Sunday, September 30, 2012

Player Profile: Alan Bannister

I have eighteen cards of Alan Bannister. This one is from 1983 Donruss.

Playing career: Infielder Alan Bannister played for five teams from 1974 to 1985, mostly the White Sox and Indians. A lifetime .270 hitter, he led the American League with eleven sacrifice flies in 1977, more than double the number he hit in any other season.

Where he is now: He worked in real estate in Arizona for many years but is now apparently retired.

My memories: Before my time. Only know him from his card.

Google Autocomplete results: He is second when you type Alan Ban, between Alan Bankhalter, VP at Healthsearch Group, and Alan Bandes, VP at UE Systems. Another prominent Alan Bannister played for the Utah Jazz.

Coming up next: The next profile will be Brian Bannister.


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Baseball card stories from Vito Chiaravalloti

First baseman Vito Chiaravalloti played in the Blue Jays organization from 2003 to 2006, winning the New York-Penn League triple crown in 2003. Now a social studies teacher and baseball coach at Christian Brothers Academy in New Jersey, he kindly shared with me some baseball card stories. Some of the stories refer to mentions of him in an interview I did last year with photographer Mike Janes.

"Great interview with Mike, but I'd like to maybe make it more accurate if you don't mind.  First off, I feel bad if he thinks I wasn't thrilled about the "Three bat" card that he took.  I know I wasn't smiling, but I love that card and I probably was just going through a "don't smile and look tough in pictures" phase. lol.

Second, I did not sit the last game of the season that year to win the triple crown.  I insisted on playing because I did not want it to appear as if I was ducking the game or afraid of losing the batting title.  I bargained with my manager, and we reached a compromise that I would get 2 at bats.  I hit a double in my first ab, which guaranteed me the batting title no matter what Nyjer Morgan did in his game (who I think did sit his final game, but not sure).  Anyway, just wanted that to be accurate because I made a point of not sitting that game.

As for baseball cards...great questions.  I have so many stories about cards, since I collected them avidly growing up.  There was nothing cooler than when I saw my first official Topps card (which ironically Mike took the shot for).  That is a moment I will never forget, because as most ball players will tell you, they always dreamed of having their own baseball card.  But the story that sticks out most in my mind is so bizarre it almost seems made up. It was either late spring training or early season 2004 and a box of cards showed up that I needed to sign.  When I opened the box, I realized I was not the only player on the card.  It was a dual player card and I literally couldn't believe that the other player was my college teammate Tim Stauffer!  I think it was a 2004 Bowman.  I then thought they made the connection that we both went to the University of Richmond, and that's why they put us together.  But there was NO mention of Richmond on the card, so it seemed to be just a crazy coincidence.  I took a picture and texted Tim right away (not sure if I could have texted him the picture because this was 04, but I may have emailed it to him).  We had a good laugh about it, and I told him that he would be signing them next.  That moment has always stuck out in my mind.  Tim has now gone on to have a successful big league career, so unfortunately I am bringing down the value of that card.

I'm not sure if I have a favorite card of my own.  Of course the Stauffer/Bowman card with me on it is a unique one. But If I had to pick, I would say between the Cracker Jack card and the 04 Topps Chrome just because they are both different.  You would probably get a better answer from my buddy Matt Titko, though, who is an avid card/memorabilia collector.  Matt has collected every card that I ever had, even ones I never knew existed!  And he insisted on buying them all!  I was always like, "Matt, I can probably get you these cards, you don't have to buy them."  I'll ask Matt and see which one he likes the best.

My favorite card all-time though would have to be the 1987 Topps Gary Carter card, for so many reasons.  First, I was a huge Mets fan and Gary Carter was my favorite player/idol.  I collected every single one of his cards and he was probably one of the single greatest influences on why I wanted to be a professional baseball player.  But the 87 card sticks out to me because it brings me back to a moment in my life.  With the "wooden" frame, those cards are so distinct and recognizable, and any kid who grew up in the 80's and knows cards always talks about that one.  When I see an 87 Topps, especially the Carter card, I'm immediately thrown back in time. It's like I'm 7 years old again, organizing all my cards in my basement at my parents house - it just takes me back to a place and time in my life.  Plus, it's one of the first cards I ever collected, so it will always have a fond place in my memory.  On a side note, in my last season of playing professionally I got to meet my hero.  I was playing in the Atlantic League and Gary was managing for the Long Island Ducks.  We wound up building a great relationship that year, and although I never made it to the bigs, it made playing all those years worth it.  He was one of the nicest guys I ever met in the game and I was so proud that he was and will always be my favorite player."

Friday, September 28, 2012

Player Profile: Willie Banks

I have 37 cards of Willie Banks. This one is from 1992 Upper Deck.

Playing career: Willie Banks pitched for the Twins, Cubs, Dodgers, Marlins, Yankees, Diamondbacks and Red Sox between 1991 and 2002, going 33-39 with a 4.75 ERA.

Where he is now: Baseball Instructor at the Toms RiverSports Academy in New Jersey.

My memories: I remember his brief stint with the Yankees, well publicized because he was local. He was in a lot of the pictures from David Wells’s perfect game as he was one of the players who carried him off the field.

Interesting stories: Banks had a rough childhood in a Jersey City housing project. When he was a small child, he was sitting in his mother’s cousin’s lap when she was shot and killed by her husband.

Google Autocomplete results: He is eighth when you type Willie B, between Willie Bloomquist, infielder for the Diamondbacks, and Willie Banks Olympic Athlete, a track star.

Coming up next: The next profile will be Alan Bannister.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Josh Banks on baseball cards

Yesterday I profiled Josh Banks, who pitched four seasons in the major leagues, winning four games for the Padres in 2008 and 2009.  In doing my research on him I saw that he was now the General Manager of the Greater Severna Park Athletic Association. I emailed him there about his baseball card experiences and he kindly answered my questions:

- Do you have any stories about cards of yourself or of other players?
As much as I wish I had some neat story about a certain card I do not have any juicy details.
- Do you have a favorite card of yourself or of another player?
My favorite card of me is a panoramic picture of me pitching in SD and you can see the ball mid-flight towards homeplate. (Photo was shot in 08' home game in SD)
- Do you collect baseball cards? 
I use to collect cards by the boxes (Fleer, Donruss, Topps whole sets) as a kid and then as I got older I seemed to stop somewhere along the way for no particular reason.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Player Profile: Josh Banks

I have two cards of Josh Banks. This one is from 2008 Topps Updates Highlights.

Playing career: Josh Banks pitched for the Blue Jays, Padres and Astros from 2007 to 2010, going 4-8 with a 5.66 ERA in 27 games.

Where he is now: Executive Director of the Greater Severna Park Athletic Association, known as the Green Hornets.

My memories: Only know him from his card.

Google Autocomplete results: Josh Banks Baseball is sixth when you type Josh Banks, between Josh Banks Football and Josh Banks Washington, both of which refer to a college football defensive lineman.

Coming up next: The next profile will be Willie Banks.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Good thing I read his blog

Got some great cards in a trade with Jeremy of No One's Going to Read This Blog. He sent me a bunch of cards from 2006 and 2009 Topps and 2006 Upper Deck.

Here are cards of Granderson and Swisher in their rookie season. They both hit long home runs last night.
Here's a great picture of Brad Ausmus with the Rockies mascot - a purple dinosaur. What does that say about a team if their mascot is Barney? Glad my team doesn't have a mascot. Anymore. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Player Profile: Brian Banks

I have two cards of Brian Banks. This one is from 1997 Fleer.

Playing career: Outfielder Brian Banks played for the Brewers and Marlins from 1996 to 2003. In 273 games he hit .246 with 13 HR and 64 RBI.

Where he is now: After his playing career ended he went to dental school, graduating last year. He now practices pediatric dentistry, and has a particular interest in serving underprivileged children. He currently is a resident at the Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City. Here is a positive review by the mother of one of his patients, a nine-year-old boy with Down Syndrome.

My memories: Only know him from his card.

Google Autocomplete results: All references to Brian Banks in Google Autocomplete refer to the football player. The baseball player is third on the first page when you google his name.

Coming up next: The next profile will be Josh Banks.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Player Profile: Scott Bankhead

I have 55 cards of Scott Bankhead. This one is from 1991 Upper Deck.

Playing career: Scott Bankhead pitched for the Mariners, Reds, Red Sox and Yankees from from 1986 to 1995, going 57-48 with a 4.18 ERA. He looked like a budding star after the 1989 season, when he was 14-6 with a 3.34 ERA, but injuries limited him to just four games the next season and his career was never the same.

Where he is now: Owns the North Carolina Baseball Academy.

My memories: I remember him being on the Yankees for a very short time, when they were populating their bullpen with a bunch of random ex-starting pitchers from other teams like Rick Honeycutt.

Google Autocomplete results: He is fourth when you type Scott Bank, between Scott Bank, a bank in Illinois, and Scott Banker, a sales manager at Comcast. Another prominent Scott Bankhead is a dentist in Massachusetts. 

Coming up next: The next profile will be Brian Banks.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Today's Haul

First, check out my latest post at the Hall of Very Good, featuring some scandalous facts about guys on common cards.

Second, I bought a huge box of cards at a garage sale today, about 2000 cards all from the 1998-2002 range, where I don't have a lot of cards from. Sets like Fleer Tradition, Fleer Showcase, Topps Chrome, SP Authentic, Fleer Premium, Upper Deck Encore, Fleer Triple Crown, Upper Deck Pros & Prospects, and Donruss Elite. As of this writing I've just started going through the box so who knows what else is in here. I'm showcasing this card of Johnny Damon. The last time the Yankees had back-to-back walk-off wins before today was Damon's 2009 club, and today's improbable win came against the team he's wearing the uniform of here, the Oakland A's.

There are a lot of non-baseball cards in this box too. Anyone interested in trading baseball cards for basketball, hockey, or even golf? Here is a sampling of what is in here, all up for trade.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Player Profile: Jeff Banister

I have one card of Jeff Banister, from 1992 Topps Debut.

Playing career: Jeff Banister played in one game for the Pirates in 1991 and got an infield single in his only major league at-bat.

Where he is now: He has spent his entire career in the Pirates organization, and is now the team’s bench coach. Here is an interesting interview about how he prepares to manage in case manager Clint Hurdle is ejected.

Interesting facts: Banister had to overcome an unusual amount of adversity just to make it to professional baseball. In his junior year of high school he was diagnosed with bone cancer and almost lost his right leg, which was saved only after seven operations. In college he broke his neck in a collision at home plate, and was paralyzed for ten days, and needed to re-learn how to walk. After recovering from these, his father, grandfather and doctor all died within a three-week stretch.

My memories: Only know him from his card.

Google Autocomplete results: He is tenth when you type Jeff Ban, after Jeff Bandar, a chemistry graduate student at Columbia University. Another prominent Jeff Banister is an Assistant Research Social Scientist at the University of Arizona.

Coming up next: The next profile will be Scott Bankhead.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Player Profile: Sal Bando

I have eight cards of Sal Bando. This one is from 1979 Topps.

Playing career: Third baseman Sal Bando played for the A’s and Brewers from 1966 to 1981, hitting .254 with 242 HR and 1039 RBI. He was a five-time all-star and a key member of the back-to-back-to-back world champion A’s. He hit five home runs in 20 ALCS games. He actually had the highest WAR in the major leagues in the five-year period from 1969-1973. As ESPN noted, he “hit for power, drew walks and played a solid third base.” His numbers would have been better if he hadn’t played in such a pitcher’s park.

Where he is now: After his playing career he was the General Manager of the Milwaukee Brewers, then became a banker and ended up the CEO of the Middleton Doll company, which makes realistic baby dolls – “The Babies That Love You Back.” He is now semi-retired, but is a partner at Paramount Financial Strategies and the baseball advisor for the Drana Group.

Interesting facts: Bando is heavily involved with religious organizations. He is currently a speaker for Catholic Athletes for Christ. In 2003, he started an organization called “Battin 1000” that aimed to raise money for an anti-abortion educational institution in Virginia through contributions from current and former major leaguers. A wit on the Baseball Think Factory Newsblog commented, “If he's as effective at this as he was at GMing the Brewers, every woman in America will soon be having free abortions once a year from now on.” Though not a failure on that scale, the initiative did lose steam very quickly after its inception.

My memories: He is from before my time. Hadn’t realized just how good a player he actually was.

Google Autocomplete results: He is first when you type Sal B, ahead of Sal Benedetto, a photographer. Another prominent Sal Bando is a garage/surfer band in the Baltimore area.

Coming up next: The next profile will be Jeff Banister.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Player Profile: Chris Bando

I have 24 cards of Chris Bando. This one is from 1986 Topps.

Playing career: Backup catcher Chris Bando played in 496 games for the Indians from 1981 to 1988, plus one game for the Tigers and one game for the A’s. He hit .227 with 27 HR and 142 RBI.

Interesting facts: The younger brother of former A’s star Sal Bando, he recently claimed to have played with vision in only one eye, though that seems doubtful.

Where he is now: He is the manager of both the Frontier League Washington Wild Things and San Diego Christian College. He is also the Chaplain for the Athletes Abroad for Christ Fellowship.

My memories: Only knew him from his card.

Google Autocomplete results: He is sixth when you type Chris Ban, between Chris Bannon, program director for WNYC, and Chris Banuchi, a cinematographer. There do not appear to be any other prominent Chris Bandos.

Coming up next: The next profile will be Sal Bando.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Player Profile: Khalid Ballouli

I have one card of Khalid Ballouli, from 2004 Topps.

Playing career: Khalid Ballouli pitched in the Brewers organization from 2002 to 2006, going 21-29 with 5 saves and a 4.96 ERA.

Where he is now: After injuries ended his baseball career, he went back to school, and earned a Ph.D. in sports marketing from Texas A&M. He is now an Assistant Professor at the University of South Carolina Department of Sports & Entertainment Management. He is also a coach at the Twelve Baseball Academy in Texas.

Interesting facts: His grandfather Dick Fowler (who died before Ballouli was born) pitched ten seasons for the Philadelphia A’s, and is the only Canadian to throw a no-hitter.
His wedding in 2009 was photographed by Studio 563 in Austin, which uses photos from their wedding as samples of their work on their website. Looks like a fancy affair. (Some of you might like the photo of Mrs. Ballouli with her wedding dress half off from behind.)

My memories: Only know him from his card.

Google Autocomplete results: He is third when you type Khalid Bal, between Khalid Balooshi Bio and Khalid Balooshi, both of which refer to a professional drag racer. There do not appear to be any other prominent Khalid Balloulis.

Coming up next: The next profile will be Chris Bando.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Player Profile: Jay Baller

I have four Jay Baller cards. This one is from 1986 Donruss.

Playing career: Jay Baller pitched parts of six seasons for the Phillies, Cubs and Royals, going 4-9 with 6 saves and a 5.24 ERA.

Interesting facts: Baller very nearly died after the 1987 season after a mysterious toxic poisoning that some thought was brought about by drug use. It was later officially ascribed to bad shellfish. Baller might not have been using drugs then, but he certainly was more recently – he was sentenced to probation in 2008 for cocaine possession.

Where he is now: He gives private baseball instruction in Pennsylvania.

My memories: Only know him from his card.

Google Autocomplete Results: He is fifth when you type Jay Bal, between Jay Bilas, a college basketball announcer, and J Balvin a reggaeton singer. There do not appear to be any other prominent Jay Ballers.

Coming up next: The next profile will be Khalid Ballouli.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Player Profile: Jeff Ballard

I have 33 cards of Jeff Ballard. This one is from 1989 Fleer.

Playing career: Jeff Ballard pitched for the Orioles and Pirates from 1987 to 1994. With Baltimore in 1989, he was 18-8 with a 3.43 ERA. He got hurt the following year and was never the same. In his other six seasons he was 33-45 with a 5.21 ERA.

Where he is now: Ballard’s career ended after a car accident broke his neck in 1995. He then went into his father’s petroleum business, where he is a Senior Vice President today. He is also the chairman of BillingsAmerican Legion Baseball.

My memories: I didn’t even realize he had such a big season in 1989 until I got a pack of baseball cards with a “Jeff Ballard – All Star” card. Topps could have gone with Nolan Ryan or Dave Stewart but chose this guy instead.

Google Autocomplete results: He is tenth when you type Jeff Ba, after Jeff Bates, a country music singer. The first four links when you google Jeff Ballard are not the ballplayer but a drummer.

Coming up next: The next profile will be Jay Baller.