Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Story Behind Tony Gwynn's .394 Pale Ale

Baseball is America’s pastime. There’s nothing like sitting in the stands and watching your favorite baseball team —often with a cold beer in your hand. The game takes your mind off everyday stress and puts a smile on your face that lasts the entire day.
The connection between cold beer and baseball goes beyond the need to quench your thirst on a sun-drenched summer afternoon. In the late 1800s many baseball team owners also owned breweries. Selling beer at baseball games was good for business!
Tony Gwynn Baseball Hall of Fame
(AleSmith Brewing Company)

In 2014, just before losing his battle with cancer, Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn decided to reignite the tradition: He called Peter Zien of award-winning, AleSmith Brewery in San Diego and asked him to create a great-tasting beer—not a gimmick beer.
Peter and his wife, Vicky, met with Tony and his wife, Alicia, to taste and create a beer: Something light, but wasn’t too bitter.
In addition to enjoying a world class beer, drinking .394 Ale helps a worthy cause too. A portion of the proceeds go to the Tony and Alicia Gwynn Foundation, which helps homeless and young people with roadblocks in their life. Gwynn always believed in taking care of your own first. Therefore, it was an easy decision to spend his free time helping the San Diego community.
If you’re in San Diego, the AleSmith Brewery is a great destination to sip award-winning beers and see the Tony Gwynn Hall of Fame Collection. Tony was an eight-time National League batting champion, 15-time All-Star, and seven-time Silver Slugger Award winner. The memorabilia on exhibit rotates on a regular basis. I asked Peter to name his favorite items currently on display.
“I like the jersey signed by every member of the 3,000-hit club. They each wrote a personal note to Tony.”  Tony’s wife Alicia prefers the invaluable. “I like the little things that fans made and sent to Tony over the course of his career. For example, a fan made a little caricature of Tony hanging off the wall. It meant a lot to him that a fan would spend his/her time and money to create something to Tony.”

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Kelvin Beachum Helps Fight Childhood Hunger

Kelvin Beachum is one of the most feared offensive tackles in the NFL. He dominated the offensive line with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 2012-15 and signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars during the off-season.

However, I recently found that the Beachum is more teddy bear than grizzly bear when he’s off the field.

Ending childhood hunger is one of his top priorities. Earlier this year, he traveled to Honduras to witness World Vision’s efforts to combat hunger globally. He was surprised to find that finding a clean source of water is just as difficult as finding food in the Central American country.

“We take a clean glass of water for granted,” Beachum says. “In Honduras, kids are walking miles and miles for clean water.”

I spoke with Beachum about the 13 to 17 million U.S. children who are food insecure, cultural differences around the country and the world, his career and more.

What are some of the cultural differences between Jacksonville and Pittsburgh?
Coming back to the South (Jacksonville) is big for me. I grew up in Texas and it was very country. Jacksonville is very slow, which is what I like.
Why did you visit Honduras in February and what was your biggest takeaway?
I wanted to see some of the work that World Vision is doing. Childhood hunger is a real problem, both internationally and domestically, and being able to see how another country deals with the issue was impactful. The big takeaway was seeing the different kinds of hunger and poverty in Honduras versus needs in the U.S.

Why is world hunger important to you?
I wouldn’t be the player I am without food. I have a voice to bring awareness to world hunger and I enjoy doing it.
How did you choose Southern Methodist University in Texas over other schools?
My mama told me to go there. I had numerous offers but SMU was the first school we visited. My mom loved it and so did my dad. My mom said, “This is where you should be.” [Football] wasn’t pleasant when I started at SMU. We went 2 and 22 my first two years and I wanted to transfer. But I stuck with it and went to three straight bowl games.
How has traveling the world and serving underprivileged people changed you?
It made me appreciate my daughter more—and appreciate the smaller things in life. To be able to serve others is very special.
Did you collect football cards growing up as a kid?
No, I wasn’t a big collector. I do collect jerseys and different things from places I have been—little mementos that remind me of what I have done, where I have been and what I have accomplished.
What do you like to see/do when traveling?
I love to visit local restaurants to get a feel for each city. I’m also interested in the history associated with each city.
In 2012, you were drafted in the 7th round and final round. Today, you are arguably the best offensive tackle in NFL. What advice would you give to kids in high school/college or somebody picked last in their intramural team?
Take pride in everything you do. Find out what you’re passionate about. What is your why: Find out why you are doing what you are doing and understand the sacrifices. Everything else will take care of itself.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Vintage Baseball Card Exhibit Brings Back Memories at the Met

Seeing decades’ old high-grade vintage baseball cards “out in the wild,” is the highlight of any baseball card collector. If that’s not possible, head to “The Old Ball Game: New York Baseball 1887-1977” exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Met Museum New York City
(Met Museum New York City)
The exhibit includes nearly 400 cards from the Jefferson Burdick baseball card collection. These cards exclusively feature New York baseball clubs dating back to 1887 and many are on display for the very first time.
Burdick, known as the “founding father” of baseball cards, saw the pieces of cardboard as historic artifacts and not for investment purposes.
In 1947, he advised the Museum of Metropolitan Art of his intentions to donate every card and piece of memorabilia in his collection of more than 30,000 cards to the museum. Over the course of 15 years, Burdick frequently visited the museum and painstakingly glued each card into albums and also inventoried his entire collection, which will be digitized by 2020. Burdick pasted the final card from his collection into an album at the Met on Jan. 10, 1963. The next day he checked himself into a hospital and died March of 1963.
I walked the exhibit with the fine curator of this specific exhibit, Allison Rudnick. “The joy in seeing people look at the exhibit organized around a specific theme, New York baseball, is very special,” Rudnick confided in me.

Many card collectors think the idea of bubble gum being inserted into packs of baseball cards originated from Topps in the early 1950s. But it was Goudey Gum Company in Boston was that first paired gum with baseball cards in 1933. There are numerous Goudey gum cards on display. The set is littered with hall of famers, including Babe Ruth. Ruth has four different cards in the set. Card #53 has a yellow background and is the most difficult card to find from the set. Rudnick did a great job of doing research and choosing exactly which cards to display for the maximum impact. It was no accident that Ruth #53 was chosen to be on display.

A few passersby in the exhibit were very familiar with the early 1950s Topps and Bowman card issues. These gentlemen remember going to the five and dime stores in the 1950s and buying the cards on display. One of the men told me, “This collection reminds me of my childhood. It was so great and much more simple back then.”

This high-quality exhibit is just one of the many exhibits at the Met. If you are in the New York area, stop by and see the cards yourself. Seeing the cards in person will leave you with a smile on your face and memories of yesteryear.
The Burdick exhibit, “The Old Ball Game: New York Baseball 1887-1977,” is on display in New York through Nov. 13 2016.
Met Museum- New York City
(Met Museum- New York City)
Met Museum New York City
(Met Museum New York City)
Burdick 202, 43(a-6)
(Burdick 202, 43(a-6))
Met Museum- New York City
(Met Museum- New York City)

Monday, August 8, 2016

Scrapbook Surprise: Vintage Old Judge Baseball Cards

1887 Old Judge Baseball Cards
At the turn of the 20th century, only the wealthy and privileged had access to a safety deposit box at banking institutions. In fact, most did not even have money deposited at a bank. They didn’t trust the banks and felt more secure with their money under the mattress.

The Old Judge Baseball Cards issued between 1887-1890 were some of the first mainstream baseball cards created. These cards depict pictures of hundreds of ballplayers pasted onto thick cardboard. The small black and white cardboard relics are widely collected today, but hard to find. Plastic sleeves and cases didn’t exist in the late 1800s. The most popular way to secure baseball cards was to glue them into a scrapbook so they wouldn’t fall out.

I recently met a lady in the suburbs of Chicago who inherited the scrapbooking gene from her mother. The beautiful scrapbook was filled elegant postcards from the late 1800s and early 1900s. Animals, presidents and cities were just a few of the many decorated subjects in the scrapbook. Additionally, there were 13 Old Judge Baseball Cards that were neatly trimmed and glued into the scrapbook. The owner, Jocelyn Tobias of Defining Moments in Chicago, is still scrapbooking today. This is a second generation business and she sells custom scrapbooks and frames for events.

The idea of baseball cards being found in a scrapbook isn’t all that rare. Cards are found from time to time in old books as well. I have seen books with false bottoms or a hollowed out inside where a baseball card can be stored. Spring and summer are times when many of these cards are unearthed as the weather breaks and garage sale season gets underway.

Being involved with vintage baseball card and sports memorabilia for nearly 20 years, I know there are still old baseball cards buried in attics. If you have any old sports collectibles buried in an attic, please call me. You could be the subject of my next featured column.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Jackie Robinson Still 'Topps' for Baseball Card Collectors in 2016

Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier on April 15, 1947, when he took the field on Opening Day for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Now, 69 years later, Major League Baseball continues to celebrate the Hall of Famer’s historic achievements.

On Friday, April 15, 2016, all players and on-field personnel will wear Number 42, and all MLB clubs will host pre-game ceremonies, including the Los Angeles Dodgers who will host Rachel and Sharon Robinson, the wife and daughter of Jackie Robinson.

The Jackie Robinson 1952 Topps Baseball Card in MINT condition sells for over $50k in the current market. 

1952 topps jackie robinson PSA 9
The rare card is among 407 cards in the widely collected and highly desirable 1952 Topps baseball card set released as part of a plan to draw market share from Bowman Baseball Card Company.
Topps did two things in 1952 in route to putting Bowman out of business.   They designed a set with more cards and larger-sized cards.
Values of near perfect condition baseball cards from the 1952 Topps set continue to increase with many investors seeing cards as an asset class.
Additionally, baby boomers who purchased these cards during their youth are now trying to buy back their childhood memories. These people, who are at retirement age and have disposable income, are targeting key hall of famers such as Mickey Mantle, Eddie Mathews and Jackie Robinson. 
It’s difficult if not impossible to find a mint version of 1952 Topps Jackie Robinson for several reasons.
  1. Kids played with their cards in the ’50s and ’60s.  No one thought about preserving these cards as investments. In fact, most kids inserted the cards into their bicycle spokes, which then made a noise as they rode down the street.
  1. The technology of the printing press was very different in the 1952. Unlike today, every card was not centered top to bottom and left to right in 1952.
  2. The 407 cards in the 1952 set were printed and distributed at different times throughout baseball season. Card #311 (Mickey Mantle’s rookie card) and Card #407 (Eddie Mathews’ rookie card) were distributed at the end of the season when many kids had already spent their allowances or moved on to football season, which was already underway. As a result, many of the last cards in the series were never sold.
This is a very fun set to collect. Good luck!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Marlins Man Has A Master Plan

In 2014, a man wearing a bright red Miami Marlins baseball jersey was always sitting behind home plate at some of the most watched baseball games throughout the entire year. Baseball fans who watched ESPN Sunday Nite Baseball, Fox Sports Game of the week, MLB Playoffs, and other games kept noticing this bright red jersey. 

This Marlins jersey also showed up at the Preakness, Kentucky Derby, and NFL games. Sports fans’ across the country began to ask several questions. Who is this guy? Why is he always wearing a Marlins jersey? How can he afford to attend all of these games?

In 2015, the Marlins jersey returned to sporting events across the country. But this time it was different. The Marlins jersey was seen with numerous people surrounding him at all times. Were these new fans or new friends? The big question was who are these people?

The man wearing the Marlins jersey at sporting events across the country is Laurence Leavy, an attorney from South Florida. Leavy has been a sports’ fan for several decades. For many years, Leavy would buy season ticket packages for FSU, Miami Dolphins, University of Florida, and of course the Miami Marlins.

Instead of attending these games with friends’ or clients’, Leavy enjoys buying premium tickets for strangers’. As Leavy told me, “I want to pay it forward. In 2015, I went to 301 different sporting events in 48 cities. The people who attend games with me varies. I have gone to games with firefighters, sick kids in children hospitals, seniors, etc. I get enjoyment when I see them smile. For three hours during the baseball game, their stress disappears. I am changing lives.” Leavy sure is changing lives and he has become a “celebrity” because of this. Offers are pouring in for Leavy to throw out a first pitch at MLB games, television commercial opportunities, speaking engagements, and even a baseball card.

In 2016, the story is no longer who is Marlins Man and what is he doing at every major sporting event across the country. Leavy has been embraced by fans’ across the country. They appreciate his generosity. Leavy’s message for 2016 is “to pay it forward.” “If somebody does something nice for you, please do something nice for somebody else. I was at a Yankees game and Alex Rodriguez gave a baseball to a young kid. The young kid immediately turned around and gave this ball to a disabled child. The kid who got the ball from Alex Rodriguez told his parents’ he gave the ball away because ‘Marlins Man would be proud of me’. When I heard that, I knew I was impacting lives. “

The world would sure be better if everybody embraced the “pay it forward” message. To keep track of Marlins Man and see how he is impacting lives, he can be followed on twitter. @Marlins_Man

MLB: World Series-Kansas City Royals at San Francisco Giants