri Khmylev, c/o home, 5/5, 2 weeks

Kip Gross, c/o home, 4/4, 2 weeks
Tyler Stephenson, c/o home, 2/2, 2 weeks
Eddie Tucker, c/o home, 3/3, 2 weeks

Vida Blue, c/o home, 2/2, 1 month, $10 each fee
Chris Hammond, c/o home, 5/5, 3 weeks
Drew Henson, c/o home, 4/4, 3 weeks
Tim Stoddard, c/o home, 6/6, 2 weeks
Dimitri Khristich, c/o home, 6/6, 2 weeks
Mark Sweeney, c/o home, 4/4, 2 weeks
Phil Stephenson, c/o home, 6/6, 2 weeks
Jim Eisenreich, c/o home, 4/4, 2 weeks

Bubba Starling, c/o home, 2/2, 3 weeks

Jose Tabata, c/o home, 4/4, 3 weeks
Jamie Moyer, c/o home, 6/6, 1 week

Bob Weiss, c/o team, 3/5, a year and a half, kept two cards