Custom card creator’s secondary hobby leads to autograph signing at Jose Canseco’s house
By Chris Olds | Beckett Baseball Editor
Tanner Jones is a dedicated collector of Jose Canseco cards — so much so he makes his own custom cardboard that includes game-used pieces and dream combinations that haven’t been done before.
It’s the kind of stuff that really didn’t exist when baseball’s bad boy was bashing homers during the summers of his prime in the past. It’s also a hobby that helps Jones fill in the gaps for cards from years where Canseco wasn’t a force in the hobby, allowing him to more fully document — and collect — the slugger’s career.
How did it start?
“I was sick of the virtual eight-year Canseco-less drought where very few cards were produced of him. I deeply love the new designs the big companies have been putting out over the past several years, and wanted to see Jose in them,” said the 35-year-old graphic designer from Tomball, Texas. “One night, I printed up a 2013 Topps card with Canseco on the Yankees and posed it with other 2013 Topps cards. After cutting it out with scissors, I posted it [online] as a gag.
“People figured it out right away. It got me to thinking, ‘What if I really put some time into this?’ As the owner of a small web/graphics firm for 15 years, I wanted to do my own designs, too. Now people tell me all the time I’m creating pieces much better than what the big companies are doing. I don’t know about that, but I’m sure thankful for the compliments.”
Jones’ hobby of creating fantasy cards for fun recently reached a new plateau when an idea he had turned into a reality. The idea? What if he could get Canseco to sign a number of his cards, sign even more pieces to be used for future cards and maybe even wear/use a few more items to spawn creative memorabilia cards never before seen?
Well, it happened — and it happened as part of a family road trip with a stop at the former Bash Brother’s home in Las Vegas of all places where he and his family spent time with Canseco and his girlfriend, Leila Knight, fed their tortoises, had cupcakes and played some blackjack with specially created cards.
Here is just part of Jones’ story, which he has shared on the Beckett.com forums and elsewhere online. It’s his story in his own words … after the jump.
When the thought came in my head driving down the road, I couldn’t shake the idea. Could all these customs I had poured my heart and soul into actually get signed … in person? The first customs I had made, I brought to him to be signed at a show in Houston, and it was cheap, but still cost me $150 to get six items signed.
When I got home, I decided to reach out to Canseco’s manager, and he promptly gave me pricing, terms, etc. It was way over my budget, so I asked for a “lite” version which was more do-able. He mentioned that he would be in the Houston area in a month or so, but for me that would not work as I wouldn’t have nearly enough items ready to have signed. Plus, I still had to get my head around the lunacy of having a private signing for me. Whenever you hear of someone doing a private signing, you hear about others coming in and paying for autographs.
Over the next few months, I slowly made a number of other customs, which was very enjoyable. Sharing my work with everyone online, and hearing all of the compliments has more than made this all worth it … signed or not.
The next several months were full of uncertainty. After some things fell through, I began to lose hope that this was going to happen.
– – –
During Jose’s home run tour last year, it looked like he was going to be making it to Texas (albeit a long ways away from us). The plan was to meet with him there. His manager called me — the first and only time I spoke to him on the phone, though there are countless emails — and told me the details of the event. He said my son and I could shag fly balls in the outfield during his home run tour. … I got mega-hyped for this, and as the date drew closer and closer, I grew a little anxious because I hadn’t heard anything. About a week before we were about to leave, I emailed to ask for the details so we could wrap up our plans. He wrote and said the promoter cancelled.
Sadness. Frustration. Pure, all-out bummed-outness.
Just like that, I was a week away, and yet again my dreams were dashed. I reached out to his manager again to see when Jose would be in the area. Over the next several months, several things fell through.
Then my wife mentioned to me “Why don’t we see about driving to him?” (She is a road-tripaholic.) His manager said that would work, and after about a month, we figured out the day. The whole thing was nerve-wracking due to what had happened in the past.
ON THE ROAD TO LAS VEGAS
After a few hours of mundane driving (my wife had taken the wheel for a while), I received an email from Jose’s manager … GULP. Was he going to cancel? What was going to happen? Here is basically what it said: “Jose wants you to come to his house at 12 for the signing. Here is the address … ”
This trip just got significantly better for all of us. My wife and son went from excited for me to excited for all of us.
What the heck is happening here? Did my favorite baseball player, the person who was previously the face of the best sport on the planet, just invite my family over to his house?
That one email took this whole trip from a mission to get autographs to a potential life experience that could far eclipse getting my customs signed. A lottery winning. I had spent this whole past year so focused on getting my customs signed and “finished.” I hadn’t really thought about how amazing it could be to actually get to hang out with him.
– – –
After I rang the doorbell, I heard dogs barking inside. … It seemed like it took forever for the door to be answered. I looked back at my wife with a “I just rang Jose Canseco’s doorbell!” look while she was grinning from ear to ear.
After a while, the door opened. Leila answered the door. I admit, I had often thought about how this scenario would play out. Would Leila be there? How would she act? … I don’t know much about her at all, but it was beyond surreal to see her in person, opening the door.
As we walked inside, there he was. The incredible Cuban hulk – the man who I invited to my ninth birthday 26 years ago and didn’t come. The guy who was the best player in baseball when I was growing up just invited me over to his kitchen table.
He cleared off some space on the table and I lugged my huge tote onto the table. I started off by giving him a deck of cards I made for him.
“I know you like poker, so I made these for you,” I said.
I gave them to him and he shuffled through them.
“Are you serious? Whoa, these are cool! Leila, come here and take a look at these.”
She came over and looked through them.
“Wow, these are really cool,” she said. “They came out very nice!”
Jose told me he has friends come over every week or two to play poker, and they will be using the deck I made for him.
A PHOTO SESSION, TOO
As long as card companies are honest, then I’m perfectly fine with photo shoot or training-worn Relics. For me, my goal is to be 100 percent sure that my memorabilia cards of Canseco were in fact worn by Canseco, and that is truly what made the whole thought of this trip special for me.
To get to how I came up with having him wear items, you have to go back to last year, when I started making custom cards. Let’s face it: Canseco patch cards are pricey, and I don’t know if any exist outside of A’s and Devil Rays cards. I know Upper Deck used a Rays jersey for a few cards, but the rest are A’s patches … if you can find them. He was signed by seven other teams — the Rangers, Red Sox, White Sox, Yankees, Blue Jays, Angels and Expos. He never played for the last two, but was signed by them. … I LOVE the A’s, but as a big Canseco fan, the other teams he signed with are very important to me. How can my collection be complete when there are little to no patch cards of the other teams he played for? I’m sure there are some out there … I mean, how can there not? But I have not seen any.
I started researching and hunting down properly sized and branded official jerseys, hats, batting gloves, fielding gloves and cleats. It took a lot — and I mean a lot — of work tracking them down. I was able to get a proper jersey and hat for every single team he signed with. Some had multiple [designs] just so I could utilize different patches to use as well.
Jose wearing these items was a very, very big deal to me, because this does two things: It legitimately (just as other card companies have done) gives me an amazing amount of player-worn material to work with from all teams he played on, and I would be able to see him wearing these jerseys, so I would know for sure that Canseco wore them.
I had a good bit of anxiety on this part of the deal. What if he said no? What if he didn’t want to play dress-up? The whole reasoning behind me collecting these jerseys and getting them signed was to be able to create a large amount of custom cards primarily for my collection. … I don’t want to just cut up a jersey that he merely signed. I want to use jerseys that have been worn by him.
I first pulled out the fielding gloves. I brought three of them — one being a lefty, because I had no idea if his [injured] finger was in good enough shape to wear one. The good news was his finger looks great, so he put on one, and started banging the middle of it with his fist.
“Man, this is a really good glove,” he said.
He kept saying how he liked it and then the unthinkable happened.
“I might have to trade you one of my game-used gloves that I use in baseball games nowadays for this.”
What? Jose Canseco just asked if he wanted to trade me my baseball glove for one of his? You have got to be kidding me!
I told him I’d love to trade, but if he wanted it, he could just have it. Yet, I added again that I would love to trade. Later on, he mentioned he had hoped that it was a bit bigger in size, so I prepared myself for the deal not happening. But then, he hops up, grabs a glove and trades me, saying he knows he can make it work.
To make things even better, he asked for a specific marker I had, and laid down the most perfect inscription, inking it up really well. He said he used it to pitch with and play third base as well. I promised him this is one glove I would not be cutting up.
SIGNING 165 PIECES … PLUS SOME
I had him put on the last one, an A’s jersey, so I could pose with him as I was wearing an A’s jersey as well. After we were done, I was a bit worried about taking too much of their time. … I then had him sign each and every letter on each and every jersey for teams he played for. I have always loved “By the Letter” cards, but was disappointed that they were not worn by the player, but rather manufactured. I loved that Topps came out with “Own the Name” cards, but was disappointed they weren’t signed. Well, now I have both! I have player-worn and signed letters for each letter for each team he played on. This was something that was a big driving force for me to get this whole thing done.
My allotment for autographs that I had purchased in this deal was coming to a close. I didn’t want to overdo it at all, and Jose certainly was not keeping track. He was basically just doing everything I requested. I did tell him though that I did not pay for two of the jerseys to be signed on the letters and asked if I could pay him more to sign them as well.
“Pshhh, please … don’t worry about that,” he said. “I’ll sign them all for you, no problem. Heck, you made me a really awesome playing card deck.”
Contrary to what others may seem to think about him, to me, his response to this did not make him sound like a jerk or someone hard up for cash. He could have easily said sure I’ll sell you more autographs for a few hundred extra, but he didn’t — he just did it for free, and happily so.
I still am in shock that this is how everything went. All jersey letters got signed, all jerseys, hats, gloves and cleats were worn. I traded with him, ate his cupcakes, played cards with him and watched his home runs with him narrating for us.
The entire signing and such probably would have taken 30 minutes, but he had us over for over two hours. For me, the verdict is in — both he and Leila are very hospitable, warm people who went above and beyond what my expectations were. Even though I hadn’t really factored Leila into this whole signing thing much, I am very grateful to her with how friendly she was with my wife, son and I.
Initially, getting my customs signed and having him wear everything was something I had considered to be the pinnacle of my collecting “career” — something that could never be topped. But in the end, the intangible experience of hanging out with him for over two hours at his house far eclipsed that.
I’m still in shock.
I don’t think I’ll be riding off into the sunset anytime soon though, never to be heard from again. Among the several items he signed were “blanks” and game-used bat pieces. Many with inscriptions that you won’t find anywhere else. These items will be used to create more customs. I am ecstatic that I have so much material to create lots of nasty patch cards and nameplate sets.
Do you have a collecting story to tell? It doesn’t have to be this crazy — it could be as simple as a chance encounter with a player or a memorable time collecting. Contact us at the email address below — or leave a comment.
Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Baseball and Beckett Sports Card Monthly magazines. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an email to him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.