Friday, January 31, 2014


Mele took over the the Twins just two months into their 1961 debut season.  He is most famous for leading the Twins to the 1965 American League Pennant.  Their 102 wins that season are still a team record.

Note: upon comparing this signature to some rather shaky examples that other collectors have received from Mele over the last few years, and taking his age (92) into account, this looks far too smooth to me.  My guess is that Mr. Mele is probably no longer able to sign his mail and has a family member handling it for him.  It doesn't bother me personally for the purposes of this little project, but I thought I'd mention it for anyone else out there who has designs on writing to him.


Jim McMahon was a Chicago icon of the 1980s and is so synonymous with the Bears that, outside of hardcore Vikings fans, few people are likely to remember that he spent 1993 in Minnesota as the Vikings starting quarterback.

He missed four games with injury, but led the team to an 8-4 record in the twelve games he played, helping the Vikings to a playoff berth.


"Twig" has lived an incredible life.  He was part of the invasions of Iwo Jima and Saipan as a Marine during World War II.  He backed up Jackie Robinson with the Brooklyn Dodgers.  He coached under Ted Williams with the Senators and Rangers.  He became the second man ever to manage a professional baseball team at the age of 80 with the independent Fort Worth Cats in 2005 (and won the league championship).

But, for our purposes, we know him here as the Twins gung-ho first base coach from 1986 to 1994, helping the team to the 1987 and 1991 World Series titles.


After seven years in the minors, St. Cloud, Minnesota product Greg Thayer finally made it to the big leagues with his home team in 1978.  He appeared in 20 games for the Twins that year, going 1-1 with a respectable 3.80 ERA.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


Billy Gardner was kind of like Gardy before Gardy.  Like Ron Gardenhire, he was a scrappy middle infielder as a player and a fiery manager, adored by his players.  "Slick" had a more successful playing career than the current Twins skipper, and was not nearly as successful as a manager, but he had his moments.  He took over the team for Johnny Goryl in 1981 and oversaw the great 1982 rebuild.  That team, which featured rookies Kent Hrbek, Gary Gaetti, Tom Brunansky, Tim Laudner, Randy Bush, and Frank Viola, went 62-100.  Two years later, though, the Twins finished 81-81 and spent the entire season in the AL West race.  Gardner probably does not get the credit he deserves for helping to lay the foundation of the 1987 World Series team.

Gardner played for ten years in the big leagues, including the first half of the 1961 season for the Twins.  He was traded to the Yankees mid-season and went on to win his only World Series with them.

Monday, January 27, 2014


Cotton Nash was an all-time great basketball player for the University of Kentucky, which is saying something.  Playing for the legendary Adolph Rupp, Nash was a three-time All-American and his #44 hangs from the Rupp Arena rafters.

The 6'6" power hitting first baseman was a heckuva baseball player, too.  He was such a gifted athlete that he played in the NBA (with the Los Angeles Lakers and San Francisco Warriors), ABA (Kentucky Colonels) and Major League Baseball (Twins and Chicago White Sox).

Saturday, January 25, 2014


Joe Senser was one of my very first favorite football players.  When I was four years old and first noticing the Vikings, he was establishing himself as a Pro Bowl tight end - and potentially one of the great offensive players in team history.  It was practically unheard of for tight ends to surpass 1,000 receiving yards in a single season back in 1981, when Senser caught 79 balls for 1,004 yard and eight touchdowns.  That was his second season in the NFL and those reception and yardage totals are still in the Vikings' record book as all-time single season highs for a Minnesota tight end.

Unfortunately, injuries forced him to miss the entire 1983 season.  He attempted a comeback in 1984, catching 15 passes while playing in eight games, and then he was done.  He had remained synonymous with Vikings football and Twin Cities sports over the next 25 years, though, thanks to a gig as a Vikings radio analyst and as proprietor of an eponymous local sports bar chain.

Sadly, his name took on a whole new meaning in late 2011 when his wife fatally hit-and-run a Minneapolis pedestrian and the ensuing investigation and trial became our own little O.J. drama.  To Joe Senser's credit, he has profusely empathized with the victim and, while supporting his wife, has stated in high profile interviews that her sentence is deserved.


Tippy was a dominating reliever for the Baltimore Orioles throughout the early 1980s.  With 21 saves, nine relief wins, and a 2.35 ERA, he was one of the biggest contributors to the O's 1983 World Series title.  After nine fine years in Baltimore, he started fading badly in 1985 and 1986.  After sitting out the 1987 season, he attempted a comeback with the Twins in 1988.  He appeared in three games here, giving up nine runs in four innings.


A longtime coach and manager in the Twins/Senators organization, Cal Ermer was called on to take over the Twins two months into the 1967 season. He guided them to within one game of the AL Pennant that year, but after a disastrous 1968 season (freak injury to Harmon Killebrew, inexplicably benching Rod Carew for Frank Quilici for games at a time) he was replaced by Billy Martin in 1969. He continued to work as a Twins minor league coach and scout for the next three decades. Mr. Ermer passed away in 2009. I purchased this cut signature on eBay for a cool 99 cents and cut the card to fit.

Friday, January 24, 2014


This project and blog would be pointless without the participation of Pat Neshek.  As the most enthusiastic and fan-friendliest autograph collector on the other side of the baselines, he has brought a lot of folks into this hobby (or, in my case, back into it).  There's certainly a reason why he was one of the first cards I made and first athletes I wrote to for this project.  He's simply the best.


Joe Altobelli's best big league season as a player came during the Twins initial season of 1961.  He set career highs that year in plate appearances, batting average, home runs, and RBI.  That was his final year in the majors, but he has remained a baseball lifer, best known for managing the 1983 Baltimore Orioles to a World Series championship.

Thursday, January 23, 2014


I'm very happy about these additions to the project.  The Clem Haskins-coached Minnesota Gophers teams that went to the Sweet Sixteen in 1989 and the Elite Eight in 1990 are probably more responsible than anyone else for turning me into a basketball fan.

Richard Coffey was the defensive backbone of those teams.  To use a hockey term, he was their grinder.  While Willie Burton, Kevin Lynch, Melvin Newbern, and Walter Bond were getting the buckets, Coffey was cleaning the glass and was arguably the team's true leader.  I don't think he had anything close to an NBA game, but it was pretty awesome to see him get a cameo with the young Timberwolves during their second season in 1990-91.


Outfielder Mike Hart was in the middle of his second straight quality season with Triple-A Toledo in 1984 when the Twins called him up for a thirteen game big league stint.  He had his biggest minor league season the following year, with a career high 24 homers and 83 RBI for Toledo in 1985.  Despite that, he did not get a second call-up to Minnesota and was traded to Baltimore in the off-season.  He finally made in back to the majors with the Orioles in 1987.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


I was having a hard time deciding which photo to use for Tom Kelly's manager card, so I solicited my friends' opinions on Facebook.  The options were a smiling, champagne-soaked TK holding the 1987 World Series Trophy or surly, older TK in his office, sucking on a stogie.  The stogie shot was the unanimous choice.

In hindsight, I'm not even sure why I needed the second opinion.  Everyone knows Kelly was the man who led us to the only two major pro sports titles in our state's history -- I'm not sure I would classify '50s era NBA as a "major" pro sport.  The stogie shot says a thousand more words about the great Mr. Kelly.


Clyde Lovellette was one of the most dominating and decorated players of the '50s.  He was the first player in basketball history to win an NCAA Championship, and Olympic Gold Medal, and an NBA Championship.  The three-time All-American from Kansas helped lead the Lakers to the 1954 NBA title in his rookie season.  He won two more championships as a member of the Celtics in the early 1960s and appeared in four NBA All Star Games.

Clyde Lovellette was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1988.


As you can see from the three cards, Johnny Goryl wore many hats during his twenty years with the Twins. He was a utility infielder in the early '60s and transitioned to coaching immediately after hanging up his playing spikes. He had two stints as a coach on the big league staff and eventually took over as the Twins' manager after Gene Mauch resigned during the 1980 season. As impressive as his run with the Twins was, the baseball lifer worked for the Indians for over thirty years, in a variety of roles, after his time in Minnesota was over.


Veteran Dan Schatzeder was picked up from the Phillies in late June and for most of the rest of the season he was the only lefty in the bullpen for the 1987 World Champion Minnesota Twins.  He began his career as a starter in Montreal and finished third in the National League with a 2.83 ERA in his second full season in 1979.  After a couple of years in Detroit and a brief implosion with the Giants, he returned to the Expos in late 1982 and served primarily as a reliever for the rest of his career.

His 1987 season for the Twins was ugly statistically, but he came up big in the post-season -- the only time in his 15 year career he appeared in the playoffs.  He had two scoreless appearances in the 1987 ALCS and was actually the winning pitcher in the pivotal Game 6 of the World Series against St. Louis.

Sunday, January 19, 2014


In the pre-expansion NHL, Pete Goegan (pictured here in the background, at the top of the frame) was a bubble player for a decade. He was a tough stay-at-home defenseman who spent the first ten years of his career heading back and forth between the Detroit Red Wings and the minors (save for a seven game stint with the New York Rangers before Detroit reacquired him). The North Stars selected him in the 1967 expansion draft and he suited up for 46 games during that inaugural season -- his last in the NHL.

Mr. Goegan passed away on October 8, 2008 at the age of 74.

Of note: this is my first attempt ever at making a "cut signature" autographed card.  I purchased an affordable signed Goegan index card on ebay and cut it to fit within this card.  I may try to straighten/fix my cutting on the card at some point, but I'm pretty satisfied for a first try.

Thursday, January 16, 2014


"Slick" began his pro career with the Lakers in 1956-57 and was a key backcourt component during their last four seasons in Minneapolis.  Prior to that he was an All-American and NCAA Champion with the Indiana Hoosiers.  Following his playing career, he won three ABA titles during his twelve year run as the head coach of the Indiana Pacers.  He has broadcasted for the Pacers for nearly 30 years, and is still going strong for them at 81.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


He never played in the NHL, but John Mayasich is one of the greatest and most important American players in the history of hockey.

Consider his resume:
  • His #8 is the only number to retired in the storied history of the University of Minnesota hockey program.
  • Ranked #1 in the Star Tribune's list of the 100 Greatest High School Hockey Players in Minnesota History, ahead of the likes of Neal Broten, Phil Housley, and Henry Boucha.
  • In four years at Eveleth High School, his team won four State Championships.  Oh... they also never lost a single game during his time there.  Four straight undefeated seasons.
  • All-time leading scorer in Golden Gophers history.
  • All-time leading scorer in Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament history.
  • Gold medalist at the 1960 Olympics.
  • Silver medalist at the 1956 Olympics.
  • Many credit Mayasich with "inventing" the slapshot.
Note: this autograph request was sent to Mr. Mayasich before I decided to alter the design of these cards to show each player's uniform number and years played.  There may be a few more Gophers hockey cards like this one trickling in, but all future cards will have an updated design.

Monday, January 13, 2014


John Kundla was a basketball pioneer.  He coached the NBA's first dynasty, the Minneapolis Lakers, to five championships in his first six seasons.  After the Lakers moved to Los Angeles, he remained in Minnesota to coach his alma mater Golden Gophers for nine seasons.  Mr. Kundla was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1995.  Now 97 years old, he still calls Minneapolis home.

Coaching record: