Montella plaques were a National treat …

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   As I write this, I am fixin’ to head out to Baltimore for the National Convention, which naturally is something I always look forward to in varying degrees.

   I hate it that I have to add the caveat “in varying degrees,” but the truth is that in recent years there have been some flat ones, which I say not so much as a criticism of the National Convention Committee but rather as an acknowledgment that there are disappointments that have little or nothing to do with their stewardship of the event.
  
   The biggest one is that each year more and more old friends don’t make it to the show – for whatever reasons. Since I’ve had to work at Nationals for nearly 20 years now, I don’t go first and foremost with my eye on major purchases as much as I view it as an opportunity to hook up again with longtime pals.
  
   It’s a normal lament that I hear from most of the old-timers, but I gotta admit that I have this little voice in the back of my head that hopes this year might be just a bit different. My fantasy stems from the idea that this first-ever trip to Baltimore for the NSCC might prompt a few of the older guys to give it one more shot, if for no other reason than to make it a combined vacation visit to the Inner Harbor and card show trek.
  
   The one guy I’d really like to see at the National is one of my favorites in the hobby, Ernie Montella, who produced the marvelous Henry Aaron plaque that you see on this page. I bought that plaque from Ernie more than 15 years ago at a National, but it’s been quite some time since he’s set up at one.
  
   I can’t remember if I first saw his incredible plaques (he’s done hundreds, maybe thousands) at the old Willow Grove shows or at my first National in 1984 in Parsippany, N.J. Either way, they are some of the neatest non-traditional art pieces you’ll ever encounter, and I treasure the near half-dozen that tastefully decorate my living room.
  
   You’ll notice it’s signed by Henry, but I swear to God I treasure the Ernie Montella signature on the back of the plaque just as much as I do that one.
  
   In the event that Ernie somehow makes it down to Baltimore from his Philadelphia area home, I’ll let you know. I’m going to try to keep a comprehensive list of all the old-timers I run into, since that’s what these conventions are really all about.

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