Sunday, June 16, 2013

Autograph Adventures: David Tyree

This story goes back to last week, June 8. I went to a local Sports Authority to look for a new pair of sneakers. After buying a pair that I liked,  I noticed a sign on the way out that caught my attention. I later called the Sports Authority to confirm the date and time, and they even told me that it was a free signing. If you don't remember David Tyree, click HERE and watch a video that should jog your memory. That helmet catch would prove to be the last one Tyree ever made in the NFL. He later played for the Baltimore Ravens, appearing on mostly special teams. Tyree's career ended after he signed a one day contract with the Giants to retire with the team that he won a Super Bowl with.

Now, fast forward to the day of the signing. As you can see on the flyer, the signing was scheduled to start at 1pm. I arrived around noon to be about sixth in line. On the right, you can see what it looked like at the front of the line. I had brought a 5x7 photo with me to get signed, and since I was with my father, there was one more autograph to be had. The Sports Authority had set up a rack of Giants mini-helmets and Giants footballs, but I ended up settling with a NFL Autograph Mini Football.

Then the waiting began. From what I've seen, athletes aren't usually to these signings. 1pm came and went. Then at around 1:15, a person from Sports Authority said Tyree would be there in 20 minutes. 20 minutes later, and there was still no sign of Tyree. Eventually it was 2pm, and people in line were starting to get restless. Finally, at long last, David Tyree came in the store around 2:20 pm. With his son sitting on his lap, he started signing away for everyone. I approached him about five minutes into the signing. He had black and silver sharpies on the table, so I brought my own blue sharpie, as black tends to fade quicker than blue. I gave him the ball first, and asked him to inscribe it with the year that he won the Super Bowl, and he signed it perfectly. I asked to take a photo with him when he finished signing my photo, and the result was the photo you can see on the top part of this paragraph. His eyes are closed, but I guess that makes it more worthwhile, as it is a hilarious experience. Before leaving, I took a video of him signing which you can see below.

Here are photos of the two autographs I got from David Tyree.

That's all for this autograph adventure. Thanks for reading. Happy Fathers Day! Good luck graphing!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Cardinals @ Mets 6/11/13 at Citi Field

 Last night, June 11, I went to Citi Field for the Mets game against the St. Louis Cardinals. As you can see on my ticket, there is no price as these were complimentary tickets. It was Citi Tuesdays, and I was lucky to get two free tickets.

After taking the train, we arrived at Citi Field about 20 minutes before the gates were going to open. There was already a short line forming in front of the bag check tables, but I decided to start another line. I went right behind another one of the bag check tables, and was first in line. About 10 minutes later, security started to tell people toward the back of the original line that there were indeed two lines, with me at the front of the second one.

When the gates opened, I raced down toward to the first row on the first base side of the field. I was going to try to get some autographs from the Mets today. I was the first one to get down toward where veteran pitcher LaTroy Hawkins was shagging balls during batting practice. Once he fielded a ball, I asked him if he could toss one up. He looked in my direction, and launched it in my direction from about 40-60 feet away.
I moved a few steps to my left, and made the easy one handed catch. Ball #1 was in the books, and you can see it on the left. Hawkins is circled in yellow in the photo on the left, which I took after moving to a better spot for autographs. Feel free to click on that picture, or any other ones in this entry to get a better look, even though some may be out of focus. Unfortunately for me, that would be the only thing I got during Mets batting practice. When they left the field, nobody stopped to sign, and then the Cardinals took over the field.

After the Cardinals took the field, I ran over to the third base side. Within five minutes of getting to my new spot down the third base line, someone yelled, "Heads up!" I looked up and around to see a line drive come flying into the seats, over the heads of several people that ducked to avoid getting hit. The ball bounced off a seat back about five rows directly behind me, popped up straight into the air, and I barely had to move from my spot while making the one hand catch with my back facing the field. I was actually sitting on the ledge between the stands and the field when I made the catch, and I had to push myself back up to avoid falling backwards onto the field. People actually applauded that catch, which surprised me. Maybe it was because it went straight into the glove, no bobble. I then asked who hit the ball, and a person decked out in Cardinals gear told me that it was probably Jon Jay, so I'll go with what he told me. That would be ball #2 on the day. I took the picture of the ball from the spot where I caught it, and this one is more in focus.

After trying, with no success, to get a toss-up from every single Cardinal that fielded a ball, left handed Matt Adams stepped into the cage. A few swings in, he hit a screaming line drive hooking toward the foul line. The ball hit the warning track dirt in fair territory, and was curving into the stands. Again, the girls standing next to me hit the deck to protect their faces. I saw the ball coming toward me, so I instinctively stuck out my glove, and watched the ball come flying right into my glove. When I tried to squeeze it shut, the ball popped out for a split second. However I got it back in my glove before it could fall to the dirt or any other fans could get their hands on it. Ball #3 was safely in my glove when I checked to see if it was still there. I took another, slightly out of focus, picture with ball #3 facing the infield where I caught it. That would be the last ball I got on the day. I got two balls during the Cardinals portion of BP in literally the exact same spot. I guess that it was the luck of the redbirds.

A few minutes later, most of the Cardinals left the field without signing any autographs. To my surprise, Shelby Miller emerged from the dugout and came over to the corner near the tarp and started signing for the fans. I tried my best to get into the scrum, but I was stuck in the third row, well out of Miller's arm reach. I slowly inched my way closer toward where Miller was signing, but I still wasn't close enough. Someone in the first row was offering to help get autographs for people that were further away. I handed him my ball and pen. No more than a minute later, I could see Miller signing my ball on the sweet spot with the pen I had just given the helpful person in the front row. I got the ball back, thanked the guy in the front for helping me out, then took the video of Miller signing that you can see below. You can see the signed ball at the bottom of this entry.

That would be the only autograph I got on the day. Miller has been great this year, and he actually writes out every letter of his name, which you don't see too often. I finally met my friend, who had unsuccessfully tried to snag a home run during batting practice, and he took the picture below.
The game was pretty bad from a Mets perspective as Jeremy Hefner imploded in the fifth inning, allowing five runs. Michael Wacha got his first career MLB win, leading the Cardinals past the New York Mets 9-2.

Shelby Miller signed ball:

Today's Baseballs:                                                        And the sweet spots:

That's all for another game at Citi Field. Thanks for Reading! Good luck Graphing! 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Signature Stars: Ken Morrow

USA goalie Jim Craig (30) and defenseman Ken Morrow (3) defend the net during the team’s 1980 medal-round game against the USSR, which was played 32 years ago today. The U.S. pulled off one of the greatest upsets in sports history with a 4-3 victory and would go onto defeat Finland in the gold medal game and complete the “Miracle on Ice.” (Heinz Kluetmeier/SI)
GALLERY: Photos of the Miracle on Ice | Greatest Upsets In Sports History SI VAULT: U.S. Hockey squad wins SI Sportsman of the Year (12.22.80)
Morrow (#3) defends the net.
Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated
From the moment Ken Morrow started playing hockey, he was a champion. In 1976, he was drafted by the New York Islanders. Before he could play his first NHL game, he got a chance to try out for the United States Olympic team. After a rigorous tryout under legendary coach Herb Brooks, Morrow had made the team. That team would go on to upset the heavily favored Soviet Union in a game later known as the Miracle on Ice. That was voted to be the greatest moment in American sports history. The US would later go on to win the gold medal against Finland a few days later. Morrow was a solid defenseman for the United States throughout those 1980 Olympics, stopping the opposition in it's tracks and making big hits when he needed to. He was even on the ice for the final shift of the Soviet Union game. You could see that shift HERE, if you didn't click on the words 'Miracle on Ice' above.

Shortly after leaving Lake Placid, Morrow was thrown into the Islanders lineup. Even though Morrow was never known to be a goal scorer, he scored THIS goal to win a key game in the first round en route to the Islanders first Stanley Cup win. That made Morrow the first player ever to win Olympic Gold and the Stanley Cup in the same season. Morrow went on to play on all four Islanders Stanley Cup teams, scoring THIS goal to finish off the Oilers in the last game of the fourth Stanley Cup win. Morrow eventually retired due to injuries in 1989. In recent years, he has been one of the head scouts for the Islanders. 

Back in 2009, when I was first getting into autographs in the mail, I sent Ken four cards, he sent them back signed in a few weeks, and he personalized one like I asked. He wrote something very unique on the card that he personalized. Believe in miracles. I hadn't asked for those specific words, but they came out great. If you are wondering, I have thousands of cards from all four sports, spanning over many years and decades, all throughout my house. All I have to do is look, and I'll find cards of just about any athlete that I'm looking for. 

Now fast forward to December 2011, the Islanders were set to induct Morrow to their Hall of Fame on New Years Eve. A couple days prior, the Islanders were hosting the Calgary Flames. I had tickets for that game as it was during my winter vacation from school. Prior to the game, the Islanders said that Morrow would be doing at singing at that game. I was thrilled, as I had a special puck that I wanted him to sign. The signing was going to take place during the second intermission of the game. I arrived about halfway through the second period, as I didn't want to wait on line for too long. If you are going to a signing, be sure to show up early for whatever you are going to. To my surprise, Morrow was already there signing away. While waiting on line, I took a video of Ken signing which you can see HERE. Shortly after I stopped filming, I approach Ken, and he signed the puck with the inscription that I asked for. I shook his hand, thanked him, then left and went back to my seat as the line grew several hundred people deep. 

That would be the last time I saw Morrow for a while. Then, this past December 8, I was at an Albany Devils game with my friend. The Devils were playing the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the Isles AHL affiliate. As we were walking around the concourse during the intermission, the door to the bathroom opened. The person that walked out was, you guessed it, Ken Morrow. I said, "Ken?" He looked at me, confirming that it was in fact who I thought it was. My friend and I approached him, and I asked if I could take a picture with him. He said sure, and you can see the picture we took HERE. After taking the picture, my friend asked Morrow to sign his ticket, and Morrow obliged. He signed a page in my autograph book as well, and then I asked him a question I had thought about for a while. "Who would win in a game; your 1980 Olympic team USA that won the Gold, or your 1980 Islanders that won the Stanley Cup?" To paraphrase, Morrow said that the Islanders would probably win because they had more talent. He also added that neither legendary coach, Herb Brooks or Al Arbour, would be out-coached. My friend and I thanked him for his time, and we went our separate ways. Morrow was there scouting for the Islanders during the lockout. There were no NHL games, so Morrow was in Albany to look at many of the Islanders prospects.

Lastly, a few weeks ago, I sent Morrow the picture he took with me in Albany as well as a picture from his Islanders playing days to the same address I sent the cards to years earlier. A few weeks later, I looked in the mailbox and got both back signed. He personalized the picture with the same inscription he made on one of my cards back in 2009. The signed picture of him playing can be seen in the second paragraph of this entry.

Ken Morrow is a legend in the world of hockey, and he is a legend in fan interaction. He is a great person, and it was a pleasure to meet him. Ken is a mail legend, as well as a great person to meet live. That makes him a signature star.