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Correa, Keuchel, Clemens and Ruettiger Shine in Houston

Houston Tristar show features Carlos Correa, Dallas Keuchel, Paul Hornung, Don Maynard, and yet Notre Damer Rudy Ruettiger gets his time in the spotlight.

By Ross Forman

Rich Gove sold several of Bobby Valentine’s 1975 Topps card at the 30th annual Tristar Productions Collectors Show, held Feb. 12-14 at NRG Arena in Houston.

Each Valentine card was only $1, but the sales certainly brought a smile to his face. It was Gove’s version of Marketing 101.

After all, the sales came after he told show attendees, “There’s no other way to tell your sweetheart that you love them than with a real Valentine card.”

It worked.

No doubt, Gove also tried to sell some (Pete) Rose cards, or maybe a Darryl Dawkins, aka, “Chocolate Thunder” card.


The mid-February Tristar show was a star-studded holiday feast, with Heisman Trophy winners aplenty, Hall of Famers from baseball and football, two Olympic gold medal winners … and The Beard, aka, Dallas Keuchel, the 2015 American League Cy Young Award-winner from the Houston Astros.

“It was packed all weekend,” said Marty Davis of Marty’s Sportscards. “It was a great show, one of the best in years. Carlos Correa certainly packed them in (on Saturday), when it was jam-packed in here.

“This show definitely was better than I expected. I’ll admit it, I was a little worried going in because this was Valentine’s weekend. But it turned out to be outstanding, a really great show.”

About 5,000 attended the three-day show, which featured autograph appearances by Paul Hornung, Don Maynard, Earl Campbell, Bob Knight, Jennie Finch, Bruce Sutter, Craig Biggio, Roger Clemens and Rudy Ruettiger, among others.

Ruettiger played just 27 seconds at Notre Dame, but his story is immortalized in the film Rudy.

Ruettiger played just 27 seconds at Notre Dame, but his story is immortalized in the film Rudy.

Rudy who?
Ruettiger is the former Notre Dame football player on whom the movie Rudy is based.

“It’s interesting, I always pinch myself when I’m at show signings. I see all of these great athletes, from every sport … and yet I only played 27 seconds, but I did work hard,” Ruettiger said. “I think that’s where the respect comes from – that I didn’t give up, that I didn’t give up on my dream, on that moment. I wouldn’t allow anyone to take my dream, my moment from me.”

Ruettiger is an outgoing, jovial signer, always willing to pose for a picture with show attendees.

“The message of Rudy means something to a lot of people,” Ruettiger said. “The message is, everyone can dream, and if we allow people to dream, you will find a way to accomplish that dream, one way or the other.

“Stay positive, stay away from the negative and you’ll be fine. Life isn’t easy; we all know that. Life is a struggle; it’s hard. So you need a positive attitude to combat that.”
Ruettiger’s on-field fame lasted all of 27 seconds.

“As a walk-on at Notre Dame, you first get a pair of white (football) pants, which means you’re really not part of the team, yet. And, you’re dressing in the baseball locker room because there’s no room for you to dress in the football locker room,” he said. “The day you get those gold pants, man, it was awesome. That really gave me a new energy.

“Getting those gold pants was all about sacrifice, hard work and putting your dream on the line.”

Ruettiger said the movie was inspired by a sportswriter at Notre Dame, who had never seen a player carried off the field and the fans cheering for that player. “That planted the seed, in my head, he said.

After leaving Notre Dame, Ruettiger started selling insurance, and he started building his confidence through rejections while trying to sell insurance.

Ruettiger wanted to pitch his story as he saw it in line with Rocky, Hoosiers and Field of Dreams, among other sporting movie legends.

He pitched the movie for years, but had no takers.

But then he met a hotel manager who loved the story, and that hotel manager had a brother who was involved in the movie Hoosiers. He introduced Ruettiger to the writer of the movie Hoosiers – and yet that writer stood up Ruettiger when they were scheduled to meet.

Carlos Correa

Carlos Correa

“I didn’t get bothered by that because I was used to things like that after selling insurance,” Ruettiger said.

He then started talking with a mailman, and they liked each other … so he took Ruettiger to the writer’s house.

Rounding out the irony of the movie was that a former walk-on at Michigan State was the president of Colombia Pictures at the time, and he was looking for a sports story.

Ruettiger said the movie was 92 percent accurate. The janitor character, for instance, was a mix of three people from Ruettiger’s career at Notre Dame, he said. The movie character of coach Dan Devine also was a mix of several people.

Ruettiger was signing and smiling throughout his appearance at the Tristar show. He also was interviewed by several local media outlets that attended the show.

The media also interview Kevin Johnson, Clemens, Biggio and, of course, Keuchel.

On the floor
On the show floor, Davis said one of the weekend’s biggest surprises, sales-wise, was the success of factory-sealed 2011 football hobby boxes, such as Panini Totally Certified ($72). Credit for the strong sales goes to J.J. Watt, Von Miller, Cam Newton and others, Davis said.

Davis said sales of factory-sealed basketball hobby boxes were slower than normal, which no doubt was attributed to the downslide of the Houston Rockets this season.

As for hockey, Davis noted sales of 2015-16 Upper Deck Series One, but overall, hockey sales were slow, Davis said, at this show.

Don Maynard

Don Maynard

Here’s a look at some of the souvenirs spotted for sale at the 30th annual Tristar Productions Collectors Show in Houston:
– Denny McLain autographed 16-by-20 photo ($25)
– 1986 or 1987 Topps Traded Baseball sets ($5 each)
– A Houston Dynamo replica jersey, size small ($20)
– Harry Houdini 4-by-6, black-and-white photo/card ($10)
– A 1958 Los Angeles Dodgers yearbook ($80)
– Jason Witten autographed, game-used football ($450)
– A 16-by-20 photo of Earl Campbell, Nolan Ryan and Hakeem Olajuwon – framed and signed by all three ($249)
– Ric Flair autographed blue replica wrestling boot, though the sign posted by the seller promotes “Rick” Flair ($125)
– Dat Nguyen autographed Texas A&M jersey ($75)
– Marcus Allen autographed USC jersey ($110)
– J.J. Watt signed Houston Texans jersey ($275)
– Mike Singletary signed Chicago Bears helmet ($150)
– Brett Favre autographed Green Bay Packers helmet ($270)
– Ben Roethlisberger signed Pittsburgh Steelers helmet ($325)
– A McFarlane statue of Steve Nash ($5)
– A McFarlane statue of Larry Walker, Alfonso Soriano or Chris Bosh ($10 each).

Ross Forman is a freelance contributor to SCD. He can be reached at