Saturday, June 25, 2011

RBI (24) A quick TTM send back by a come back player...

Speed on the base paths isn't all that Lonnie "Skates" Smith has, he's also pretty quick at responding and sending back things mailed out to him.

Lonnie Smith is a great personal story of his battles with illicit drug use during his playing career only for him to rise above it and be a championship caliber player. Making his debut with the Phillies in 1978, Smith finally cracked the lineup regularly in 1980, where he batted .339 in 100 games. His performance helped propel the Phillies to a World Series berth against the Kansas City Royals where the Phillies would emerge victorious.

Despite being a solid performer for the Phillies Lonnie was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals where he would continue to be successful and have an All-Star season in 1982. He would continue to thrive in 1982 so he would eventually be second place in the National League MVP voting, losing to Dale Murphy. What he would not lose to Murphy though, was the 1982 World Series where the Cardinals topped the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Cardinals would send him to the Kansas City Royals, a mistake seeing as the Royals would eventually face and beat the Cardinals in the 1985 World Series. Eventually he would be a free agent and have difficulty finding a team due to his drug use. He would be given a chance to join the Braves and despite a rough initial year in 1988 he would be named 1989 NL Come Back Player of the Year.  In 1991 and 1992 Smith's turn around would help propel the Braves to World Series appearances though they did not win the championship. Smith would then bounce around a few years with the Pirates and Orioles before finally hanging up his hat to return to Atlanta to live in retirement.

Lonnie would end his career after 17 seasons as one of the best run scorers and base stealers averaging 91 Runs and 37 Steals per season. He would have a final career average of .288 and .371 OBP which allowed him to constantly pester pitchers for a career tally of 370 Stolen Bases and 909 Runs scored.

Lonnie Smith signed this 1990 Fleer card for me and was nice enough to also respond to the letter I sent to him. Lonnie's signature is a great one to look at, it's very legible and fluid, and his hand writing in the letter as just as nice.

When asked:

What was your favorite part of being an All-Star?
Lonnie took a light hearted and genuine approach to his lone appearance at the All-Star game in 1982 saying, "The great players that were in the All Star Game. By far the best team i ever played on !!! :)" and yes Lonnie really put a smiley face in his response.

Which of your World Series Championships is the most meaningful?
Keeping up with his MVP caliber year Smith said, " '82 Team. We were more of a family of friends."

What was your favorite city to play at as a visitor?
Despite only playing there sparingly since all of his career was for teams in middle America or the east coast, Lonnie kept up his kind hearted approach and responded, "L.A. because it is the city I grew up in with family and friends."

When you set the franchise record for 5 steals in a game for the Cardinals in 1982 which was the most difficult?
Unknowingly I asked him about what seems to be the most memorable and favorite season he spent in the Majors, "Man just getting on base is the most difficult, you have to get on at least 3 times"

Lonnie Smith responded to my letter mailed to his home address after 13 days.

Friday, June 24, 2011

RBI (23) A TTM return from a rock star...

Ok well maybe not a rock star, but a player who has the same name. Cleveland Indians catcher and first baseman Carlos Santana responded to my TTM request though he didn't respond to the letter I included.

Santana was a Dodgers prospect signed in 2005 until he was traded to the Indians with John Meloan for Casey Blake in 2008. While in the minors he played for local minor league team the Inland Empire 66ers and did his part to become the organization's top prospect.

In June, 2010 Santana was called up to join the Indians and immediately slotted in the line up 3rd. He was having a solid rookie season until he walked the hallowed halls of Fenway Park. While covering the plate, Red Sox rookie Ryan Kalish came in trying to score sliding cleanly through Santana's legs. Santana was carted off the field and three days later he had to have season ending surgery to repair his torn lateral collateral ligament in his knee.

2011 has been full of ups and downs for Santana and the Indians as he deals with some struggles at the plate against right handers. However despite his poor .232 average, Santana is tied for 4th in the AL with 49 Walks and still shows flashes of power with 10 Homers. His ability to go yard has etched his way into the Indians' record books by being the first Indians catcher ever to end a game with a grand slam.

His defense however still has much to be desired and it's not clear how long in his career he will stay behind the plate as Santana has only caught 7 of 40 base stealers. When he is behind the plate Indians pitchers have a pedestrian 4.29 ERA and 26-23 record. The 4.29 ERA is even more surprising when you consider as a team, Cleveland has a 3.90 ERA.

Santana was nice enough to sign the Topps 2011 Opening Day card I sent to the Indians stadium, and got it back to me after 41 days. It was awesome to get the card signed, but less awesome to see Santana put his thumb on his first name while signing his last name. I suppose it just means it's authenticated with his fingerprint. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

RBI (22) Another nice 'mann' responded TTM...

This time though it was a sweet return from Mr. Tom Timmermann of the Tigers and Indians. Tom was nice enough to not only sign and personalize my card, but he also responded to the questions in the accompanying letter.

Timmermann signed as a amateur free agent with the Detroit Tigers in 1960 and eventually played for the Tigers and Indians from 1969-1974. Beginning his career as an effective reliever he was converted to a starter and bounced between the rotation and bullpen. His rookie season would prove to be his best when at the age of 29 he would in 31 appearances carve out a 4-3 record and 2.75 ERA.

In 1972 the Tigers moved Timmermann into the rotation where in 25 starts he would put up a 2.89 ERA but only manage a 8-10 record. Looking to be a reliable starter the Indians acquired him from the Tigers in 1973, but he would not be effective in Cleveland and hold a 4.96 ERA in 33 appearances. Eventually Timmermann would retire with the advanced age he got his break at seeming to prevent any second chances with another organization as his six-year career would end at the age of 34 with a 35-35 record and 35 saves to go along with a 3.78 ERA.

Mr. Timmermann was nice enough to personalize and sign his 1974 Topps card I got through the Diamond Giveaway. It was nice to see that he really has a crystal clear signature, and that he signed across the most visible part of the card with a extra fine point. I'd have to say it is one of the best looking I've seen.

When asked in my letter:

What was it like moving from being a reliever into the starting rotation?
Showing why he was voted Tiger of the Year by the Detroit BBWAA in 1970, Timmermann responded "You do what you have to do"

What was your favorite city to pitch in as a visitor?
Surprisingly despite the most common response so far to have been the larger east coast cities, Timmermann selected a city he had plenty of experience pitching in, "Kansas City"

Was there any moment in your career that stood out to you as your favorite?
Picking what is a meaningful moment to many players, but especially so after his long service to the organization, Tom picked a very nice memory. He responded, "Telling me to report to the Tigers after 9 years in minors"

Is there any pitch you tried to learn or wanted to master?
Probably as a result of being around professional baseball and players of all types for so many years, Timmermann responded "All of them"

Mr. Timmermann responded to my letter and request that I mailed to his home address after 20 days.

Friday, June 17, 2011

RBI (21) An original super utility player...

Or at least one of the best. Tony Phillips played in the Majors for 18 years and on 6 teams in almost every position a player can man. While some think teams ask a lot of Michael Young and Ben Zobrist, Phillips played second, shortstop and third regularly while also logging more than 100 games in left and right field with 3 games short of 100 in center.

The 1978 first round pick was selected 10th overall by the Expos but surprisingly despite his 6 teams he never played for them. Instead he debuted with the Oakland Athletics in 1982 and would be a member of the 1989 World Series championship team after being defeated in the 1988 World Series by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Phillips left the A's to join the Tigers and he would master the skill that would extend his career to almost two decades, the ability to take a walk. In hist first year with the Tigers Phillips would end the season with 99 Walks against only 85 strikeouts. For the rest of his career he would excel as being an on base machine and be driven for 90+ Runs 7 times and 4 of those times would be for more than 100 runs.

Phillips would have two terms of service with the Angels, joining them as a California Angel in 1995, and as an Anaheim Angel in 1997. As a member of the Angels, Phillips would smash a single season career best 27 Home runs and be driven in 192 times.

At the end of 18 seasons he would have scored 1300 Runs and collected 2023 hits. Even more impressively Phillips would have 1318 Walks which combined with his .266 average for a .374 career On Base Percentage, good enough for 220th all time.
I was able to get Tony Phillips to autographed this 1997 Score card for at Angel Stadium as part of the 50th Anniversary celebration. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

RBI (20) Sometimes TTM is like climbing a hill...

And this time I was able to make it to the top. Former catcher Mr. Marc Hill was nice enough to make a quick TTM return to me and shed a little bit of light about his career in the Majors for me.

Marc Hill was able to play for four different teams from 1973 to 1986 as a backup catcher primarily for the White Sox and Giants. Through his 14 season career Hill was only a team's main catcher twice, for the San Francisco Giants playing a career high 108 and 117 games. Marc eventually end his career with a .223 average and 34 Home runs.

Hill would be a part of the 1983 "Winning Ugly" Chicago White Sox where then Manager Tony La Russa won his first Manager of the Year award for the scrappy club ending the season with a blistering 60-25 second half. The White Sox wouldn't be able to translate their second half success into October parades after being knocked out by the Baltimore Orioles in the ALCS 3 games to 1.

Mr. Hill was nice enough to send this 1980 Topps card I got through the Diamond Giveaway back to me with a nice and clear autograph above the original on the card facade. It was cool to see decades later his signature even with a sharpie hasn't changed very much.

It was even nicer of him to respond to a few questions I included in the envelope I mailed him. When asked in my letter:

What did you see as the key to having so many years played at the Major League level?
Perhaps taking a page out his dad's professional playing career as a pitcher in the St. Louis Brown's organization in the 40's, Hill responded "Consistent and to enjoy the game the people you meet" 

What was the clubhouse like during the "Winning Ugly" 1983 White Sox season?
Considering his previous response and how was kind enough to share a few thoughts in the letter I think the response was pretty in character for Mr. Hill "Just having fun - Season went fast"

Who was your favorite pitcher to catch throughout your career?
Harking back to his White Sox days from 1981-1986, Hill picked a few of the pitchers he worked with. They just happen to both be pitchers who not only won their own Cy Young awards, but one is even in the Hall of Fame "Tom Seaver - LaMarr Hoyt"

What was your favorite city to play in as a visitor?
Considering he seems to be quite the standup guy Hill picked a city to match "Boston"

Mr. Hill responded to my letter after only 10 days to his home address. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

RBI (19) It's going, going, gone...

Or at least it was when former Angel Rick Reichardt was the first player to hit a home run at Anaheim Stadium in the 1966 season. Rick is a historic player not only for Angel franchise history but also for the entire league as he is one of the primary reasons Major League Baseball established a Draft.

A slugging outfielder from Wisconsin, Rick was a two-sport star who was the starting fullback for the Badgers making two Rose Bowl appearances on the team. Eventually in 1964 baseball clubs got into a bidding war for the prospect in the 1964 off season with the Angels eventually winning the player for a $205,000 signing bonus. To avoid such further bidding wars the Major League draft was instituted to protect the interest and finances of the franchises. The initial Draft may have provided such protections, but now with the current player signing bonuses some players may turn out to come at a discount if such bidding still occurred compared to their draft slot bonuses.

He played only sparingly in the 1964 and 1965 seasons before becoming a regular in 1966 when Anaheim Stadium opened. He was the first player to go deep in the new stadium and on April 19th he hit a solo shot off Tommy John. He was having a promising season but was eventually cut short of his promise by a congenital kidney blockage that forced the removal of his kidney.

He was able to play a further seven seasons in the Major Leagues but was never able to play at the same caliber as before his surgery, only cracking 20 homers once in his career. Reichardt finished his major league career in 1974 with 116 Home runs and a .261 batting average.

Reichardt signed this Topps 1966 Angels Team card for me that I was able to get through the Topps 50th Anniversary Diamond Giveaway at Angel Stadium due to the 50th Anniversary promotion. I wasn't all that pleased with the quality of the card with all the creases, bends, and missing corner; but for a 55 year old card I guess it was the best Topps was able to do. Thankfully Mr. Reichardt had a nice signature that he put on the card to help add some wow factor back to the card.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

RBI (18) A great 'boone' to the game...

Or at least one named Bob. Son of late third baseman Ray Boone, and father of second baseman Bret Boone and utility player Aaron Boone, former Angels catcher Bob Boone Has been around the Majors in some sort of capacity since the 70's.

The San Diego native began his career with the Philadelphia Phillies after being taken in the 6th round of the 1969 draft. He was the definition of a defensive catcher, winning 2 Gold Gloves with the Phillies and being recognized as an All-Star 3-times. Most notably however, he was part of the 1980 World Series championship team.

In 1982 Boone was shipped to the Angels where he played the second half of his career where he continued to rack up Gold Glove Awards and another All-Star selection. He contributed to Angel lore when he caught Mike Witt's perfect game on the last day of the 1984 season against the Texas Rangers on September 30, 1984.

Boone signed on as a free agent with the Kansas City Royals but he lasted only a season and a half before finally retiring as a player and moving into other roles as a manager and currently member of the Washington Nationals organization. With top prospect Wilson Ramos in the organization I'm sure Nationals fans are excited at the idea of Strasburg, Harper, and Boone taught Ramos forming a dynamic core for years to come.

When his 19 season career was over Boone's career batting line would only have a .254 average with 105 Home runs.  However he would have an illustrious 7 Gold Gloves, 4 All-Star selections, and a World Series Championship.
Bob Boone autographed his 1987 Topps card for me at Angel Stadium as part of the Angels 50th Anniversary celebration during the Angels vs. Red Sox series. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

RBI (17) The A's manager may go...

But Gio Go-nzalez isn't going anywhere this week but to the mound. As mentioned before in my first contest I was able to get Oakland Athletics pitcher Gio Gonzalez to sign for me before a game at Angel Stadium. Gio put on a pretty good show during batting practice running around competing for fly balls against some of the other pitchers and when a ball was in doubt used the always reliable method of throwing his glove at the ball to knock it down.

Gio was a 1st Round supplemental pick for the Chicago White Sox in 2004 but was traded around as a top prospect before finally breaking into the Majors. He was sent from the White Sox to the Phillies, back to the White Sox, and eventually scooped up by Oakland's Billy Beane in 2008 where he would finally make an MLB appearance.

Gio had a tough rookie year and in his first 30 appearances between '08 and '09 he had given up 92 runs in only 132 innings for an abysmal ERA. However 2010 led to a breakthrough and batters were held to a .229 average and in 33 starts Gio held a 3.23 ERA with a 15-9 record.

Building off his success last season Gio has made 2011 a strong year for him so far. In 12 starts despite the slumping A's offense he has a 5-4 record with an outstanding 2.62 ERA despite having 33 Walks due to a .233 average hitters have against him. Who knows with the way the A's offense has been, no dominant closer, and 4 other starters on the DL Gio's first half may make him the A's lone (and league required) representative to the All-Star game.

Gio Gonzalez autographed this Topps 2011 card for me and then an additional (and awfully pretty) 2011 Team card after batting practice at Angel Stadium during a four game series in Anaheim. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

RBI (16) A nice TTM return from a nice 'mann...

I got a sweet TTM success today from a nice 'mann' named Mr. Glenn Borgmann. Mr. Borgmann not only signed the card I sent him, but also responded to a few questions in the letter that accompanied the card.

Borgmann played from in the Majors throughout the 70's for primarily the Minnesota Twins. He was a member of the Twins from 1972 to 1979. While on the Twins he had the distinction to play alongside baseball greats Rod Carew, Harmon Killebrew, and Bert Blyleven. Throughout his career he primarily played as a backup catcher after he lost his starting position in 1976 to Butch Wynegar.

After 1979 he signed for a lone season with the Chicago White Sox as a backup catcher. Unable to find a Major League roster spot Borgmann ended his career in 1981 with a career .229 average and 151 RBI with 16 Home Runs.

Glenn signed his 1978 Topps card I received through the Topps Diamond Giveaway program going on right now. The card was in very nice condition for it's age and he signed a nice signature in blue sharpie.

When asked in my letter:

What was your favorite place to play at as a visitor?
Mr. Borgmann responded "Yankee Stadium."

Who was your favorite pitcher to catch through your career? 
Borgmann selected two-time All-Star and World Series Champion "Jerry Koosman" who posted 20-13 and 16-13 records while playing on the Twins with Borgmann.

Was there any pitcher  you enjoyed hitting against?
"Bill Travers" of the Milwaukee Brewers and California Angels was chosen, a slightly surprising choice since he was among the league leaders in hit batsmen.

Is there any moment in your career that was especially meaningful and stuck out to you?
"1st HR off Jim Palmer" and that would be his first career homer off Hall of Famer Jim Palmer in a losing cause for Bert Blyleven in a 1-2 loss to the Orioles on August 19, 1972 in Baltimore.

Glenn Borgmann autographed my card and responded to my letter after only 7 days to his home address.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Sac Fly (1) Winner!

Well here's the deal. I didn't actually say if the guesses were going to count as a total score or individually. Luckily you all solved the issue for me by not a single person who entered twice repeating a name. So every person if they submitted 2 entries submitted 6 separate names with none being repeated, meaning there was a general interpretation that it was cumulative. Which is what I intended for and why the extra entry was so valuable.  The 3 players who signed for me were Grant Balfour, Brad Ziegler, and Gio Gonzalez. Meaning the winner was the lone person who correctly named 2 players in their guesses was.........Matt of Tenets of Wilson! So congrats Matt you're the winner of my first ever contest meaning the odds are high I send you an additional slightly meaningless prize with your main prize.  For everyone're all awsome and I enjoyed your guesses. I'll be hosting additional contests soon so keep an eye out.

As an additional note, Gio signed 2 cards for me and Ziegler signed a ball for me with someone else's gel pen (shudder) that immediately smeared and then resigned in my pen since I asked nicely at the end of his signing when he saw the awful smear on the original signature. He actually looked at the ball and said "gross I totally understand don't worry" (yay young pitchers) when I asked him to sign again while showing the horrendous smear. So I got 3 players but 5 signatures, which is why I said I had to repay the great karma I had by hosting a contest since Zeigler and Gio were so nice to me.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Balk 3 - Contest madness

So while I have my contest going on I thought I'd plug a few others going on around the blogosphere.

Autographed Cards has a College World Series Contest going on.

The Diamond King will be posting want lists soon but until then you can drool over a few hits being given away.

Good luck everyone!