The Giants Anniversary Cap

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This hat was actually a Christmas gift by my friend Matt; just want to take a moment to say thanks buddy, since this article would not be possible without you. I have always had a soft spot for the San Francisco Giants. The only reason I can think of that would make sense as to why is when my uncle passed away, my aunt gave me this:
NY Giants Santa

It’s a statue of a New York Giants Santa Claus that used to belong to him, and it’s something that I personally value very deeply. Is it the world’s best reason? No, but its the only one I have. Despite beating the Phillies during the 2010 NLCS, I had held on to no ill will; two straight World Series appearances was hard enough, and not making a third was completely understandable. However, a trade made just before the 2012 deadline however, gave me an entirely new reason: Hunter Pence.

Hunter Pence

On July 29, 2011, Houston Astros’ All-Star Outfielder Hunter Pence was traded to the Phillies for a group of 4 prospects: Jonathan Singleton, Jarred Cosart, Josh Zeid and Domingo Santana. Overnight he became a beloved figure in Philadelphia. He was seen as a hero and the last piece in the puzzle for the Phillies to make it back to the World Series. He filled the gapping hole left by the departure of Jayson Werth to the Washington Nationals during the offseason. 2011 was a monster season for Pence: fourth in the NL in batting average (.314) and eighth in RBIs with 97. In their eyes, they finally found their next young outfielder, who was only 28 at the time.

Almost the instant he set down in the city, he became a hero. Shirts labeled “Pence-sylvania” were common place. Billboards of his face could be seen far and wide. His jersey was the ninth best selling in all of the MLB. His bobble head night for 2012 sold out instantly, and word of his entirely paleolithic diet became consistent topic of convorsation. TV’s across the area ran add’s featuring Pence and his trade-markedly high socks.

Tragically, the good times were not meant to last. Less than a year after being traded to the Phillies, falling short of their World Series expectations, they sent Pence packing to Cali to join the eventual World Champion Giants for OF Nate Schierholtz, RP Seth Rosin and catching prospect Tommy Joseph. The Phillies were on the borderline of contention, eventually finishing with a .500 record, something that they felt didn’t require an All-Star outfielder in his prime. But just because Pence left Philadelphia, it doesn’t mean that Philadelphia was ready to let him go. They still went ahead with his bobble head night as planned, which included a “personal” note from Hunter himself.

Thanks, Phillies fans, for the great memories. I’m glad my Bobble Figurine will still be given out even though I’m no longer in Philadelphia. I hope it will serve as a lasting reminder of my time there. It was a year of my career that I will never forget.

That year during the World Series, several Giants credited Pence’s presence on the field and as a leader in the clubhouse to their title as Champions. I was there for his first game back in Philadelphia, where he was met with thunderous applause every time he look the plate, tipping his cap to the fans and the city. He was the hard working, classy fan favorite what Philadelphia will forever embrace. No matter where his career will take him*, the love of Philadelphia and their fans will always follow.

*As long as that place isn’t New York, Washington or Atlanta.

The Houston Astros Cap

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This logo will always have a special place in my heart; for as long as I can remember every single year around Octorber my dad played his DVD of the the 1980 NLCS feating the eventual World Series Champion Philadelphia Phillies and the Houston Astros, which is widely considered one of the greatest playoff series of all time.

Houston Astros

Last year, the Astros made the move from the National League to the American League, finally balancing out the two leagues, and giving every division five teams. In addition to a new league, they got a new looking, getting rid of the brick colored jerseys and star logo that had become synonymous with the franchise in favor their orange and blue throwbacks featuring this classic logo.

Despite the updated look, the Astros were still stuck in their losing ways, having the worst record in baseball for the second straight year. They had the lowest payroll in baseball, and despite having numerous problems with hitting, their pitching was abysmal. Bud Norris was their ace for most of the season before being traded to the Orioles before the deadline. This forced them to gather anyone with an arm in a vain attempt to put bodies on the mound: this man was Philip Humber.

Philip Humber

On April 21st, 2012, Philip Humber pitched the 21st Perfect Game in MLB history as the Chicago White Sox defeated the Seattle Mariners. As anyone does with a perfect game, Humber had his moment in the spotlight, doing rounds on all the TV shows and dominating SportsCenter for a good week and a half.

Philip Humber is the definition of a one-hit wonder; since being drafted in the first round by the New York Mets, he has struggled to stay in a rotation, bouncing around the Twins, Royals and eventually White Sox farm systems. He has a career 5.31 ERA in 7 season (4 as a starter). The Houston Astros, who ranked no higher than 26th in most major pitching statistics, had him designated for assignment after going 0-8 with a 9.59 ERA. Eventually he was brought back up mid-August to play a long relief role. During this past offseason, he signed a minor league contract with the Oakland A’s with an invitation to spring training; at this point he would be lucky to stick around in the majors, and sadly his days as a starter are officially over.

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On a whim, I bought this Humber signed ball, which happened to also be from the Astros Inaugural American League Season. I believe my thought process at the time was two notable events (a perfect game, and a team switching leagues) in one awesome baseball. While I would have preferred a White Sox one, this piece of baseball history was simply too cool to pass up, and thankfully I can say I have the New Era Cap to match.

The Gray Blue Jays Cap

Gray Blue Jays Cap

For some reason, I seem to have a soft spot for any Blue Jays apparel. Second to only my beloved Philadelphia Phillies, I have more Blue Jays caps than anything else. However, this is my first cap of the blue and silver logo used from 2004-2011. Specifically, this gray cap was worn exclusively from 2004 to 2005, before being replaced with a more traditional black cap with a silver “T” (pictured below). Some great Blue Jays players had the honor of wearing this elusive cap, including All-Stars Ted Lilly, Carlos Delgado and Shea Hillenbrand, as well as two-time Gold Glove Vernon Wells.* But to me, this cap was worn by arguably the greatest pitcher in Blue Jays’ history: Roy “Doc” Halladay.

Roy Halladay

I can’t imagine there will ever be a point in my life when the Blue Jays are not synonymous with Roy Halladay. In his 11 year career with the team, he was a six-time All-Star, a Cy Young winner, and an AL Wins Champion. He also has numerous team records, highlighted by the most wins in a season with 22 during 2003. I remember visiting Toronto as a kid (which you can read more about here), and in a city where baseball takes a backseat to hockey, Roy Halladay still managed to be a hero. Whenever he was pitching, attendance at the Rodger Center soared. His jersey was among the top selling for most of his tenure, which is impressive for a smaller market team such as Toronto. But for all of his accomplishments with the team there were two things that alluded him: a no hitter and postseason play.

Roy Halladay

In 2010, Halladay was traded to my beloved Philadelphia Phillies for Travis d’Arnaud, Kyle Drabek and Michael Taylor, and agreed to a 3 year contract extension with a fourth year vesting option. With the addition of Roy Halladay, the Phillies were supposed to have the last piece of their puzzle to win the World Series for the second time in three years. Even though Cliff Lee was fantastic for for the Phillies in 2009 (winning both of his starts in the World Series), Halladay was seen as an upgrade due to his “potential future Hall of Famer” status, and Lee was traded to the Mariners the same day.

In my lifetime, I cannot remember a pitcher as dominant as Halladay was in 2010. Granted, being a Phillies fan I am at least a little biased, but the stats do not lie. I don’t remember then-Phillies pitcher Kevin Millwood’s no hitter back in 2003, so when Halladay threw a perfect game against the Florida Marlins it was a miracle. He was everything we as a fanbase expected him to be and more. He even gave us the endless shirts with “Doc-tober” emblazoned upon them.

By this time, Halladay had the Cy Young locked up with 21 wins, but Doc still had something special left to show us. On October 6, 2010, in his very first postseason appearance, Halladay pitched the second postseason no hitter of all time against the Cincinnati Reds. It was truly icing on the cake to one of the best seasons by any pitcher of all time.** Despite finishing the postseason with 2 wins and 2.45 ERA, Halladay and the Phillies sadly fell short of their World Series aspirations. His 2011 season was almost equally impressive with an even lower ERA of 2.35, and finished second in the Cy Young voting behind Clayton Kershaw.

But injuries cut Halladay’s career short, and he has since retired a Blue Jay. Tragically, he never got his World Series that he truly deserved. There is much more to say about his last two injury plagued seasons with the Phillies, and the debate of whether he is a Hall of Famer is something that deserves its own article(and will get it), but for now I just want to remember Doc as the greatest pitcher throughout my childhood and for one of my favorite quotes in baseball when referring to his first ever playoff appearance.

I came here to bury Caesar, not praise him

I want to give a special thank you to my friend Benjamin Christensen, who out of the pure kindness of his heart sent me this cap, knowing I had been looking for it for quite some time. It seemed the basically the entirety of the Internet was sold out; I couldn’t even find one on eBay willing to pay just about any price. When I asked Ben if he knew anywhere I could find one, and much to my surprise he told me exactly where I could find it, knowing for a fact he had one in my size sitting in his mother’s closet all the way back in Portland. To me, Ben is a king on the internet, specializing in all things baseball, beards and New Era Cap related, and his opinion is second to none on the subjects, even participating in the MLB Fan Cave as a representative of the Oakland A’s. He has all my thanks, for without him this article would not be possible. I highly recommend both following him on twitter (@Shakabrodie) as well as reading his blog (www.hatsandtats.blogspot.com). This cap meant a lot to me buddy, and I cannot thank you enough.

*These individual player awards only account for the two seasons this cap was worn.
**In my humble opinion.

The Hillsboro Hops Cap

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Whenever a new team enters any league, goes through a total re-branding, or moves it is almost a certainty that I will get that cap. The Hillsboro Hops are no exception, moving from Yakima, Washington to Hillsboro Oregon in time for the 2013 season. A Short-Season A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Hops are the only professional baseball team in the Portland metropolitan area, and try to reflect the community they represent. They are so named after the Hops which are commonly used in the beer-making process, which Oregon is known for. According to my friend who used to live in the state, about 1/3 of all beer produced in the United States can be traced back to Oregon. Even their mascot Barley’s name was chosen from a contest in the local community.

As far as non-baseball awards go, the Hops won just about every one they could. The Hops’ branding and logo was named the best in all of Minor League Baseball for 2013 by Ballpark Digest; that is out of 243 possible teams. The odds of wining that award are .413223%. Even their beloved mascot Barley was named the winner of the Northwest League “Mascot Mania” contest. They played their first ever home game in front of a sold out crowd of 4710 at Hillsboro Ballpark, and the fans continued to come. They even lead their league in attendance, giving the Portland area a team of their own.

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Barley, the official mascot of the Hillsboro Hops

Since 2013 was their inaugural season as the Hops, no one of note has passed through the system as of yet, but that doesn’t mean the franchise hasn’t had its fair share of notable alumni in the pre-Hillsboro era. Back when they were a Los Angeles Dodgers affiliate, many future All-Stars played for the then named Yakima Bears, including Paul Konerko, Shane Victorino and Carlos González, who have all had outstanding careers at the major league level.

Time will tell whether any current Hops players will reach any success at the Major League level, but former Hops closer Daniel Gibson is currently ranked 20th on the Diamonabacks Top 20 Prospect List, with an ETA to the Majors put at 2015. One of four Hops players to be named to the Northwest League All-Star Game, Gibson posted a 0.56 ERA through 16 innings of work. I, along with many Hops fans, hope to see this guy make it to the big leagues, giving them the first MLB player they can call their own alumni.

Sadly, their inaugural season was filled with mediocrity on the field. Their team batting average was .238, while they hit only 29 home runs in 78 games. The nature of Short-Season A means that most if not all players will be new to the team, allowing for a potentially quick turnaround for the infant franchise. I wear this cap proudly, supporting a franchise that is filled with potential and has the community willing to embrace it.

The Tampa Bay Rays Cap

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I am forever indebted to the Tampa Bay Rays; they were the ones who lost to my beloved Phillies in the 2008 World Series. I couldn’t be more thankful to them for losing and allowing me to have the experience that every sports fan dreams of: a championship. Of all the caps I own, this is the only one that I have signed by none other than the Tampa Bay Rays’ very own David DeJesus.

Oakland Athletics right fielder David DeJesus (12)

David DeJesus first came to my attention as player as a member of the the Cubs when I needed a fourth outfielder for my fantasy baseball team. DeJesus isn’t the type of player a casual fan would know; in his ten year career, he has never been an All-Star, or won a Golden Glove, Silver Slugger or any of the major awards. It was for a two week period That being said, he has been as solid an outfielder as you could ask, with a very solid career .279 batting average.

Spending 10 years with the Kansas City Royals, he batted about .300 twice before being traded to the Oakland Athletics for the 2011 season for Vin Mazzaro and Justin Marks. After a lackluster year with the A’s, DeJesus signed a two year deal, $10 million with the Chicago Cubs to be their starting right fielder, preforming admirably in the process.

Midway through the 2013 season, DeJesus was the subject of consistent trade rumors. Fearing division rival Atlanta Braves would trade for him and push them further out of the NL East race, the Washington Nationals traded for him for a player to be named later. They truly had no need for him; it was only a ploy to keep him out of the Braves’ hands. After just three games played, and no hits, he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays who were trying to lock up a wildcard spot. After beating Cleveland in the wild-card play in game, and a defeat in the ALDS to the Red Sox, the Rays signed him to a two-year $10.5 million contract.

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Me and David DeJesus

Seton Hall’s archenemy is instate rival Rutgers. The basketball game between them, terribly named the “Turnpike Tussle” is a huge deal for the fans and students of both the schools. Originally taking place twice a season when they were both part of the original Big East conference, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights are playing on season in the American Athletic Conference before leaving for the Big 10 and the game is now only once a season, alternating home locations. Being the two largest basketball programs in the entire state of New Jersey, they are often fighting for recruits, only intensifying the rivalry. Last year Seton Hall was swept for the first time in years, so the players, fans and student body all had a chip on their shoulder.

This year I had the pleasure of going to the Rutgers Athletic Center to see the first “Turnpike Tussle” of my college career. Just want to take a moment to give a big thanks goes to my friend Anne, who was able to get us an extra ticket to the game so Sean was able to go. A day before the game, we learned that New Jersey native and Rutgers legend David DeJesus, who played at the school for three seasons, setting several school records (some of which were latter broken by Rutgers-turned-Reds’ outfielder Todd Frazier), would have a free autograph signing before the game. As much as a hate for Rutgers was instilled in me by Seton Hall’s orientation videos, I still love the game of baseball and was very excited to get something signed. Since I lacked a baseball in my dorm that I would be able to get signed, I figured a New Era Cap would be the next best thing. He was legitimately one of the nicest athletes I have ever meet; even took time to talk some football as my beloved Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat his Buffalo Bills that week. He was incredibly kind to keep everyone who came up to his table, taking time to personally ask for everyones name in line, and didn’t take a cent from anyone. Staff even handed out pictures from his games at Rutgers for him to sign. Couldn’t be a nicer guy.

After getting him to sign my hat, some of the Rutgers pictures (one for me and one for my friend Harry), taking a picture with him, I was treated to an amazing basketball game that I will never forget. The Seton Hall Pirates won 77-71 in what was an instant classic, and I even got to see my oldest childhood friend Carlos, who happens to go to Rutgers; even though we supported different sides, it is always great seeing him. I left the building with a great memory of a fantastic night, and a signed cap to remember it. This is one cap I will not wear again, instead having it proudly displayed and consistently appreciated.

The Cleveland Indians Cap

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Generally, when I have a soft spot for a team throughout any sport, it’s because of a of a specific memory I have of the team from my childhood; the Cleveland Indians are the rare exception. My love of the Indians is new-found, beginning in the 2013 season with the hiring of former Phillies and Red Sox manager Terry Francona and the signing of free agent outfielder Nick Swisher.

Terry Francona

While he will always be remembered for the two World Series he brought to Boston, breaking the Curse of the Bambino, Francona was the manager of my beloved Philadelphia Phillies between 1997 and 2000. While I personally do not remember him managing, as his last season with the team ended before I was five, my father and uncles all speak of him very fondly, even if his best record with the club was only 77–85. Sadly, Philadelphia didn’t weep too much for his firing, as they hired fan favorite player-turned-manager Larry Bowa.

I will never forget the day my cousin Rocco from Arizona called me up all excited. He was in charge of hosting a very large golf tournament that was going to be held in Tuscon, and somehow during the preparation stage he ran into the one and only Terry Francona, recently fired from the Red Sox. Despite living in Arizona, Rocco is thankfully a diehard Phillies fan, and was beyond excited when he ran into him. Now this is someone who is generally as cool, calm and collected as they come. I had never before gotten an actual phone call from him before, but he felt it was worth it. You could hear the excitement in his voice, and its something I will never forget. When a manager is loved by a fan after mediocre seasons more than a decade afterwards from someone who is as big a fan as Rocco, it truly means something. Somehow he was able to convince Francona to come to attend his tournament, and was able to reminisce on old time Phillies memories. Man am I jealous.

Nick Swisher

Nick Swisher was and always will be one of my all-time favorite players. I have often said that the Chicago White Sox are my second favorite team due to the amazing childhood memory I have of attending the 2003 All-Star game hosted at US Cellular Field. Swisher was traded from the Oakland Athletics to the White Sox for Ryan Sweeney, Gio Gonzalez and Fautino de los Santos. At the time it was part of a larger rebuilding effort by the A’s, and Swisher was on the bubble between fan favorite and super star at the time. He was unimpressive during his season with the White Sox, batting a career low .219 and hit a very pedestrian 24 home runs. Even when he was part of the 2009 Yankees team that beat my beloved Phillies during the World Series, I could not bring myself to root against him personally. I honestly don’t know the answer as to exactly why I like the guy as much as I do; he is as someone I will always go out of my way to support no matter what team he is one.

Chief Wahoo is one of my favorite logos throughout sports, but it sadly appears as if the Indians have finally accomplished their task of entirely phasing him out due to the cultural insensitivity of his representation of Native Americans. If I asked you to name, or even just visualize, the Indians’ mascot chances are you would think of some form of a Native American resembling Chief Wahoo; sadly, you’d be wrong. The correct answer is Slider, a “fuchsia” colored creature thing who has absolutely nothing to do with the team’s overall name and theme. Former Cleveland Cy-Young winner Cliff Lee perhaps said it best: “I mean, Slider’s like a giant walrus that’s suffering from the Resident Evil virus.” I couldn’t agree with you more Cliff. How Slider is in the mascot hall of fame with such timeless characters like the Phillie Phanatic and Mr. Met is beyond me.

Cleveland, Ohio St. Patrick's Day Parade Slider and Hot Dog Dancing

Slider is the Handsome Fellow on the Right

I can’t tell you specifically why I love the Chief Wahoo logo. Maybe its the broad smile that adorns his face, lighting up the day for the Cleveland faithful. Something about it just resonates with me, and to me is one of the classic logos in all of baseball; one that is instantly recognizable with the team. I understand what a lot of people absolutely hate it, and a significantly smaller amount find it offensive. Personally I think killing him off as part of the franchise is more offensive than allowing a classic MLB logo to stay. Sadly I am not the one making decisions.

All of these factors together give me a soft spot for the Indians. Just to be 100% clear, I am a Phillies fan and only a Phillies fan, but I support many other teams as well. I just happen to support the Indians more than most. When they made the postseason their first season under Francona, I was beyond excited. Even though they were eliminated in the one game wildcard round, it showed what a turn around this team could make and a glimpse of their future potential.

While most caps I buy have an uninteresting story about how they were purchased (with the notable exception of my New Era Cap), I vividly remember when this one was purchased. Being part of a large Italian family, we often get together with grandparents and numerous cousins at Italian restaurants to celebrate even the smallest of events. I cannot remember specifically what event we were celebrating, but we decided to try Maggiano’s Little Italy restaurant at the Cherry Hill Mall for what I believe was the first time. As grandparents do, my grandmother gave each of us some spending money, for which I was very thankful for. After dinner, my cousin James and I spent it almost immediately at the LIDS in the mall. I remember James picked up a diamond era with the Cincinnati Reds’ Running man on it. I came very close to buying my first Kansas City Royals cap, but ultimately decided on the Indians Cap due to solely on the fact that there were no stitching errors. While most are unnoticeable to a vast majority of the population, me and my obsessive-compulsive self can’t in good consciousness wear a cap with such errors. In a way, I am glad that fate ended up forcing my hand to get the Indians cap as it allows me to show off my pride in Nick Swisher, Terry Francona and the entire Indians organization.

Oh How I Miss You, 2008 Phillies Team

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was written by a friend of mine who has a similar passion for both sports and caps, Zach Baer.

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Yup. You guessed it. I’m a Phillies fan. I’m the guy you can find sitting in the (not so cheap) cheap seats at citizens bank park on a balmy spring Monday evening eating (many) Hatfield dollar dogs as the Phillies take on an out of league team with a losing record.

I know you’ve heard the sappy love comparison a million times, so I’ll get this over quick. I love the Phillies. I love the red pinstripes. I love the sound of Larry Anderson and Scott Franzke. I love the ballpark. I love the liberty bell that sways happily after a home run. I love the ivy in center field. To me, Phillies games are something of a mix between Christmas morning and a first kiss. It’s an existential feeling that anyone who has ever loved anything will understand.

“But Zach!” You yell to me, “The Phillies are a mess! How could you love them?”

I have many issues with this team. Like most Phillies fan, I want to go in front of Ruben Amaro Jr’s house, throw eggs at his car and yell inappropriate things at him as he sticks his ugly mug out of his window asking me to leave. But as much as I would love to rant on my distaste for RAJ’s decisions, that’s not what this article is about. No, I am not going there.

I swear.

This article will highlight happier times. A time when WE were the team to beat. A time when Cole Hamels was consistently making hitters look silly with his change-up. A time when Shane Victorino was hitting grand slams off CC Sabathia. A time when the 9th inning didn’t cause mid to severe heart palpitations.  A time when Jimmy Rollins actually ran all the way to first base on a pop up. In my young life, it is the most exciting season of Major League Baseball I have ever witnessed: the 2008 Phillies World Series team.

Juan Samuel, Jimmy Rollins

As you can very well see, the Phillies cap above is a crisp, never worn World Series Cap with Shane Victorino’s autograph. I will always cherish this hat. Especially since our future seems to be going into the WM dumpsters outside of Citizens Bank Park. But the 2008 Phillies season was the perfect storm. Just when you were about to jump off the Ben Franklin Bridge because you couldn’t bear another disappointing Phillies season, the player you least expected changes the game (MATT STAIRS HITS ONE WAAAAY OUT OF HERE OFF DODGERS PITCHER JONATHAN BROXTON!!).  Moments like this swept Phillies fans off their feet and put them into a rally towel swinging frenzy. Several heart attacks later, we were in the World Series facing the AL East’s Tampa Bay Rays.

Phillie Phanatic - He's the Man!

You know what happened. I’m sure you were watching it, probably biting your nails the whole time. But we beat the Rays to win the World Series. I repeat, WE WON THE WORLD SERIES!!!! When I heard (God Bless His Soul) Harry Kalas say we were World Champions, I felt (along with all of Phillies nation) like I was on top of the world. It’s a feeling that I hope I will never forget. It’s a feeling I hope I experience sometime soon. Fortunately, I have my World Series hat, which will forever remind me of the glorious days in October when the Phillies were World Champions.

Until then, I will continue to Miss you 2008 Phillies team

Phillies World Series Parade

The Trophy

The Montreal Expos Cap

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A few months ago at my younger cousin Brad’s house, we talked about sports as we generally do. Both being Phillies fans, we have an inborn hate for the traitorous outfielder Jayson Werth, who bashed Philly every chance he got after joining the Washington Nationals. We were both frustrated that Washington was the reigning champions for the division for the first time in team history, which he found hard to believe, and then I realized he wasn’t old enough to remember the Montreal Expos. Heck, I am barely old enough to remember myself. I decided to tell him about one of my earliest memories.

I am not entirely sure when my first ball game was, since my dad has been taking me to them for literally longer than I can remember. However, the first one I remember was against the Montreal Expos at the old Veterans Stadium. The one truly vivid memory I have from that night was Vladimir Guerrero hitting a home run, but being no older than 9 when the Expos left in 2004, I didn’t really remember too much else, including the date. My dad didn’t have any recollection of it since he has been to countless Phillies games so it was up to me and the internet to try to figure it out.

I knew it had to be before 2004, since I remember it was in Veterans Stadium, and I can’t imagine I would remember anything before I was 5 it would have to be at least 2000, giving me a 3 year window to work with. Turns out, Guerrero only hit one home run at Veterans Stadium during that time: July 24th, 2001 off of Phillies’ starter Nelson Figueroa. The Phillies would go on to win the game by a score of 10-2, with Figueroa getting the win. If you are interested in seeing the entire box score, it can be found here. The only other interesting bit of information I could find about this game was that Guerrero’s home run was the second part of back to back bombs, with the other one coming from Ryan Minor. I’m not surprised I don’t remember more about that game, since I didn’t turn 6 until exactly one month after this game took place. Regardless, it will always be one of my most cherished memories.

Vladimir Guerrero

Vladimir Guerrero is the Montreal Expos to me. He’s the only player who I actually remember playing for that team (remember, they moved when I was 9). While he is better remembered for his MVP year with the Angels, he spent more years as a member of the Expos than any other team, never batting lower than .302 (save for his rookie season). Sadly, he never reached the postseason with the Expos, but was a four time All-Star. After Montreal, he played six seasons with the Angels, and one with each the Rangers and Orioles.

Despite making a comeback attempt with the Toronto Blue Jays, Guerrero officially announced his retirement from baseball earlier this September. He finished his 15 year career with a .318 lifetime batting average, 9 All-Star bids, an eight-time Sliver Slugger, an AL MVP, 499 home runs, and the most hits ever by a Dominican player (2590). Even if he only appeared in 1 World Series (his All-Star season with the Rangers in 2010), that still certainly sounds like a Hall of Fame resume to me. My friends and I were discussing would he go in as an Angel or an Expo. Logic says an Angel, but I like to think there is a part of him that would love to join Gary Carter and Andre Dawson as Expos in the Hall of Fame.

There are only a few former Expos who played in 2013: Bartolo Colon, Luis Ayala, Jamey Carroll and Scott Downs. Interestingly enough, as of the writing of this article, all of them are free agents, so as of this moment there are no Expos on major league rosters. Colon is a virtual lock to be signed next season, and Ayala could probably at least find work in the tragedy that is the Phillies bullpen, but the others could very well be out of baseball. My all time favorite pitcher Cliff Lee was part of the Expos minor league season before coming to over to Cleveland in the Bartolo Colon trade, but never appeared in a major league game for them. While the Expos may have left Montreal, they are not yet forgotten.

The Expos were named after the 1967 World Fair hosted in Montreal, called the Expo 67, and became the first international Major League Baseball team in 1969. The Expos home field for most of their existence, Olympic Stadium, was originally made for when Montreal hosted the 1976 Summer Olympics. Besides a handful of winning seasons, the Expos only division title and postseason appearance came on a strikeout shortened season, which was officially broken into two parts with Montreal winning the second half division title, but lost in the NLCS to the Dodgers in 5 games.

Fans of the Montreal Expos join at the Rogers Centre.

The photo above was taken at a Blue Jays game, where Expos fans to this day continue to rally in the outfield. The Expos didn’t leave because of lack of fan support; they left largely due to the fact that owner Jeff Loria didn’t want to be there anymore, who went on to sell the Expos and buy the Florida Marlins. I could go own about how he single-handledly got not one but two entire cities/fan-bases to hate him, but that deserves its own article. In 2005, the Expos became the Washington Nationals, where they reside to this day.

While I appreciate all hats, I am especially fond of the unique, the historic and the hard to find. For my 18th birthday, I bought myself the gift of finally getting a “New Era By You” cap, which you can completely customize and design exactly how you imagine it, and I decided to pay heritage to my earliest baseball memory. I will stand by my opinion that the Expos logo was the best in all of baseball. As for the colors, I just found the contrast to be a cool combination, with the blue stitching on the brim tying it all together. I can proudly say that this hat is truly one of a kind, made especially to honor a day I will never forget.

The New Era Cap

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Despite living about 14 miles from New York City, I had yet to visit since I’ve moved to college. Once we realized that we had literally nothing better to do as part of our fall break, the gang (Me, my roommate Sean, Matt, my suitemate Sean and his girlfriend Jenna) decided to hop on a train the next day and head into the city.

Before the day started, I had my own agenda of stuff I what I wanted to do in the city, highlighted by going to John’s Pizza for lunch and my first trip to the New Era Flagship Store. None of us wanted to wake up that early to catch a train, so we decided it would be easier to have breakfast in our small town of South Orange. My roommate Sean, being from Georgia, is always going on about a place called the Waffle House that is so popular down there. To humor him, we picked a small place called the “Grid Iron Waffle Shop” just a block from the train station. Since we were a party of 5, we got the entire back room to ourselves. I knew I was going to eat a lot to John’s Pizza later in the day, so I tried to be healthy and get a waffle with a bunch of fruit on it.

The Most Beautifully Presented Waffle I Have Ever Seen

The Most Beautifully Presented Waffle I Have Ever Seen

The best way to describe it was food porn; it was beautifully presented, and just as good as it tasted. It was genuinely the best breakfast I have ever had. All the fruit was fresh, the waffle perfectly cooked, and drenched in the perfect amount of honey. It was the perfect way to start the day, and now we have a new favorite place to go for breakfast.

After our delicious breakfast, we boarded the train without any fanfare, and arrived at New York Penn Station. Mathematically, it made more sense for us to go to Downtown New York, to the MLB Fan Cave and the New Era Flagship Store first, since we just ate and it would save us a late day subway trip. For some reason, my roommate Sean was very insistent to not to do the logical thing and we went to Times Square first. We quickly found out why: one of his female friends from Atlanta was at the M&M Store in Times Square. Once we knew that a girl was involved, we overlooked his lack of logic, which any good roommate would do. Sean left with the girl and her sister shortly after to meet at Starbucks while we visited the Disney and Toys R’ Us stores like the adults we are. The Disney store is to Jenna like the New Era store is too me; it was tailor-made for her, with a beaming smile on her face the entire time. If our hunger didn’t force us to seek refuge in a restaurant, I have no doubt we could have spent hours in there, just being nostalgic about our respective childhoods.

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Despite knowing that we were going to the New Era store later that day, I none the less had to stop in LIDS. To give myself some credit, I only stopped in one of the four that we passed, which I consider an accomplishment. Matt, who is the only one in the group who understands the passion I have for hats, generous bought me an early Christmas gift in the form of a 50th anniversary San Francisco Giants cap, knowing that was another team I needed to help complete my collection. I absolutely love how they have the white trim around this particular logo, as many of the Giants caps no longer do that; good choice buddy.

Despite Sean Creeping in the Background, this Pizza is Still the World's Best

Despite Sean Creeping in the Background, this Pizza is Still the World’s Best

The night before we went to New York, we had our school’s pizza for dinner due to there being legitimately no other place on campus to eat. I am morally opposed to eating pizza from a school cafeteria and considering it “good”, and I was determined to open their eyes. I’m sure everyone in the world claims they know “the World’s Best Pizza”, but I actually do. Its John’s Pizzeria on 44th Street, and it is absolutely amazing. I literally cannot describe the majesty of the senses that it induces in your mouth. My suitemate Sean was saying how it could not possibly be as good as I was describing, but I can genuinely say I have never been so happy for him to have been wrong. The worst part about this pizza is that it absolutely ruins any other (aka inferior) pizza for the next week or so. Am I being biased? Absolutely, but until someone can prove me wrong, I will stand by my opinion.

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One of the things I sorely missed being away from home was the lack of a comic book shop. I was used to going to the comic store every week since I was about 7 when my dad took me every week, and it has genuinely been weird not having that as part of my routine. Thankfully the largest comic book store in the world, Midtown Comics, is located just two blocks from John’s. My suitemate Sean had been there once before, but the rest of them have never even set foot in a comic book store. Even though it was something they had absolutely no interest in, I appreciate that they took time to go with me. I learned that Jenna’s all time favorite movie is V for Vendetta, which was originally a graphic novel written by the great Alan Moore. Since her birthday was coming up in a few days, I bought it for her as an early present, for which she was very thankfully*. For years, I have been getting the Green Lantern comic every month, but since longtime writer Geoff Johns left the title, my interest waned considerably, and I was left looking for new titles. I have always liked Captain America, so I grabbed the first #1 issue with Cap on the cover that I could find, and a new title called “The Hunt” was right next to it, so I picked that up as well. As insignificant as they may seem, comics were a huge part of my childhood, and will always remind me of the strong bond I have with my father, so it was just nice to reconnect with one of my comforts from home.

A few days before we went into the city, my roommate Sean went there to meet one of his old friends from Atlanta (a separate one than the one we met), who also happened to be a very big Atlanta Braves fan, so they wanted to visit the MLB Fan Cave. For those of you who don’t know, the Fan Cave is a literal place in Downtown New York (right across from the New Era Store), where a group of selected “Superfans” watch literally every single baseball game. The last time Sean was there, they got to take pictures with the actual World Series trophy that would be presented to the winner this year. What we didn’t know was that the tours were on weekends only, and we couldn’t even get in. It was a pretty big disappointment, since it was quite far out-of-the-way from the rest of the city.

To me, the New Era Store was the grand prize of the day; I had never been there before, and I would be lying if I said that wasn’t my real reason for wanting to go into the city in the first place. No one else had too much interest in seeing my wander around the store, looking for the perfect hat, but I couldn’t be happier to have such great friends who understand how much going there meant to me. This is a cap collector’s version of a pilgrimage.

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When we finally got there, I can only imagine the look of awe I had on my face. I’ve spent a lot of time at LIDS stores in my lifetime, but they truly made this a whole different experience. Not only were there more caps than I have ever seen in my life, they all treated with the perfect amount of care each one deserves. Unlike LIDS where they just put them all in a pile and let you look around trying to find your size, they only display one of each cap, with the mount it is attached to sliding out to reveal the sizes. It may seem insignificant, but it gave the entire store a much cleaner and more modern look. The amount of respect they show to and for their product is something about the company that will always keep me coming back.

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While I seriously considered for a long time getting the retro silver “T” Blue Jays cap I had trouble finding online, I decided on showing my loyalty to the company that I love so dearly, buying a New Era branded cap and shirt, allowing me to truly wear my allegiance. I honestly considered blowing my wallet up and buying everything my heart desired, but between my friends wanting to kill me for dragging them this far out-of-the-way and the time to catch the train quickly approaching, I made my purchases, and we finally headed home.

The subway from downtown New York dropped us off right at Penn Station, and virtually as soon as we stepped foot off the subway, we heard “All Aboard the Train ‘A’ to Summit”, which was the one we were taking home. If we missed that we were stuck there at least hour, and at this point in the day no one had enough patience to deal with that. You know the scenes in movies when people rush though everything and everyone to catch their train? I can now say from personal experience that it is an accurate description of what happens in that situation. We rushed down the stairs to the platform, with poor little Jenna carrying everyone’s bags, and we barely caught it in time to get home. I have never been happier to have a long train ride, as we all needed a break from the consistent walking that took place all day.

In spite of Jenna spitting out consistent threats to my well-being for dragging them so far our of way, which I admittedly deserved, I had a truly wonderful day from beginning to end, and I have the cap to prove it. The real heroes are my friends who put up with me the entire way, and I cannot thank you all enough for a day I will never forget. I promise next time we go to New York, I will have absolutely nothing to do with the planning.

*As of the posting of this article, Jenna finished reading V for Vendetta and absolutely loved it, finishing it within a week. Gives me a good idea of what to get her for Christmas.

The Retro Blue Jays Cap

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Since I was young, my father worked for a toy company based in Toronto, Canada. For most of my life, my father would spend at least one week in his company headquarters, and often times would go to Blue Jays games with his friends who had season tickets. My father has on more than one occasion said that he has adopted the Jays as his second favorite team. His coworker and her family come down just about every summer and spend a few days, and baseball is always the topic of conversation; they may be the only people in Canada who just don’t care about hockey.

I have only been in Canada once when I was about eleven, and had the pleasure of staying at the Renaissance Hotel, which is unique in the fact that it is literally attached to the Rogers Centre, the home of the Blue Jays. We were one of the lucky ones whose room’s window looked out onto the field. Imagine as a little kid, looking out the window and seeing a baseball diamond right outside. I was literally in awe, and it is something I will never forget.

The night we got there the Blue Jays got to play the Oakland Athletics. I really don’t remember too much of the game except sitting in one of the two giant lounge chair feeling like I was on top of the world. I was looking out my window to see professional baseball. Admittedly I wasn’t as big a sports fan then as I am today, but it was something that I absolutely loved. We even had the TV on in the background to hear the play-by-play. To this day it remains one of my favorite sports related memories.

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This is the view from one of the hotel rooms looking out onto the field

In our second day in Canada, my family went to visit the Centreville Amusement Park, which is actually a small island that you have to take a ferry to just outside of Toronto. There was all the stuff you’d expect from an amusement park: a ferris wheel, bumper cars, and a huge tent where you can spend extravagant amounts of money for a hot dog. As we were leaving the island, there was someone handing out free stuff to everyone boarding the ferry. Just as any little kid would, I ran over there as fast as I could eager to take whatever they were giving out. Turns out, it was Blue Jays/Yankees tickets for their game that weekend. Yes, they were literally giving away tickets to a Yankees game. That should be enough to explain how little people appreciate the sport of baseball north of the border. Sadly, we were headed back to the states and I was unable to attend that game.

No matter how hard I try, I simply cannot remember the year that all of this took place. I know at this point Roy Halladay was their star player and had already won his first Cy Young award. My best guess is 2006, which places me around age 11. I still have those Blue Jays/Yankees unused ticket stubs somewhere which would have the date, but I don’t think it would be worth the effort.

Exploring the city was one of the greatest things I had ever seen. If you have never been to Toronto, it’s simply a much cleaner and friendlier New York City. One of the two things that I vividly remember was that they had entirely different candy; the standout in my mind was the Aero bar. To the best of my knowledge, it was simply a chocolate bar that had air whipped in it leaving small holes throughout it. Imported from England, they were unavailable for purchase in the US at the time, but to a young version of myself, it was the greatest thing ever. I even made my mom get some to eat on the plane ride home. The other part of Toronto that stood out to me was how clean the Subways were. If you have ever taken the subway in New York, these look the a crystal palace. They are absolutely pristine. I have always wanted to go back there, since now that I am older and would likely appreciate it even more.

As I said in one of my previous posts, this hat was a birthday gift to me from my college suite-mate Sean and his girlfriend Jenna. In general, I am a huge fan of any two-tone cap, but they had no idea of that at the time. Jenna picked the hat solely based on looks, knowing nothing about the team or logo, and I couldn’t be happier with the choice she made. The Blue Jays have had a bunch of very unique looks over the years, but in my opinion this is easily the finest.

First used as part of a team makeover in 1997, the cap coincided with the arrival of free agent Roger Clemens, arguably the best pitcher in team history. In his first of his two seasons with the team, he had one of the best seasons in MLB history. Pitching the triple crown, Clemens finished with a 2.05 ERA, a career high 292 strikeouts and 15 straight wins, shattering Blue Jays team records in the process. While he was accused of PED use later in his career, the general consensus is that during this season it was all natural. That type of season is hard to replicate for even the best pitchers; the only pitchers to do it up to that point were Christy Mathewson, Lefty Grove and Lefty Gomez. The very next season Roger Clemens did the same thing, pitching the Triple Crown once again. While he will always be remembered for his seasons with Red Sox and Yankees, some of the best years of his career came with their division rival. He would never again pitch for the Triple Crown.

Sadly, some error in someone’s judgement 5 years later lead to this hat being replaced in favor of the unpopular “Blue Jay on PEDs” doing its best Barry Bonds impression. Sadly, I cannot find a picture I am licensed to used, go just head over to this link to see what I mean. It proved so unpopular they retired it the very next season, replacing red with silver on their color palette and going for an entirely new look. When you have a logo so bad it gets Canadians to care about baseball you know you did something horrifically wrong.

I don’t want to leave out the people who made this article possible: Sean and Jenna. I cannot thank you both enough for the generosity you have shown me in the very short time we have known each other, and I want you to know how much I love this hat. Jenna, you made a great choice.