I’ll never forget the first National I ever attended. It was the 1991 show in Anaheim, CA. Just my luck, it had the largest crowds of any National in history. I remember standing in line outside in the heat for hours to get in. I don’t remember a whole lot about the show itself, but I do remember thinking that this place was basically my mecca. I didn’t really have any money back then (I was a 12 year old welfare kid), so I probably left the show with some great memories and not much else. Now that I think about it, I think I picked up a Steve Sax signed 8×10 and a Willie Stargell signed Donruss Diamond King card. Probably some junk wax too.
I don’t think I attended another National until the Chicago show in either 2008 or 2011… maybe both. I went to a few other card shows in between, all in the 90s.
I was able to attend the show in Chicago this year. It was something of a last minute decision. It turned out I was going to be in the Chicago area on business the week after the National. So I took a few days off work and flew into Chicago on Wednesday night. By the time I knew I’d be able to attend, all VIP type passed had sold out. I was pretty bummed about that. So I ended up buying single day tickets for every day but Sunday. I pretty much slept all day on Sunday, lol.
I don’t really collect baseball cards these days. For the most part, I pick up Sox cards to get signed. I might put together Sox team sets and whatnot. But I can’t remember the last time I opened a pack of baseball cards. So I wasn’t really at the show for the cards. I was there for some of the autograph guests, and I hoped to find some Sox autographs at the tables. I’ll go over the autographs I got from the guests in this post. I’ll go through everything I picked up at the tables in another post.
Before I get to that, I guess I can talk briefly about the show. I was lucky enough to get a room at the Crowne Plaza right across the street. It seemed like every single person staying there was going to the show. I didn’t attend the show Wednesday night, but I was there about an hour after the show opened on Thursday. The place was absolutely packed. It was difficult to navigate the aisles and look at the tables. On top of that, the A/C either didn’t work or was way too weak, as it was like a sauna in there. I’m so thankful that I was staying right across the street, as after about an hour I was miserable and soaked with sweat.
So I would walk around for a bit, and then head back to the gloriously cold A/C of my hotel room. I did this off and on all day Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. I did run in to a few notable people while walking around. I bumped in to Ron Kittle at one of the big auction house booths. He was there to discuss selling some of his sports memorabilia collection. I was happy to chat with Ron for a bit, as he’s always been a super nice guy. A couple of minor film celebrities had booths set up, and I chatted with both of them a bit as well. One was Ari Lehman, the first person to play Jason Voorhees. The other was Scott Schwartz, who played Flick in “A Christmas Story”. Both were very nice guys.
Thursday evening I went “behind the curtain” to drop my Thome items off with Sean Morgan. It’s absolutely bonkers back there. There is table after table filled with memorabilia for the athletes to sign. When I got back to Sean’s area, he was just finishing up a signing with Lawrence Taylor. I hung out until LT finished signing, and dropped off my items with Sean.
Jim Thome was the main reason I decided to attend. I need Thome on about 25-30 items. His prices are pretty high, starting at $119, so there was no way I could get everything done in one shot. I contacted Sean Morgan from Famous Ink and was able to negotiate a bit of a bulk discount, so I ended up getting 14 items done. 8 cards, 2 baseballs, 3 16x20s, and a mini helmet. I had a difficult time deciding which cards to get signed, as I could only afford 8, but needed about 20. I ended up going with his other rookie (I already have the 91 UD Final card signed), the rest of his A&G cards, three of his remaining UD cards, and one card that I just really like and thought would look cool signed.
Just about everything turned out great, though I am slightly disappointed with the signature on the Blackout 16×20 with John Danks. It’s not terrible or anything, I just wish he’d signed it with a thicker sharpie and placed the signature a bit more the lower left. Overall though, I’m very satisfied with the Thome haul.
Goose Gossage was also a signer at the National. Since I was already there, I decided to get a HOF baseball signed. Goose was friendly as always.
There were also a few VIP signers that I had some items for, but didn’t feel like they were necessarily worth the signing fee. Luckily, Donnie Macey had a deal worked out where he could get a lot of these guys for a very reasonable rate. So I sent in some items for Stan Bahnsen, Ron Kittle, and Greg Luzinski. Donnie did a great job (as always) and got them all signed perfectly.
All in all I had a great time at the show. I didn’t find anything too exciting at the booths, though I did pick up a few things that I’ll show in the next post. I did eat some great food while in town. I got more than my fill of Portillo’s, Al’s, and Giordano’s. Also, there is a Fogo de Chao right behind the hotel I was staying at. I’m not ashamed to say that I ate there twice while I was in town. Just thinking about it gives me the meat sweats all over again!