The Phillies World Series Cap

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

phills

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

IMG_0089

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

IMG_0028

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.

IMG_0055

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.

IMG_0030.JPG (2)

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.

IMG_0025.JPG (2)

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.

IMG_0026.JPG (2)

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

20130916-154711.jpg

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.

Rogers Centre

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.

My Birthday Caps

20130915-200546.jpg

I thought it would be fitting (pun intended) that for my first post it would be proper to highlight the caps my roommates gave me on this very day. The Blue Jays cap was a gift from my suitemate Sean and his girlfriend, while the one of the right was a “belated birthday/ early Christmas” present from his roommate Matt.

I fully plan to go into the full details about why I love these hats in the future, but for now I just want to take a moment and publicly thank them for their generosity. I truly appreciate the gifts, as well as the thought that went into them. I couldn’t have asked for a better suite, or nicer hats.

Generally, my posts will involve a hat, and a story about why I bought or received said hat, which generally includes a life story of some sort. But for now, I just want to appreciate the kindness of my friends; you guys are truly the best.