Sunday, December 31, 2023

AM Radio and Denny Felsner

After finding a Moe Mantha 1986/87 Topps card in a bowling alley in the spring of 1987, I had a strong obsession with the sport of hockey. I wasn’t quite collecting hockey cards yet (they were pretty scarce in my area for a little while), but I enjoyed watching Penguins games downstairs in my parent's basement while my dad and his friends lifted weights on our home gym system that my dad was given by his friend. Of course, my dad's friends would use swear words, and then my dad would make me go to bed. I just loved swears when I was a kid! 

One evening, my mom’s best friends husband came over to lift weights with my dad in our basement. This guy was huge, and also was a professional softball player. He was 6’8” and could bench press all of the weight on my dad's home gym with ease. He also was a huge sports fan. When he began asking me what hockey players I liked watching I really had no answer other than “Mario Lemieux”. Everyone loved the guy in Pittsburgh, so it was probably 90% of everyone’s answer to the question. He thought it would be a good idea to expose me to a bunch of other players around the league, so he would bring over VHS tapes of other teams, and I would watch them over and over. I’d give them back and he would give me more tapes to watch. Also, later on in the 90’s, he gave me 2 tapes of Don Cherry’s Rock’em Sock’em Hockey. One day in late October, probably in 1998, my mom’s friend left him due to some differences and I’d never see the guy again until summer of 2007. I ran into him in a gas station where he was waiting in line to buy cigarettes. We shook hands and I asked him if he wanted his VHS tapes back and he laughed and said, “No, those were for you. You had a lot of passion for that sport and it made me happy.” What he didn’t know is that he influenced me more than he knew. On one of those tapes he gave to me, I watched the St. Louis Blues play a game against Quebec in 1990 where the Blues went ballistic scoring 9 goals! Also, while watching that game, I found my favorite player of all time, Brett Hull. I would spend hours watching his quick release and I patterned my game to be just like his. My friend John would always come over and play hockey with me in my parents garage. I would always pretend to be Hull, and one day John asked, “Well then who the heck am I?” This was at a time before the internet, so I went back and watched the VHS tape until I knew every player on that St. Louis Blues team. This behavior of mine continued into the next season until my dad who worked for USAirways would start bringing me home USA Today newspapers that people would leave behind on the plane. The sports section would have full box scores. I kept a notebook and tried my best to keep stats, but without getting one every single day, that was near impossible.

In 1992, I got my first radio for Christmas. It was Sony AM/FM and it had 2 tape decks, a CD Player and a headphones jack. One night I was screwing around with AM radio and came across a hockey broadcast. It wasn’t the best quality, occasionally it would be muffled, but it was the St. Louis Blues broadcast from KMOX radio! I could not believe it! I still to this day remember it was station 1120 on AM radio. My dad picked up a Blues schedule for me from one of his friends he used to fly with who was now based on Missouri, and I never missed a game. If I felt myself dozing off to sleep, I would hit record on my tape deck and record the rest of the game and listen to it on the school bus going to and from school the next day. This was my life every season from 1992-1998. I knew every player on those teams. On my 12th birthday, my parents even got me a St. Louis Blues cake! A footnote to this cake was it had this raspberry filling in it and although it looked great, it didn't taste the best to me. I was kind of a picky eater back then, but my parents tried their hardest!

Also, enjoy a photo of me playing left-handed hockey. (I leant out my right-handed stick to one of my friends who attended my party and used my cousin Alan's left-handed stick he left in our garage). Please note, my Brett Hull jersey!

Back to my Blues fandom. One of the more intriguing players to me was this prospect named Denny Felsner. Denny was a highly touted prospect who lit up the scoreboard in college for the Michigan Wolverines. Somehow in 1992 he didn’t win the Hobey Baker Award as the best college player that season (even though he outscored the winner and eventual St. Louis Blues alum Scott Pellerin by 37 points). The KMOX announcers seemed so elated about Felsner, and it really had me excited about the player. I still remember listening to his first game on that station. It seemed every time the puck touched his stick they were just waiting for something good to happen. On April 16, 1992 (I didn’t even look that up, I remembered it), he finally got his first point (an assist) on a goal by Dave Christian. I for sure thought this would be one of many to come. The next season, I tried to get every Denny Felsner card I could. Our local LCS, was owned by my mom’s best friends brother. He held Denny Felsner cards for me, and when I would come in, he would sell them to me at a discount. I remember having a full page 9-pocket binder page of his Topps rookie card alone! I eventually had every rookie card of his except for his Topps Gold. That year, I split a box of Topps with my brother trying to obtain this elusive Denny Felsner Topps Gold. Neither one of us got that stupid card. I ended up spending so much of my grass cutting money buying packs of that product that summer, and still couldn’t pull one. Finally, I just gave up looking for this Denny Felsner card that I swore didn’t exist.

Over the next 3 years, Felsner bounced around between the Peoria Rivermen and the Blues (mostly with Peoria). Felsner only suited up for 18 games total with the Blues. These 18 games would also be his only games played in the NHL. I still remember his first NHL goal. It was against the Blackhawks in the Division finals back in 1993 and I listened to the call on KMOX while I was supposed to be sleeping in my bed. Though technically a playoff goal, it was still his first goal he had in the NHL. I was so pumped I believe I yelled while in bed and got yelled at by my mom. After that last season of Felsner’s, I packed away my collection of him in a binder and tucked it away in my large closet in my bedroom. 

About 10 years ago, my nephew started to play ice hockey. One night while my nephew was spending the night over at my parents, I had stopped by to grab my dad’s wire cutters, and my nephew said he had found a binder in the closet with hockey cards in it when he was searching for board games. He asked if they were mine or his dads. My nephew and I went in to take a look, and after seeing the first page full of Topps Felsner rookies, I knew they were mine. The binder was just filled with 90’s junk wax rookies. I told my nephew he could have the binder, and he was excited! It was a blast from the past and I enjoyed flipping through the cards and talking about some of the players with him.

Last July, our neighborhood had an annual garage sale. I put out some junk wax rookies in team bags to give out to kids. One of the neighbors in the townhomes on the next street over who appeared to be about my age asked if I still collected cards. I told him, “Yeah, but not as much as I used to.” He asked me if I would stop by his house to take a look at some of his cards. I said, “Sure!” I got his phone number and when I called him the next week, he asked me if I could stop by the next Sunday afternoon. We made the arrangements and after I put my youngest son down for a nap, I gave the baby monitor to my wife and headed down the hill toward the townhomes. His wife greeted me at the door, and I made the journey up the stairs to my new friend's office. There he had 4 shoe boxes of hockey cards. As I sifted through what seemed like too many 1991/92 Score American and 1992/93 Pro Set hockey cards, I came across something that struck my eye. There it was, the 1992/93 Topps Gold Denny Felsner! I said, “NO WAY!” He looked at me with an excited look and said, “Is that a good one?” I looked at him with my surprised/intrigued look and said, “No, not at all!” He seemed so confused. I told him how hard I looked for that card as a kid. Really, I had forgotten all about it, but here it was about 1,000 feet down a hill from my house. I told him that I had to have this card and that I would give him whatever I had in my wallet for it. He said, “Sounds good!” So, I paid him the $3 I had in my wallet for it. Although his collection wasn’t worth much, he and I had some fun conversations on some of the players on the cards he had. This summer, he and his wife moved away to a single-family home in a housing development about a mile away. I have seen him a few times around town at the grocery store or gas station. That guy will always forever remind me of a Topps Gold card of a failed St. Louis Blues prospect, but that is My Cardboard Life in a nutshell. 

1992/93 Topps Gold Denny Felsner RC #514

Who was a prospect from your favorite team growing up that you had a lot of cards of that didn't pan out? I'd love to hear about some in the comments. Thank you for reading.

Saturday, December 30, 2023

Parent/Teacher Conference

**I'm trying to get through my backlog of pending blog posts, so you may see me have 1 or 2 more posts before 2024 hits. Enjoy!**

November 2, 2023  

I had a Friday off and it just so happened to be on a day when there was a card show at a nearby mall. My wife and I had a parent/teacher conference first before we ventured inside for our 5-year-old who is excelling in his kindergarten class. His teacher had a glowing review and also added how polite he is. Looks like we are doing something right!

When we walked into the mall, we walked past Auntie Anne’s pretzel shop just so I could smell the cinnamon goodness! It was delightful. Since I have lost 34.6 lbs. since May, I used my willpower and just walked by without buying a thing. My wife was proud of me. I am finally at the weight I was when I got married almost 10 years ago. 

Finally, we made our way down the escalator and to the middle of the mall where the show was located. We got there right at 10am so a lot of vendors were still setting up. It was a small show, but I like it that way because I feel like I browsed everything I wanted to and came home with exactly what I wanted. 

My wife took this photo of the show:

The first table we stopped at was a nice gentleman named Joe who had a $1 box set out with hockey parallels and inserts along with some unopened boxes. I went through his hockey box and then hit his 4 for $10 auto and game used stuff that was a mix of all sports. I ended up picking up 6 cards. My wife also noticed he had some 2023/24 Upper Deck Series 1 hobby boxes for sale and she bought one for me. I think we spent a total of $140 there. Before I go any further, I should add that everything I picked up is going to be my Christmas from my wife since she had no idea what to get me. 

The next vendor whose name I believe was also Joe had some nicer hockey set out. However, when I grabbed a stack of stuff to look at it was all backwards. I had to let him know that his box was backwards and I flipped it around for him and he fixed his sign and thanked me. After 20 mins or so I found some autographs and game used cards I liked and using his color coded stickers on the team bags he had each card in, my total was $45. When he added them up, he said since I helped him out he knocked $10 off my price so I paid $35! Fellas, listen, it pays to be nice to everyone. Seriously. 

The next vendor we stopped at was Smog City Cards. I am pretty sure he said his name was Eric. If it isn’t, I’m sorry about that. He had a small batch of hockey to look at and a few 5200 count boxes of 10 cent cards. A guy had set up shop at the 10 cent card boxes, so I moved over to the $2 box of hockey cards and began to look. In the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of a 10-cent card the guy next to me threw in his pile that piqued my interest. After I pulled out a stack of hockey cards that should have totaled me $18, Smog City Eric told me $10. Wow! My wife and I chatted with him about his kids and our kids a little bit, and after a few minutes I asked the guy looking through the 10-cent stuff if I could buy one of the cards in his pile. He said, “Sure thing, which one?” So, I showed him, and he handed the card to me, and Eric said it was free and to just take it, so I handed the guy looking through the 10-cent bin a $1 and told him that I’d like to buy 10 of his cards for being so kind as to giving up this card for me. Which I will be using for a later post.

So, I left the card show with a decent haul and a fantastic review from my son's teacher. All in all, a great day to be a dad and a card collector. Here is my card show haul:

Cool pictures bro, but what cards did you get? Well, glad you asked. Here are my top 10 pickups from the show:

10. 1998 Upper Deck Star Rookie Jason Peter RC #12

Grabbed this for a future blog post. This is the 10 cent card that I paid the guy $1 for since it was in the stack of cards he was buying. Might look like a crappy common rookie card to you, but it means something to me!

9. 1995 Upper Deck Collector's Choice Update Craig Powell Gold RC #U13

Who? Well, this guy was a 1st round draft pick if you believe it. Also grabbed this for a future blog post. Really excited for this one as well! Got it in a 25-cent bin over towards the left of the photo my wife snapped of the show. It was the only card I purchased from this particular seller.

8. 2019/20 SP Game Used Nolan Patrick Stadium Series Jersey #SSNP

I did the calculations and I actually got this from Smog City Cards for $1.Thanks again to Eric (once again, if I am saying the wrong name, I apologize!). Nolan Patrick has since retired from the game of hockey, and with me being a Brandon Wheat Kings fan, this made me sad. I was still happy to get this one to add to my collection though. 

7. 2018 Topps Chrome Anthony Santander Refractor Auto RC /499

Got this from Joe in his 4 for $10 auto bin. I actually didn't realize this was the refractor version until we got home. I had Santander as a fill-in for a few weeks this year in my fantasy baseball league, so I didn't want to leave this one at the show. Glad I didn't. It appears to be a decent buy!

6. 2001 SP Authentic Future Watch Josh Heupel Patch RC /800

Back in the day, I did enjoy watching Heupel play college football. I also got this in the 4 for $10 bin from Joe. I had this card back in 2001 and traded it, I was happy to own it once again. I ended up selling this on November 29th for $14 + shipping once something shiny I saw popped up on eBay. I figured this would be an easy sell and I was right. I don't think I had it on eBay for more than 2 days before it sold. It did help fund my PC purchase later on, so it climbed the list a bit more than other cards.

5. 1995 Action Packed Ki-Jana Carter 24Kt Gold RC #21G

I grew up a PSU fan. My cousin Amy went there and made sure my brother and I were always decked out in PSU gear when the school year started. Due to this, I will always have a soft spot for PSU. Carter was a beast and I remember vividly watching him and wanting to root for him in the NFL. Well, after tearing his ACL before his rookie season, he never really made a real impact in the NFL and that just sucks. I got this thing for $1 from an older guy who had a lot of overpriced stuff. This was the only one I found with a more than reasonable price tag, so I gave him my dollar bill. I now own 3 of this exact card. 13 year old me would also be super stoked about this one!

4. 2010 Bowman Chrome Prospects Stephen Strasburg Refractor RC #1 /777

I paid $2 for this one. I am pretty sure it was mis-marked, but I did ask the guy what he wanted for it and he took it from me, looked at it and said, "It has a yellow sticker on the back, so it's $2." I didn't hesitate and gave him the $2 he wanted. My wife said I lit up when I saw it in the stack of cards I was looking through. I don't remember doing that, but maybe I did, who knows? Anyways, I'm happy with this for $2 for sure. What do you think this thing costed someone back in 2010? Also, my laser printer scanner doesn't scan refractors very well, but I assure you it's the refractor version.

3. 2016 Panini Prizm Josh Doctson Gold Prizm RC #259 /10

This was found in Joe's parallel box. I think he may have overlooked this one because I paid $3 for it. The card is not a $100 card or anything, but surely you agree it's not $3 either. Maybe he is the type of person who leaves easter eggs in each of his boxes for people to find? If that's the case, I definitely found it and was glad to be one of the first people to show up to look at his stuff. Does this qualify for a card that should be in a one-touch? Would I be crazy to put this in a one-touch? I was a fan of Doctson in college, but his career wasn't anything special. Prizm gold's are pretty hard to find, I think I am putting this in a one-touch. 

2. 2018/19 Upper Deck Ice Rinkside Signings Wilf Paiement Autograph #RS-WP

For some reason I am a big Paiement fan. I remember him when he played for the Penguins when I was 5. He was a bit of a dirty player, but he also had a lot of skill. If you google him, you will find that there are a lot of people out there that hate the guy, but I don't. He had a short career here in Pittsburgh, but my dad and his friends liked him, so I guess it just got passed down to me. He did have a decent career of 814 points in 946 games, so he wasn't a bum by any means. This is my first autographed card of Wilf. The other auto I have of him is on a puck. If you YouTube him, you can definitely see some vintage fights. I recommend it if you want to go down a rabbit hole. You will definitely see a lot of mustaches. Enjoy.

1. 2002/03 Parkhurst NHL Heroes Dany Heatley/Brett Hull Dual Jersey #NH-11

I grabbed this one from Joe #2 for $8. Growing up, I loved Brett Hull and Pat LaFontaine. Those guys were my favorite players. I even wore #16 playing varsity hockey in high school to honor them. So, of course this would land at the #1 spot. From what I remember these cards were hard to pull and I think they have a print run of 90? I might be wrong, so don't quote me on that one. Anyways, for $8, I'll buy this card all day long. Heatley was a guy I loved watching play as well, so a total no-brainer here. I miss the days when jersey cards were a big pull and back in 2002, this was kind of a big pull. Sad that in 2023 no one sees this card as something cool. Well, I do. 

I hope you enjoyed my card show trip. Also, I do recommend the one dealer if you ever need something, here is his business card. He was really good to me and was fun to chat with. Smog City Cards:

Friday, December 29, 2023

Summer interns

At the company I used to work for, before we were bought out, we used summer interns. These interns would learn how our business works and after a week or two of observing, they would choose a branch to work at for a paid internship for a few months before heading back to school in August. They were college kids, and with me being in my 20’s back then, I usually became fast friends with a few. In 2007, one of the interns named Ryan (who was going to Pitt University) chose our branch to work at during his summer internship. Ryan was pretty cool, and a huge sports fanatic so he and I became pretty close that summer. One Friday night in particular Ryan came by my condo to hang out with my buddies and I while we watched baseball. My friends asked him where he was from, and he said New Jersey and then he got to talking about a baseball player from his hometown named Billy Rowell.

At the time, I had no idea who Rowell was, or much of the younger players who had been drafted. I played in a 10-team fantasy baseball league with our IT department, and if a guy wasn’t in the top 200 players or had a hot streak and wasn’t a good waiver wire choice, chances are I didn’t know much about them. Ryan told us some stories about Rowell and how great of a hitter he was, and occasionally after that night, I would check out his stats. His stats really never jumped out at me as superstar potential, but Ryan swore up and down that this kid was going to make it. 

After the summer was over, Ryan went back to finish his last few semesters of school. I remember him shooting me an email asking if he could use me as a reference for a job the spring of 2008, but I hadn’t heard much from him until around 2011. He came out for a wedding for a friend of his from college and he met up for a beer with me in town. We talked for about an hour, and he said to me, “Remember when I told you about that guy from my hometown who got drafted by the Orioles? Well, my brother hung out with him, and I guess he is switching from 3rd base to a pitcher.” I thought that was pretty wild. Ryan then told me how he was moving to Viriginia soon for a job. In 2012, he and I text back and forth a bit and he let me know that he was engaged to his girlfriend. I congratulated him, and we kept in touch every so often. One day, I received an invite in the mail to his wedding in Virginia. It just so happed to be on the same day as my wedding reception (my wife and I eloped in Tybee Island, Georgia in May of 2014, so we had a reception a month later to celebrate with friends and family). I called Ryan the night I received the invite and told him about the scheduling conflict. I did end up sending a gift though to the lucky couple for their "big day". We received a thank you from them in July 2014 and a few years had gone by before I heard from Ryan again. 

Every so often, I would either get a random text or an email from Ryan. He was doing great at his job and working through rough patches here and there with his wife, but other than that, his life seemed good as far as I knew. One morning early in 2022 (February I believe), I decided to check my old email address (I hadn't done this in almost 6 months). There was a message in there from Ryan from December 11, 2021. I opened the email and soon had tears in my eyes. Ryan's wife had emailed Ryan's contact list to let everyone know that he had passed away from his short battle with cancer (he had passed within 8 months of his diagnosis). She had given the funeral arrangements in the email, and I immediately felt like a jerk for not being there. I looked at the last text message I had from Ryan. It was April 17, 2021: "How is your little one doing? I hope all is well with you guys. Went to the Admirals game last night. I wish I watched more hockey in my lifetime. I am regretting this a lot. You were right, it's an awesome sport. Would have been awesome to see you play." It just so happened that was the day my youngest son was born prematurely, and I forgot to respond. Now, I really regret it. Was this Ryan telling me he was sick and knew what was ahead? Also, I felt numb with a lump in my throat. The entire day I reminisced about the times Ryan and I hung out at work, outside of work, and also our conversations. I let my old buddies know about Ryan's passing since they all had hung out with him plenty of times that one summer and all of them had about the same thing to say: "That's awful news. He was cool! RIP" "He was a good dude, loved sports and was one of us. RIP." My friends really liked the guy. He was a good person. I told my wife about him and how he passed away, and how bad I felt that I wasn't there. I wished my wife and kids could have met him, even if he wasn't one of my best friends. If he had lived closer, I could almost guarantee he would be my best friend. 

Later that night, my friend asked me if I wanted to meet with him at this card shop for a trade night in 2 weeks. These trade nights are not really my thing, but I decided to go with him and took a really small box with some traders. While at the trade night, I was flipping through a guy's cards when I saw it. A Billy Rowell printing plate. I smiled a little bit, but then started to get a bit sad. The guy asked me, "What's wrong man?" Well, I told him about my friend who had passed away and how bad I felt about missing his funeral and the email and how he grew up in the same town as the guy on the printing plate. The guy looked me in the eye and said, "I don't need that plate as much as you do, please just take it." I didn't take it from him, but I did trade him a nice Taylor Ward card he liked and made the deal. When I got home, I told my wife about the plate and showed it to her, she thought it was pretty cool.

2006 Bowman Chrome Draft Picks & Prospects Billy Rowell Black Printing Plate 1/1

I put this card in a brand-new sleeve and toploader, put some painters tape on the back and hung it up in my office on the wall next to my light switch. It definitely reminds me of my buddy Ryan.

Fast forward to Father's Day this year. It started just like a normal day, my kids fighting with each other and my wife and I figuring out what we were going to do that day. She had gotten me a tin of Upper Deck hockey cards. My oldest son and I opened them up and I pulled an Owen Power Young Guns, so I was pretty thrilled. We then went about our day. We went to a local park/playground and ate some pizza and had ice cream at the ice cream shop near our house. Once the kids ate dinner, were bathed and headed to bed, my wife started a load of laundry. I was getting our dishwasher ready to run and she said, "Oh no!" I looked back to see she had a long cylinder box in her hands. She said, "I'm sorry hun, I totally forgot I bought this for you forever ago for Father's Day. It's been in the box in the linen closet this entire time!" She handed me the box and I popped off the bottom of the box and took out some packing paper and out slid a bat. I looked at her confused and then I twirled the bat to see who's bat it was...

Billy Rowell Rawling's Game Used Bat

My wife actually listens to me when I talk to her and she's pretty ok in my book. Also, if you take anything from this blog post, make sure to keep in touch with your friends. Even if they aren't your best friends, just do it. I wish I had. RIP Ryan, you were a "good dude" as my friends put it. Sorry for not being there for you...