A couple weeks ahead, Ray sent me some cards from Baltimore to get signed for him, along with a ticket stub and program from the 2002 MISL All-Star Game, which I attended in Cleveland. He said the program and stub are mine for getting stuff signed for him, and if I get a lot sone, there would be more headed my way.
So on Saturday, I made the drive across to Frisco for the players' practice, scheduled for 9:30. I had no idea where to go, and every parking lot had a ridiculous $20 price tag, so I drove out to the practice fields and found a lot that was free, open, and already had a car parked in it. Perfect.
I got out and was getting ready to walk toward the stadium when the guy in the car called out to me, asking if I was there for the NASL practice. He said he was too and we got to talking for a while, said his name was Leroy, and he was playing in it. We just chatted for a good 30 minutes or so about soccer as other cars began to arrive. I realized quickly this was Leroy Spann, former San Jose Earthquakes forward. Charlie Kadupski, a former Cleveland Cobra, came over and joined in our conversation, followed soon after by three others-- Freddie Garcia (former Cleveland Force), Zequinha (former Detroit Lightning), and Rudy Pena (former Milwaukee Wave), joined by their wives who came to watch. All signed their cards for me while we chatted and I got to listen in on their recollections of playing in the NASL, MISL, AISA, and NCAA.
As I stood outside the fences watching once practice started, a guy walked by and told me to come on in-- Steve Parker a longtime trainer who was around for the weekend's festivities. So I got to watch the practice from pretty much right on the sidelines.
I also ran into Brian from Kansas City, another collector that I've known a while and had dinner with on my summer baseball roadtrip. Of course several other local collectors were around in Brian, Dave, and Mark. Soccer fortunately doesn't draw out too many crazies the way the big four sports do.
From there, it was all a blur. I know that at points during that first day between the practice and going over to the team hotel, I got autographs from Jan Book, Buzz Demling, Dave D'Errico, Peter Chandler, Doc Lawson, Art and Asher Welch, Roger Verdi, Jorge Siega, Charlie Mitchell, Alan Merrick, Freddie Lewis, Billy Phillips, Victor Moreland, Perry Van der Beck, and Kai Haaskivi.
|As Ray said when I sent him this picture, "That's one fine pic of Kai.|
Too bad he had to stand with some collector dude to get his pic taken."
Also, its rare to get two Finns smiling at the same time.
Sunday, I did practice again in the morning, followed by the game later in the day. Arron joined me as well for it. At practice, Kyle Rote and I ended up chatting for a bit beforehand and he signed a card I had from Ray. I also got Mike Sweeney on some set needs, plus Bobby Moffatt, Lincoln Phillips, and Arnie Mausser for Ray.
Postgame, I was able to get right down on the field for a bit, where Kevin Eagan and Tom King signed. Up on the concourse, I got Tatu, Ossie Vasquez, Jim Leeker, Mark Demling, and Alan Willey.
Talking to a few guys, Dave D'Errico told me he's archiving as much as he can on American soccer-- programs, photos, articles, anything. I have his number to contact him about it. Also, Billy Phillips told me to email him about some old Sidekicks items he has-- many leftover programs and such.
Overall, this was a great event. There were a few hiccups in planning here and there-- for example stadium security didn't know about the autograph signing, but they were more than happy to let us stay extra, leaving a gate open for us to exit. The players and their families were great to the fans and really enjoyed getting out on the field again and seeing their former teammates and competitors. Spann was telling me he still plays for a traveling senior tournament team and it showed-- he had himself a hat trick in the game.
Here's to hoping the MISL 40th anniversary event can happen as well as this one did!
Several players wives wanted to see the cards I had (including Zequinha's wife who had never seen the photos on the cards I had before, and took a picture of them) and some took pictures of them signing for me.
Oh yeah, the TTM-- I got Preki back in about a month, signing all five cards I sent, including finishing off the 1991-92 St. Louis All-Stars card.