2016 American of the Year: Kellyanne Conway

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For a decade straight, from 2004-13, this website named an American of the Year.

With my writing emphasis switching to baseball over the last two years or so, that tradition was tabled.


Baseball is still my primary writing subject. But here at my home website, I’ll be getting back to covering political, social, spiritual and other issues once again in the coming weeks and months.


Over the course of those first ten years honoring an American of the Year, nine different men were honored, as well as one heroic group of them. The complete list is available at the end of this piece.


Now, for the first time, a woman is receiving the honor. And this particular woman is a genuine surprise, because when this year began, frankly, I had never heard of her.


In 2016, Kellyanne Conway became the first woman in the history of American politics to run a winning U.S. Presidential campaign. 


She did it in basically two and a half months, not taking over as the head of Donald Trump’s campaign until August 17, at which point the possibility of his election was very much in doubt.



Conway is actually a local girl. She was born in Camden, New Jersey as Kellyanne Elizabeth Fitzpatrick on January 20, 1967. She was raised in the Atco, New Jersey area by her single mother and other female family members after her parents divorced when she was just three years old.


“I grew up in a house with my mom and her mom, and two of my mother’s unmarried sisters,” she explained to Ronald Kessler of Newsmax back in 2008. “So four Italian Catholic women raised me.”


At age 15, Conway won the New Jersey Blueberry Princess pageant. She frequently has credited her eight summers working on a blueberry farm for developing her strong work ethic.


Conway graduated from Trinity College in Washington, D.C., graduating magna cum laude with a degree in political science. 


She then studied at Oxford University, and was elected to the prestigious Phi Betta Kappa honors society. Then in 1992, Conway earned her law degree with honors from George Washington University. 


After graduation from law school, Conway served a clerkship with D.C. Superior Court Judge Richard Levie. Conway then got into the research and polling field for a couple of years before finally starting up her own polling company, aptly named ‘The Polling Company’, in 1995.


Over the next couple of decades, Conway made television appearances as a pundit/commentator, and worked for numerous Republican politicians, usually helping those pols efforts to appeal to female voters. One of those politicians was the late actor and Republican U.S. Senator Fred Thompson from Tennessee, with whom she was romantically linked for a time.


She also spearheaded numerous high-profile projects with ‘The Polling Company’, doing research and consultancy for major organizations such as ABC News and Major League Baseball.


In 2001, Conway married New York lawyer George Conway. The couple then built a family with four children, including twins. They now live in Alpine borough, New Jersey’s northeastern most situated county and the most expensive ZIP code in the country according to a 2012 Forbes magazine ranking.


In 2005, Conway penned a book titled “What Women Really Want” as co-author with Cellinda Lake, a female Democratic pollster.


Conway worked for the losing presidential campaign of John McCain in 2008, as well as Newt Gingrich’s failed run at the 2012 GOP nomination. In working for McCain, Conway found political inspiration in his running mate choice, Alaska governor Sarah Palin.


Per Kessler, Conway stated that Palin “signaled to many professional women, myself included, that maybe you can have it all, all at the same time; but you just need to be a very organized, time-efficient person who completely strips your life of extracurricular activities.”


In 2006, Conway had been living with her family in one of Donald Trump’s buildings when he first met the future POTUS. While serving on the board at Trump World Tower, the man himself would often show up to meetings in order to hear residents concerns, which made an impression upon her.


When Trump began to organize his run for the Republican nomination, he met with Conway and offered her a job with the campaign in March of 2015, a role that she declined to take on at the time.


Instead, Conway accepted the job of running a super PAC for the Ted Cruz campaign. But the honor and responsibility of the job as Trump’s overall campaign manager was eventually too good to pass up this past summer.


Conway got to work, tirelessly putting together candidate Trump’s schedule and doing her best to keep him on message. She also displayed unwavering loyalty in standing up for Trump when various fires erupted down the stretch that had more to do with personal attacks than the actual political issues.


In the end, all of Conway’s work was vindicated by the voting public. And that was a real key: she, her candidate, and their campaign staff simply outworked the favored Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton.


In comments to MSNBC, Conway criticized Clinton for “not campaigning enough” and not having a positive message. “You need to campaign, you need to connect with the people. Hillary Clinton just could not break past that stubborn 45, 46, 48 percent in these states that President Obama carried twice.”
Trump would ultimately capture a decisive Electoral College victory by a 304-227 margin, capturing 30 of the 50 United States. And the new President has never failed to give Conway the credit that she deserves.
Everything that Donald Trump said about the populist uprising, and people really just wanting fairness and an opportunity and a voice, ended up being true,” said Conway to The Wall Street Journal. “We can talk about it being an anti-elitist election. That has some merit. But at its very core, people were talking about security.”
Following his victory, President-elect Trump named Conway to a key role with his transition team, and she will surely have a key role in the Trump administration.

Conway “played a crucial role in my victory,” Trump said in the transition team statement per Reuters. “She is a tireless and tenacious advocate of my agenda and has amazing insights on how to effectively communicate our message.

For that tireless and tenacious work, especially in clearly communicating the message during one of the most divisive presidential campaigns in American history – especially in light of the ultimate victory – Kellyanne Conway is named as the first woman and the 11th overall American of the Year.
PREVIOUS AMERICANS OF THE YEAR

2004 – Pat Tillman
2005 – Bill O’Reilly
2006 – Rev. Billy Graham
2007 – P/O Chuck Cassidy (for the American police officer)
2008 – George W. Bush
2009 – Glenn Beck
2010 – Ron Paul
2011 – Seal Team 6
2012 – Michael Phelps

2013 – Ted Cruz

2014-15 (none named)

My 2017 IBWAA Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot

The Internet Baseball Writer’s Association of America (IBWAA) conducts voting in December of each year for its Baseball Hall of Fame.
This process is conducted in much the same manner as the formal BBWAA voting, which results in players being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown.
The IBWAA was born on the Fourth of July in 2009. As described at the association website, the organization was formed “to organize and promote the growing online baseball media, and to serve as a digital alternative to the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA).” 
The BBWAA is made up of writers who have covered the game for “traditional” media. This usually means of the print variety, such as newspapers. 
Meanwhile, coverage of the game has exploded beyond such traditional means over the last two decades.
Baseball coverage has now expanded to purely digital websites and blogs. Due to this expansion, a vibrant and vital new resource is available to all fans of the sport. 
Hence, the IBWAA organizes internet writers, columnists, and bloggers who might otherwise be shut out of the aging print media structure.
The IBWAA was founded and has been managed since its inception by Howard Cole, a writer who primarily covers the Los Angeles Dodgers. 
Cole is now looking to sell the rights to the organization. He can be reached at info@ibwaa.com or @Howard_Cole on Twitter.

IBWAA HALL OF FAME VOTING PROCESS

Each December, the IBWAA conducts its own voting for the Hall of Fame. While this voting process does not get anyone inducted at Cooperstown, it does allow another valuable, educated voice to be heard.
Writers and bloggers on the web often spend just as much time and energy following and writing about the game. Finally, these web writers have been given a voice in the HOF process. As a result, we become part of a collective that serves as an alternative to help honor the greats of the game.
The IBWAA requires that a player receive 75% of the votes from voting members for election to the Hall of Fame. In 2016, the IBWAA selected Ken Griffey Jr with 230 votes. This was a unanimous result. Edgar Martinez received 173 votes (75.22%). As a result, he was also honored.
A few other players were so-called “controversial” nominees on the BBWAA ballot a year ago. Of these, Mike Piazza (2014) had already been elected previously by the IBWAA membership. Likewise, both Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines (both 2015) were already elected.
I am currently a baseball writer for the FanSided organization. This is a respected and growing network of fandom-focused sports, entertainment and lifestyle sites.
Furthermore, I am a lifetime member of the IBWAA. Consequently this will be my third year voting in the IBWAA Baseball Hall of Fame process.

2017 IBWAA BALLOT AND MY BREAKDOWN

This year there were 31 players appearing on the IBWAA Hall of Fame ballot. Members are permitted to vote for as many as 15 of those nominated. I voted for the full allowance of 15 in each of my first two years as a voter. However, this year I chose to cast a ballot with just eight players on it.
Getting into arguments as to why I voted for this player and not for that player is pointless. Suffice it to say that I have been following this game closely now for over four decades. In this Hall of Fame voting, I have developed my own evaluation process.
I am absolutely certain that many of you would vote differently. As a result, I would love to hear your opinions. Please feel free to share with me in a comment. Maybe you will want to tell me that I’m an idiot. Most of all, I would like you to simply share with me your own vote.
Most noteworthy, the breakdown to follow will show the names of the eight players for whom I voted. Then I will present a list of players who I feel are potentially worthy. I simply feel that my current honorees are more clear-cut. Consequently, I want to evaluate these other players a bit more.
Finally, the last list will show those who had a nice MLB career, but are simply not Hall of Fame worthy.

2017 HALL OF FAME PLAYERS (8)


UNDER FUTURE CONSIDERATION (7)


NOT A HALL OF FAMER IMHO (16)

Just One Sure-Fire First Ballot Hall of Famer Each of Next Three Years

There is a great deal of discussion taking place right now in regards to voting on Baseball Hall of Fame ballots.
A number of truly worthy candidates are on this year’s ballot, players who should absolutely find themselves enshrined one day. 
These include the greatest player who I ever saw in person, Barry Bonds. He still may fall just short this year as voters continue to evaluate his PED usage.
There would appear to be four men at the current time who stand a reasonable chance of gaining enshrinement in the summer of 2017.
When results of the BBWAA voting are released in three weeks we could very well find as many as four players elected. 
Jeff BagwellTim RainesTrevor Hoffman, and Ivan Rodriguez each could gain that measure of baseball immortality.
Of those players, only Rodriguez is a first ballot nominee, and the result for ‘Pudge’ is likely to be a close one.

Bagwell is in his 7th season on the ballot. Voters have struggled with his possible PED involvement. 
Raines is in his 10th and final year on the regular ballot. Some struggle with his use of cocaine during the 1980’s. 
Hoffman is in this 2nd year on the ballot. A number of voters still struggle with the importance of the closer position.
Of the players who will enter the voting process for the first time between 2018-2020, only one player each year would appear to be a no doubt, first ballot Hall of Famer.
Let’s examine each ballot for the first time nominees, and make that obvious call to the Hall.

Rotation Rebound is Key to Dbacks Bounce-Back

After winning the National League West Division crown in the 2011 season, the Arizona Diamondbacks fell to a .500 finish in each of the next two seasons.
Arizona further collapsed to a 64-98 finish in 2014. However, the club bounced back in 2015, picking up 15 wins to finish within four games of the .500 mark at 79-83.
Diamondbacks management felt that the club was coming on, and so a couple of key moves were made with an eye towards contending for at least a 2016 NL Wildcard berth.
At the Winter Meetings in December of 2015, the team signed free agent ace right-hander Zack Greinke. A day later they dealt an extremely valuable package of prospects led by shortstop Dansby Swanson to the Atlanta Braves in order to land pitcher Shelby Miller. Then in January they traded with the Milwaukee Brewers for shortstop Jean Segura.
Adding these players to a lineup that was led by the 2015 NL MVP runner-up Paul Goldschmidt and rotation with emerging young talents such as Patrick Corbin and Robbie Ray, Arizona believed they would indeed contend for a postseason berth.
Instead, the Diamondbacks collapsed back to a 69-93 record, 18 games off that NL Wildcard pace and 22 games behind the division-winning Los Angeles Dodgers.
Key injuries decimated the lineup, as a pair of starting outfielders, A.J. Pollock and David Peralta, missed most of the season.

WHAT WAS EXPECTED OF THE 2016 ROTATION

However, it was the collapse of the starting rotation, in particular the failures of the two big acquisitions in Greinke and Miller, that led to the team collapse.

In three years with the Dodgers prior to arriving in the desert, Greinke had finished among the top ten in the NL Cy voting. In the previous two years he was an NL All-Star and Gold Glover.
Miller had lost 17 games with the Braves in 2015. However, he also had recorded a 3.02 ERA, allowing just 183 hits in 205.1 innings as a 24-year old.
Corbin had missed the entire 2014 season and the start of 2015 after needing Tommy John surgery. He went 6-5 with a 3.60 ERA in making 16 starts after finally returning, with a 78/17 K:BB ratio over 85 innings.
The lone left-hander in the group, Ray had registered a 3.52 ERA in making 23 starts as a 23-year old in 2015. He also struck out 119 batters and allowed just 121 hits over 127.1 innings.
These four gave the Diamondbacks hope that they could contend with any starting group in the 2016 campaign. In the end, none lived up to their billing or their potential.

WHAT WENT WRONG IN THE 2016 ROTATION

Greinke went 13-7, but finished with a 4.37 ERA and 1.273 WHIP. He allowed 161 hits over 158.2 innings, with a 134/41 K:BB ratio.
Those aren’t bad numbers – for a #3 or 4 starter. Greinke is supposed to be a Cy Young-caliber ace, and at $34 million per year, he is being paid like one.
Miller went 3-12 with a disastrous 6.15 ERA and 1.673 WHIP over 20 starts. He missed a month with a sprained finger, and then was demoted to AAA for a month due to his ineffectiveness.
Corbin went 5-13 with a 5.15 ERA and 1.561 WHIP over 36 games, 24 of them as a starter. He allowed 177 hits over 155.2 innings while walking 66 batters.
Ray was 8-15 with a 4.90 ERA and a 1.468 WHIP over 32 starts. He allowed 185 hits in 174.1 innings. While he showed dominating potential in recording 218 strikeouts, he also walked 71 batters.
The failures and injuries to these starting pitchers meant that Arizona had to rush a pair of prized prospects to the big leagues quicker than they would have liked. 23-year old Archie Bradley went 8-9 with a 5.02 ERA over 26 starts, while 24-year old Braden Shipley went 4-5 with a 5.27 ERA in making 13 appearances, including 11 starts.

WHAT CAN GO RIGHT IN THE 2017 ROTATION

There is hope for 2017 in that it would be almost impossible for these pitchers to do much worse. The more important point will be to find out if they can actually do much better.
Corbin will pitch much of the 2017 season still at age 26. Miller pitches the entire season at age 26. Ray will pitch all year at age 25. Shipley turns 25 in February. Bradley will be 24 for the entire season. They all remain young and talented, all capable of a bounce back season.
And now Arizona has added to that depth, bringing in talented 24-year old righty Taijuan Walker in a trade from Seattle for Segura. Walker went 8-11 with a 4.22 ERA and 1.236 WHIP in making 25 starts for the Mariners in 2016.
This remains an enviable group of young, talented arms led by Greinke, who will pitch at age 33 in the 2017 season. There has been talk that the Dbacks have been shopping the righty. But his huge contract, his down season, his age, and a likely high asking price have scared off suitors to this point.
Arizona could very well get a greatly improved performance from 3-4 of these starting pitchers in the 2017 season. If that does happen, Arizona has enough offense that they could make that NL Wildcard push a year later than planned.

Philography: Bob Boone

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Bob Boone caught for 19 big-league seasons, winning seven Gold Gloves

The Philadelphia Phillies franchise was founded in 1883. Since 1978, the club has honored the greatest individual contributors to its success with a place on the Phillies Wall of Fame.

There are club executives and beloved broadcasters on the Wall. And of course, there are dozens of players.
The players on the Wall range from 19th century trailblazers to 20th century Hall of Famers to 21st century superstars.
But of those players, only two played the position of catcher. One of those was Bob Boone, selected to the Wall in 2005.
Boone was the seventh player from the 1980 World Series champions to be so honored. He thus joined Steve CarltonMike SchmidtLarry BowaTug McGrawGreg Luzinski, and Garry Maddox on the Wall of Fame.
A native of San Diego, Boone played there at Crawford High School. He would then become the Phillies sixth round selection in the 1969 MLB Amateur Draft as a third baseman out of Stanford University.

BOONE DEVELOPS WITH THE PHILLIES

As an advanced 21-year old, Boone made his pro debut that summer with the Phillies rookie level team in the Florida State League North. He was promoted quickly to A-level Raleigh-Durham in the Carolina League where he hit .300 over 325 plate appearances that summer.
In 1970, as the Phillies were closing out Connie Mack Stadium, Boone reached AA Reading. With 23-year old Don Money emerging as a strong player at the hot corner for the big league club, the Phils decided to convert Boone to the catcher position that summer.
Boone would repeat the 1971 season at Reading, still learning the ropes behind the plate as the Phillies opened up their shining new home at Veteran’s Stadium in South Philly.
The 1972 season would prove to be his big breakout campaign. Boone hit .308 with a .363 on-base percentage at AAA Eugene, banging 17 home runs with 32 doubles, 67 RBI, and 77 runs scored.
For that strong performance, Boone received his first promotion to the big leagues that September.

BOONE BEGINS HIS BIG LEAGUE CAREER

His first game came on a Sunday afternoon at The Vet. The date was September 10, 1972, and Boone entered in the bottom of the 7th as a pinch-hitter for starting catcher Mike Ryan. There he began his career by unceremoniously striking out against Chicago Cubs reliever Joe Decker.
In that 1972 season, the Phillies had juggled their catching position between a trio of veterans, Ryan, Tim McCarver, and John Bateman, all of whom were aging into their 30’s. By the following year, Boone was the starter, and only Ryan remained to back him up.
Boone played in 145 games for the Phillies in his first full big league season of 1973. Over 575 plate appearances as a 25-year old he batted .261 with 10 homers, 20 doubles, and 61 RBI. For that performance he finished third in the 1973 National League Rookie of the Year voting behind Gary Matthews and Steve Rogers.
This was the official beginning of what would become one of the longest, most successful careers of any catcher in Major League Baseball history. Boone would be a starting catcher every season from that 1973 right through the 1989 campaign.
With the Phillies emerging as a contender in the mid-1970’s, the club decided to bring in veteran left-handed hitting catcher Johnny Oates to platoon with Boone in the 1975 season. It very nearly caused Boone to quit the game for medical school.

BOONE STARTS AS PHILLIES EMERGE

The Phils would finish a strong 86-76 in 1975, just 6.5 games behind the first place Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL East race. With a strong, young team entering the Bicentennial year of 1976, the Phillies became divisional favorites. Boone was reinstated as the unquestioned full-timer behind the dish.
The Phillies would capture each of the next three NL East crowns. The club won what was then a franchise record 101 games in both 1976 and 1977. Boone would become an NL All-Star for the first time in ’76, an honor that he would repeat with the Phillies in both 1978 and 1979.
Having taken well to the catching position, Boone developed during those years into one of the best defensive backstops in the game. In both 1978 and 1979 he would win the NL Gold Glove Award for the position.

PHILLIES AND BOONE FINALLY WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP

Despite entrenching himself as an All-Star caliber player at the big league level while playing for a perennial contender, Boone and the Phillies were unable to win a championship. In 1979 the team faded to a fourth place finish, and there was much talk that perhaps their window had closed.
But in 1980 under firebrand manager Dallas Green, the Phillies would fight their way back to the top of the NL East. Boone would, in fact, provide a pivotal hit as the club clinched the NL East crown. And this time would prove different in the postseason.

First, the Fightin’ Phils battled past the tough Houston Astros in what may be the greatest NLCS ever played. Then the Phillies fought off the talented Kansas City Royals to win the first World Series championship in franchise history.
Boone was an integral part of that World Series club. He batted .314 in the 1980 postseason, including .412 in the Fall Classic. He had three hits, including two doubles and two RBI, as the Phils won the opener by a 7-6 score. Boone then registered hits in each of the final four games of the six game series.

FINAL PAGE IN PHILADELPHIA

Still, Boone would be 31 years old in the 1981 season. And the Phillies now appeared to have his heir apparent ready to take over. Keith Moreland was 26 years old and had hit .314 in what was his official rookie season in 1980.
While the Phillies captured the first-half title during the strike-affected 1981 split-season, Boone and Moreland were basically splitting the catching duties.
By the time that the NLDS rolled around that October against the Montreal Expos, Moreland had taken over as the starter. The redhead started the first four games of that series, in fact.
It was only in the decisive Game Five that Green opted to go back to his veteran. In what would prove to be his final game in a Phillies uniform, Boone went 0-3. Rogers shut out the Phillies 3-0, giving Montreal their only playoff series victory.

BOONE HEADS WEST TO CALIFORNIA

Feeling that the 33-year old Boone was nearly finished, the Phillies sold him to the California Angels on December 6, 1981. Boone would demonstrate over the rest of the decade that his amazing career was actually just beginning a second act.
In California from 1982-88, Boone came under the guidance of former Phillies manager Gene Mauch. The resilient veteran Boone would be the starting catcher for each of his next seven seasons. Boone would add an AL All-Star appearance and four more Gold Gloves to his career resumé.
In both 1982 and 1986, the Angels would capture the AL West crown and advance to the ALCS. However, the Halos fell just short of a World Series appearance in heartbreaking fashion each time.
In the 1982 American League Championship Series they blew a 2-0 lead as the Milwaukee Brewers rallied to take three straight games.
In the 1986 American League Championship Series, the Angels led the Boston Red Sox by 3-1 in the series, and took a 5-2 lead into the top of the 9th inning of Game Five. But Boston, down to their last strike, rallied in dramatic fashion. The Red Sox would win in 11 innings, then blow the Angels out in the next two games to capture the series.
That November, Boone became a free agent for the first time. The Angels had a good thing going, and re-signed him to a three-year contract at more than $2.6 million total dollars.

BOONE ENDS HIS CAREER IN KANSAS CITY

In October of 1988, Boone became a free agent once again. This time the Royals offered him $1 more than he had been making in California, and Boone took that sign of respect and left.
Boone would finish out his career in Kansas City, adding a final Gold Glove Award to his mantle in the 1989 season.
At age 42 in the 1990 season, Boone was finally relegated to a backup role, and with a last place Royals squad, behind 26-year old Mike Macfarlane.
September 27, 1990 would prove to be Boone’s final game. Fittingly it came against the Angels. On a Thursday night at Anaheim Stadium, Boone went 2-3.
In the top of the 7th inning against one the game’s great feel-good stories, left-hander Jim Abbott, Boone delivered an RBI single in his final big league at-bat.
As if wanting to say goodbye to the game with a fun flourish, Boone still had a final surprise for those in attendance. With just 38 career steals over parts of 19 seasons, Boone took off for second base. As might be expected, he was unsuccessful, as Angels catcher Lance Parrish gunned the throw to second baseman Johnny Ray.
He would continue on, catching the bottom of the 7th and 8th. Starting pitcher Hector Wagner, a 21-year old Dominican right-hander, would be the last pitcher that he would handle in the big leagues.

END OF A LONG AND GLORIOUS PLAYING CAREER

Boone decided to try to come back in the 1991 season with the Seattle Mariners. However, he was released during spring training, bringing his playing career to its official end.
Boone finished with a .254/.315/.346 slash line. He recorded 1,838 hits with 303 doubles, 105 home runs, and 826 RBI. He won seven Gold Glove Awards, and was a 4x All-Star. Boone received MVP votes with both the Phillies in 1978 and the Angels in 1982.
In a nice piece on Boone’s career for the LA Times in 1992, Bob Nightengale quoted him:
“I think it’s hard for people to believe this,” Boone said per Nightengale, “but I went out exactly the way I wanted. I told myself years ago I was going to wring it out until the absolute end. And the end is when I can’t get employment. Some guys want to dictate how their career ends. They want their farewell tour. But I never wanted a Mike Schmidt press conference, the tears, and all that. You’ve got to understand, I was never in it for the glory. I was an aberration. God blessed me with skills that didn’t deteriorate. And now, I can leave with a certain satisfaction that I did my job for a long time, and I did it well. I did it the right way. And I take great pride in that.”

BOONIE THE SKIPPER

One of the smartest and most respected men in the game, Boone wasn’t out of it for long. He caught on as a coach, and by 1995 was named the Royals manager. He would serve in that role for parts of three seasons, and again for parts of three seasons with the Cincinnati Reds from 2001-03.
Boone finished with a 371-444 record as a skipper between the two organizations, never guiding a winning team. His best finish as manager was the 70-74 second place finish of his first Royals team in 1995.
Boone remains in baseball, however. He is currently the Assistant General Manager and VP of Player Development with the Washington Nationals.
Boone is also a part of one of baseball’s few three-generation families. His father, Ray Boone, was an infielder who played for six clubs between 1948-60. Two of his sons, Aaron Boone and Bret Boone, reached the Majors. Aaron played from 1997-2009, and Bret from 1992-2005.
This “Philography” is the continuation of a series which I began in October of 2014. The Boone piece marks the 15th in the series, which will continue in January with the other catcher on the Phillies Wall of Fame, Mike Lieberthal.
Each of the previous pieces can be viewed at the following link: