Friday, June 29, 2012

Happy Birthday...

to me. It's my birthday. Yay.
Even John Smoltz is happy for me.

Monday, June 25, 2012

RBI (89) Excuse me Mr. Lasorda...

it would mean so much to me if you'd please autograph my ball. That's right folks, this weekend during the 2012 Angels vs Dodgers Freeway Series I was able to get Hall of Fame manager and Dodger icon Tommy Lasorda's autograph.

Lasorda played in the MLB for part of 3 seasons but in the International League became a pitching legend helping the Montreal Royals win 5 Governors Cups. He was counted as a member of the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers who won the World Series. After retiring as a player Lasorda joined the Dodgers organization as a scout and began a relationship that would be legendary in baseball.

Joining the franchise as a scout Lasorda eventually worked his way up through the Dodgers organization. As a scout turned minor league manager and then being named 3rd base coach under Walter Alston in 1973. Lasorda was deemed Alston's eventual replacement and when he retired in 1976 he took over the club. As the club's manager he complied a 1,599-1,439 record that included 4 National League pennants and 8 Divisional titles. Of those 4 NL pennants he took the club to win 2 World Series Championships and also took home 2 National League Manager of the Year awards.

The Dodgers retired his #2 and the Cooperstown Hall of Fame Veterans Committee inducted him into the Hall of Fame in 1997. Since retiring as a manager in 1996, Lasorda has been an executive for the organization and entered his 6th decade working for the organization in various capacities. He has the longest running continual service in franchise history, edging out legendary broadcaster Vin Scully by a single season.
I was able to get Tommy Lasorda's autograph on my baseball in person at Angel stadium when he was in attendance to watch his Dodgers play the Angels during the 2012 season.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Big League Moment (7) Nancy Stewart aka Sombrero Girl

There's a pretty wide variety of autograph seekers at every MLB stadium at various times throughout the game day. At any given point in time you can meet a professional dealer, hardcore team collector, weekender, visiting team fan, or the random normal baseball fan. But every stadium has one of the greats. Someone who is not only a serious collector, but known to be a true fan of the team. One of the Angel Stadium legends is Nancy Stewart, the sombrero girl. Follow her on twitter @Sombrero_Girl

Nancy and her boyfriend Keith are known throughout the stadium amongst fans, security, ushers, and players because of two things. Sombreros, and attitude. Nancy has been featured on Fox Sports West video scenes numerous times, can be found on the OC Register website in various Angels articles, was interviewed by Fox for Opening day, and is repeatedly asked by random  strangers and fans to be in photos with them while wearing her sombrero. At this point, she is a part of the Angel stadium experience.

I took a few minutes to talk to her about collecting:

First off she considers herself an autograph collector not a ball hawk, but I know first hand she has pretty high end ball hawking skills.

One of her favorite players to interact with is Brad Zeigler, but I know she has a thing for Jayson Werth hugs too.

Her favorite baseball related twitters are Brad Zeigler's twitter @Bradzeigler and David Price's twitter @DavidPrice14

For baseballs Angel Jordan Walden has been consistently one of the best players to get a toss up from.

One of her favorite player interactions was in Las Vegas with Pete Rose. She and Keith went to one of his paid signings and he chatted with the two of them while signing. After they were getting ready to leave Rose told her boyfriend Keith she was cute and he better hold on to her. I think that's a pretty great compliment coming from Charlie Hustle.

One of her top stadiums is Petco park for the great autographing, nice appeal, and the fact that she has been on the field before.
She's one of hte greats, so keep an eye for her in the stands next time you see the Angels on TV...or in the newspaper...or online...at the stadium...generally anywhere and the chances are good you'll spot Sombrero Girl.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Balk - 10 An encounter with Justin Upton and a question

This weekend the Angels and Diamondbacks have had a pretty great series. With he Dbacks coming to town I had 3 goals: Justin Upton, Ian Kennedy, and Miguel Montero. After the Friday game I tried to get Upton and here's what happened. The Arizona families were actually at the game and were waiting by a player exit inside the stadium.

A pretty decent sized crowd of regular graphers and random fans were waiting next to them. Players began to come out and fans tried calling out only to be ignored by the players. While the players talked to their family most graphers were respectful and stayed quiet and away from family time. Here's where it got weird.

 A stadium security guard supervisor began aggressively telling people to back away or we would be kicked out of the stadium and made to leave. He then actually had us split to the left and right of the players and their families. He started talking in very hushed tones with Upton who just nodded and didn't talk back to him. The supervisor then told us graphers on the right to leave. Ok no big deal we turned around to leave the gate 20 feet behind us. He then yelled at us to stop and that we couldn't exit through the exit. And told us to leave through an exit that would make us walk through the players and their families. Then proceeded to say stay away from the players...great job mr. Security guard.

Having seen the righteous fury he had to keep us away from the exit I assumed Upton was going to leave that gate. I posted on a planter out of view and waited for him to leave. Here's the kicker. Upton left with his girlfriend through the gate. And 5 security guards. I called out Mr. Upton can you please just sign one it's just me. Without even looking at me or acknowledging I was a human being he put his arm on his girlfriend and stared straight ahead and was escorted to a waiting cab. And 2 police officers joined the escort party...

Um. What? I wanted Upton. I think he's a good young player. Alex Rodriguez. Curtis Granderson. Ivan Rodriguez. Jayson Werth. Rod Carew. Bert Blyleven. Nomar Garciaparra. legitimate stars, superstars, and Hall of Famers have all walked out of various exits around the stadium, but never with a 7 person security detail. Who does Justin Upton, he of the .245 batting average think he is?

Do we put so much hype and fantasy baseball relevance and draft pick card importance on young players that they actually believe they need an escort bigger than a legit I've made it and done it star?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

RBI (88) A TTM True California catch...

er...Long time Dodger and Angels catcher Jeff Torborg was nice enough to add me to his TTM response list this past week.

Torborg was signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1963 as an amateur free agent. While with the club he proved to be a steady presence behind the plate and remained there for 7 seasons. He would move down the freeway to the California Angels for 3 seasons before finally retiring as a player. While in the batters box he hit .214 with 8 career homers and drove in 101 runs. Behind the plate though he showed a talent for greatness and would catch no-hitters by Sandy Koufax, Bill Singer, and Nolan Ryan.

After his playing career ended in 1973 he was an Indians coach by '75 and the skipper in '77. He would manage the Indians, White Sox, Mets, Expos, and Marlins. With the White Sox he would win the AL Manager of the Year award in 1990 and his career managerial line stood 634-718.
Mr. Torborg was nice enough to sign and personalize this 1971 Topps card for me after 185 Days from his home address. Anyone who also reads Card Buzz saw we actually sent our requests at about the same time and Mr. Torborg has recently responded to some of his mail.

After a card has been gone about 3 months I tend to assume it's not coming back so it was a pleasant surprise to get this card back especially since he caught a no-hitter from one of my favorite pitchers of all time. I especially like that you can see the MLB trademark logo on the sleeve facing the photographer, it's a nice touch that though a little garish for now is a cool flashback.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

RBI (87) Now batting...Nomah...

...Garciaparra. Yup that's right folks Nomah (Nomar) Garciaparra one of the most dynamic players and top shortstops of the 90's-early 2000's signed for me recently.

The California native was a 1st round pick, taken 12th overall by the Boston Red Sox in the very productive 1994 amateur draft. He was selected one pick before Paul Konerko and two picks before future teammate Jason Varitek. After being taken in the '94 draft he coasted through the minors being given a cup of coffee in '96 and breaking out in his 1997 AL Rookie of the Year campaign.

While injuries eventually derailed his career and he was traded during the historic 2004 season when the Curse of the Bambino was eventually broken Nomar remained dear to Red Sox fans. His bat brought excitement with his 2 AL batting titles, and on leaving the Red Sox he showed his appreciation and loyalty to the Fenway faithful in a speech to the media. When he finally returned for Nomar Day in Fenway park crowds were excited to see Nomah throw his traditional sidearm to 'Tek before the game.

When he finally retired Nomar had been a 6-time All-Star, Silver Slugger winner, Rookie of the Year, 2006 NL Comeback Player of the Year, and led the league in batting twice. He was voted a 2004 World Series ring for his long service to the club and appreciation by his teammates. His career batting average stood at .313 with 229 Home Runs. While he would be 5 steals short of 100, Nomah has an impressive 936 RBI to go with his 927 Runs scored, a rare blend of speed and power to score and drive others in.

While I don't think Nomar will be inducted into the Cooperstown Hall of Fame like his peer and rival at the time Derek Jeter, I am going to be always glad he slipped down to the 12th pick and carried on the Red Sox legacy of great baseball players.
Nomar was kind enough to sign this ROMLB for me on the sweet spot while doing commentary for ESPN at an Angel game. I was really excited to meet him as he was one of my favorite players growing up, and he was generous enough to add the trademark number 5 under his name. This is definitely going in my collection next to my other favorite pieces forever.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Big League Moment (6) Arte Moreno

On Memorial day 2012 I had been doing some post game graphing and ran into Angel owner Arte Moreno. After he signed a few autographs for fans I went over to him to ask a question that's been bugging me for a few weeks. As a season ticket holder I tend to get a little bored living at the stadium and wander a bit. In right center field here is a large Angel logo that has a out of place two rows of red flowers. I asked why the flowers are there expecting some sort of significant meaning. Arte looked at me wih a puzzled look and his wife started laughing when he fumbled for an appropriate response and finally responded, "They're there to be...aesthetically pleasing...they don't mean anything." 

Great Arte. Lie to me. Say it's for Nick Adenheart. Say they're your wife's favorites. Don't tell me I stare at this random set of flowers just because you felt like it.