Saturday, April 28, 2012

RBI (80) A Cy Young TTM...

It's been a bit since I posted a TTM reply, mainly because I haven't had any responses since baseball season started besides the adventure with Al Kaline. Needless to say I'm not overly pleased with my luck lately. One thing that I got very lucky with a few months ago though was a response from Cy Young winner Doug Drabek.

Drabek is a Texan taken by the Chicago White Sox in the 11th round of the 1983 draft. Despite pitching well through the minors for the White Sox he was included in a package to the New York Yankees.  He would eventually be called up with the Yankees in 1986 as a reliever who joined the rotation. He was then traded to the Pirates by the Yankees where he had his most successful years. He'd pitch for the Pirates primarily before a few years split between the Houston Astros, Orioles, and White Sox.

When he retired after 13 seasons in the MLB Drabek had finished an impressive career. He had a 155-134 career record supported by a 3.73 ERA and 1594 Strikeouts. In 387 Starts he threw 53 Complete games and an impressive 21 Shut Outs. He was an All-Star with the Astros, but won the Cy Young in 1990 with the Pirates when he was also named the NL TSN Pitcher of the Year.

His abilities were passed down to his son Kyle a well-known pitching prospect who was the key piece in the Phillies-Blue Jays Roy Halladay trade.
If you have noticed I'm pretty fond of getting 1990 Fleers signed. The backgrounds tend to be nice and the white border helps autographs pop. I'm an even bigger fan of getting cards from the year the player did something big, and if you notice the card is from the same year he won his Cy Young award.

Mr. Drabek was kind enough to personalize the card sent to his home and send it back to me after 8 months.

Friday, April 27, 2012

RBI (79) The Original Angels HOF'er

The first person elected to the Angel Team Hall of Fame was a dynamic second baseman named Bobby Grich.

The Michigan native was taken by the Baltimore Orioles in the 1st round of the 1967 draft with the 19th overall pick. He developed quickly and debuted in 1970 but did not become a regular starter until 1972. He signed with the California Angels in 1977 as a free agent and remained with the team until his retirement after the 1986 season. 

While playing he was known for his steady defense and range as well as a strong bat from the middle infield. After his 17 seasons he was a .266 hitter supporting a .371 OBP and solid pop with 224 Home Runs. He scored 1033 Runs with his speed though he only stole 104 Steals and was caught stealing 83 times. 

The Angels recognized his 6-time All-Star status, 4 Gold Gloves, and Silver Slugger award as well as his numerous contributions to the club by inducting him into the team Hall of Fame. Not only did they induct him into the team HOF, but he was the first member to be inducted. He still maintains an active relationship with the Angels working in the front office and can be seen at team events or around the stadium. 

I was able to get Bobby Grich's autograph on the sweet spot of this baseball through the Angels' 50th anniversary celebration during the 2011 season. He was kind enough to add inscriptions for those who asked. I thought about asking for his Gold Gloves, but the "6x All Star" looked too cool on a friend's ball that I had to ask for it too.
I was able to get Bobby Grich to sign this 1987 Topps for me at the Jered Weaver press conference in front of Angel Stadium where the Angels were announcing his contract extension. The whole day was a nice event for the organization and several alumni were on hand to watch the event.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

RBI (78) A Don Among Coaches...

During the 2011 season I was able to get former pitcher and pitching coach Don Cooper to sign for me.

Cooper was drafted by the Yankees in the 17th round of the 1978 draft, but was stolen by the Twins during the 1980 Rule 5 draft. He debuted in 1981 with the Twins before being trade to Toronto in 1983 and then New York in 1985. Across 44 MLB games as a starter and reliever he was eventually done as a player with a 1-6 record and 5.27 ERA.

His pitching in the Majors may not have been amazing, but he has a great knowledge of the game itself. Like the old saying goes, "those who can't do, teach." And teach he does as the Chicago White Sox pitching coach since 2002. He was a member of the coaching staff when the team won the 2005 World Series. His pitching staffs have been impressive churning out consistent starters that are reliable though not many have reached the elite level.

One of the more impressive feats accomplished by the pitchers under Cooper's tutelage are the number of gems churned out. The staffs may not always shine but Cooper has helped turn out some diamonds in the history of the game. Since he was named pitching coach there have been 21 MLB no-hitters or perfect games, and Cooper has overseen 3 of them. Mark Buehrle tossed a perfect game and no-hitter while Philip Humber threw a perfect game. An especially impressive mark since there have been only 19 perfect games ever thrown in the MLB and Cooper coached 2 of them.
I was able to get Don Cooper's autograph on this 2011 Topps Heritage White Sox team card for me in person at Angel stadium when the team was in town during 2011 to play against the Angels.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

RBI (77) Gerrit Cole, The #1 overall pick...

In 2011 went to the Pittsburgh Pirates, which they used to select UCLA starting pitcher Gerrit Cole.

Cole is a native of Southern California having been born in Newport Beach, CA and attending a private high school down the freeway in Orange County. In 2008 he was selected by the New York Yankees in the 1st round of the draft, but declined to negotiate with them despite a believed offer prepared to the tune of $4 million.

Cole attended UCLA on a collegiate scholarship and helped the Bruins become one of their best teams in school history. In 2010 they achieved a 51-17 record, the best achieved in school history. The season continued to roll on with Cole helping the Bruins advance through the 2010 College World Series, eventually being defeated in the NCAA Championships Series.

After Cole was drafted by the Pirates first overall he and his representatives didn't sign with the organization until 15 minutes before the deadline. The deal was reported to be worth $8 million, which could prove to be a bargain seeing as his potential could help turn the Pirates into a force to be reckoned with in the model of the 2012 Washington Nationals. The deal was signed too late in August for Cole to take part in the minors and he has pitched in the Arizona Fall League recording solid numbers.
Cole made an unexpected appearance at the Cory Hahn Trinity Bat Benefit in Orange County and was kind enough to sign this ROMLB for me on the sweet spot. It was really nice of him to take the time to appear at the benefit and he could have avoided signing for the fans, but signed autographs for fans who recognized him. Which with the addition of some facial hair was actually a little bit of a task, but he was really down to earth and lowkey which made getting Gerrit Cole's autograph that much cooler.
He was really personable and polite to everyone and the whole event was a great day with Cole's autograph just the icing on the cake. Cole will be debuting for the Pirates during the 2013 season and is expected to help continue the turn around in Pittsburg to make the team relevant again.

Now that Cole has debuted in the MLB it's been great being able to see this Gerrit Cole autographed baseball on my shelf as a big leaguers ball, especially one who has been successful with him going 4-0 so far in his debut topping front line talents Jered Weaver, Tim Lincecum, and Zach Greinke.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Angels 2012 Fanfest

Well this is a bit of a weird post for me since I didn't take my camera in so it doesn't qualify as a photo series post, but I do want to give a recap of the Angels 2012 Fanfest at Anaheim Stadium.

It was a weird but good day overall for me. I was able to get a fair amount of autographs though Albert Pujols continuing to elude me despite my best attempts. The fanfest was organized into 5 different lines with a random pair of current Angel players at a table for each line. Last year I hear there was a section for season ticket holders, but this year they weren't given any perks. The whole experience was a luck of the draw sort of thing, as no one had any idea of which players they would get until the player actually sat down. If you didn't like who was going to sign at your line, you better have seen a friendly face who wanted to trade places in their line with you for their spot.

Speaking of friendly faces, I'll throw out a quick shout out to Josh aka. Dodger Bobble, Benson, and Dave who I spent much of the fanfest chatting graphing, baseball and the like with. If you like bobble heads and quality autographs, I recommend these guys' blogs. Anyways its always a good day when you get to graph with your friends.

Even though fanfest opened at 7:00 AM, the players didn't appear until 9:45 to sign. I'm not really sure what was the reasoning behind this. I know autographing wasn't the exclusive point of the event, but it was a really big draw and probably the most popular activity. Especially seeing as the Angels had several memorabilia dealer booths set up to sell Angel apparel and baseball collectibles next to the autograph lines for the casual fans to get geared up. I'm not saying they needed to cart Pujols down for 4 hours of signing (even though that'd be awesome) but maybe open at 8 instead of 7 since there's not really a big rush to eat some Famous Dave's at 7 AM or and I doubt anyone is there to buy Nitto tires. Maybe have the local Single-A affiliate 66'ers (who had a booth) send a few players to warm up the early crowd?

I was in the spot trader category, as I was able to trade Benson my Latroy Hawkins and Bobby Abreu spot for Erick Aybar and Macier Izturis. Bobby is always a high profile autograph and I've actually yet to get him on an individual item, but I was in need of Aybar and Izzy much more. Thankfully Benson was super nice enough to switch with me and let me get the pair of infielders.

I added Izzy to the 2011 Angels team ball that I've been working on and I'm currently only missing from my official need list Scoscia, Haren, Callaspo, Takahashi, and Aybar from the regular players with a few guys called up for only a few games missing like Michael Kohn, Francisco Rodriguez, and Garret Richards.

Erick Aybar signed this Spring Training-used Jersey I bought at the Angels Yard Sale last year. I've been trying to get this autographed by him for a while so it was nice to finally get him on it. I actually ran into him earlier in the week and while he signed a card told him about the jersey sitting at home. He laughed and said "Well today was your day man." When I walked up to him at fanfest the first thing I said when he looked up and recognized me was, "I guess today's my day." He smiled and said "See I told you man" before putting this nice signature across the number. Always nice to add a Gold Glover to the collection with an Erick Aybar autographed jersey.
After getting Aybar I moved over to see what the other graphers had been able to get signed. I thought about going after a few of the other current players, but have been pretty successful with everyone but Kendrys and by the time I got to his line I was too far back to score him. I found out after the current players left, that there would be Angel Alumni signing for the fans. I scouted out the main stage where they were being introduced and saw Jim Abbott, Clyde Wright, Mike Witt, Chuck Finley, and Garrett Anderson. Needless to say I was excited at the possibilities when I reported the news back to my fellow graphers in line.

I scored tough signer Mike Witt in my line and was pretty far toward the front of the line. He was really nice and it was easy getting Mike Witt's autograph on the sweet spot a baseball for me after I asked him politely.
I moved onto the next line and got Garrett Anderson's autograph on my souvenir from 2012 opening weekend, a certified game-used ball (Ervin Santana to Chris Getz foul ball) on the sweet spot. Can't complain about getting the full signature of GA so I'm happy to hang on to this Garrett Anderson autographed baseball.
The Jim Abbott line by the time I finished GA had no friendly faces and I just didn't think I'd have a chance to get him.  I probably could have gotten in the shorter Clyde Wright or Chuck Finley lines after getting GA, but seeing as I got plenty of Clyde through the season, and Finley a month prior I didn't want to take someone else's chance to get them and went into the stadium for the game.

All in all it was nice to see the Angels really rolled out the red carpet and got some great alumni to come sign for the fans; and they really were all pleasant and churning out plenty of quality autographs. The current player autographs were not really who people were hoping for though Bobby Abreu and Kendrys Morales are pretty quality autographs in my opinion. I'd have to give the 2012 Angels fanfest a solid B due to the great alumni signers and the free generously sized samples of BBQ pulled pork that got rolled out by Famous Dave's around 11.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Big League Moment (5) Mark Langston

As Mr. Langston is a radio broadcaster for the Angel's 2012 season I've had the chance to ask him additional questions and he's always been nice enough to share his memories. Mr. Langston is a classy guy and was kind enough to not only sign his autograph for me, but answer some questions.

I asked, "What was your favorite park to pitch in as a visitor?"

"That's an interesting question...Chicago. Wrigley. The whole place has a good feeling when you're in it. Any big park is good for a pitcher, I like Oakland."

While that was my moment, a friend of mine also posed a question to Langston. He asked him what his favorite baseball card of himself was and immediately Langston choose his lone card of him ever up to bat. I've yet to figure out what the card is, but rest assured I will find it and have him sign it.

"What was your favorite All-Star year?"
"The first one. The first is always the best."

"Who was your toughest out?"
"My old neighbor Dave Henderson. I guess he wanted to own the block."

"How would you get Mike Trout out?"
"I'd pitch him inside to make him shorten his swing, and you have to keep him guessing by changing speeds. But he's really good at making adjustments even during at-bats. "Do you think you could pick him off?" "Now that one I'm more confident about, I think I could get him."

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

RBI (76) The Curious Case of Al Kaline is Solved...

Regular readers probably are already aware of my previous post regarding Hall of Famer Al Kaline. If you aren't a regular reader and don't want to read the post, it essentially boils down to he has some weird signing habits in person and through the mail and I wanted to see how I'd do.

Okay, usual preamble about Mr. Tiger even though I want to skip to the good stuff. Hall of Famer class of 1980 (88% the vote) played for 22 seasons only for Detroit, an 18-time All-Star, and nabbed 10 Gold Gloves. 3007 hits from a career .297 average knocked in 1583 RBI's that won a 1968 World Series and got his #6 retired by the Detroit Tigers. Want to know the real good stuff? Then seriously, read the other post.

Well I sent my $20 to Mr. Kaline, and this is what I got.
Yes it is a very nice clear blue signature on the card. Yes it's great to have a Hall of Famer added to my collection. But let's be honest. This is the exact same signature that I could have acquired with a letter and $5...maybe $10 and an extra set of postage. For $20 I could have tracked down a certified Topps autographed card on ebay. An extra $10-$15 dollars didn't get an "HOF" or "GG" inscription? I don't think Garret Anderson even charges that much for an inscription and he only signs like twice a year and in person only. Twenty bucks and my index card wasn't even returned to keep the envelope stiff let alone with a "Thanks" scribbled on it.

Now is it a little petty to complain about a Hall of Famer signing for so cheap? Maybe. But it's the principle that has me not so pleased with how this safari went. By his "normal" habits, this could have gotten 2-4 cards signed with the same autograph. Instead my letter went unanswered and my index card wasn't even sent back.

It's not that I was expecting an extra signed card, inscription, or change. But I was hoping to find Mr. Kaline on the side of the fan and not send a completely indifferent response. I guess I was hoping for the Hall of Famer to show something more and act a little classier than a nobody minor leaguer at a card show would. Is that so wrong? Am I expecting too much from a Cooperstown inductee?

Kaline signed the 2003 Topps after 22 days from his home address.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

RBI (75) Curt Schilling, possible Hall of Famer...

This is one of my all time favorite players, who I think could be inducted into the Hall of Fame eventually though maybe not his first time on the ballot for Cooperstown in 2013. Pitcher Curt Schilling is in my eyes one of the all time greats who deserves a place in the hall.

Schilling was drafted by the Red Sox in the 2nd round of the 1986 draft, but made his debut for Baltimore in 1988. He was then traded to Houston for a year and then Philadelphia, where he spent the majority of his career developing into one of the most dominant control pitchers mixing an overpowering fastball with brutal off speed offerings. After his development years in Philadelphia Schilling went to Arizona where he was a key cog in the Diamondbacks success. With Randy Johnson in Arizona, Schilling helped the DBacks upset the Yankees in 2001 for one of the most memorable World Series in the past few decades. The victory over the Yankees was a dramatic one and gave Arizona their first franchise World Series title.

The Red Sox aggressively targeted Schilling once he hit free agency and Theo Epstein was able to steal him from the Yankees and bring him to Boston. Schilling was immortalized with his post-season success that helped bring the Red Sox to a World Series Championship victory in 2004 to end the Curse of the Bambino. He built on the success and helped guide the growing Red Sox core to another ring in 2007.

When finally finished with his career Schilling stands in elite company. He has a 216-146 record supported by a 3.46 ERA and 3,116 Strikeouts. A 6-time All-Star he has been World Series co-MVP, NLCS MVP, and a key piece of 3 World Series Champion rotations. Two of those victories are key highlights in sports if not their respective franchise histories. His infamous "bloody sock" incident during the 2004 series has only further increased his intrigue. If he isn't a Hall of Famer, I'm not really sure who from his era is.
I was given this 2007 World Series ball signed by Schilling as a gift for my 21st birthday. It's definitely one of my favorite autographs and I'm really grateful to have a Curt Schilling autographed World Series Baseball. It's become part of a project of mine to add an autographed ball from each member of that 2007 World Series rotation now that I've added a Jon Lester autographed ball and Josh Beckett autographed ball

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Balk 8 - A pair of off topic autographs

Even though baseball is my big passion and focus for collecting, living in Southern California does have it's occasional perks by being able to run into various sports athletes and celebrities when you're just out and about.

This is post is a dual post since they're kind of related but I did get each signature on separate days. While most of Southern Californians are now flying their "Clipper Nation" flag, I had mine up a bit longer. Last season I went to 70 something baseball games and one of the main reasons I would miss a game was work or to go to a Clipper game.

Last season I was with my family getting a late bite to go and some gas for the trip home after a Clippers-Suns game when my dad looked out the window at a really nice car pulling up to get gas. When the door opened he immediately said, "Hey, that's Brian Cook."

We waited a minute for him to get situated and then asked Brian if he could sign my ticket stub and told him how happy we were that he was back in LA after a few seasons away. Though I'm a Clipper fan, Laker games were always predominantly what made it onto TV and Cook was a 1st round selection by them in the 2003 Draft. There are few things as exciting as a momentum changing 3-pointer and through his Laker years he was a talented 3-point specialist. Brian Cook autographed my ticket and we said thank you before walking back to fill up his tank and head home.
This season Brian started with the Clippers, but as many of you are aware the fortunes of the team has drastically changed with the addition of Chris Paul and his role was reduced until he was finally traded. One benefit of the changing fortunes of the Clips, is the addition of more high profile fans. On my way into a game against the San Antonio Spurs, I spotted Rainn Wilson, better known as Dwight Schrute, on the way into Staples Center. I was able to get a Rainn Wilson autograph on one of my cards.
Like I said, living here has some perks. Not a bad pair of random autographs to add to the collection.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Curious Case of Al Kaline

Al Kaline, Hall of Famer, and notoriously unpredictable signer.

The first time I learned about Mr. Kaline, it was while reading about him in Cooperstown Confidential. The scene painted around Kaline by the book was of a signer sitting at a corner in Cooperstown during Induction Weekend who was interested in the fee and not the line of fans or their anecdotes. Further research into Kaline revealed stories of him being very unpredictable in person. Finding him at a ball game in Detroit meant he could be personable and willing to sign, occasionally doing multiples for some. Or sitting in the stands he could be grumpy and unwilling to even give a signature to a kid at other times. Appearances at a Detroit car dealership were typically more positive with Kaline getting more favorable and personable reviews.

Through the mail to Mr. Kaline is an adventure in it's own. It seems the fee he charges can be on a sliding scale at times with fans mailing him $5 and getting a card signed, but at times the $5 is returned with a request for $10 even though the request is for a card. Some mail has been returned to fans with the card unsigned and money in the envelope along with it. One especially odd horror story was the $5 returned but it had been cut into pieces. It wasn't clear if Kaline himself did it or the Post Office had a mishap. Regardless, this Hall of Famer is clearly not the same as the rest of his Cooperstown peers who normally have a foundation or handler make the transaction quick, businesslike, and not all that interesting.

The standard return rate of successes and failures alike has seemed to be 2 weeks. Why is this important? Because 2 weeks ago I had a bit of a random occurrence happen. I was browsing through my cards and spotted one of Kaline, it was cool but I wasn't sold on if I should make an attempt with him or not. While browsing my local card shop later that day I spotted another Kaline card and decided to buy it just to add it to my collection. The next day I was pleasantly surprised to find $20 in a jacket I hadn't worn for a few months. Seeing as it was free money and I had just acquired a nice Kaline I decided to leap down the rabbit hole. That's right, I didn't test the $5 or $10 fee for a card. I wrote my letter, labeled my envelopes, and slid the $20 right behind the card.

I'm not really sure what I'll get back, but something should be coming through the mail this week. Be it my card with the fee, a cut up twenty, or maybe just maybe I'll be lucky enough to get the card back signed with the magical letters "HOF" to put in my collection. Either way, Mr. Tiger has made this TTM  safari an adventure.

Batches batches batches...

This batch was focused more on the players who spent their time making their bones in the AL East. After I worked on the AL East I decided to meander into the NL where I don't have too much knowledge off the top of my head. With the start of baseball I'm not sure if there will be many responses now but I'm still hopeful that they're also inspired by the coming season.

Johnny Damon, Despite his time on the Yankees, Damon played a big part in Red Sox history and once again a grinder who forces his way on base and pesters the opposing pitcher to secure a run.
Desmond Jennings, The speed demon is poised to help throw the Rays into contention for yet another season providing great defense behind the overly talented and young rotation and could explode offensively this year. I also enjoy writing to guys I saw at the 2010 Futures game coming into the bigs.
Wade Boggs, I'm a really big fan of the TV show Psych, and when I saw Wade do a guest appearance this season it became one of my favorite episodes from the past few seasons. I just had to write him and tell him how nice it was to see him on the show.
Jay Bruce, While writing letters to Damon and Jennings, I started wondering about other dynamic outfielders. I decided to poke around the NL central since it's not my strongest place of knowledge and looked into the Bruce.
John Axford, While in the division I also remembered the Brewers had an interesting story and dynamic player of their own in closer Axford. Who wouldn't be interested in learning about a set up man who learned from future Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman.
J.D. Martinez, Soon to be rival playing out his first full season replacing one of my favorite players (Hunter Pence). It's a big mantle to replace in Houston since they didn't have much to cheer for besides Pence so hopefully he can take it.
Al Kaline....
Jim Leyland, with the Tigers in the making of a strong run and marquee players standing behind him it'll be interesting to hear what Leyland has to say about his career with this season on the horizon.
Tyler Clippard, one of the premier set up men in baseball that is often over looked the ominous visit Drew Storen made to Dr. Andrews has some wondering if this NL All-Star would be given the 9th but his dominance in the 8th has him keeping the status quo there.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

RBI (74) Final 365 TTM in the off season...

With baseball's week long opening series' beginning and the Angel's Opening Day tomorrow, I was wondering what would be the final return for the off season. It's a fairly appropriate return as former player, Angel coach and Milwaukee Brewers manager Ron Roenicke.

Roenicke was a 1st round pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1977 June secondary draft. Despite being such a high pick, taken 17th overall he did not make his MLB debut until 1981. Roenicke spent 8 seasons split between 6 teams, and was never able to really capitalize on the playing time he was given as a sometime starter, utility outfielder, and pinch runner. At the end of his career he sat on a .238 average and 17 Home Runs.

Roenicke returned to the Dodgers as a coach and manager throughout the organization at the Major and minor league level. Eventually he left the Dodgers to join the Angel organization as third base coach and was a member of the championship team. After Joe Maddon left to become the manager of the Rays he was promoted to bench coach. His time with the Angels through their dominant regular season runs through the early 2000's gave further credibility to his resume and he continued the Mike Scioscia coaching tree becoming the Milwaukee Brewer's manager. In his first year as a manager he took the Brew Crew to the NLCS, and it'll be interesting to see how he keeps the club pushing forward in the wake of the franchise losing its Prince and the reigning MVP having his crown tarnished by scandal.
Roenicke signed this 1987 Topps card for me sent c/o the Brewers at Spring Training in 43 days.