Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ron Gardenhire - My Minnesota Twin of the Decade

No one person has done more for the Minnesota Twins this decade than Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire. In his 9 years as Twins manager, Gardenhire has guided the Twins to 5 division titles and only 1 losing season. More than that Ron Gardenhire has created a culture of winning and dignity within the Twins organization that is noticed by players, the media, and fans alike.

You only have to look at the rosters of the 2002, 2003, and 2004 division championship teams and then check out what happen to most those players after they left the Twins to see how much Ron Gardenhire got out of them. Ron Gardenhire sees things in players most people do not. Ron Gardenhire had the vision to see that a long time setup man – Eddie Guardado – could be a top level closer, and a failed closer – LaTroy Hawkins – could be an elite setup man. Ron Gardenhire saw in Joe Nathan the makings of an elite closer, and gave Nathan the chance when others thought he should not. When others called for Brad Radke’s departure, Gardenhire stuck with him and was rewarded. No one believed Jacquie Jones could succeed as a lead off leader, but Ron Gardenhire did.

Most people look at the 2006 division champs and see super-stars Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Johan Santana, and Joe Nathan. What they do not see is Ron Gardenhire had to manage a team whose starting pitching staff was Johan Santana, Boof Bosner, and whoever was healthy. Had Ron Gardenhire not trusted a mid-season call-up name Pat Neshek, the 06 team would not have had a setup man for Joe Nathan.

Gardenhire’s work in 2008 and 2009 is perhaps even more impressive as the Twins weathered the losses of Torii Hunter and Johan Santana and still contended often with patched work pitching and players at key positions who really should not have been there. Credit Ron Gardenhire for establishing culture that accepts nothing less than full effort and winning.

Gardenhire has his faults. His obsession with playing Nick Punto brothers me, so too does some of his pitching moves. However Gardenhire’s strengths far outweigh his weaknesses.

I have meet Ron Gardenhire twice in person; he always takes the time to talk people and make the feel at ease. He insisted his players treat Twins fans with dignity. Many Twins players are great at signing autographs through the mail. Player attendance at Twinsfest is always great, and players make many appearances around town, and do a lot of charity work. At these events the players almost without fail treat people well and don’t displaying any prima donna attitudes. This class attitude starts at the top with their manager.

Joe Mauer is the best player in baseball, and will go down in baseball and Minnesota sports history as an icon. Joe Mauer may well be the most loved Twin of all-time. Justin Morneau has re-introduced Twins fans to what having a power hitter on their team is like. Morneau was an MVP on the field and a good guy off it. Torii Hunter gave the Twins 7 strong seasons and helped lead the revival of Twins this decade. Hunter is also a class human being.

Johan Santana won 2 Cy Young Awards as a Twin, and was baseball’s best pitcher from 2004-2007. Joe Nathan may well have been the best closer in baseball the last 5 years. Former Twins General Manager Terry Ryan rebuilt the Twins into a winner this decade, and one cannot forget Judge Harry Crump whose ruling that the Twins had to honor their Metrodome lease saved the Twins from contradiction in 2002.

However, Ron Gardenhire had more an affect than any of these gentlemen. Great managers are rarely truly appreciated till they have left. Ron Gardenhire led the Minnesota Twins back into relevance, and back into the hearts of Twins fans anywhere. For that Ron Gardenhire is my Minnesota Twin of the decade.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Joe Mauer and Taylor Swift

Joe Mauer trots home with the 2009 AL MVP

Monday Joe Mauer became the 5th Minnesota Twins to win the American League MVP. November 11th Taylor Swift became the 29th person to win the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year Award. Mauer received 27 of 28 1st place votes and won universal praise from baseball followers of all varieties. Mauer was the first player in the American League since George Brett in 1980 to win what has been dubbed the “Modern Day Triple Crowd” (leading the league in batting average, on-base %, and slugging percentage). Mauer, who has won three batting titles, hit .365 this year while winning a gold glove playing the most important defensive position (catcher) in baseball. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who doubts Joe Mauer is deserving of the accolades he is receiving.

Taylor Swift has sold more albums than any other country artist this year. Her singles have major hits. Her concert tour was a huge success. She has helped usher country music into the digital age. It was Swift who was the first country artist to successfully use social media like MySpace, YouTube, and Facebook to bring her music directly to her fans, and hold an on-going conversation with them. In a changing music landscape, Taylor Swift has been out front of the rest of the country music world helping to keep country music relevant. Yet you will find many people who think Taylor Swift is undeserving of the accolades she is receiving.

It was once that way for Joe Mauer as well. When the Twins’ drafted Joe Mauer #1 overall in 2001, critics quickly denounced the pick claiming the Twins should have taken highly touted pitching prospect Mark Prior instead. When Prior beat Mauer to the major league then won 18 games to lead the Cubs to the brink of the World Series, Mauer’s critics howled even more. Today Mark Prior’s career is in ruins. He had one great season and since has battled injuries.Mauer has won three batting titles and is now a MVP.

Mauer’s critics have complained about his lack of power, his supposed health issues, and his lack of vocal leadership in the clubhouse. Funny how all those complaints have now disappeared. Mauer is not only the best catcher in baseball, he is one of the two best players in all of baseball (Albert Pujlos is other). Mauer hits for average, power, walks more than he strikes out, and is one of best defensive catchers in the league. He has lead a less then stellar pitching staff to overachieve, and helped the Twins win two division titles and come within an eyelash of another title in the last four years.

Taylor Swift’s critics claim she cannot sing. They say she writes fluffy songs about nothing but teenage love. They say she is only interested in crossing over to pop music. They claim she will destroy country music.

Sadly I have heard these criticisms in country music before. Shania Twain can’t sing and will be the death of country music. Alan Jackson is boring, Tim McGraw is a weak vocalist, Brooks & Dunn are all show, Reba McEntire has forgotten her roots, George Strait’s albums all sound the same, Brad Paisley’s music is bland, Toby Keith is all about image not music, the Dixie Chicks are traitors, Dwight Yoakam is an aloof troublemaker, Garth Brooks is ruin of country music. Funny how these artists have taken heat at one time or another in their careers, and yet all are now respected artists.

The CMA Awards voters often seem to cast the votes not for who the think was the best, but who they think would represent the country music genre best. Vince Gill did not deserve to be CMA Male Vocalist for five straight years (1991-1995) yet he won all five years. It was fairly obvious the CMA wanted to push Gill forward as representative of country music. He was what they wanted people to think about when they thought country music.

Taylor Swift will not be the death of country music as many people think. No more so than Kenny Rogers, Garth Brooks, or Shania Twain was before her. If country music dies it will be because of its way of doing business. Country music’s current business model has large record labels spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on developing artists who they then spending millions more on promoting to radio. Now these labels find they no longer have the money to sustain that model.

In a new model Taylor Swift helped create, artists will use the Web to promote themselves and work to gain a core following before sending their music to radio. This following will help promote the artist’s music to others who will then in turn help push the artist’s music when it finally reaches the radio. Lady Antebellum is an excellent example of the new model. I knew about them long before they ever released a single to radio. I was not alone. Now they are raising stars.

Music will be distributed via methods such as iTunes and Amazon.com. Artists will produce and promote music at lower cost. If your costs are lower, you need to sell less to make money. In his 2006 books The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More Chris Anderson explains the future of music is not having a few superstars selling 5-10 million copies of their albums, it will be several artists selling 250,000 or 500,000 or 1 million copies of albums. Artists will sell less, but more artists will sell. Anderson talks about a new model of doing business in the music world which is similar to the model used by Taylor Swift.

Taylor Swift’s CMA wins had little to do with her singing. They were an acknowledgement that she is the future model of what a country music superstar must be – an artist who can not only write and sing, but be willing to engage their fans in an on-going dialogue on current and new mediums of communication.

You may not like her singing, you may think the songs she writes are fluff, you may think she is full of herself, but you cannot escape the fact that Taylor Swift has come to be the symbol of country music to an emerging audience that will not longer play by the old rules.

Taylor Swift is sustaining country music in terms of sales and exposure. Without her the life boats would be lowered because country music would be sinking. The CMA grabbed a hold of its biggest life preserver – Taylor Swift – and asked her to keep country music a float.

No one with the Minnesota Twins is thinking of lowering the life boats. With an exciting nucleus of Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Denard Span, Jason Kubel, Michael Cuddyer, J.J. Hardy, Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn, and Joe Nathan the Twins have a chance for something big. Joe Mauer will soon be signing a long-term contract extension as the Twins will not let him leave. Mauer’s presence will make the Twins relevant for years to come. No one will argue Joe Mauer’s greatest. No questions will be asked about his game. Like other legends before him such as Ruth, Cobb, Williams, Musial, Mantle, Aaron, Mays, Bench, Jackson, Schmidt, Henderson, Griffey Jr., and Pujols, Joe Mauer’s greatest seems assured.

Joe Mauer and Taylor Swift now the banner carriers for two things I love – Twins baseball and country music - with Joe Mauer being universally loved and Taylor Swift anything but. I find the reaction to both interesting. Why is one of them so loved and the other not? Is it the perspective from which one views them? Ten years from now will people view Swift differently like they view Joe Mauer now or for that matter Shania Twain?

I have meet Joe Mauer multiple times in person. He is a great guy. He has shown his greatness on the field and yet remained humble. He is seemingly loved by everyone. I have never meet Taylor Swift in person, yet I have seen her accept her awards humbly. She has rarely complained the criticism she has received. Yet she is both loved and hated with intense passion.

Baseball and country music both inspired great passion. Much passion is directed toward who is greater and who. Is Babe Ruth greater than Hank Aaron? Is Alan Jackson greater than Garth Brooks? Yet two different standard barriers at the top of their games – Joe Mauer and Taylor Swift – inspire much different reactions. Joe Mauer seemingly can do not wrong; Taylor Swift seemingly can do no right. Perhaps one should step back and see that in fact Taylor Swift may not as bad as she seems. Joe Mauer has proved that you should wait awhile before passing judgment.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Couple of Minnesota Twins Thoughts

The Twins Trade for J.J. Hardy

The Twins had traded Carlos Gomez to Milwaukee for shortstop JJ Hardy. I like this trade. We needed a great fielding, solid hitting shortstop and now we have one. Better yet we did not have to give up any pitching to get him.

Of course this trade renders my signed Carlos Gomez ball, photo, and three baseball cards worthless. I also had to get some JJ Hardy cards for him to sign for me, but it will be worth it.

One thought about Carlos Gomez. This town fell in love with him the moment he arrived. They loved his speed, his defense, his personality, his energy. However, no one could stand his hitting. It drove people crazy. In batting order already sporting the light hitting Nick Punto, there was no room for Gomez even if he is the best fielding outfielder in baseball. Good luck Carlos, welcome JJ!

I Went to the Twins Moving Sale.

I went to the Twins moving sale held on November 7. Evidently while packing their offices up for the move to Target Field, the Twins found lots stuff they did not take with them, so they held a sale.

I arrived an hour and ten minutes before the start of the sale only to find I was about the 300th person in line. I read that 15,000 people came to the sale. Most of those folks did not get much. In fact there was a lot of junk there.

I did secure some things I wanted though. I got a Jack Morris bobble head for $10. I also got a set of 4 bobble heads that were given away to season ticket holders in 2007 for just $25. Who were the four? They were Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Micheal Cuddyer, and Gary Gaetti.

I am a big Gaetti guy, so getting him was great. Mauer and Morneau are two of the all-time great Twins plus Cuddyer is a great guy and solid player. I rearrange the shelf above my TV so I could display all my bobble heads of which I have ten plus a mini bobble head. While not a huge collector I do intend to try and secure some more.

The next big Twins event is Twinsfest in late January. If this moving sale is any preview of the crowds that will be at Twinsfest, I better get in line now.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Goodbye Grandpa

Me and my Grandpa in 2007

My Grandfather died on Saturday, October 24, 2009. When Grandpa was in his 70’s and 80’s I did not want to lose him. I asked God to let Grandpa stay around a while. God answered my prayers and let Grandpa live till he was almost 102. Better yet, God let Grandpa stay mentally strong, so I was able to converse with him for most of his remaining time.

I spent a lot of time with Grandpa and Grandma over the last 20 years. I would drive down from the Twin Cities to their rural, small town home, and would sit and visit with them for hours. They would take me out to supper, and we would return home to watch the six o’clock on channel 12. I would leave to sound of the words “Thanks for Coming!”

Once at the restaurant we were eating at, an older waitress told me I would be thankful for taking the time to come down and visit with my Grandparents. She was right. I will always cherish those times and I am very grateful to had them.

Grandpa had a dry sense of humor. When I would go down to visit him he would often greet me with the line “are you lost?” I was not lost of course, and come to think of it I am not lost in my life either thanks in part to Grandpa whose strong Christian values and moral strength helped shape me for the better.

I will remember the line “are you lost” because it was how he greeted me when I went to see him on Thursday, Oct 22nd. He was starting to fade badly. Those words were the only real words other than “yes” and “no” that I got from him. I told him how much I loved him, and thanked him for all he had done for me. I did not know if I would ever see him again.

I did see him again that Saturday, but this time it was obvious it would be the last time. He could not respond to me, he did not have to. Grandpa had done enough for me. I will now do something for him. This Thursday I will help carry him to his final resting place. It is the least I can do for him.

Grandpa spent years telling everyone he disliked funerals where the dead person was endlessly praised as a great person. Grandpa would always tell my Mom and Dad that he wanted a simple funeral with little fuss made over him. Therefore I will end this post by not gushing about how great my Grandpa was. I will only state that I enjoyed my time with my Grandpa, and I am thankful to God for granting my wish that my Grandpa live for many healthy years; years I could spend with him and will always remember fondly.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Goodbye Metrodome

I have attended many Twins games at the Metrodome. My first game was in 1983. I attended 41 games in 1984 – most I would ever attend in one season. I attended anywhere between 5-20 games a season from 1985-1994.

1994 baseball strike alienated me from baseball. When the Twins threaten to move if they did not get a new stadium I was alienated all the more. I did not attend a game from 1995 to 2001. However, my love of the Twins had not died. When I read the now famous Sid Hartman Star Tribune column announcing the Twins were going to be contacted (eliminated) by major league baseball, I rose to my team’s side.

I returned to the Dome in 2002. A new group of players had made the Twins competitive again. I also returned to collecting autographs again, and made Twinsfest and Twins player appearance not to be missed events. For me the Twins have always been and will always be my number one sports team in Minnesota.

The Metrodome has been the home of the Twins for 28 years. I have so many memories. Among some of the more interesting:

  • I nearly ejected by the Minneapolis Police from a game because I was smoking (no smoking is allowed in the Metrodome!). Only one problem I have never smoked in my life. I was with a group of friends that day and they could not stop laughing at the thought that I – last person in the world anyone would think of as a smoker – was not only accused of but nearly ejected for smoking. To this day whenever I see one of those guys they bring this up and we laugh pretty hard about it. Of course, it was not funny at the time.

  • I saw Carlos Silva set the major league record in 2005 for few pitches thrown in a complete game. I actually did not know he set the record to till I got out to my car and listened to the postgame show on the radio. I did remember thinking during the game that Silva was really having some short innings. Indeed he was.

  • In 1985 I saw Kirby Puckett hit his first career home run. At the time no one, including me, had any idea how great Kirby Puckett would become. What a great thought to know I was there to see this legends first home run.

  • I saw Joe Mauer go 5-5 against the Dodgers in 2006. I realized then how good this guy was going to be.

  • I went to Game 2 of 1987 ALCS. It is the only postseason game I have attended. I have tried going to others, but either I could not get tickets or I could not get off work to go. Still I will always cherish this experience. I heard on the day of Game 2 that single tickets remained. I going to the University of Minnesota at the time and after class I walked all the way over to the Dome, and was surprised to get a ticket. I sat next to two obsessed middle aged female Twins fans. I loved every minute of the game. I can still hear the sound of the after game chat in concourse of “Sweep!”

This year I went to two games. The first was on a whim. I went alone, and was able to secure the best seat I had ever gotten. 15 rows right behind home plate. The game was against the Mariners. I went early and got to see the legendary Ken Griffey Jr. take batting practice. He did not disappoint putting on an impressive power display. The game was a big Twins win. I saw Justin Morneau crush a home run. I had a great time.

The second game I went to was an afternoon game. I went with my friend Joel. He prefers going to afternoon games, and we have attended many such games together. We sat in left field, which where I have sat many a time. We were on the end of the row just on the fair side of the foul poll.

Twins have photographers who go a around before the game taking fans pictures. You can go view the pictures on the Web. One of these photographers took a picture of Joel and me with the field in the background. The Twins won that game. I have that picture of Joel and me. I printed it out and my mother frame it. It sits in her living room.

I thought about going to one of the last game at the Dome, but decided that the game I attend with Joel would be my last at the Metrodome. Too many things went right that day. I decided to make my last Twins game at the Dome one with happy memories.

I liked the Metrodome because I always knew there would be game played. The Dome was easy for me to get to. I always was able to find affordable parking – sometimes even free parking. The sight lines left something to be desired, but the Dome was always a comfortable place for me.

I have attended outdoor baseball games in Milwaukee, Kansas City, and Houston. I look forward to outdoor in Minnesota. Still I will miss the Dome. It was the place of the Minnesota Twins greatest moments – World Series wins in 1987 & 1991. I will always remember the Metrodome not for it flaws, but for the good memories. Win Twins!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Phil Esposito TTM Success

Phil Esposito was one of the greatest and most famous hockey players ever. He shattered the record for goals and points in single season in 1970-71 with 76 goals and 152 points. He became the NHL’s all-time leader in goals and points scored.

His records were eventually broken, but his star never dimmed. In 1984 Phil Esposito was rightly made a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

I owned one hockey card of Phil Esposito which was one of the first hockey cards I ever owned. It was 75-76 Topps; the last card of Esposito as a Boston Bruin. In 2007 I decided to send a card to Phil Esposito to see if he would sign it. I did not want to send my 75-76 Topps for fear I would not get it back. Instead I created a card on my computer and printed it out on some photo paper. It turned out pretty good, so I sent it.

700 days later that card came back to me signed by Phil Esposito. I was pleasantly surprise. Phil Esposito does not sign much through the mail, so to get it back at all was amazing. Mr. Esposito even took the time to personalize the card to me and include his number (7).

Retired hockey players tend to be the best signers of any sport. I have gotten Hall of Fame legends such as Guy LaFluer, Bobby Clarke, Bryan Trottier, Steve Yzerman, Jean Beliveau, and others for FREE. Some big names like Bobby Orr, Gordie Howe, and Mario Lemieux charge big money while the “signed” Wayne Gretzky card I got may be auto penned.

Well my signed Esposito card looks very legitimate. It made my day to get it back. Thank you Phil Esposito!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Goodbye Brooks & Dunn

Though they were not official members of the genre altering Country Music Class of 89, Brooks & Dunn in many ways came to symbolize the “Hot New Country” movement of the early 90’s. Their boot scootin’ up-tempo songs, passionate ballads, flashy live shows, and even flashier cloths made stand out as something new, something different, something interesting. People took to them and Brooks & Dunn’s debut album Brand New Man sold 6 million copies. Its follow up Hard Workin’ Man sold 5 million.

Brooks & Dunn sold 26.5 million albums, scored 20 #1 singles, and won the 1996 CMA Entertainer of the Year Award. Their The Greatest Hits Collection released in 1997 still charts on the Country Catalog Album Chart and has sold 4.9 million copies. Not bad for a duo formed in 1991 at a lunch meeting hosted by Arista Nashville President Tim Dubois between failing solo artist Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn.

Brooks & Dunn survived the ups and down and the music business to be along with Alan Jackson the only artists of the early 90’s country movement to still be commercially viable. Now Alan Jackson is alone as Brooks & Dunn have called it quits after 20 years. They will release an album of their #1 hits this fall then stage a farewell tour in 2010.

Kix and Ronnie are in the mid fifties. They were always opposites in style and personality. That they made it 20 years is amazing. Ronnie Dunn did most the singing. Kix Brooks was the energy on the live stage. They both wrote songs– sometimes separately sometimes together. Kix and Ronnie share lead vocals on only one song. They alternated who would write the latest chapter of story of Slim and Howdy the mythical cowboy characters who a short story about would appear in each Brooks & Dunn album.

I saw Brooks & Dunn in 1995 with Trisha Yearwood at the Minnesota State Fair. 17,000 plus showed up and were treated to a great show. The up-tempo songs rocked, the ballads were moving. Ronnie Dunn’s voice was even better live, so for that matter was Kix Brooks’. And yes they had a huge balloon shaped like their logo of bleached out, dead Long Horn Steer skull.

I saw them again in 1996 at the Minnesota State Fair with Pam Tillis. Fewer people came (13,000), but the show was still good though not as good. Brooks & Dunn came to town several more times, but I never was moved to see the again. Maybe hearing their big hits “Boot Scootin Boogie”, “My Maria”, and “Neon Moon” on the radio all the time wore on me. I still like their music; they just were no longer a concert destination for me.

I did write them this and ask them to sign a custom baseball card I created of them. They did so showing yet again that some superstar acts like Alan Jackson and Brooks & Dunn still have time to respond to their fans. Maybe that was the key to their success – listening to their fans.

Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn has talked the last few years about recording solo albums. I hope they do. I think they will be very different from their Brooks & Dunn music. Whatever they do, Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn can take pride in a great 20 year run as Brooks & Dunn.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


When I send cards I send along a self addressed stamped envelop (SASE) for the player to return the signed card in. I put my address on the SASE, and also put my address in the return address field. Why do I put my address in both spots? Because I always worry that the postal service will find a reason why they can’t deliver my SASE to me and would then try to RTS (Return to Sender) it back to return address. I assumed I was being over paranoid. Well guess what?

Tuesday I came home to find one of my SASE had return with a RTS sticker on it. Yes, the postal service had determined it could not deliver my SASE to the person it was addressed to even though that person was me and the address on the SASE was the correct address. Well the postal service RTS it back to the person listed in the return address which was me as well. So my putting my address in the return address field of the envelop had paid off.

The only thing I saw that was wrong on the envelop was the there was no post mark. The stamp was from the post office so it was good, but for some reason the envelop never got a post marked.

In the end I got my signed card, and what a card it was. Football Hall of Famer Dick Butkus signed a card for me! Now I have the three greatest (in my opinion) defensive football players of all-time – Lawrence Taylor, Alan Page, and Dick Butkus.

And to think, I would not have gotten Dick Butkus if I had not taken a couple extra moments to put my address up in the return address field of my SASE.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

More Twins Signings

Saturday I made the drive up to Elk River. Michael Cuddyer and Brendan Harris were signing autographs at the Cub Foods in Elk River. In fact Twins players were all over the Twin Cities area Saturday. Jason Kubel was in Maple Grove, Joe Nathan was in St. Louis Park, Denard Span was in Hudson, Wi (Hudson is right across the MN/WI border), Scott Baker was in Minnetonka, R.A. Dickey was in Roseville, and Brian Dunesing was in Apple Valley.

With all these players out and about and signing autographs at roughly the same time I had to choose where I wanted to go. I choose going to see Cuddyer and Harris because I had just bought some nice looking Allen & Ginter cards of Cuddyer, Harris, Nathan, Blackburn, Liriano, and Gomez. I have goal of getting all these cards signed. Since both Cuddyer and Harris are both in that group of cards, and I don’t really have a signed card of Harris, the choice of where to go was quite obvious.

The choice was made easier by the fact I knew I could mail Nathan his card with a SASE c/o of the Twins and he would sign it and send it back. Blackburn is also great at signing stuff sent to him, but I had sent him a Topps Heritage card in April, and I wanted to wait till at last August before sending him another card. I don’t want Nick Blackburn to think I am trying to spam him with autograph requests.

My hope for Saturday was to get to Elk River early, get through the line quickly then make the 40 minute drive to Roseville to get R.A. Dickey who I need to add to my collection. I got to Elk River at 10:15 for the scheduled 11:30 signing. A handful of people were there already ( and I knew many more would follow which they did), so I quickly got in line. I figured I would get through the line in 10-15 minutes and be able to get in Roseville in time for R.A.

Unfortunately things did not work out as planned. Michael Cuddyer, who is a class guy, arrived early. Brendan Harris was 10 minutes late. The line moved slower than expected, and I was left with only 25 minutes to make a 40 minute drive. Obviously R.A. would have to wait another day.

Instead I took the opportunity to drive around the area heading north to Zimmerman and Princeton. This area is fast becoming an area of growth as more people try to get away from the city. However as more people move out there it is fast become more a part of the city. Pretty soon these cities will be outer ring suburbs, but for now they are still country towns.

I did make it down to Roseville, but it was later in the afternoon. I wanted to stop at Three Star Sports Cards to get some more cards for signing. Dan, one of the owners, told me the 2009 Allen & Ginter cards had arrived. They were $5 for a pack of 8, and $100 + for a box. Ouch! I remember when packs of cards cost 25 cents and you got 12 cards and a stick of gum. Of course that was 30 years ago.

I will wait for Three Star to set out some single Allen & Ginter cards. Yes, they usual charge a $1 or $2 for each card, but I will get who I want instead of spending $5 and taking a chance on getting who I want.

I returned home to find I had mail. Joe Nathan had returned my signed Allen & Ginter card I had sent him in the mail. He had also signed a SPX card for me. Joe Nathan is just a class individual who remembers his fans. He has also been selected to play in his fourth All-Star game. Go Joe Nathan!

I ended up with signed Allen & Ginter cards from Cuddyer, Harris, and Nathan all on the same day. It was god day.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Third Time is a Charm?

Last Friday a received a signed baseball card from Andre Dawson. Mr. Dawson was the 1987 NL MVP and is a borderline HOFer. What interested me about this return is that it took me 3 tries to get Mr. Dawson to sign a card for me. Since starting to collect autographs via ttm (through the mail) I have seen people getting returns from Mr. Dawson. I liked Andre Dawson, so I sent to him and got no response. I waited about eight months while dozens of folks kept getting a response for him, many only having to wait a couple weeks for a return. I decided to send to Mr. Dawson again, and got no response again. Finally I sent a third time, and he signed one of two cards for me. I appreciate that Mr. Dawson sign a card for me, but I wonder what happen to the cards I sent to him before.

This is not an issue exclusive to Andre Dawson. I had to send to future Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, former All-Star Will Clark, and former Twin Dan Schatzader three times each in order to get a response from them. Mr. Schatzader sent back (signed) all the cards I had sent him over the years, while Mr. Larkin and Mr. Clark signed and returned only the last card I had sent them.

Why did it take three times to get a response? What happened to the other cards I sent? Were they lost? Did the player simply decide he did not want to send them back? Did the player just arbitrarily decide to sign for certain people and not others? I don’t know the answer, but what I do know is perseverance pays off.

Fernando Valenzuela, Geoff Zahn, Dale Murphy, Don Mattingly, and Don Sutton have refused to sign for me the first two times I have sent to them. I have seen many returns from Mr. Valenzuela, but not from Mr. Zahn, Mr. Murphy, Mr. Mattingly, and Mr. Sutton. Therefore I will be sending to Mr. Valenzuela a third time, while waiting on the others.

Why wait on the others? I have seen few if any returns from them lately. Mr. Mattingly is currently coaching while Mr. Sutton is doing some broadcasting. They just may be holding on to their mail while they work through the summer, and then they will return the cards in the offseason. It is unwise to flood a player with multiple autograph requests as they may think you are trying to take advantage of their generosity. At the same time though, if others keep getting responses from players and you don’t then it might be wise to try again. You never know what happened to your first one or two attempts. The cards may never even have reached the player. I try to wait 6-9 months before resending.

Of course I would prefer to have the player respond the first time I send to them. Having to buy multiple cards and stamps can get a little pricey. One way to ensure success the first time, especially with more famous players, is to drop them a little cash donation. Some Hall of Fame players have foundations, and if you donate to those foundations you are ensured a return.

HOFer Gary Carter has a foundation which I sent a donation to. I expected it would take 3 or 4 weeks to receive my signed card, but such was not the case. Instead a week later I had the card signed beautiful by Mr. Carter. He also sent me a typed note of thanks on which crossed out Dear Fan and instead wrote my name.

Nolan Ryan has a foundation too. He notes it will take 12 to 16 weeks to have a return from him, but you will get a return. I will be waiting eagerly as I have sent a donation to Mr. Ryan as well.

Mr. Carter and Mr. Ryan are using the fame to him help others. I have no problem donating to a player’s foundation in exchange for an autograph. Tim Raines, Dave Winfield, Frank Viola, and Harmon Killebrew are the baseball players whose foundations have received small donations from me. In return I have received wonderful signed cards. Funny, if you donate to their foundations, a player’s signs your card a lot nicer. Yet another reason to research a player’s signing habits.

Of course some players want donations for signing and the donation goes directly into their bank account. Steve Carlton, Phil Niekro, Brooks Robinson, Bob Feller, Al Kaline, Rollie Fingers, and Whitey Ford are the baseball players who I have “donated” to. All have been fairly reasonably priced ($10-$20). However some folks want a little more. Check out some of these prices to sign a baseball card:

Willie Mays $300
Rickey Henderson $140
Cal Ripkan $140
Frank Robinson $90
Tony Gwynn $85
Eddie Murray $85
Robin Yount $85
Willie McCovey $85
Reggie Jackson $75
Yogi Berra $70

Ouch! I loved getting HOFers to sign my cards, but those prices are just too high. I am going to be investing $40+ each on getting Mike Schmidt and Tom Seaver to sign for me, but that is about all the farther I am willing to go. I figure that Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Seaver will soon be charging in the $70-$100 as well, so I am getting them now while they are still somewhat reasonably priced.

Of course there is one way to beat paying those high prices. It is called “fine someone willing to sell you a certified autographed card for less”. Certified autographed cards are baseball cards signed by a player and then included in a random pack of baseball cards that sold at the store. There are usually very few of these cards, so you are one lucky person when get to open a pack of cards and find one of these certified autographed card. Most certified cards are of current players, but there are a few Hall of Famers out there too.

In 1995 Reggie Jackson signed a few such cards for Upper Deck who then included them in random packs of their cards. I found one of these cards at Twin Cities Sports Collector Club (TCSCC) show with a certificate of authenticity for $40. So I could pay $40 for certified autographed card of Reggie Jackson with a certificate of authenticity guaranteed by one of the large baseball card companies, or I can could send $75 to Reggie Jackson and hope he signs and returns my card in six months or so, or I could send $75 to a company that stages signing by folks like Reggie; include an extra $5 for a certificate of authenticity plus $5 mail order fee plus $10 for shipping for a total price of $95.

Let’s see $40 or $75 to $95. To me that choice was obvious which is why the certified autographed Reggie Jackson card is now sitting in my display case at home with the extra money I saved going to Mike Schmidt. I can now get two signed cards for roughly the amount I would have had to pay Reggie Jackson.

The moral of the story is show perseverance when trying to get a player, “donate” to a player's foundation if you want to guarantee a return, and if you find a players signing fee to high, look for a certified autographed card.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Twins Autograph Party

I attended the Minnesota Twins autograph party on Saturday. At the autograph party you pay one fee, all current players sign at the same time, and you are allowed to get autographs from as many players as you can in the hour and half they are signing.

In reality you either get an autograph from Joe Mauer or Justin Morneau or everyone else. I arrived at 8:30 a.m. to get in the Justin Morneau line. Morneau was scheduled to sign from 12:30-2:00. I got through the Morneau line with 10 minutes to spare. Yes, the line was so long that even arriving 4 hours early I barely made it through the line.

I knew this would likely be the case. In 2006 I spent all my time in the Johan Santana line to get him to sign a baseball. However in 2008 I avoided the Mauer and Morneau lines and was able to get 12 other players. It is an either or thing. Either you get Mauer, or you get Morneau, or you get a lot of the other players.

I wanted Justin to sign his 2007 Allen & Ginter's baseball card for me. He did so, and it looks great in my display case.

I like the Allen & Ginter's cards because they do have glossy coating that most Topps and Upper Deck cards have. The coating can sometimes cause smearing or create air bubbles in the player’s signature making the signature look bad. You can try “rubbing” the card down, but that does not always work.

For the record hitting coach Joe Vara was assigned the thankless task of signing with Morneau. Many people ignored Mr. Vara, but I did not as I needed him for my collection.

There are no Mr. Vara baseball cards that I know of, so I did had him sign a baseball card for the new Twins stadium.

Not able to get any more current Twins, I prepared to get some of the former Twins who were signing from 2:30-4. The Twins bring in the same former players every year. Why? Who knows for sure, but maybe they don’t want to pay too much in traveling expenses as the only guys they bring in from out of town are Harmon Killebrew and Rod Carew.

With few new options available, I went with Rod Carew and Tom Kelly. Rod signed a 78 Topps baseball card for me, Tom an 87 Topps card. I had a few extra minutes so I went into the Roy Smalley, Tim Launder, and Ron Coomer line. I did not have a Coomer card, but a kind gentleman gave me one of his, so I was able to get all three players.

It was very hot day at the autograph party, but it beats getting rained on. All in all I had a good time, and look forward to attending next year.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Class of 89 - Alan Jackson

In honor of the 20th anniversary of debut of Country Music Class of 89, I am writing a series of posts on each of the artists. I am including those artists who debuted in 1989 – Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Clint Black, Travis Tritt, and Mary Chapin Carpenter. I am also including artists – Vince Gill and Lorrie Morgan – who had their first true commercial impact in 1989.

Here is my final write up on the members of the Class of 89. It will be on Alan Jackson.

Alan Jackson is my favorite music artist. I consider him the greatest country music singer – songwriter of all-time. I have seen Alan Jackson in concert 7 times. I have written to Alan twice. I bought an autographed Alan Jackson 8x10 from his fan club. I created a baseball card of Alan Jackson and sent it to him asking him to sign it. He did so, even personalizing it to me. I display that signed card at the center of my baseball card display case surrounding it with signed baseball cards from baseball Hall of Famers. Needless to say I own all of Alan’s albums.

What is amazing is that I was not an immediate convert to Alan Jackson’s music. My parents always listened to country music. I tried to escape country by listening to pop and rock in the 80’s, but the folks kept me tune into country part-time. The Judds, Dwight Yoakam, Hank Williams Jr. brought me back full-time to country music in late 80’s.

Garth Brooks and Mary Chapin Carpenter were the first Class of 89ers I was into. Then suddenly I became an Alan Jackson fan. In a way that seemed to be how Alan Jackson emerged in the country music world. He did not get off to a fast start, but once he got going he enveloped the whole country music world.

Alan Jackson’s first single “Blue Blooded Woman” stiffed on the charts in 1989. His second single “Here in the Real World” went to # 3 and started string of top 10 and #1 hits. Still between 1990-1992 it always seemed like some other artists like Clint Black, Garth Brooks, Travis Tritt, Billy Ray Cyrus, Vince Gill, or Brooks & Dunn were the “it” artist. The media and country music industry always seemed to want someone else to be the superstar. Alan Jackson was a star, but not a superstar.

That changed in the summer of 1993 as Alan massive career hit “Chattahoochee” dominated the airwaves and its then cutting edge music video (Alan water skis in the video) was all over the television. Chattahoochee made Alan Jackson a super-star, won him awards, increased his profile on the radio, and spurred on his album and concert ticket sales.

“A lot About Livin’ (And a Little ‘Bout Love” the album from which “Chattahoochee” was from would end up selling 6 million copies. Alan would only the fourth artist in country music history to have an album sell six million copies (Garth, Billy Ray Cyrus, and Pasty Cline were the first three). By 1994 only Garth Brooks was bigger than Alan in the world of country music.

I first saw Alan Jackson in concert in 1994 at the Minnesota State Fair Grandstand in the midst of this Alan mania. I took my parents. We had never attended an outdoor country music concert. Our seats were off to the side, but along with 20,000 plus new found friends we had a great time. When Alan closed with “Chattahoochee” the place rocked. Young, old, male, female, Alan’s audience
spanned generational and gender boundaries.

The next year (1995) Alan returned to same venue and an even bigger crowd was even more ruckus. A newer artist named Faith Hill opened for Alan. Alan Jackson was on top of the world and later that year he would win CMA Entertainer of the Year, and his “The Greatest Hits Collection” would be released and sell over 6 million copies.

I saw him again in 1996. Alan was just off headlining the most attended one day concert in country music history. Alan along with Alabama, Hank Williams Jr, Charlie Daniels, Patty Loveless, Pam Tillis, Tracy Bryd, LeRoy Parnell, and some relative unknown named Kenny Cheseny had jammed at the Fruit of the Loom All-Star Country Fest concert in Atlanta, GA along 250,000 fans. The event was taped and later televised.

By 1998 when Alan Jackson showed up at the Target Center in Minneapolis with hot newcomer Deana Carter I noticed a problem. His crowds were getting smaller. I saw him again in 1999 and 2000. The later concert with newcomer Brad Paisley opening drew only 4,000 people. My seat was just scant yards from the stage. While it was great to be so close, I was getting the feeling I would not be seeing
Alan in such a larger venue again.

Alan’s album sales had gone from 6 million to just over 1 million. He was still getting good play on radio, but his concert attendance across the country was dropping. He was not getting nominated for as many awards as he had in the past.

Alan was still making history like at 1999 CMA Awards where he interrupted his own performance to perform George Jones “Choices” as protest to an insult Jones suffered at the CMA’s hands. In 2000 Alan and George Strait recorded “Murder on Music Row” a song that decried the current state of country music. The song caused controversy, but won CMA Song and Vocal Event of the Year Awards. History making though was only slowing the inevitable decline every country artist not named George Strait seems to go through.

Then at the 2001 CMA Awards where Alan performed for the first time a song he had just written called “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning”. The song about the 9/11 terrorist attacks sparked an immediate and emotional reaction. The song quickly went #1. “Drive” the album “Where Were You…” was on went on to sell 4 million copies and would win CMA and ACM Album of the Year. Alan even became the first country artist to grace the cover of the popular magazine Entertainment Weekly.

Alan would earn a record setting 10 nominations for the 2002 CMA awards. That night Alan would win a record tying 5 CMA Awards. Alan would be the only person to win Entertainer, Male Vocalist, Album, Single, and Song of the Year on the same night. “Where Were You…” would become CMA and ACM Single and Song of the Year.

Alan Jackson had returned to superstardom. More major hits like “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” and “Remember When” would follow. Alan would also raised his artistic creed by making cutting edge album like his “Precious Memories” and “Like Red On a Rose” albums.

The last time I saw Alan Jackson in concert was 2004 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. 15,000 plus joined Alan and enjoyed a great night of country music. Alan Jackson has sold over 42 million albums, scored 25 #1 and 48 top 10 singles. He has won 16 CMA and 14 ACM awards. Yet what struck me that night in 2004 was the crowd. Like the 1994 crowd there were young people, old people, men and women. Alan Jackson was no longer young and hip, his hair was shorter, he had put on a few pounds, and yet his was able to still span generational and gender boundaries. Alan Jackson had gone beyond superstardom. He was now a superstar who had become an iconic legend.

Picking one video of Alan Jackson was almost impossible. YouTube has a lot of his videos. Alan even has his own video channel, but like all major artists on YouTube those videos have the embedding option turned off, so I cannot embed them here.

In an earlier post on this blog, I posted a video of Alan performing live my favorite Alan song “Chasin That Neon Rainbow”. You can check it out, by clicking the name Alan Jackson over on the right.

Here is the video for “Chattahoochee” provided by CMT. Yes, that is really Alan Jackson watering skiing while wearing a cowboy hat. This video is considered one of the most popular country music videos of all-time.

Class of 89 - Garth Brooks

In honor of the 20th anniversary of debut of Country Music Class of 89, I am writing a series of posts on each of the artists. I am including those artists who debuted in 1989 – Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Clint Black, Travis Tritt, and Mary Chapin Carpenter. I am also including artists – Vince Gill and Lorrie Morgan – who had their first true commercial impact in 1989.

Decided to do two post today. This post will be on Garth Brooks.

Garth Brooks seems like a complicated figure, but he is not. Garth Brooks is simply a performer. He is not a singer or a songwriter though those are part of his performer makeup. He is an artist, but he is a performance artist not a music artist. Garth Brooks is all about the performance – not just when performs music in concert, but when he holds a news conference, makes an appearance, or even seems to go into retirement.

When Garth debuted in 1989 he seemed an unlikely success story. But by the time his back to back career hits “The Dance” and “Friends in Low Places” had finished their runs at #1, he was more than a success story – he had altered how people perceived country music.

A truly great performer needs to command a stage. Garth Brooks commanded the stage. Whether he was singing alone with nothing but a guitar before a rapt audience of 50,000 or swinging from ropes above the same 50,000, Garth commanded attention. Garth had the ability to make even the person in the last row feel like they was part of the performance. Garth insisted they be part of his performance.

In 1996 Garth did not just sign autographs for people at Country Music’s Fan Fair for a couple of hours. He signed till everyone who wanted one got one even if it meant staying 23 straight hours. He was a performer; he could let the audience down. When he arrived for that autograph signing he did not come in limo with body guards. He drove his pickup truck right through the crowd then hopped out and walk right through the crowd which parted before him, awe at the sight of this superstar who seemed to be so real yet to transcendent.

I was always impressed to see when he won an award that was presented to him by a female he would remove his cowboy hat from his head. He was ever the gentleman, ever the heroic figure in the performance.

This is what people missed about Garth Brooks. It was never about his supposed rock concert performances. Other country artists before him (Hank Williams Jr.) and after him (Brooks & Dunn, Shania Twain, others) have performed rock like concerts, but they lack the mythos of Garth. Garth the heroic figure in the center of a never ending performance – the performance is not about the music, but the man. Garth is the performance, the songs are about him. He is the central figure in a never ending opera that continues on from the concert stage. His fans clung to his saga making it their own.

Garth climbed to the highest peaks; he sold the most albums, won the biggest awards, had the highest rated television specials a country artist ever had, brought country music to its highest heights. Yet once you get to the top you have to come down. Garth saw the drop coming, rode it out for awhile then decided the performance was over. He retired. Once in a while he comes out of retirement for brief moment back in the spotlight, but it is not the same. The audience is not what it once was.

Garth Brooks made country music better, he made it worse. He exposed country music to new audience made it new fans. He destroyed country music by making it too commercial; driving his successors to make it more like pop music in order to make it sell like Garth’s sold.

I like Garth Brooks’ singing. He has a great voice. I like “Much Too Young (To be This Damn Old)”, “The Dance”, “Friends in Low Places” and “The Thunder Rolls”; but since his second album “No Fences” his music has been ordinary. Garth simply became too much about Garth and not enough about the music. Too bad really Garth could have made some interesting and bold albums. Instead his only real attempt at doing something different he created an alter ego name Chris Gaines. Maybe Garth Brooks felt it would be anti-heroic to put out something other than was expected of him. If so, I think he was wrong.

Garth Brooks does not allow his music videos on YouTube or any other video site. Even CMT is not allowed to have any. Garth does not let his music on itunes. Instead Garth keeps his music only available on his album. He releases compilation albums of his old hits and include 3 or 4 new songs on them. Maybe it is his way of ensure good albums sales. Whatever his reasons, I think it is a mistake. He should allow fans to views his video; hear his songs on the Web. He might be surprise, people might really enjoy the performance.

Class of 89 - Lorrie Morgan

In honor of the 20th anniversary of debut of Country Music Class of 89, I am writing a series of posts on each of the artists. I am including those artists who debuted in 1989 – Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Clint Black, Travis Tritt, and Mary Chapin Carpenter. I am also including artists – Vince Gill and Lorrie Morgan – who had their first true commercial impact in 1989.

Today’s post will be on Lorrie Morgan.

Long before Shania Twain starting running around with a base midriff, Lorrie Morgan was a
country music babe. Lorrie Morgan played up her good looks more than most country female counterparts, and it helped her career take off.

Lorrie most brazen attempt to use her sex appeal was her video for “We Both Walk” where she spends a good deal of time playing her guitar with nothing on but a man’s dress shirt. Though the video would seem pretty tame by today’s standards at the time in country music world the video was seen as to risqué. Lorrie took heat for being to sexual.

Ironically in the mid to late 80’s Lorrie Morgan was not a candidate for such criticism. Lorrie was a child of traditional country music. Her father George Morgan had been a country star. As Lorrie Morgan struggled to get a footing on country radio in the e 80’s, she married raising country music star Keith Whitley. Morgan assumed the life of a proper daughter and wife. Then her relationship began to affect her life and career.

Keith Whitely drank to often, and by 1989 he had died of an overdose. Whitley’s death caused his widow Lorrie to see her profile rise. In 1989 she finally started scoring hits on country radio. Her 1989 album “Leave the Light On” caught the wave of success generated by the Country’s Music Class of 89. She rose to stardom with the debut single from her 1991 cd “Something in Red”. That single would be the aforementioned “We Both Walk” which rose to #3 and spawned a video that (as mentioned earlier) raised eyebrows.

Lorrie scored more hits and “Something in Red” sold 1 million copes as did its follow up “Watch Me”. Lorrie was developing a reputation as a platinum selling hit maker. Unfortunately she was also developing another reputation.

Being a good looking widow with money, Morgan attracted numerous male suitors. She dated then Dallas Cowboy quarterback Troy Aikman; famously bringing him to the 1993 ACM Awards where she wore an “attention grabbing” dress. When that relationship ended she married Clint Black’s bus driver whom she quickly divorced. This was just the beginning.

Lorrie Morgan was getting to be known as a woman who could not keep a man, or was it no man could keep Lorrie Morgan. Fans of country music in 90’s expected their country stars to behave themselves. The old days of drinking, partying, marrying and divorcing were over. Artists were expected to marry, and live straight and narrow lives. Those that failed to do so paid by losing fans.

Bad enough her personal life was being brought into question, but in 1994 Lorrie hit a career slump. Her 1994 album “War Paint” failed to produce a top ten hit, and “War Paint” sold only 500,000 copies. Lorrie briefly rebounded with her 2 million selling “Greatest Hits” album, but it was a downhill slid from there.

1995 brought the arrival of Shania Twain a woman who seized the mantel of country babe from Lorrie Morgan and quickly set a new standard for how country music females should look, sound and behave. It was a standard Lorrie Morgan seemed unable to follow.

In 1997 Lorrie Morgan scored her last top 10 hit. By then she had become known for dating U.S. Senator and former actor Fred Thompson of Tennessee; for marrying and divorcing a younger male country singer named John Randall; and her stormy on and off again marriage and divorce from fellow country music star Sammy Kershaw.

In October 2008 news reports came out stating Lorrie Morgan had file for bankruptcy.

Lorrie Morgan had a solid run, but her personal life became bigger than her music and it cost her.

Personally I was never a big fan of her music. “We Both Walk” is my favorite Lorrie Morgan tune. She has a couple of other songs I don’t mind, but she never moved me in any way.

I could not find a video of “We Both Walk” on YouTube, but did find it on CMT’s site. You may have to watch a commercial first, but the video shows Lorrie Morgan as she was just about to become a star, and yes it show her playing her guitar in nothing but a man’s shirt.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Class of 89 - Vince Gill

In honor of the 20th anniversary of debut of Country Music Class of 89, I am writing a series of posts on each of the artists. I am including those artists who debuted in 1989 – Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Clint Black, Travis Tritt, and Mary Chapin Carpenter. I am also including artists – Vince Gill and Lorrie Morgan – who had their first true commercial impact in 1989.

Here is the second of today’s posts. It will be on Vince Gill.

1989 Vince Gill seemed to be a new artist like Garth, Alan, Clint, Travis, and Mary Chapin. In fact 1989 was not the year of Vince Gill’s first single on the country charts. Vince debuted in 1984, and occasionally charted songs and sold very few albums until he was dropped by RCA Nashville. Vince signed with MCA Nashville, and MCA Nashville head Tony Brown became Vince’s new producer. Together Tony Brown and Vince Gill created Vince’s break through album “When I Call Your Name”. It was the title track of that album that became Vince’s signature hit. From there Gill achieve the following:

  • In 1990 he won CMA Single and Song of Year for “When I Call Your Name”. Ironically his co-writer on the song was Tim DuBuios who was then President of the fledgling Arista Nashville which was in the process of launching the careers of Vince’s soon to be fellow superstars Alan Jackson and Brooks & Dunn.
  • In 1991 Vince won the first of his five straight (1991-1995) CMA Male Vocalist of the Year awards.
  • His 1989 “When I Call Your Name” sold 2 million copies as did its 1991 follow up “Pocket Full of Gold”.
  • In 1993 Vince won a record tying five CMA awards in one night. He also won the first of first CMA Entertainer of the Year award. He won Entertainer of the Year again in 1994.
  • Spurred on by his CMA wins and numerous top ten single, Vince’s “I Still Believe in You” sold 5 million copies and won CMA and ACM awards for Album of Year.
With his 1994 album “When Love Finds You” in the midst of selling 4 million copies Vince Gill finally made an appearance in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was 1995 and Vince had been a successful commercial artist since 1989; yet it took six years for him to come to market which had embraced Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Reba McEntire, and Brooks & Dunn with major crowds over 18,000 plus for each of their concerts.

Vince arrived in concert with Patty Loveless opening for him. Vince was amazing. He played all this hits. He sang brilliantly. He did several excellent guitar solos. His band was first rate, and he played for longer than other artist (country or non country) I had ever seen in concert. It was a great show and the 12,000 fans there loved every minute of it.

I left convinced Vince Gill was going to be a superstar for years to come. I was wrong.
In 1996 Vince’s “High Lonesome Sound” barely sold over a million copies. His 1998 album “The Key” debut at #1 then sank, barely getting over one million in sales. In 2000 he charted his last top ten hit. Artistically Vince was still alive as his 2006 box set of all new material “These Days” proved, but commercially 2000 was the final nail in his coffin.

Why did Vince Gill fall? Gill was legendary for his kindness to fans and fellow artists. He was loved by the country music industry. In reality his kindness and industry popularity might have destroyed him. He could never say no when another artist asked for him to sing with them. Vince’s voice showed up on all kinds of songs thereby creating an overexposure of him on country radio.

His continue hosting of the CMA Awards (he hosted 10 straight years) also made him seem more like a host and comedian than a singer.

Then there were all the CMA awards he won. Vince won 18 CMA Awards, but only 4 ACM Awards. That is the biggest gap of CMA Awards to ACM Awards won of any country artist in country music history. Vince won those 18 awards in just a few years time, so it seemed like he was always winning.

Fans may have become tired of Vince being all over the radio and tired of him always winning. They made have decided Vince had his run, and it was someone else’s turn to have success.

Then there was Vince’s divorce from his wife Janis and his subsequent marriage to Christian music singer Amy Grant. Country music fans are mostly women; women who hold the male artist favorite to high standards perhaps too high of standards. They don’t like to see male artists divorce, and they especially don’t like rumors of affairs. Rightly or wrongly Vince was accused of wanting to marry Amy Grant before he had divorced his wife Janis. Fans may have turned on Vince thinking he was not the man he thought he was.

I lean to towards a combination of all the above. He was over exposed. He did seem to win awards a little too much for my liking. Women I had talked with about Vince did not like the way his marriage came undone. Plus I think Vince’s music was not good after “High Lonesome Sound”. Critics may not agree, but for me “The Key”, “Feels Like Love” and “Let’s Be Sure We Kiss Goodbye” just were not has good as “When I Call Your Name”, “Pocket Full of Gold” and such.

Whatever the reason for his downfall, from 1990 to 1995 Vince Gill only trailed Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Reba McEntire, George Strait, and Brooks & Dunn in commercial popularity, and he joined Alan Jackson, Dwight Yoakam, and Patty Loveless in producing the most artistically respected albums.

Vince Gill is also a very nice man. I have read and heard countless stories of his kindness toward others. He is also a major supporter of country music’s past and its traditions.

I think Vince Gill is great artist. I especially love his albums “Pocket Full of Gold” and “When I Call Your Name”. He may not get as much play on the radio as he used too, but he got to become the first member of the Class of 89 to be elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

I don’t know where this video is from, but it is definitely Vince Gill around the year 1990 or 1991. Patty Loveless sang background vocals on the recorded version of the song, and she makes an appearance her to accompany Vince on the live version.

Class of 89 - Clint Black

In honor of the 20th anniversary of debut of Country Music Class of 89, I am writing a series of posts on each of the artists. I am including those artists who debuted in 1989 – Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Clint Black, Travis Tritt, and Mary Chapin Carpenter. I am also including artists – Vince Gill and Lorrie Morgan – who had their first true commercial impact in 1989.

I am doing two posts today. This one will be on Clint Black.

In 1992 I went to a music store called Musicland to buy Mary Chapin Carpenter’s brand new album “Come On Come”. The checkout clerk told me I should take a copy of music magazine Musicland was publishing for its customers. The magazine was free, and it had a country superstar Clint Black on the cover so I took a copy.

I found the lengthy article on Clint Black fascinating. The article spent time discussing Clint’s music, but it spent most its time discussing Clint suing his record label and his messy split with his manager Bill Ham.

The article was interesting, but in retrospect the article was detailing the turning point for the worse in Clint’s career.

Bill Ham was a manager of music artists. He had discovered and shaped the career of rock superstars ZZ Top. Bill Ham discovered Clint Black, and molded him into a star.

Clint’s debut album “Killin’ Time” was a masterpiece, and is one of the greatest country music albums of all-time. Clint wrote or co-wrote all the songs on the album. The first four singles from the album went to #1. The album sold 3 million copies. Clint Black had become the Class of 89’s first star.

In 1990 Clint was name CMA and ACM Male Vocalist of the Year. Clint debut single “Better Man” was the ACM for Single of the Year. “Killin Time” would win the ACM for Album of the Year.

Clint’s second album “Put Yourself in My Shoes” was released at the end of 1990 and would spawn more hits and sell 3 million copies. As 1991 unfolded Clint Black seemed destined to fight it out with Garth Brooks for title of biggest star in country music.

Then came Clint’s lawsuit with his record label (RCA Nashville), and his split and subsequent lawsuit with manager Bill Ham. The legal wrangling delayed Clint’s third album “The Hard Way”, and cost Clint the guidance of the man, Bill Ham, who had help make him a superstar.

As 1991 came and went Alan Jackson, Vince Gill, and Travis Tritt began to build momentum, while Clint’s seemed to be slowing. Garth Brooks meanwhile was having unheard of success. Clint suddenly looked like the odd man out.

“The Hard Way” would go on to sell over 1 million copies, but by then Garth, Alan, Vince, Travis, Reba McEntire, and a new act Brooks & Dunn were selling 2, 3 million or even more copies of their albums. Clint was expected to match them. He never did. The only other multi-million selling album Clint had was his 1996 Great Hits album which sold 2 million.

Clint’s time as superstar had past. Radio kept playing his songs, but his album did not sell very well and he stopped winning major awards. His last top 10 hit was in early 2000. By then he was about to leave his record label.

Clint Black started his own record label, but it failed. Clint Black had failed too, failed to become a superstar like Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, or even Vince Gill. Was Clint’s separation from Bill Ham the reason? Not entirely. Clint’s seeming obsession with recording only songs he had written or co-written probably help too. Even the greatest singer – songwriters in country music history have recorded songs written by others. Clint could not or did not want to understand that.

I never saw Clint Black in concert. He came to the Minnesota State Fair in 1993 with Wynonna Judd on his Black and Wy Tour. He came again in roughly 1998, but by then I was uninterested in seeing him.

Don’t get me wrong I still love his “Killin Time” album and listen to it a good deal. I don’t mind “Put Yourself in My Shoes”, but the rest of his music is average at best. Radio still plays stuff from his first album and a few songs here and there from his other albums.

Clint Black will never be remembered as a legend. He is not Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks, or even Vince Gill. He will be remember as an artist who for a brief time had a great run, but for most of his career was good not great.

Here is a video of a television appearance by Clint early in this career. He is performing his debut hit “Better Man”.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Class of 89 - Travis Tritt

In honor of the 20th anniversary of debut of Country Music Class of 89, I am writing a series of posts on each of the artists. I am including those artists who debuted in 1989 – Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Clint Black, Travis Tritt, and Mary Chapin Carpenter. I am also including artists – Vince Gill and Lorrie Morgan – who had their first true commercial impact in 1989.

Decided to do two posting today, so here a post about Travis Tritt.

In 1994 I was a member of the K102 (the local country music radio station) Country Club. Country Club members got special perks like free concert tickets. One of the free shows I got to go to was Travis Tritt’s.

Travis was originally signed to a “singles deal” which meant he was allowed to record a single, but not a whole album. The single was then release to country radio to see if there was any interest. Travis debut single “Country Club” made it to #9, and Travis had to quickly record his debut album “Country Club” which was released in early 1990.

Like fellow Class of 89 members Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Clint Black, Travis found almost instant commercial success. Travis’ first three albums - “Country Club” (1990), “It’s All About to Change” (1991), and “T-R-O-U-B-L-E (1992) - sold 2, 3, and 2 million copies respectively. He had just come off a successful co-headlining tour with hot new artist Trisha Yearwood. An in November of 1994 I was about to see his first big headlining show with Joe Diffie and LeRoy Parnell opening for him.

The show itself was electrifying. Travis had a huge lighted Harley Davidson Eagle hanging over his stage. He entered the stage riding a Harley (I read the fire marshal would not actually let him ride the Harley onto the stage, so he had the Harley rigged on a track so it could be pulled in making it look like he was riding it). Travis rocked most the night, showing seemingly unlimited energy. He also did a great acoustic set of country classics and his #1 hit “Anymore” that showcase his great voice. The crowd loved every minute of it. I left the arena that night with two thoughts:

  • Travis Tritt was a gifted live performer with a great voice.
  • He as not as popular as I thought he was. There were only 9,000 people there of which I figured 3 – 4,000 thousand got in free via the K102 Country Club. That was not the kind of crowd I expected to see at a superstar artists concert. In August of 1994 I had seen Alan Jackson perform in front of over 20,000 fully paying fans. Travis thought, as did others, he was on par with Alan Jackson. He was not.

That was Travis Tritt in a nutshell. He was a gifted artist who had major success, but he never could quite get over the hump to be the superstar that his fellow early 90’s country peers Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Vince Gill, and Brooks & Dunn became.

Travis had risen from being an artist not deemed worthy enough to get a record deal to record a full album to an artist who had an album sell 3 million copies. Travis also was an artist who had his first four studio albums combined for 9 million in sales and his next seven albums combined for 3 million albums.
Travis Tritt won the 1991 CMA Horizon Award, but never won another major award again winning only a few minor awards like Vocal Event and such.

The edgier Travis Tritt seemed a perfect fit for his record album - Warner Brothers - that was noted for having edgier artists like Emmylou Harris, Hank Williams Jr., and Dwight Yoakam, but Travis was one of the first major stars of the early 90s’ to leave his record label.

Travis Tritt viewed himself as a rebel who spoke his mind, but it was his harsh comments about Billy Ray Cyrus and Cyrus’ mega hit “Achy Breaky Heart” that made Travis look like a bad guy. In 1990’s country music fans expected their stars, especially superstars to be upstanding, kind, and humble. Travis Tritt may have been upstanding and kind most the time, but humble was not his gig. That may have cost him.

Like Clint Black, Travis Tirtt started strong then faded into background. Travis charted top 10 singles from 1989 to early 1997. He had a brief “comeback” charting four top tens from 2000 to 2002. After 2002 Tritt never reached the top 10 again and now has been gone through three record labels. He is currently suing his last record label.

I still hear Travis Tritt’s music on the radio. Mostly it is his up-tempo stuff, but an occasional ballad can be heard. I still listen to some his early albums. They have weathered time pretty well, and though they are not great albums, they are still good.

I always thought Travis Tritt would do more than he did. He seemed so talented, but perhaps he was not made to be a superstar. He was a star who had his moment, but his rebel ways never allowed him to be an artist that appealed to the greater masses for an extended time period. In fact that may never have been his true goal. Likely we will never know.

Here’s a video of Travis Tritt performing his major hit “Here’s a Quarter (Called Someone Who Cares)” at the 1991 CMA Awards. Enjoy it now before it disappears from YouTube.

Class of 89 - Mary Chapin Carpenter

In honor of the 20th anniversary of debut of Country Music Class of 89, I am writing a series of posts on each of the artists. I am including those artists who debuted in 1989 – Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Clint Black, Travis Tritt, and Mary Chapin Carpenter. I am also including artists – Vince Gill and Lorrie Morgan – who had their first true commercial impact in 1989.

Today's post will about Mary Chapin Carpenter

I have seen Mary Chapin Carpenter live in concert twice. The first time was 1992 at the old Guthrie Theater where a seat in the 3rd row. Two things immediately struck me. One was she was wearing cowboy boots (she had her jeans pulled over the boots), and two she sounded different live than she did on the radio. Her voice on the radio had more power than it seemed she had live. I had never and still have never encountered an artist who sounded so much weaker in concert.

That said the evening was enjoyable. Mary Chapin (she dislikes being called Mary) seemed to be having fun, and so was the crowd. “I Feel Lucky” had just peaked on the charts and Mary Chapin closed the main part of concert with it. The crowd ate it up and after an enjoyable evening I was heading to the parking lot when I overheard a group of young people excitedly talking about how Mary Chapin’s country was just as cool as rock music. I thought to myself her is woman on the move.

Without going into a long dissertation about Mary Chapin Carpenter’s career, here are some highlights of her career:

  • Her 1989 album “State of Heart” produced 2 Top 10 hits (“Never Had It So Good”, and “Quittin’ Time”)
  • Her 1990 CMA Awards performance of “Opening Act” won her national attention.
  • “Down at the Twist and Shout” from her second album “Shooting Straight in the Dark” became a major radio hit , and her energetic performance of the song on the 1991 CMA raised her profile even more.
  • Her 1992 album “Come On Come On” produced four top ten hits and sold over 4 million copies.
  • Mary Chapin won CMA Female Vocalist of Year in both 1992 and 1993, and her profile kept rising as the “New Country Music Movement” swept forward to ever greater success.
In 1994 she scored her first #1 single with “Shut Up and Kiss Me” and her new album “Stones in the Road’ debuted at #1. Her performance of “Shut Up and Kiss Me” at the 1994 CMA awards became legendary especially after the song ended with her kissing rock music icon Little Richard on the lips. Her star never seemed to shine brighter.

I saw Mary Chapin in concert again in June of 1995. By then the bottom was falling out on her. After scoring her first #1 in 1994, she would go on to score one more top 10 hit. Her album sales dried up, and the awards stop coming. With no radio play, Mary Chapin Carpenter faded from the mainstream.

I remember seeing Mary Chapin that June night in 1995, she seemed small. Not in the physical sense, but in the sense that she could not command the arena. The Mavericks a highly respected country music group that had a brief, but great run as a band opened for Carpenter. They commanded the stage and held people’s attention. The Mavericks had no top ten hits, but the audience was drawn to this charismatic, talent group of young men who were there to entertain them. Mary Chapin could not match them and it showed.

I read later that the pressure of being Sony Nashville biggest selling act weighed Mary Chapin. She also later admitted she had battled depression.

I wonder two things about Mary Chapin Carpenter. First did she ever really what to be a superstar? I think the answer is no. In reality she was a folk singer who found an outlet for her music in the country music genre. Mary Chapin wanted to bring her guitar into a small theatre and play her slow, mellow, folk songs while occasionally mixing in a rocker or two. Big arenas, big stage shows, huge crowds, they were not for her.

The other thing I wonder about Mary Chapin Carpenter was did the fans she brought into country music stay fans of country music. The Washington DC born, Ivey League educated, Carpenter was not like other country artists. Her music was different too. She did attract people to country music. Did they stay, or did they come in, buy “Come On Come On”, hang around a while and leave? Likely many left.

By 1997 Mary Chapin Carpenter’s place in country music was gone. She made more albums, but they sold little. The only Mary Chapin songs I hear played on the radio are an occasional “Down at the Twist and Shout” or “I Feel Lucky”.

My own feelings about Mary Chapin are simple. I thought leaving that 1992 concert that she would be a superstar and I listened to her music often. However, by the time I left the 1995 concert her appeal for me was fading. It is ironic that though I own her first four albums, I have not listen to any of them for any length of time in over a decade. Why? I simply am no longer attracted to her music. Its appeal to me is lost.

Whether Mary Chapin appeals to me or not, I think you find this video of her singing “Opening Act” at the 1990 CMA’s enjoyable. Watch it now before it disappears from YouTube.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

John Randle and Lawrence Taylor

I was not planning to do anything much this weekend as I was just getting over a bad cold. However, I saw in the newspaper that former Viking great and future Pro Football Hall of Famer John Randle would be appearing at the grand opening of the new Northern Tool and Equipment in Minnetonka.

I have kept my autographed football card collecting mostly to Vikings from their Super Bowl teams, but I do have a few of my favorite Pro Football HOFers. Since John Randle was favorite of mine when he played, and he will eventually getting in the HOF, plus he was signing for free, I decide to take the long trek down to Minnetonka.

I arrived to find a smaller than expected crowd. That was fine as it meant I did not have to stand in line long. John Randle is a friendly man who had no problems using my pen to sign my card. He signed the card very nice. He added “Vikes” underneath his name. Some players add inscriptions like that under their names. The inscriptions span the gamut of things from Bible passages to HOF inductions years, to inspirational sayings. I don’t mind players adding the inscriptions as long as they are good and clearly legible.

Thank you John Randle for taking the time to sign my card so nicely, and treating all the fans including myself well!

Former Viking linebacker Ed MacDaniel was there too. He was an unannounced guest, so I did not have one of his cards along to sign. He was gracious about it, noting “they pulled me in at the last second”. He was enjoyable to talk with.

I had paid Chuck Foreman $10 at Twinsfest 2009 to sign a card of his. He was very friendly and engaging. He took the time to sign my card very nicely and he included his jersey number (44) and a 73 ROY inscription to note he was the 1973 NFL Rookie of the Year.

I mention the above because Chuck Foreman was signing with John Randle on Saturday. I brought along a couple of Chuck Foreman cards for him to sign since he was going to be there. I would have been better off leaving the cards at home. Chuck was unfriendly, refused to talk to most people; in fact he refused to look at most people. He also signed people’s stuff very badly. He did not write out his name like he did for me at Twinsfest, and I could barely make out the number #44. It looked more like a couple of lines than two fours.

I am not sure what motivated such behavior from Chuck. I assumed Northern Tool and Equipment was paying him to appear, so I assume he was getting some cash just like when I paid him at Twinsfest. Perhaps he was not feeling well, or simply would rather have been at home asleep. Not everyone can be nice all the time.

I hate to make any judgments, but the fact was as I watched other people’s reactions to their interactions with Chuck, he was not coming off looking very good. John Randle meanwhile was leaving a good impression with people.
One thing I have learned in collecting autographed cards in the mail and in person is that a lot success is based on timing. Catch a player at the right time; you can get a good autograph. Catch a player at the wrong time; you can get a bad autograph or no autograph at all.

Well on Saturday my timing with John Randle was great. Thanks again Mr. Randle!

Lawrence Taylor

Lawrence Taylor is perhaps the greatest defensive football player ever. This HOFer, 8 time 1st Team All-Pro, and one of only two defensive players to win MVP (former Viking Alan Page is the other), redefined the linebacker positions. He also led the New York Giants to their first two ever Super Bowl victories.

I had sent a football card to Mr. Taylor via the Pro Football HOF last year. I had seen other folks had sent to Mr. Taylor that way and received their card back signed nicely by this living legend. Well, I sent and nothing came back for a long time. Then I found out Mr. Taylor was competing on Dancing with the Stars. I did not know Mr. Taylor was a dancer, and I guess he wasn’t as he was recently eliminated from the competition. With new found time on his hands Mr. Taylor must figured he had better get to his mail.

It is always exciting to begin to see returns coming in from a player you sent to. I began to see many returns from Mr. Taylor, but had not yet received my card back. There is always that thought that goes through your mind “what if he decides not sign mine; or what if mine get lost or damaged in the mail.” Well after seemingly everyone else got him back, my signed card from Mr. Taylor arrived.

It is always a great feeling to receive a signed card from an iconic figure like Mr. Taylor. Thank you Lawrence Taylor!

Lawrence Taylor now joins Fran Tarkenton, Alan Page, Paul Krause, Ron Yary, Randall McDaniel, Terry Bradshaw, Roger Staubach, Bob Griese, Earl Campbell, Ozzie Newsome, and Bruce Matthews as HOF football players who have signed for me. For the record Page, Krause, and Yary require $ donations for autographs. Mr. Page and Mr. Krause use their donations to fund foundations that help others.
I am not thrill to spend too much money on Football HOFers, so we will see how many more I try to get. However, it is great to have the ones I have gotten so far.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Random Thoughts - Twins, Ex -Vikings, TTM

The Minnesota Twins opened their 27th and last season in the Metrodome Monday night. I have attended hundreds of Twins games at the dome and have many great memories. I hope to make at least one more trip down to the dome to see a Twins game. It will be bitter sweat to say goodbye to an old friend like the dome. Still I prefer to watch baseball outdoors. Yes, it will be near impossible to get a ticket to see the Twins at Target Field next year, but I figure once those trendy fair weather fans get a taste of the weather for April games, I will have my choice of seats come April 2011.

Last Saturday I attended the TCSCC sports card show. There was a good crowd and lots of dealers. The main attraction was an autograph signing by former Vikings Clint Jones, Sammy White, and John Gilliam. I was not into Clint Jones, and it appeared very few other people were as well. Sammy White and John Gilliam drew a bigger crowd. I paid for both White and Gilliam autographs. Both of them looked in good shape. Gilliam told me he was 64. Wow, it seems only like a few years ago I was watching play for the Vikings. In reality it has been over 30 years since he last played for the Vikings.

White made the mistake of wearing a Grambling shirt. Sammy went to Grambling, so that is why he wore the shirt. What he did not realize was everyone would see that big gold “G” on his shirt and assume it was for the Green Bay Packers. Well, he caught a lot of grief. Luckily it was all in jest. They both seemed like nice guys. Of course they were being paid to be there, but I have meet guys in the same situation act like jerks. Both seemed please not only to make some bucks, but chat with fans who remembered their glory days.

Bad news regarding my collecting autographs through the mail hobby (TTM). I saw several returns from A. J. Pierzinski coming from the White Sox spring training home of Phoenix/Glendale, AZ. This pleased me because I had sent to A.J. too. Well, I got one of those mail recovery envelops Tuesday. These are the envelops the Postal Service put damaged mail in. Well in it was one of my SASEs - one with a Phoenix, AZ post mark on it. I knew it was my A.J. card. Only there was no card. The SASE had been ripped in half. No card, only a key in the envelop. A key for what I have no idea. Evidently the Postal Service thought the key was in my SASE. So no card and a key I don’t need. I was not happy, but there is not much I can do except send to A.J. again and hope he signs again for me.

Thursday provide better news. I received a return from Will Clark. When Clark broke in with the Giants in 1986 it looked like he was a sure bet Hall of Famer. In fact his career with the Giants was very good. Unfortunately he went to Texas as free agent in 1994. Injuries followed and Clark never put up the big career numbers needed for the HOF. Still he was a 6 time All-Star and was MVP of the 1989 NLCS. I had sent to Will two other times and gotten no response, but the third time was the charm.

Will Clark’s nickname was “The Thrill”. Well it was a thrill got get Will to sign my baseball card. Thank you Will Clark!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

My 1987 Minnesota Twins Project is Complete

On March 5, 2009 Dan Schatzeder ended my two year one month old quest to get a signed baseball card from every living player of the 1987 Minnesota Twins World Series Championship team.

I had sent to Mr. Schatzeder three times over the last two years with no response till 3/5 when he finally signed all the cards I had sent him. The first two cards I sent took 668 days to get back to me. That was my longest wait ever beating out the 311 days Steve Garvey took to sign a card for me.

Thanks to Mr. Schatzeder and all the players of the 87 Twins for signing for me.

Mr. Schatzeder arrived in the midst of a hot streak for me. Between 3/3 and 3/8 I received NFL Hall of Famers Terry Bradshaw and Bob Griese; NHL Hall of Famers Jean Beliveau, Peter Stastny, Joe Mullen, and Steve Shutt; former North Stars Al MacAdam and J.P. Praise; and former Twins Jeff Reed, Les Straker (again), and Eric Milton.

Of course since 3/8 I have received only one return. Such is the nature of this hobby.

I wanted to detail the 87 Twins and how I got them all. I used the playoff roster as a guide for who was officially on the championship team. Players not on the playoff roster were not considered officially part of the team though I did pick up a couple of them as well. I also picked up some management and front office folks who were with the Twins in 1987 as well.

The Players

Frank Viola: Starting pitcher and World Series MVP – Frank signed for me in person at the 87 Twins reunion weekend, and also signed a card TTM via his foundation for $5. He inscribed that TTM card Frank Viola 87 WS MVP.

Bert Blyleven: Starting pitcher – Bert signed for me in person at the Twins Autograph Party and Twins Fest.

Les Straker: Starting pitcher - Les signed for me in person at the 87 Twins reunion weekend. He also signed TTM via Spring Training c/o Philadelphia Phillies for whom he now works for.

Joe Niekro: Starting pitcher – Sadly Mr. Niekro has passed away a few years ago. He is the only player on the playoff roster living or dead that I do not have an autographed card of.

Mike Smithson: Starting pitcher – Mike signed TTM via his home address. Mike was not part of the playoff roster, but I got him anyway

Jeff Reardon: Closer – Jeff signed TTM via his home address two different times.

Juan Berenguer: Relief pitcher – Juan signed TTM via his home address including a signed card of his own to go along with the one a sent him.

Keith Atherton: Relief pitcher - Keith signed TTM via his home.

George Frazier: Relief pitcher – George signed TTM c/o Colorado Rockies where he is a broadcaster.

Dan Schatzeder: Relief pitcher - Dan signed TTM via his home address and via his work.

Tim Launder: Catcher – Tim signed for me in person during appearance at a local restaurant.

Kent Hrbek: 1st Base – Kent has signed for me in person numerous times including at Twins Fest and other appearances.

Steve Lombardozzi 2nd Base– Steve signed TTM via his home address second time I sent to him. Not sure why he did not sign the first time I sent him.

Greg Gagne: Shortstop – Greg signed TTM via his home address two different times. He included the inscription 3:16 for John 3:16.

Gary Gaetti 3rd Base and ALCS MVP – Gary signed TTM for me via the Durham Bulls where he is the batting coach.

Dan Gladden: Left Fielder – Dan signed for me in person at Twins Fest.

Kirby Puckett: Center Fielder – Kirby passed away in 2006. Still I recently came across a gentleman at a card show willing to sell me a nice autograph Puckett card for $30. I have seen several autographed Puckett cards in the $40-$60 range. Many of those cards were not as nice as this one. I now own an autographed Kirby Puckett which I had wanted for a long time.

Tom Brunansky: Right Fielder – Tom signed TTM via his home address two different times.

Don Baylor: DH – Don signed for me in person at the 87 Twins reunion weekend.

Roy Smalley: Reserve DH and IF – Roy signed for me in person at Twins Fest

Mark Davidson: Reserve OF – Mark signed TTM via his home address, and also in person at the 87 Twins reunion weekend.

Randy Bush: Reserve OF and DH – Randy signed TTM two different times c/o Chicago Cubs where he is the Assistant GM.

Sal Butera: Reserve Catcher– Sal signed TTM via his home address.

Al Newman Reserve IF – Al signed for me in person at Twins Fest.

Manger and Front Office

Tom Kelly: Manager – Tom has signed for me TTM via his home address and in person at Twins Fest

Andy MacPhail: GM – Andy signed TTM c/o Baltimore Orioles where he is the team president.

Carl Pohlad: Owner – Mr. Pohlad signed TTM for me in 2007 c/o Twins. Mr. Pohlad has since passed away.

Terry Ryan: Farm System Director – Terry signed TTM c/o Twins.

Ralph Houk: Special Advisor to the Manager – Ralph signed TTM via his home address. Mr. Houk also managed the legendary 61 New York Yankee team.

Tony Olivia: Batting Coach – Tony signed in person at Twins Fest. Tony was also a former star Twins player.


Steve Carlton was a starting pitcher for only part of the season and he was not on the post season roster. However, I did send him $25 and this Hall of Fame pitcher autographed a card for me.

Rick Rennick was third base coach. I have a signed card of him that I purchase with some other signed cards. Rennick is also a former Twins player.

I thought about getting the other coaches too, but they don’t have any cards like the players do.

Final Thought

I am really please to have completed this project. I loved the 87 Twins. They are probably my favorite Twins team of all-time. To finally win the World Series for Minnesota was their greatest accomplishment, but I also think they are a classy group of men.

I have tried collecting every living player of the 91 World Champion Twins and the 1979 Twins. Neither team has been as responsive the 87 Twins were. The 87 Twins will always have a special place in the hearts of all Twins fans. They were not the best Twins team (that was the 91 team) but they were the most special.