Media: music, Broadcasting, and Print
In addition to my card and autograph collecting, I graduated with a B.S. in Journalism from Emerson College in December 2005. I also have worked as a play by play broadcaster in the hockey, football, and floorball world, serving as the voice of the North American Hockey League's Wichita Falls Wildcats in 2006-2013 and voice of the Texas Open Floorball Tournament's broadcasts in 2020 and 2022.
Recently I covered the World Floorball Championship Qualifications in April 2022 between the Canadian and American National Teams for the International Floorball Federation. Below is Game Two of the Qualifications, with USA Mens' Under-19 coach and former NFL Europe wide receiver Theo Blanco.
In 2019 and 2020 I made interview appearances on the autograph collecting podcast TTMCast with Jeff Baker before taking over the role of co-host in June 2021. In 2022, Jeff and I went on the air with Sports Collectors Club, which aired on weekends on the SportsMap Radio Network. I also have made guest appearances on a few hockey-related podcasts: Hanging With Mr. Will, Puska On Pucks, and 4th Line Voice.
I also play music. I puttered around with some short-lived bands in middle and high school as a bassist, keyboardist, and drummer before becoming the drummer for Boston punk band CC40 from 2003-2005. After some time off and a lot of solo playing, I was the drummer and later guitarist for Dallas folk punkers Death Before Breakfast from 2016-2019. You can hear my drum work on their 2018 album "Destroy Everything." I also handled lead guitar and backing vocals in Dallas punk outfit The Nothing in 2019-2021, and played drums with Beethoven's Bastards, from 2021 to 2023, with my playing appearing on all their recordings.
I mostly play drums and guitar, but also piano, bass, mandolin, and all things percussion. I'm always looking for other local musicians in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to jam and write with. Mostly garage, punk, 90s alternative, classic rock, anything in that vein, but I try to stay flexible with almost anything rock related from the 1950s to today. I write my own music once in a while, but it's rare.
Lastly, what you'll find most in this section is that I enjoy writing on all sorts of sports-related topics, mostly sports collecting. Some of my pieces have been featured in Tuff Stuff, USA Floorball, Uni-Watch, the North American Hockey League, Nine Inning Know-It-All, and Sports Collectors Daily. With Corey and Howie Mansfield, I was the co-founder, a writer, and chief podcast host for the erstwhile Sports Fans Online in the mid-2000s and its also-now-defunct reboot Broken Bat Media in the late 2010s. Later, I served on the Writing Staff of SportsCardForum (SCF) for the better part of the 2010s as well. I also wrote several blogs related to autographs.
Below you can find some of the pieces I've written over the years for those various sites, mostly SCF. Mostly, you'll read a lot of think-pieces and personal stories more than any deep research.
Autographs: A Two-Part How To
The Greatest Pitcher You Don't Know
If I Were NCAA Dictator
Lonestar Lions Win 2015 championship
Lonestar Lions win 2015 Southwest US Floorball Championship
by Drew Pelto
Written for USAFloorball.org, April 2015
KEENE, TEXAS – The Lonestar Lions edged out the Dallas Fireballs in their quest for a three-peat as Southwest US Floorball Champions. The Lions took home the trophy with a 4-1 record on Sunday in Keene, TX. With both teams holding an equal record, the Lions took the goal differential tie-breaker for their first championship as a club. Erik Hammar led the team in scoring with 4 points, Adam Niemuth had three goals including the championship clincher, while goaltender Drew Pelto finished second in the tournament with a 0.61 GAA and two shutouts. The Lions relied on strong defense and a balanced offensive attack: 11 of the team’s 12 floor players figured into the scoring.
Texas has become a floorball hotbed of late. Several cities including Austin, Houston, and Round Rock have their own clubs while the Dallas-Fort Worth area is home to the North Texas Floorball Association, which features Lonestar, Dallas, and the DFW Longshots. Hockey has exploded since the arrival of the Dallas Stars in 1993, and floorball has grown heavily as hockey players look for activities in the offseason. With temperatures reaching over 100 degrees in the summer, it’s not always feasible to keep ice in every arena in the state. Floorball easily enters the picture to keep a player’s skills sharp during the down time.
Just south of the Metroplex is the town of Keene, population 6,100, and home to Southwestern Adventist University. While some colleges around the country feature intramural leagues in wiffleball, flag football, ultimate frisbee, and even quidditch from the Harry Potter book series, SWAU is the only college known to feature floorball. They have hosted this tournament since 2012.
“The first teams that played in 2012 were the two teams from SWAU, Dallas Fireballs, Austin, Oklahoma Twisters, and the Southwest US Floorball Open Rec Team,” said Vesa Naukkarinen, chairman of SWAU’s Department of Kinesiology. “When we got our new gym floor, we switched to floorball from floor hockey. It took a year or so to get students involved but now we have several students who play regularly. For the past two years, we have had six to eight teams participating during intramurals and between seventy and ninety players have signed up to play per season.”
The Knights were the first winners of the Southwest US Floorball Championship. While their program is mainly geared toward current students, Vesa noted that they often get faculty members and nearby alumni to participate as well.
For the first time, the group also ran a youth tournament in addition to the annual adult tournament for players aged seven to fourteen. “Southwestern’s program has influenced the youth in the area to pick up the sport,” Vesa pointed out. “We run a Sunday morning program for kids and it’s been a success.. I think we will have more teams in the future since we have more opportunities for the youth to play through partnerships with the Dallas Stars, local schools, and Dallas-area groups playing weekly.” The North Texas Floorball Association also sent their own youth players to participate. Several of those players’ parents participated in the adult tournament, and at least three players participated in both the youth and adult tournaments.
Vesa pointed out the efforts of his students in pushing the sport into new frontiers in and around Keene. “Senior elementary education major Ella Nguyen has volunteered her time to help with kids’ floorball every Sunday and was helping with the kids’ tournament this week as well. And Branislav Muntag, a junior computer science major, deserves recognition for his performance and for getting more students involved.” It has been a community effort to spread the sport at the University. Naukkarinen also hopes that more colleges take it up and perhaps to someday be able to see a National College Championship Tournament contested.
Meanwhile up in Arlington, the Lonestar Floorball Club has become one of the fastest growing clubs in the country, transforming from their initial founding into a tournament champion in the span of only three months.
“When Drew, Kira, and I set this up, our goal was to have three to four total teams from elite, to competitive, to beginner,” said Lions’ team captain Matt Nunez. “I believe that the passion the three of us have for the sport mixed with the crazy amount of marketing we do has led to us finding good players and good people.”
The Lonestar group has maintained a professional-style staff setup since their founding, successfully turning themselves into an elite club quickly. Drew Pelto was named head coach over the entire organization, while Nunez has been the Lions’ captain and assistant coach. Joe Cerquitella is the captain and assistant coach with the organization’s development team, the Lonestar Lynx. Kira Rudnick covers marketing and promotions while playing for the Lynx.
“Our team defense sticks out; hustle and heart as well,” Nunez said of the keys to his club’s rapid ascent. “Drew was great in goal when he had to be. The desire to win was there with everyone on the team. That’s something I’m not sure I’ve ever seen as a floorball player.”
In only three months, the club has gotten enough players to easily form two teams for tournaments. They plan to host a league in Arlington throughout July and August, as well as a four-on-four tournament on June 13.
“The hardest part is getting people to try it for the first time,” Nunez noted. “If you get a hockey player to try the game, they fall in love with it and never stop. Once you get a player in, he brings friends, and it continues from there. Posting photos all over Facebook has helped; people see it and get curious. When I first started it was just the Dallas Fireballs and SWAU that were any good in local tournaments. Now you have a second SWAU team, the Lions, even the Longshots, and one day the Lynx. That doesn’t even cover how far Houston has come.”
They must be doing something right down South: besides the Southwest US Championship, three players on the USA Men’s Under-19 Team are members of the Lonestar club. Of the thirteen players on the Lions’ roster this past Sunday, four had started playing the sport within the previous six months, and only three had played for more than three years.
The tournament also received support from Floorball Planet, a major supplier of the sport’s equipment to the area. They have a store in Benbrook, near Fort Worth and have greatly helped new players get equipment and aid in keeping the local clubs stocked for practices and drop-in sessions. Their continued efforts are helping to keep the sport growing into brand new areas throughout the state and all over the country.
2015 SOUTHWEST US FLOORBALL CHAMPIONSHIP
Lonestar Lions 4-1-0
Dallas Fireballs 4-1-0
SWAU I 3-2-0
DFW LongShots 2-3-0
SWAU II 2-3-0
Lonestar Lynx 0-5-0
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICAL LEADERS
POINTS: Branislav Muntag, SWAU I, 8
GOALS: 3 players tied with 5 each
ASSISTS: Branislav Muntag, SWAU I, 3
GOALIES: Risto Kotti, Dallas, 0.40 GAA, 4 shutouts
A Man(ning) On A Mission
Finding Myself Through Borje Salming
2016 World Cup Of Hockey Previews
In 2016, the World Cup of Hockey made its return following events in 1996 and 2004. Originally seen as a follow-up to the erstwhile Summit Series, Super Series, Canada Cup events, it never quite took off with any sort of regularity and its future is uncertain with the cancellation of the 2020 games. The staff of Sports Card Forum was asked to handle previews of all the teams, and I was put in charge of Finland, Sweden, and Team USA.
* * * * * * * * * *
Finland: Inching closer to the top
Let's Go To Cleveland
On Graphing Etiquette
On Graphing Etiquette: a list disguised as an essay
Feel Free To Take A Knee
Chief Wahoo: A No-Win Situation
Dark Sky, Dark Water, A Dark Night
The CL: Alternate MLB History
A Preview of the 2018 National
East Meets West In Grand Prairie
East Meets West in Grand Prairie
The Chinese National Baseball Team takes the field in North Texas
By Drew Pelto
Written for Broken Bat Media, June 2018
Containing three of the 50 largest cities in the United States among its 9,000 square miles, the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex is the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the country. Dallas sits to the east, Fort Worth to the west, with Arlington, Plano, Denton, Irving, Carrollton, Lewisville, and more scattered about.
The east side meets the west side in Grand Prairie, home to the American Association's Texas AirHogs. The independent minor league baseball team often gets lost in the shadows of some bigger counterparts: the major league Rangers play five miles down the interstate in Arlington, right next to the NFL's Cowboys and a short drive from the WNBA's Dallas Wings; the NHL Stars and NBA Mavericks play just the other way in Dallas; Frisco has the Ranger-affiliated RoughRiders, G-League basketball's Texas Legends, and FC Dallas of the MLS; and Allen and North Richland Hills have minor and junior level hockey.
Typically the American Association has some strict roster limits, including when and how many players can be added and dropped, how many can be veterans versus rookies, and of course how many can be on a team at a time (typically 22). Most teams have only two, three, or rarely four coaches.
But the AirHogs have nearly that many pitchers alone-- 19 in fact. Their staff list contains twelve coaches. When it comes to position players, there are a more-typical two catchers, seven infielders, and five outfielders, plus another three on the inactive or disabled lists. That's 36 players. Whereas many players in the American Association have their previous team listed as another independent minor league squad, a college, or an affiliated minor league team, only a true international baseball afficionado will recognize the teams on the AirHogs' roster: Jiangsu Pegasus, Shanghai Golden Eagles, and the Sichuan Dragons.
In Grand Prairie, East is meeting West in more ways than just geographically: The entire Chinese National Baseball team is on their roster.
A month into the season, it's been a slow start. The AirHogs are permitted to have 22 players activated per game out of those 36. So lineups are constantly in flux to make sure everyone gets a share of playing time. As of June 17, the AirHogs are mired in last place in the AA South with a 5-23 record. Only one victory has been by more than one run, and they've allowed ten or more runs six times.
The season hasn't been without its bright spots though: outfielder Dillon Thomas leads the team with a .313 average, 5 homers, and 20 RBI, and infielder Chu Fujia has led his countrymen with a .269 average. Meng Weiqiang has struggled at the plate, going 5 for 54, but he has a decent excuse: he's basically pulling an Ohtani, both pitching and playing the outfield and DH. He has two of the AirHogs wins and his 3.24 ERA is best in the starting rotation-- even better than former MLB first round draft pick Tyler Matzek.
Of the twelve coaches, four have significant big league experience, which is also a rarity at this level. Many coaches and managers played in the minors or had short major league careers like Brent Clevlen or George Tsamis. The AirHogs have former Mariners and Phillies skipper John McLaren at the helm, who managed Team China at the World Baseball Classic in 2017 and 2013 alongside AirHogs' hitting coach Jimmy Johnson and assistant coach Yi Sheng. Pitching Coach Larry Hardy threw for the Padres and Astros in the 1970s, followed by over twenty years coaching in the Blue Jays, Giants, and Rangers organizations, serving as an umpire observer for Major League Baseball, and even a stint as a coach for the Republican Congressional Baseball Team for their annual game in Washington. Bullpen Coach Kevin Joseph pitched for the Cardinals and their affiliates. And the longest tenured of them all is Garth Iorg, who spent 1978-1987 with the Blue Jays as an infielder, followed by coaching and managerial stints in the Blue Jays and Brewers organizations, as well as with the German National Team.
Regardless of the results, it's been fun getting to see the interactions between players and coaches of different backgrounds. Kevin Joseph actually speaks some Chinese himself; after he signed some cards for me before a game, he had a brief conversation with a player who looked at me and asked him something.
"He wants to see the cards," Kevin said.
So I showed Kevin's cards to the player and said slowly "That was him playing fifteen years ago," which got a wide-eyed "Whoa!" and a laugh from the player.
Some expressions are universal, just like the game of baseball.
How To Resurrect A Career With One Swing
Tales Of A Little League Washout
What Baseball Means To Me
What Baseball Means To Me
By Drew Pelto
Written for a series on Nine Inning Know It All, April 2020
Baseball is about so many things. Strategy. History. Diversity. The smell of freshly-cut grass on a local park diamond and the stale cigarette smoke of an old ballpark. It’s about the feel of flipping through vintage cards, of a ball hitting a mitt, of sitting on hard, hot bleachers. Stadium Mustard on a Kahn’s footlong – only Clevelanders will understand. It’s about adaptation – whether it’s adapting the game to be played in your back yard instead of a three-acre space, or adapting to a new position because your knees can’t handle it behind the plate anymore, or adapting the entire gestalt of the sport into a simple card-and-dice format (I’ve been playing a lot of MLB Showdown during isolation).
For me baseball is about family connection. The sport has been a part of my family from the first moment my ancestors came to a new country.
On July 4, 1909, my grandfather arrived in his new home of Boston in Upper Michigan’s Copper Country, following a six-week journey from Tervola, Finland with his mother, two older sisters, and a younger brother. Northern Finland had little in the way of sports: pesäpallo wouldn’t be invented for another fifteen years, hockey wouldn’t appear on a wide basis for another twenty, and eukonkanto didn’t have a championship until 1992.
But weeks after arrival, my grandfather turned into the biggest baseball fan you could find. The neighborhood boys, many from immigrant families like his own coming from Finland, Italy, Germany, Croatia, Quebec, Ireland, and England, created their own team. Their creation of the Boston Pirates lasted as an amateur baseball organization well into the 1950s. Baseball as a player didn’t last long for him: by the time he was 15, Grandpa was working in the copper mines due to a lack of workers in the World War. But he was a fan for life, watching the Pirates and catching major league games on the radio and eventually TV whenever he could pick up games from Detroit, Chicago, or the future Milwaukee Braves and Toronto Blue Jays.
On my grandmother’s side of the family, baseball wasn’t quite as big as it was for my grandfather, but her oldest brother played on those same Boston Pirates in the 1940s as a top first baseman and pitcher. When Bob Feller and Joe DiMaggio hosted a camp in Florida for returning soldiers and other young prospects to be seen by scouts, a group of businesses in the Copper Country paid for him and a teammate to travel down and participate in it.
Needless to say, my father followed in Grandpa’s footsteps. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, he was a pitcher, outfielder, and middle infielder for the local Little League on the Pirates as well – total coincidence. But like my grandfather, that didn’t last long. Being a lefty and only about 5’7″ severely limited where he could play. Aside from Little League and some company softball teams, he too was limited mostly to being a fan.
I didn’t make it any further than they did: I could play almost any position in Little League, but couldn’t hit a beach ball. After four years mostly as a catcher and middle infielder, my .077 average was enough to tell me I should hang up the spikes and stick to weekend lob-pitch pickup games and eventually the Emerson College Wiffleball League, where I was a Cy Young finalist. However, I too ended up as a Pirate coincidentally.
I never met my grandfather much. They moved from Boston to Laurium and finally to blink-and-you’ll-miss-it New Allouez. I was seven when he died, and we only got up to see him once a year for a week. But I remember him watching in the summer of 1989, and in his aged, weary, Finnish-accented voice telling this five-year-old how “Dere was dis little kirl down ta road, she play Little League, she hit tat pall way out to da trees dere. You konna let da kirls peat you?” before I’d go up and try to crush a plastic ball over his flowers, past the neat rows of raspberry plants, and into the precisely-planted jack pine trees. And a year after his death, as I watched a 1992 Blue Jays-Rangers game on a black and white TV, rabbit ear antennas pointed north toward CKPR in Thunder Bay, Grandma reminisced about how Grandpa always watched the Jays any time he could, since they had the clearest signal in the Copper Country. In the offseason, Major League pitcher George Brunet lived next door.
I turned six years old in 1990 and later that year I went to my first two ballgames. By this point, my family had relocated. My grandparents were still in Upper Michigan: unless he got to a game in an early 1920s trip to Chicago, my grandfather died without ever attending a Major League game. My dad had moved down to Lower Michigan, then onto Iowa, and finally Ohio where I spent most of my life. Dad used to try to get to a ballgame in any Big League city he visited. He saw Kaufman when it was still Royals Stadium; another favorite in Steve Carlton pitching against the Cubs at Wrigley; and a 1966 game at Yankee Stadium when he saw New York and Washington when visiting his sister. In Iowa, he and my mom often attended Cedar Rapids Reds games, getting to watch some big prospects for the Reds including Eric Davis, Paul O’Neill, and Chris Sabo.
It was while living in Ohio where I became a fan, cursed with cheering for some terrible Indians teams. I don’t know how I ended up a fan of his, but Cory Snyder was my favorite player from the moment I first saw a game. Even now, coming up on 36, I have a huge collection of Snyder cards – over 200 different ones, plus a game-used bat, and a few autographs. In 1990, I went to my first game, seeing the Indians beat the Tigers 12-4. A month later, we saw Dave Stieb finally complete a no-hitter after two failed attempts in 1988, beating the Tribe 3-0.
I got started as a serious collector in 1991. My dad had been a card collector too, 35 years before, having nearly-complete sets from 1957 all the way up to about 1964; at some point though, he gave them all to a friend. I had a few cards before then, but nothing major; just some that I had gotten as random gifts. But one day with some birthday money burning a hole in my pocket, I went with my dad to K-Mart and paid $1.49 for a rack pack of 1991 Donruss cards. That first pack of cards had a card of our lone star in Cleveland in Sandy Alomar Jr., plus Dave Stieb, and Cory Snyder. Needless to say, I was hooked. Nearly 30 years later, I’m still at it.
The Indians lost every game from the Stieb no-no all the way up to the final game we saw at the old Stadium where they blew a 7-2 lead to the Yankees, dropping it 14-8. Fortunately our first game at the all-new Jacobs Field featured Albert Belle cranking a walk-off grand slam off Lee Smith.
I’ve been to far more games in Texas now, along with a game each in Montreal, Minnesota, Boston, St. Louis, and Detroit. But for me, the two stadia in Cleveland will always bring a sense of home and a sense of connection to my family. I don’t get back to Cleveland much more often than every couple of years, but my dad and I always try to get to a game together, typically the A-level Lake County Captains as they’re a fifteen minute drive for him.
In 2014, I made it up for the National Sports Collectors Convention, and as I stopped by my dad’s house, he handed me a box. Just before my grandmother moved into an assisted living facility in the early 90s, we went through her house to make sure there wasn’t anything left that we wanted. And somehow, surviving 20+ years in the attic, we came across two bags of 1962 and 1963 Topps cards from my dad’s collection as a kid. He was giving them to me. Since then, I’ve mailed off about 40 or so to players to sign; only two never came back to me.
There are a lot of things I don’t have in common with my predecessors. My grandfather was a union copper miner who never took a day off for fifty years. My dad is a Reagan-era Republican with a masters degree in electrical engineering. I border on being an anarchist with a nearly useless journalism degree. But the one thing we all could always agree on was baseball.
TGC: The Series Finale
TCG: The Series Finale
By Drew Pelto
Written for Texas Graphing Chronicles, October 2020
NOTE: This was the "farewell address" for my old Texas Graphing Chronicles blog.
After seven and a half years of writing, nearly 250 posts, and over 67,000 views, I believe this will be the final post I make on this blog. When I started it in 2013, I was excited to have a place to write every few days about my doings in the autograph world: the good/bad/ugly of in-person outings, TTM successes and failures, interview profiles of other collector friends, and really anything else that came to mind. I was about to return to a hobby I greatly enjoyed in a way that I hadn't been able to do since 2005 and I wanted to go all-in.
In that first year I was typically putting up multiple posts a week. For the last couple of years, it's been one a month. In 2015 and 2016 I was getting hundreds of reads per post within hours of posting. My latest one got 8 in six days. I'll be shocked if even fifty read this in a month. Print-only media is dying. Blogging isn't what it used to be, at least not on a larger platform without loads of links and non-text content. Microblogging, sub-300-character tweets, images, and videos have taken control, as we are first-hand witnesses to a Mooreheadian paradox of our attention spans growing shorter but our lives growing longer. To quote my wife's favorite musician Kacey Musgraves, "Mary Mary quite contrary, we're so bored until we're buried." We as a culture have grown tired of any information that's larger than bite-sized and not entertaining enough. It's why the insultpolitik of Donald Trump & Co. is effective now after it spent decades failing: it's memorable, quick, to the point, and provokes immediate visceral reaction. Riding it to victory proves that the end justifies the means in American culture. Talking about the important things – policies, plans, ideas – at length gets boring and forgotten even though it's the meat of the future.
It's easier to have daily (or near-daily) updates elsewhere. So that's what I'm going to do.
Over the last few years especially while leading a Facebook group, I've had to endure doxxing, accusations of playing favorites, threats of litigation, use of my life and views outside the hobby as ammunition against me, threats of violence, and more "fuck you, Stalin" type of messages in my inbox than you can possibly imagine. I even had someone make ridiculous accusations of me showing up at his friend's job and getting him fired via a sexual assault claim – either a case of recklessly mistaking my identity for someone else or an attempt at a completely fabricated hatchet job against me. It has gotten to a point where especially over the last two months I have had to ask myself numerous times if it is really worth waking up and wondering what sort of crap I'm going to end up taking from people. And all of this over a personal autograph collection!
I've hit a point where I can't make fair criticism and raise concerns without fear of overly-strong retribution. I'm even sitting here wondering who's going to take offense to this as I write it. Welcome to journalism in a post-Trump world.
Trying to put yourself out there to be a force for positive feels great until it turns on you. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Trying to constantly fight against me-first negativity and unethicality in our hobby has led me to bordering upon paranoia about deciphering the meaning behind people's actions and words. I don't particularly enjoy that. I always joked I'd have a heart attack by 40 but this week has made me think it might not be a joke. The victories in this pro-hobbyist battle are largely Pyrrhic.
It's weird to call Twitter and YouTube positive places but in the autograph hobby they are so far. None of them have the cobwebs of a mostly-text blog. Disagreements I've had with people on YouTube have remained remarkably civil discussions of opinion; via Twitter I'm trying to avoid and unfollow accounts that are not 100% about the hobby; whereas the Facebook flareups I've seen and been involved in get out of hand quickly, and if I lay the hammer down from a position of authority I'm automatically the bad guy. Enough already! I've been banned from groups and accept that I probably deserved it when it happens. Many people I've dealt with while working with similar situations from the other side refuse to ever make that concession. The old "They hate us 'cause they ain't us" line is a load of crap: they probably hate you because you're an ass.
I've tried to be a positive in the autograph hobby. I want to keep out those who would do it harm, reduce the number of those who act solely with self in mind, and educate newcomers wherever possible. My favorite phrase is "The overall health of the hobby is more important than the size of your collection." And I truly believe that: the size of your collection won't matter if the hobby is dead or at least unattainable for most.
And the number of positive comments I got from people about the effort I put in for so long following my decision to step down from the Facebook group is evidence to me that at least my intentions have been understood and appreciated. In fact, I have not had a single negative one put to me directly from it, and that means a lot in something that has largely been a thankless job for four years. You're never going to please everyone, so all you can really focus on are those who are important to you and those who appreciate your efforts.
If a hobby is getting to where it's not as fun for you anymore, you have to ask why you're trying to preserve it for others at such a cost to yourself. I already lost all enjoyment in my previous sports broadcasting career, something that has just now started to come back after leaving it for most of a decade. I haven't hit the point I did when I left it, but I want to stop any potential skid before it hits that crash point: I don't want to have my preferred avocation completely ruined for me too.
Every collecting world seems to hit a point of unsustainable growth. How many booms and busts can you name? You had the sports card boom of the 80s and early 90s where every product had cards and every town had multiple card shops, followed by its bust in the late 90s as overproduction brought about a diluted market; Beanie Babies had their boom in the late 90s that went bust just as fast; comic books, antiques, stamps, coins, toy fads... Even each of these areas has their own internal mini-booms and busts – Kevin Maas, anyone? Cards are seeing a crazy boom again as well: is it reaching critical mass?
We're seeing a huge bubble happen in the autograph world in terms of participation. When I came down to DFW in 2013, Rangers games had a dedicated group of maybe 20-30 collectors at the average game. I knew most of them by name quickly and we helped each other out. The last game I was at, there had to have been over a hundred, and the only ones I recognized were a few I didn't like much. When I went to an Angels-Indians game in 2018, I didn't bother graphing and I'm glad I didn't: watching from a distance, the group was ten-deep all the way down the fence. The minor leagues are getting overrun by prospectors. People who had never TTMed before or hadn't in years are getting back into it during pandemic boredom. Players are getting swamped with mail to where many excellent free signers have stopped (Rick Reuschel) or are charging fees (Jerry Browne and Tom Brunansky), and many who already charged small fees are raising those (Bob Grich). While it has brought a few tough signers out of the woodwork (Harold Baines), is it worth the cost of losing so many others? A comment from a person helping to go through five years of Dave Stieb's mail mentioned that he has gotten numerous requests of 8 or more cards, some with lazily copied letters with another player's name crossed off and his written in, return envelopes with no postage (perhaps even no envelope at all), and even one person that requested a heap of both cards and index cards with specific inscriptions requested on each with no compensation – and sent it twice. Billy Sample said he now tends to get an average of five requests a day whereas a decade ago, it was maybe five a week.
You may not care since you already got Reuschel, Browne, Brunansky, and Grich, or you're okay with paying for the latter trio, but what about a newcomer to to the hobby? What about a kid who loves baseball history but whose $10 a week allowance would take him almost a month to get Grich? They no longer have that ability. And someday you might end up in their shoes and miss out on someone who stops because it's gotten to be too voluminous, or whose fee is through the roof. This is why I think fighting to limit hobby greed is such an important enterprise. The hobby should be accessible to all who want to participate. Think before you act out of self-interest.
Unfortunately, there will always be those who care about the monetary profit more than the hobby enjoyment, and those types will be its downfall. Collectors who go in with profit in mind first tend to have a problem with self-control when it comes to milking their newfound cash cow, much to the hobby's detriment. It's the same with riding any other boom to (or past) its bust point.
Even non-monetary gains: do you really need 20 cards a year signed by Rick Reuschel, Frank Tanana, Danny Darwin, Charlie Hough, and Tom Foley? I've sent to Tanana twice in my life. I probably have another 50 cards of him sitting here. I have no desire or need to mail out even 1/10th of them. I gave four to a friend to mail off. If someone else wanted a few, I'd give to them too.
I know I'm not going to reach every collector with my reasoning, nor am I trying to be the autograph police, nor do I think I'm going to somehow spark a worldwide change (no matter how many times people try to strawman that those delusions of grandeur are somehow my goals). All I've ever wanted to do is whatever is within my grasp to help keep the hobby civilized and thriving. Think globally but act locally; be the change you want to see in the world; we not me; you know the clichés.
So, I'm scaling back. I'm focusing on my own collection and on continuing to practice those ethics myself. And that's going to mean less public involvement and leadership. If you get anything out of this (besides off my lawn), I hope it's heeding my request to exert self-control. Take those ten cards you want to send and pare it back to four.
Thanks for reading Texas Graphing Chronicles. As the great Hal Lebovitz used to sign off: "Stay well, and see you somewhere, I hope."
Talkin’ Tribe: A 2021 Outlook
Talkin’ Tribe: A 2021 Outlook Following A Blockbuster Trade
by Drew Pelto
Written for Nine Inning Know-It-All, January 2021
And just like that, he was gone. Again.
When you’re a fan of a small-market team in a sport without a salary cap, it’s a sentiment you come to know all too well. As a Tribe fan since 1991, I’ve seen the team lose the likes of Albert Belle, Roberto Alomar, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Chuck Finley, Juan Gonzalez, Bartolo Colon, Victor Martinez, CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Santana twice, Edwin Encarnacion, Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber, Andrew Miller, and Mike Clevinger either as high-priced free agents or in trades right before free agency.
And now, we can add Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco to that list. It must be nice to be a fan of a team that can just throw money at a problem and if it fails, write it off and keep repeating until it works. Last time the Indians tried that, it got them to the playoffs repeatedly in the late 90s, but ultimately left a financial pit and an empty farm system that took four managers, three GMs, and fifteen years to rebuild into a consistent contender at least briefly.
When you’re a fan of a small-market team in a sport without a salary cap, you get a brief championship window: enjoy the hell out of it because it won’t be open for long. After spending Game 7 of the 2016 World Series in Cleveland hoping to see a parade the next day, I watched Game Three of the 2017 ALDS with my wife’s family here in Texas. The Tribe led the series at that point 2-0. When Greg Bird homered in the seventh inning, I told them that was the end of the Tribe’s window. They thought I was crazy. But the team has yet to win a playoff game since: three straight losses to the Yankees, followed by a three-game ALDS sweep by the 2018 Astros, and a two-game Wild Card sweep by the 2020 Yankees.
And yet in 2021, hope springs eternal with an asterisk. After a World Series appearance four years ago, only Jose Ramirez and Roberto Perez remain on the team. But smart drafting and decent trading has built a roster that might have seen that closed window get propped back open.
When I look back to the 1995 and 1997 Indians World Series teams, what strikes me is a lack of pitching. The lineup could pound anyone not named the Atlanta Braves, but they’d have to win slugfests. The 2021 Indians are built the other way around: pitching heavy and hope to eke out a lower-scoring win.
Carlos Carrasco’s isn’t a huge loss. Smart teams trade from a position of strength and Cleveland is sitting on an incredible pile of starting pitching. It’s why Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber, and Mike Clevinger have all been expendable. The Indians currently have four solid young starting pitchers. Shane Bieber is coming off a Cy Young Award, the pitching Triple Crown, and the 2019 All-Star Game MVP Award. This ace in the making won’t even turn 26 until early in the 2021 season. Same goes for Zach Plesac (29 starts, 12-8, 3.32 over the past two seasons) and Aaron Civale (22 starts, 7-10, 3.69). And Triston McKenzie won’t even turn 24 until August (6 starts, 2 relief appearances, 2-1, 3.24 late last season). The number five starter spot can easily be filled for cheaper than Carrasco’s $12M– maybe even from in-house with Logan Allen, Adam Plutko, or Cal Quantrill.
The bullpen is likely to undergo some tweaks. Thankfully, Brad Hand has worn out his welcome in Cleveland; despite leading the league with 16 saves last season and an ERA in the low twos, he was incredibly ineffective in non-save situations, blew five of them in 2019, single-handedly cost his team Game Two of the 2020 Wild Card, and was largely responsible for taking a 2018 ALCS Game Three from close and winnable to a blowout and hopeless. James Karinchak will likely step in as the new closer with Emmanuel Clase and Nick Wittgren in setup roles. Depending on that fifth starter spot, either Quantrill, Plutko, or Allen could hold middle-to-long relief roles. Plus, they still have Phil Maton, Cam Hill, and Kyle Nelson ready for short-to-middle roles.
Moving on to offense, let’s start in the places where there will be changes: most obviously on the middle infield. Trading Francisco Lindor hurts: he would probably get listed as one of my five favorite Indians of all-time. But Lindor has been slipping. In 2016, he was a .300 hitter with 15 homers and the Platinum Glove Award. Over the next three seasons, his batting average dipped below .280 despite a rise to 30 homers. 2020 saw the worst dip yet: .258 with 8 homers (this translates to about 20 in a full season) and a serious drop in Range Factor since that 2016 season (4.37 to 3.67). I can’t justify spending $17.5M on that: maybe the Mets can get him right again.
Also gone are Lindor’s Gold Glove double play partner Cesar Hernandez and on-base guru at first base, Carlos Santana. Hernandez got over six million last season and the front office is questioning if that price is worth bringing him back. Meanwhile first base is another place of strength, or at least versatility: it’s a power position and therefore not a place to spend multiple millions on a .199 hitter who was two points away from being in the Tyner Zone (for the uninformed, the Tyner Zone is when your OBP is higher than your SLG, named for Jason Tyner who spent two seasons there and missed it for his career by only nine points).
Two of those spots were filled via Lindor’s trade however: Amed Rosario has mostly played shortstop for the Mets, but there has been talk of shifting him elsewhere: second base and the outfield are the most obvious candidates and I believe you’ll likely see him as the Opening Day second baseman. From the Mets fans I follow on Twitter, the general consensus over the last year has been that he’s still a good player, has a lot ahead of him having just turned 25 with four seasons of experience under his belt, but he may benefit from a change in scenery.
Andres Gimenez is believed to be the real gem of the trade. At 22 years old, he just made his debut last season, hitting .263 with a good glove at multiple positions. Both players have speed: Gimenez was 8/9 on stolen base attempts last season, Rosario has seasons of 19 and 24 thefts. Neither appears to have Lindor’s power potential, but both should provide more offense than Hernandez, or certainly Santana’s 2020 numbers.
First base has options: Jake Bauers, Bobby Bradley, and Josh Naylor all are possibilities, but all three come with questions. Bauers has holes in his swing that trucks are known to drive through: did his time in the minor league camp in 2020 help that? Naylor has a nice bat, but is an absolute unit at 5’11” 250 pounds: how’s his mobility in the field? Is Bradley Major League-ready? He got some limited action last season, but hit .178 with one homer and 20 whiffs to four walks. My personal preference: Naylor.
Third base is the one steady spot on the infield with Jose Ramirez. It’s weird to call a three-time MVP candidate and two-time All-Star grossly underappreciated, but here we are. Averaging 25 homers a season and hitting .280 should be enough to get recognition as one of the top players at his position and yet maybe it’s just me trying not to overrate Tribe players, but it seems like he’s always lived in Lindor’s shadow. I expect to see a breakout 2021 for him– same play, but more recognition.
Let’s move to the outfield. I make zero effort to hide my love for Oscar Mercado. I have tried to push for a hashtag to trend about being #MoistForMercado every time he does something great; sadly, it has not taken off. 2020 wasn’t the best for Mercado, hitting .128 after a .269 season with 15 HR in 2019. However, he was also being yo-yoed between the big club and the minor league camp and lost his starting job, making it hard to get into a groove. I believe he can bounce back; you may see him as the starting center fielder with Delino DeShields currently a free agent.
Jordan Luplow also took a step backward in 2020, reverting to numbers similar to his time as a Pirate after the best season of his career in 2019. He may be another case where he just needs to be comfortable and get into a groove. Seeing as he only played 29 games out of 60, that can be tough. I have hopes, but I also would keep a short leash.
The third starting outfield spot is pretty well open: Bradley Zimmer, Daniel Johnson, and either Bauers or Naylor could take it. You might also see a re-signing of Deshields or Tyler Naquin. Outfield is definitely this team’s weakest spot; and I don’t like it. Fortunately, they have some financial flexibility right now: trades and free agent signings are all possibilities to help bolster that.
Behind the plate, Roberto Perez has the catcher’s spot-on lockdown. What he lacks in offense (.212 career average, but .239 with 24 HR once he became an everyday player) he makes up for by being the best defensive catcher in baseball over the last two seasons. He handles the pitching staff well, he’s thrown out 41% of could-be base stealers over the last two seasons, and is consistently named as the best at blocking balls in the dirt. You can afford a loss of offense when you have that level of defense. Austin Hedges likely has the backup spot locked up as well: he has a similar lack of offense with solid defense.
I’ve covered the outfield bench pretty well; infield bench and DH both seem pretty well set too. Yu Chang has a spot as a reserve infielder locked up: he can play all the non-first spots well, and while his bat leaves much to be desired, that’s a trait you’re seeing all over this team. It’s passable at least. This team has enough versatility that only one reserve is necessary: multiple players can play first base, and the other four infielders can each play every non-first position effectively. Franmil Reyes is THE big bat in the lineup at DH with some spot-playing in the corner outfield spots.
Overall, this is going to be a rebuilding season but it could be a fast rebuild. The Indians have youth on their side: Roberto Perez is their oldest player and he just turned 32 in December. If they come together quickly, you could see a team that runs the Central for years to come. However, there are four other teams out there– one with similar young star power in the White Sox– who have things to say about that. This is an organization looking at a lot of change: roster rebuilding, a name change in a year, and with their stadium lease running out after the 2023 season… could a new home follow?
Cleveland has the pitching to win the pennant, but their offense is bargain basement. I have faith in the readiness of their recent young acquisitions and predict a somewhat optimistic third place finish for the team in 2021. But whether they finish closer to second or fourth will be an effective barometer on what will happen as to whether the rebuild is a quick one that props the same window of opportunity back open, or just the beginning of an extensive remodel.
Standing Up, Standing Out
Standing Up, Standing Out
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Drew Pelto is a writer, podcaster, musician, and card collector in North Texas. He is a Cory Snyder Supercollector, though this man-crush is of the asexual variety.
Do Better, Indians (No, That's Not Better)
Do Better, Indians (No, That's Not Better)
by Drew Pelto, AKA *censored*
Written for SportsCardForum, October 2021
Three and a half years ago, I wrote an article in favor of removing the Chief Wahoo logo from the Cleveland Indians. The Tribe had announced the 2018 season would be their final usage of it, but also said at the time the Indians name would remain.
And now, today, the name is officially gone along with it. I get it; and once again, I don't mind it. As my previous article said, I'm going to support the Cleveland baseballers no matter what their name is. If you're freaking out over the name change then it makes me wonder how big a fan you were to begin with. Did you boycott Pepsi when they changed to blue cans in 1997? Did you lose it when the Washington Bullets became the Washington Wizards? If not, then why freak out over this one?
But at the same time, the Guardians' name and logo are just... bland.
I like the fact that they made a nod toward Cleveland history with the name. But the Art Deco bridge it's named for is a bit of Cleveland minutiae to which even the most die-hard local might not get the reference. I lived in Northeast Ohio from 1985 to 2005. The first time I ever drove over that bridge? 2014, almost a decade after I left-- and only because I took a wrong turn trying to pick up I-71 leaving Downtown while very tired after the Panini VIP Party at the National at about 1 am.
Even if the name is kind of boring, the logos are just bad. If your name is Art Deco inspired, use some Art Deco imagery. The wings on the baseball look out of place. The text is the same as the current script, just with the first two letters removed and five new ones stuck on. Hmm, maybe that's why they did it: Dolan was too cheap to pay for a new name and he could just recycle pieces of the old one.
If I made a depth chart of names I liked, it would go something like this.
1: Cleveland Cyclones. Why was this not pitched (no pun intended) by more people? First off, you get alliteration: though two different C sounds, the block C can mean either the city or the team. Second, Cyclones are scary: ever been in one? I've only been near one and that's more than enough. Third, it has history related to Cleveland baseball as there was once a pitcher for the old Cleveland Spiders known as the Cyclone before it was deemed too long as a nickname. He was pretty good too, he has an award named after him, but you'd know him better as Denton True "Cy" Young. Because, wouldn't you want a pitching staff composed of Cy clones? It references a former player while also not being as sleepy sounding as the old Cleveland Naps moniker. Cleveland Cyclones. This was a massive missed opportunity.
2: Cleveland (something that actually honors Louis Sockalexis). Let's forget about the trite story of how some little girl said they should honor the great Native player. There is no evidence of that ever having happened. Sockalexis was largely forgotten within a few years of his career ending. You can find very few references made to him from then until well into the 1940s. No matter how hard people want to cling to the story, there is no evidence from the time of the name's adoption that mentions Sockalexis: American society at large was still trying to force Natives to be more white. The name was not adopted to honor him; if anything, uses of it even in his day as an informal reference to the club were disrespectful and based around the idea of Natives as savages. So to claim the name was created to actually honor him, put your money where your mouth in: meet with the Penobscot tribe of which Sockalexis was a part. Meet with the Erie tribe who once inhabited the lands of Northeast Ohio. Ask how they can be accurately depicted and honored. Find a name that comes from a word of their language. You could keep the theme while being respectful, much in the same way that Florida State University regularly meets with Seminole leaders. But that would require a significant degree of humility from team ownership.
3: Cleveland Blues. Cleveland baseball clubs went by the Blues moniker from 1879-1884, 1887-1888, and 1901. Blues played into the creation of Rhythm & Blues, which Leo Mintz renamed Rock and Roll at his Cleveland-area Record Rendezvous stores (before a corrupt glory-hog disc jockey took all the credit). The city has the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and a case could be made that the electric eels were the very first punk band-- and they hailed from Cleveland. It's something musical to point out the city's mark on it, while also keeping to a baseball tradition. Of course the MLB's Toronto Blue Jays and the NHL's St. Louis Blues may want a word with team ownership about this.
4: Cleveland Buckeyes. Surprising winners of the 1945 Negro League World Series, upsetting a Homestead Grays squad that had won back -to-back World Series and featured future Hall of Famers Jud Wilson, Ray Brown, Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard, and Cool Papa Bell. It's the state tree and the state candy (even if it started out as nothing more than an accidentally-deformed peanut butter ball). The name for a baseball team actually predates The Ohio State University adopting it for sports-- which it did in 1950. But that still could be a point of legal contention.
5: Cleveland Generals. Okay, hear me out. I heard calls for the Naps name to be resurrected, which I didn't like. Sure, it would reference a former leader much like the Browns reference Paul Brown because before the Indians, they were the Naps, named for future Hall of Fame player-manager Napoleon Lajoie. But as I said above, Naps sounds like they're going to lie down for a rest. So, how about another Napoleon? Napoleon Bonaparte was a famous French general. Cleveland Naps, to Cleveland Napoleons, to Cleveland Bonapartes, to Cleveland Generals. Yeah, not even the girl at the Dairy Queen counter has grasped at this many straws. Never mind, move on.
6-Pentultimate: Anything else, Guardians included, except...
Last: Cleveland Spiders. Look, I actually like the Spiders name. It's different, and spiders have a sneakiness about them which is perfect for a sport rife with cheating. It clearly has loads of history in Cleveland baseball as the name from 1889 to 1899. They had six Hall of Famers. But the 1899 squad is enough to ruin the name for me. That year, the team's owners also bought the St. Louis Perfectos (now Cardinals, no relation to Mr. Telles) and in an epic conflict of interest took all of Cleveland's top players, shipped them to St. Louis for the Perfectos' worst, and treated the Spiders like a sideshow. They finished 35 games out of 11th place in the 12-team National League with a 20-134 record. Teams refused to play in Cleveland due to the dismal crowds. The pitcher for their final game was 18-year-old Eddie Kolb, a counter boy at a cigar shop in the Cincinnati hotel where the Spiders stayed. The kid told the manager he would give him a box of cigars if he could pitch the final game of the season. He went on to allow 19 runs (9 earned) on 18 hits across eight innings, with five walks, and one strikeout. He somehow got a hit as well in their 19-3 loss. The identity of the hapless Cincinnati Red who struck out is not known.
Hmm, Cleveland Kolbs? Okay, that one might be worse.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Drew Pelto, a lifelong Cleveland sports fan after living there for 10 years, lives in Texas with his wife and two cats. If you are considering trashing all your Cleveland cards, apparel, and other items in protest of the name change, he humbly asks that you mail them to him instead.