By Ross Forman
With 13 World Series-winning Houston Astros, plus manager A.J. Hinch, signing autographs Feb. 11, fans had a great start to that always-hard-to-complete team-signed item – be it a bat, ball, jersey, photo or other souvenir-of-choice.
The 32nd Tristar Collectors Show – held Feb. 9-11 at NRG Arena, with the Astros signing on Sunday – featured Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers, Ken Giles, and Collin McHugh among the reigning World Champions who were signing autographs for hundreds of Houston faithful. The show also featured appearances by Hall of Famers Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell – greats of Houston past.
“There were a lot of memories, ups and down throughout the season … but the World Series was a fun ride,” said pitcher Chris Devenski, who also was an American League All-Star in 2017. “Winning the World Series is something you dream about, and for it to come true like it did, wow … now the goal is to win another.”
Devenski, 27, made his major league debut in 2016 – and sports a 12-9 overall career record, with a 2.38 ERA and 204 strikeouts in 189 innings pitched. He appeared in five games of the 2017 World Series, pitching a total of five innings, allowing four hits and four runs, and was the winning pitcher of Game 2.
The Astros claimed their first World Series title on Nov. 1, beating the host Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1 in Game 7, played in front of 54,124 fans. Charlie Morton was the winning pitcher in the record-setting final game. It was the first World Series Game 7 to be played at Dodger Stadium (and the first postseason Game 7 at the stadium since the 1988 NLCS, and the Dodgers’ first World Series Game 7 since 1965).
It also was the first time since the 1931 World Series that a Game 7 occurred in a Series with both teams having won at least 100 games during the season, and it was the first time since the 2001 World Series and 2002 World Series that back-to-back Fall Classics had a Game 7.
“I still remember the ninth inning, with my arms on the (dugout) railing, ready to jump out (onto the field to celebrate). When that ground ball was hit to Jose (Altuve at shortstop), I let everything out and went wild,” Devenski said. “It was so exciting. I’ll never forget that moment.”
Devenski admitted that the celebration champagne “definitely burns the eyes,” but it was well worth it – and yes, he did save a few bottles.
Now the Astros want to repeat. Or, as Devenski said, “climb another mountain.”
“It was an extremely difficult challenge last year, but we accomplished it. Now we start fresh,” he said. “My goal is always to help the team win, do whatever it takes.”
Devenski played at Cal State Fullerton, and was selected by the Chicago White Sox in the 25th round of the 2011 MLB Draft. He ultimately made his MLB debut on April 8, 2016.
Devenski hasn’t forgotten where he comes from, as he writes SANTA ANA on the inside of his hat.
“I’m not gonna forget where I come from,” he said.
In fact, some fan has a Devenski game-worn hat, with SANTA ANA penned inside.
“I must have thrown it into the stands one day,” he said, laughing. “He had me sign it.”
Devenski has a few bobbleheads in his collection, including one of college coaching legend Augie Garrido, “which I want to get signed one day,” he said.
Devenski’s collection also includes 2017 All-Star souvenirs, including posters, plus a variety of ’17 Series relics, such as team-signed bats, jerseys, hats and balls.
Devenski’s autograph has, admittedly, changed over the years.
“It used to just be squiggly-squiggly, but I now take more pride in it, spelling my name out nicely, including my nickname and my (jersey) number.”
Pride is plentiful for Devenski when it comes to autographs.
When asked whose autograph he wants to add to his collection, Devenski said, Wayne Gretzky.
“I know that’s random, but I’ve always thought about having, getting his autograph,” Devenski said.
The 32nd Tristar Collectors Show also featured appearances by Jack Youngblood, Lem Barney, Carl Eller, Julius Erving, Billy Sims, Roger Wehrli, Robert Brazile, Bob Lilly, Ken Houston, Vince Young, Ivan Rodriguez and others.
Other Astros appearing: Derek Fisher, Luke Gregerson, Marwin Gonzalez and Josh Reddick, among others.
“It was a really strong show,” said Marty Davis of Marty’s Sports Card Exchange Superstore, based in Chattanooga, Tennessee. “Saturday was just crazy.”
Davis, who sells new hobby boxes, said non-sport releases were, surprisingly, very strong sellers at the show. Hockey boxes, meanwhile, were slow sellers, at best.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give this show at least a solid 8,” he said. “It was stronger than a lot of other shows.”
Here’s a look at some of the goodies offered for sale in Houston:
• 2017 World Series clock, $40.
• 2017 World Series bobbleheads of Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa and Carlos Beltran, $35 each.
• Stan Musial signed bat, $350.
• Yadier Molina signed bat, $300.
• Carlos Beltran signed bat, $250.
• Aaron Rodgers signed football, $350.
• Kevin Durant signed basketball, $475.
• All Pittsburgh Steelers fans will want the 3-foot bobblehead of Steely McBeam. Only 12 were made, and No. 1 was being sold for $1,000.
• The 2014 Sports Illustrated with George Springer on the cover, predicting that the Astros would in fact win the 2017 World Series, $300.
• Altuve game-used bat, $1,000.
• Altuve game-worn jersey, with photo of that specific jersey, $2,800.
• Hakeem Olajuwon signed basketball, $125.
• Earl Campbell signed 16×20 photo, $65.
• Longtime dealer Kip Ingle sold more than 20 single-signed baseballs, including Hall of Famers Al Lopez, Charlie Gehringer and James “Cool Papa” Bell. He noted that many show attendees were, naturally, asking for anything and everything Astros-related, both World Series-related and not. In addition, Ingle said there was strong sales to set-builders of signed cards.
• A 16×20 photo of Muhammad Ali’s 1996 torch-lighting moment from the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, signed and framed, with JSA Letter of Authenticity, $1,695.
• Jim Brown signed Cleveland helmet, $350.
• Eric Dickerson signed Los Angeles Rams helmet, $175.
• John Elway signed Denver helmet, $315.
• Odell Beckham signed New York Giants helmet, $375.
• Y.A. Tittle signed helmet, with four inscriptions, $350.
• Marcus Mariota signed Tennessee Titans helmet, $265.
• 2017 World Series ball, $25.
• Collin McHugh signed 8×10 photo, $20.
• Jeff Bagwell signed bat, $450.
• Hulk Hogan signed 11×14 photo, $95.
• Signed 16×20 photos: Bret Hull ($99), Terry Bradshaw ($169) and Michael Phelps ($299). Another dealer was selling signed 16×20 photos, framed: Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain together ($1,100), or Mario Lemieux ($250).
• Joe Namath 1965 Topps card (PSA 5), $2,100.
• Pete Maravich 1970 Topps card (PSA 9), $6,000.
• Jim Brown 1958 Topps card (PSA 6), $825.
• Signed pro wrestling 8×10 photos: Jake Roberts ($20), Mike Tenay ($25), Eddie Guerrero ($249).
I haven’t seen too many O.J. Simpson autographs on the show scene in years, many years, but there was a Simpson-signed USC helmet with multiple college-related inscriptions, $575.
Randy Cook, as always, was selling some unique Babe Ruth-related relics, such as the original scorecard from a game on June 12, 1932, when Ruth smacked career home runs No. 630 and 631. The scorecard at the time was 5 cents. Cook is now asking $750. He also had a combo scorecard and ticket stub from the game on August 19, 1933, when Ruth crushed career home run No. 680 at Comiskey Park in Chicago, $1,000.
Ross Forman is a freelance contributor to Sports Collectors Digest. He can be reached at Rossco814@aol.com.