Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My Interview With Tuff Stuff

I was contacted about a month ago by a writer who asked if I was interested in doing an interview for a Rickey Henderson article that he was writing. Of course, I jumped at the chance, excited that my little blog about Rickey was getting some sort of recognition. We talked for about 20 minutes on the phone later in the week, and followed up with some more questions via e-mail.

The author is a freelance writer working for Tuff Stuff, with the article going to run in the February issue (to be released in mid-January). I was then pleasantly surprised yesterday, that while doing some "Rickey research" online, I came across the article! I guess Tuff Stuff "prints" the articles online a little before the newsstand issue is released.

Here's a direct link to the article on Tuff Stuff, as well as the same article on Sports Collectors Digest (with the only difference being the title). I didn't realize until yesterday that they were both owned by Krause Publications, and can therefore share resources. The print article should be very similar, with only the addition of a few more pictures, with some of them hopefully being ones that I submitted.

Below is the full text of the article, with the parts discussing the blog highlighted in green:

Head of the Class: Henderson Hall bound
December 17, 2008

By Kevin Glew

Rickey thinks Rickey is a Hall of Famer. At least, that’s what baseball’s stolen base champ would likely say about his Cooperstown chances. And it would be difficult to argue with the fleet-footed superstar who often talks about himself in the third person.

Before Manny was being Manny, Rickey was being Rickey. Though he hasn’t officially retired, Henderson is eligible for the Hall of Fame for first time in 2009. And when the new induction class is announced on Jan. 12, it’s expected that Henderson will be a near unanimous selection.

The 10-time All-Star is baseball’s all-time leader in stolen bases (1,406), runs (2,295) and leadoff homers (81). A member of the exclusive 3,000-hit club, Henderson also owns the record for most stolen bases in a season (130 in 1982). Add in an American League MVP award (1990), 297 career round-trippers and three Silver Slugger awards (1981, 1985, 1990) and you’ve got yourself a Hall of Fame resume.

“Without a doubt, he’s the best leadoff guy in the history of the game,” said Dave McKay, a former A’s teammate, who also coached Henderson in Oakland. “He was just such an impact player.”

Longtime Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Rance Mulliniks, who played against Henderson dozens of times, agrees.

“He was without a doubt the most dynamic, unstoppable offensive force I’ve ever played against,” he said.

Dan Shulman, baseball play-by-play announcer on ESPN, shares similar sentiments.

“He’s an automatic first-ballot Hall of Famer, and I’d imagine he’ll get at least 95 per cent of the vote. He was as unique a weapon as there was in baseball for a long, long time,” he said.

Of course, along with his stupendous talent, Henderson was also a controversial figure. His patented snap catches drew the scorn of baseball purists, who labeled him a hot dog. But if you read Henderson’s biography, Off Base: Confessions of a Thief, you’ll discover that Henderson viewed himself as an entertainer and the catches were part of his act. And to Henderson’s credit, he won a Gold Glove in 1981 while still perfecting his snap catch.

But even Henderson has expressed regret about his remarks after he broke Lou Brock’s all-time stolen base record on May 1, 1991. Speaking to the crowd with Brock on hand, Henderson declared, “Lou Brock was the symbol of great base stealing. But today, I’m the greatest of all time.”

“People gave him a hard time after that speech, but he gets a bad rap for that. He really was the greatest base-stealer of all-time. That can’t be disputed. Maybe he shouldn’t have said it, but I don’t mind it,” said Perry Andrews, a longtime Henderson fan and card collector.

Actions like these are what have made Henderson one of the most colorful characters in baseball history. They also help to explain his strong collector following.

“People that collect him really have a passion for him,” said Jim Kramer, owner of Southpaw Cards in Roseville, Minn.

Matt Taylor, owner of the top Henderson basic set on the PSA Set Registry, is one such collector.

“He’s the best leadoff hitter of all-time. He was definitely one of my favorite players when I was a kid, so that’s where I started with the collection,” he said. Andrews has created a website dedicated to his Henderson collection ( Brad Abbott was similarly inspired. His online shrine ( has been up and running since January 2008.

“Despite the reputation that he has gained over the years, I admire Rickey’s determination and desire. All he wanted to do was play baseball, and he’d play for whoever would let him. He knew that his job as a leadoff hitter was to get on base and score runs, and he did everything in his power to make that happen. He was a lot of fun to watch,” said Abbott.

One of the toughest Henderson cards to track down is his 1977 Chong Modesto A’s minor league single (#5). Released as part of a 23-card team set, this single showcases Henderson’s first name spelled “Ricky.” A 1977 team set that included a PSA MINT 9 (OC) Henderson sold for $1,321 in an American Memorabilia auction in September 2007.

The most renowned Henderson card, however, is his 1980 Topps rookie (#482).

“That’s the Holy Grail of the Rickey Henderson collector,” said Taylor.

Hampered by centering issues and focus problems, this card is one of the toughest modern rookies to uncover in high-grade. Of the 9,186 submitted to PSA (as of press time), just 10 have received the vaunted PSA GEM MINT 10 grade. One PSA 10 example sold for $4,264 in a Mastro Auctions sale in April 2007.

Collectors must also be wary of counterfeit Henderson rookies. Differences between the fakes and real cards can be viewed on Andrews’ website. Andrews says that counterfeits boast discernible tiny dots in the background on the A’s banner, while this area is a solid color on authentic examples.

Autographed Henderson items are also highly coveted. Larry Studebaker, a longtime autograph seeker and now an authenticator at James Spence Authentication, says Henderson has become a tough in-person autograph.

“Between 1980-90, he was much more obtainable,” said Studebaker. “I’ve never gotten him to sign anything in person. And I’ve asked him like 20 times.

He has the real deep, scratchy voice and he always says, ‘Rickey don’t sign.’ ”

Studebaker has also seen his share of bad Henderson autographs.

“A lot of times on Oakland A’s balls or New York Yankee balls, the whole ball is completely signed by each individual on the team, then you get to the Henderson signature and it’s a clubhouse signature,” he said.

At one point, a New York company named Man of Steal Sports, Inc. seemed to be the primary source of Henderson autographed items. However, this company’s phone number is out of service and their website is no longer functioning, so it appears they have closed.

Mitch Adelstein, president of Mounted Memories, has had Henderson as a guest at a Chicago Sun-Times show. His company boasts a significant inventory of Henderson items. He says signed baseballs have been his best-selling Henderson items, followed by autographed pictures of Henderson hoisting the base after he broke Brock’s stolen base record.

Despite the pending Hall of Fame announcement, however, hobby dealers say there hasn’t been a big rush for Henderson collectibles.

“There’s not much demand for him at all,” said Monty Delong, owner of CJ’s Sports Cards and Memorabilia in San Diego, Calif.

Jim Bernardini, co-owner of Lefty’s Sports Collectibles in Burlingame, Calif., has had a similar experience.“I don’t think I’ve had anybody ask for one of his items in months,” he said.

Even Ken Brison, owner of Talkin’ Baseball in Danville, Calif., a store that many A’s fans frequent, hasn’t seen an increase in interest.“With the state of the economy, nothing’s extremely hot, but Rickey is well-received here,” he said.

There’s not much demand for Henderson cards on the East Coast either. Steve Bistany, owner of Steve’s Sports Card, Coin and Stamp Shop in Rutherford, N.J., says no one asks him about Henderson cards.

“There’s not too much activity in his name anymore,” he said.

But most dealers expect a spike in demand after the Jan. 12 announcement.

“There will be requests because we have our standard amount of customers that collect Hall of Famers,” explained Bernardini.

Chris Console, managing director at Steiner Sports & Entertainment Marketing in New York, concurs.

“From a collectibles standpoint, you’re going to see a new wave of collectors after Rickey becomes a Hall of Famer,” he said.Hobbyists can also expect to see more Henderson cards on eBay.

“Once Rickey is announced as being inducted, you will see a ton of his cards flooded into the market. There will be an uptick in the price of his rookie card, as well as the prices on some of his scarcer cards,” said Abbott.

Adelstein hopes to set up a signing with Henderson in the new year. However, collectors should buy their Rickey autographs prior to the induction announcement if they want to save money.

“If you wait (until after the Hall of Fame announcement), prices are obviously going to go up. It’s just how our business works,” said Adelstein.

Abbott is so confident that Rickey will be enshrined in Cooperstown that he has already reserved a hotel room for the 2009 induction ceremonies.

“My goal is to finally meet Rickey, get him to personalize an autograph, and hopefully introduce him to my site,” he said.

If things go as expected, Abbott will be in a good place to achieve his goal. And for us media types, we can’t help but look forward to Henderson’s induction speech. We love to hear Rickey talk about Rickey.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas and a Trade With Heartbreaking Cards

I hope everyone had a great Christmas, opening presents and spending time with family, I know I did. Santa was nice enough to leave me a few packs of cards, a tradition that has continued for many years. I used to get my first packs of the new Topps release in my stocking every year, and couldn't wait to see what the new cards looked like. But, due to the 2009 products now being released until January (which does make sense, since it's not 2009 yet), this is no longer possible. But, any cards are better than no cards!

Now that everyone is mesmerized by the adorable baby (Henry is 5 months old, and seemed to love his first Christmas), it's on to business. I'm a little behind in the posting of my "recent" trades, but I hope to catch up before the end of the year. I sent Matt over at Heartbreaking Cards of Staggering Genius some Royals (and a few players with horseshoe mustaches) back in November, and he sent me a great package of A's in return. I've just been a bit slow in posting the results.

To begin, he sent over a great stack of older Rickey cards. I've always enjoyed the older Topps stickers (why don't they do anything different anymore?), and the 1991 Upper Deck with 3 Rickey's in one has always been one of my favorites.

He also sent some greater cards of newer A's, some of which I didn't even know existed. The Daric Barton Topps from National Baseball Card Day s pretty sweet, as is the Mike Piazza insert, which was exclusive to Wal-Mart (well, as exclusive as Wal-Mart can be). The Matt Murton is also the first A's card that I've received from this years Topps Update & Highlights set.

The top cards are two serial numbered parallels, with the Barton (#/149) being either Brown or Bronze, I'm not quite sure (anyone know?). The Haren and Chavez are minis from 2006 Bowman Heritage, and are the first ones that I've scene, but I definitely wouldn't mind getting more!

Also included in the package were various vintage A's cards, which are always fun since I didn't start collecting until 1987. Although more recent, you can never go wrong with a Fleer sticker.

The next card is from a pretty neat little insert set, featuring the programs from past World Series. This one is from the 1989 Battle of the Bay, where the A's (and Rickey!) handed it to the Giants. Unfortunately, this is also the last time that the A's have won a World Series.

We finally have a few 2008 Moments & Milestones, featuring Frank Thomas and Nick Swisher. I already had an Eric Chavez from the set, and although I know there are a ton of parallels, I now only need a base card from Jack Cust and Huston Street to have a card from each A's player included in the base set.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy 50th Birthday Rickey

The birth of Rickey Henderson is probably not the first one you think of on Christmas, but it is a special day for him as well. This year, even more so, as he's turning 50! Although he'd probably rather still be playing, I don't think he'll mind getting inducted into the Hall of Fame as a slightly belated birthday present.

Continuing with the Christmas theme, is this Rickey ornament, which I'm actually afraid to hang on the tree, as it has a tendency to fall over unexpectedly.

This ornament was made in the early 1990's by Sports Impressions, and is a "limited edition" of 7,500. Sports Impressions also made other collectible ceramic items of Rickey such as figurines and plates.

This isn't the best representation of Rickey (it doesn't really look like him at all), but it's better than nothing. There probably aren't too many player collectors than can add a Christmas ornament to their collection, so I can't complain.

Note the neon green batting gloves, and you gotta love the white shoes. Only the A's can get away with something like that!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

My Top 5 Rickey Henderson Wish List

With Christmas closing in, I thought it would be an appropriate time to put together my ultimate Rickey Henderson "wish list." If money was no object (which of course it is), the list below is of the top five Rickey "collectibles" I'd most like to own. It was hard to limit it to just five, and I know I'll think of something to add in the future, but you can't go wrong with anything on the list below!

5. Game-Used Neon Green Batting Gloves

As if Rickey wasn't flashy enough on the field, he had to go find him self some neon green batting gloves to wear. While with the A's from approximately 1989-1991, Rickey wore both black and white Mizuno batting gloves with bright green padding on the backs of the fingers. I'd love to have a pair of gloves he actually wore in a game, and it would be even better if he stole a base while wearing them! It was this style of gloves that he was wearing when he broke Brock's all-time stolen base record.

4. 1977 Chong Minor League Rookie Card

The only card to make the top five is Rickey's 1977 Modesto A's Chong Rookie card, the first card of Rickey ever produced. The copy above recently sold on eBay for almost $2,500, so you can see why it's on my wish list, and not already in my collection. I'm usually not a fan of graded cards, but I would definitely make an exception for this one. Note the spelling of his name as "Ricky," since this was his first card, it's the only time that it's slightly acceptable, but any future occurrences are just not right.

3. Early Oakland A's Jersey

As you probably know if you read this blog, I'm a sucker for "retro" Rickey items, and nothing is cooler than one of his jerseys while first playing for the A's. Shown above is a 1982 home jersey, which he wore during the season that he set the single-season stolen base record with 130. It belongs to Steve, who also owns Rickey's high school yearbook, which I posted about back in April

2. A Stolen Base

This was an obvious choice, and one that I knew had to be near the top of the list! How cool would it be to own a base actual "stolen" by Rickey Henderson. I don't need #939 (I'm hoping that's already in Cooperstown), but #512 or #1,123 would be just fine.

1. Getting to Meet Him and Talk About the Blog!

The last item on the list is obviously not an object, but an experience! I'm hoping to finally meet Rickey while in Cooperstown for the Hall of Fame induction ceremony next summer. I would love to talk to him about the blog, and would welcome any input that he would like to provide. If I found out that Rickey had actually heard or even seen the blog, I don't know what I'd say. I'm planning on having some business cards printed up, so even if he hadn't heard of the blog yet, maybe he'll go check it out in the future.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Trade With Night Owl

I sent Night Owl a stack of Dodgers about a month ago, and I got back a nice stack of A's not to long afterwards. I've been way behind in posting my trades, but I hope to catch up before the end of the year. Below are some of my favorite cards from the trade.

The Harden Topps Opening Day was the only card that I still needed for the 2008 set, so it is now complete. Night Owl also sent over two Allen & Ginter mini parallels of Joe Blanton, a black border (the only one I have), as well as an A&G back.

These are the first 2007 Topps Heritage base cards that I've received, and I really like them. I have a few Heritage rookies from last year, but the card design is different than from the base. I also got three Topps Opening Day cards that I needed, with my favorite of course being Stomper. It's not too often that you see cards of the teams mascots.

Last, but certainly not least, is this assortment of older A's cards and inserts. I love the Rick Monday "Rookie Cup" card with the Kansas City A's jersey, which is also serial numbered to 299. The interesting thing about the Chavez card, is the lack of fans in the stands. I know the A's don't draw like the Yankees, but those are premium seats down the 3rd base line, and are always full. My guess is this was taken sometime during warm-ups, but who knows.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Few Retail Packs of UD Timelines

I was at Target this past weekend, preparing for an upcoming trip, and thought I'd check out the cards. I hadn't purchased much of anything for awhile, and have been intrigued by the Timelines release. I like the fact that you get a few "inserts" in every pack, as variation is always a good thing. It reminds me of the early days of Score, where along with the colorful base cards, you would always get a few nice inserts, such as Dream Team, Franchise, or All-Star cards.

I purchased two packs, and actually got both of these in the same one. It was a nice surprise, as I never seem to pull any A's myself. Although it's a little odd, I do kind of like the disembodied head look on the 1994 All-Time Heroes Subset insert.

I got six base cards in the two packs, with at least three Hall of Famers. There's some argument over the design of the base cards, but I actually like them.

The last scan includes the four inserts I received in the packs. One base rookie, a 1992 Upper Deck Minors, a 1995 SP Minors Die-Cut, and finally a 2004 Timeless Teams. Of the four I actually like the 1992 Minors the best, as it reminds me of my earlier days of collecting, when a $0.99 pack of Upper Deck was a splurge! Other than the two A's (of course), the rest of the cards are all for trade. If anyone's interested, just let me know!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Don't Do it Rickey!

Rickey Henderson was recently offered $1 million by the Golden Baseball League, to enter the Hall of Fame wearing a San Diego Surf Dawgs hat. You can read the entire press release here.

Rickey played one year for the Surf Dawgs in 2005, the inaugural year for the GBL, and actually won the GBL championship. That championship game was Rickey's last in "professional" baseball, before he finally decided to hang up the cleats.

Unfortunately for the GBL, and fortunately for me, the Hall of Fame now has the final say as to what cap the players will wear in their HOF plaque. The player is asked for their preferred choice, but they do not have the final decision.

The A's already lost Reggie Jackson to the Yankees (when he decided against wearing an A's hat), and there's no way that something like that should happen again. When you think of Rickey, you think of the A's (at least, I do), and that's the way it should continue to be.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Trade With Boxbusters

A few weeks ago I contacted Will at Boxbusters, asking if he'd be interested in an A's for Cardinals trade. I sent him about 50 cards, and he sent me the same in return.

The first half of the pack contained some 2008 A's that I still needed. I was actually a fan of the 2008 Topps design this year, but the Chrome versions look even better (although not when scanned)! I had the refractor parallel of the Chavez already, but now I have the base card to go along with it.

The Chavez card from Upper Deck Update is my favorite of this next batch. I love the picture of him snagging the liner out of the air. It almost looks like he's stretching for the ball at first base, but considering he's a third baseman, and the A's bullpen is behind him, I know that's not the case. Plus, there's no base to be seen.

The second half of the package contained some great older A's cards. I've always liked 1992 Stadium Club, with my favorite part being the picture of the players Topps rookie card on the back.

Finally, we have some 1987 Donruss, a single 1991 Score, and a stack of 1991 Donruss. I started collecting in 1987, and purchased a lot of Topps, but I don't think I got a single pack of Donruss for some reason. I've always been a fan of the early Score inserts, as you always got something interesting in every pack.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Ballots Are Out!

The official ballots for the 2009 Hall of Fame Induction class were released today by Baseball Writers' Association of America. In what should come as no surprise, the list is headlined by none other than Rickey Henderson!

Rickey last played Major League Baseball with the Dodgers in 2003, and after waiting the required 5 years, is finally eligible for induction. Although there seems to be an unwritten rule that no one should be included on 100% of the ballot, there isn't really a logical explanation for why Rickey should be excluded. His numbers speak for themselves!

Along with Rickey, there are a few other players who have a chance of being inducted come January 12th. Jim Rice fell just 16 votes shy of the required 75% threshold last year, and with Rickey as the only surefire inductee, has a pretty good chance of getting in. Andre Dawson (who I know Hawk to the Hall is wholeheartedly rooting for), also has a legitimate chance of being inducted, as he was included on over 65% of the ballots last year.

I've already got my hotel reservations for July 2009 (I made them almost a year in advance), and can't wait to see what gems Rickey's induction speech may hold.