Wednesday, November 30, 2011

RBI (46) Another TTM with the "Fire" Trucks...

Well folks as the holidays begin to roll around I decided to appreciate one of the best TTM gifts our community has available to itself, another interesting conversation with Mr. Virgil Trucks. The previous post including a pair of autographs and further interview questions can be seen here.

Without further ado here is my next set of questions with Mr. Trucks, at the bottom are now copies of the original letters:

Was there a time during your no-hitters you realized you had no-no's going?
While most pitchers in their post-game interview tend to deny the thought crossed through their mind, Mr. Trucks admitted what I've always suspected, "Yes. Only the 8th or 9th inning."

What were the most difficult parts of keeping them going? Was the 2nd as hard as the first?
"There was no difficult parts of of keeping them going. Just keep getting them out. Yes the second game was tougher, because it being the Yankees who had greater hitters like Mantle, Berra, Mize, Noren, Baur, and more."

How did you celebrate each no hitter?
I've always been curious about the post-game celebration for such a milestone. When Galarraga had his perfect game blown on the last out, he was given a car. Other guys buy their defense watches, in the previous era of baseball it was a little different, "I just sit around with the guy then going out to dinner. Nothing different. As for the Yankee game. We left after the game for Boston. So again nothing unusual."

Who do you consider the greatest players you played with? Why?
This is a veritable who's who of the Hall of Fame, "With-Hank Greenberg. Charlie Geheringer. Al Kaline. Rudy York. George Kell. Mickey Mantle. Yogi Berra. Sherm Lollar. More than I can mention. Against (Gac) Cronin. Ted Williams. Jimmy Fox. Bill Dickey, Ted Lyons. Joe DiMaggio and many more."

What did you think of your time in Kansas City?
"Kansas City. I Loved."

What did you think of Bud Daley? What sort of teammate was he?
Having heard earlier from Mr. Daley earlier, I was curious to write Mr. Trucks about his accomplished former teammate, "He really wasnt with the club that much. I really didn't know him very well. Nice person."

What is your favorite memory from being in and winning the World Series?
It's special that Mr. Trucks was able to serve his country and then still be able to get one of the highlights of his career, "It was my first W.S. in 1945 and just getting out of the Navy in time to play in the series and winning a game will always be one of my favorite memories."

Do you think the World Series is the same now? Is it as meaningful today as it was when you played?
Baseball definitely doesn't resemble how it was when Mr. Trucks played. Expansion, instant replay, playoff format, it's all different and even the Championship itself has gotten a facelift, "The W.S. is a different type than when I played. You won the pennant you played the one that won the National League pennant."

Is there anything you wished you accomplished before you retired from baseball?
"Not really. I won a WS game and Allstar game. Pitched 2 no hitters in one year. Won 20 game in a season. I'm very happy with what I accomplished."

Mr. Trucks was kind enough to write back to my letter sent to his home address after 14 days. It's always nice to hear from such a great player and I hope everyone continues to appreciate his signing especially here in the holidays.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Balk 6 - Calling all readers...

Well folks as the off season marches on it's time for this blogger to do what all good writers must...reflect. It's been an interesting foray into the hobby of TTM and autograph collecting, one I've thoroughly been enjoying. Months later I still browse my sent list and wonder if there will be a response coming my way this coming holiday season. When I finally see the familiarly shaped return envelope with my handwriting on the front, I get a thrill to check the postmark and rack my brain to solve the puzzle before I open it. It's a thrill I expect to survive on through the years.

But that part of the hobby is an individual thrill. The other part is sharing it with all of you. I want to know how can I improve that? So here's the deal, I won't actually call this a contest but there will be a reward for those who participate. It's a secret but it will be a fairly enjoyable reward for a few moments of your time.

For those of you who read the blog, please give me feedback and let me make your reading experience more enjoyable.

1) What are your two favorite posts I've put up?

2) Do you enjoy the format of the posts or find it tedious?

3) Would you like scans of the letter responses included in the post?

4) Should the Big League Moment posts continue next season?

5) Does anyone miss the weekly/monthly summary posts of the Angels baseball performance? Should I bring it back or expand it?

6) Are the separate pages for In Person and TTM autographs inconvenient and you'd like a single master list or is it fine separating by interest?

7) Any general comments, questions, or additional feedback?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

RBI (45) A pair of Hall of Fame hits...

Well not just a hit, but a true hitter. While we are in an era of slugging first basemen, Hall of Famer Rod Carew was never an elite home run hitter, but he was someone you were fearful of every time he came up to bat throughout his career.

Carew was signed as an amateur free agent by the Minnesota Twins in 1964, and while he made his name with the Twins he is an Angel fan favorite. Carew's career spanned 19 seasons and saw him be one of the most dominate pure contact hitters of his era using the entire field to punish opposing pitchers.

He would finish his illustrious career with a .328 average and 3,053 hits. The magical 3,000th hit would fittingly come against Frank Viola, a member of the Twins in 1985. Despite his 1015 RBI he only had 92 Home Runs at the end of his career, but managed to hit 445 Doubles and 112 Triples for a career .429 SLG. His ability to put the ball into play and drive runners in was possible due to his great plate discipline, retiring with only 1028 Strikeouts against 1018 Walks.

While he didn't win a World Series championship, Carew's career was highlighted by his perennial appearances in the Mid Summer Classic, being an 18-time, all consecutive, All-Star. Carew also won the 1977 AL MVP award and 1967 AL Rookie of the Year Award with the Twins. In 1991 Carew was a first ballot Hall of Famer with 90.5% of the vote, and has had his #29 retired by both the Angels and Twins franchises.

Even now Carew's popularity is visible as an episode of the USA network show Psych contained a scene with a photo of Rod being joked about by the main characters.

These cards are a 1986 Topps and 1982 Fleer that I received from Tom at The Angels, In Order. I was able to get Hall of Famer Rod Carew's autograph on these cards on separate occasions at Angel Stadium through the Angels' 50th Anniversary celebration. I was actually on my way out of the door to head to the stadium when the mailman luckily pulled up with the package containing the cards or I'm not sure what I would have had Mr. Carew sign.

Friday, November 11, 2011

RBI (44) A TTM champ who came off the bench...

And he was definitely a much appreciated guy to have on that bench. Slugging catcher-first baseman-designated hitter Cliff Johnson had a very solid career that was highlighted by his home run hitting powers and a dash of infamy.

Drafted by the Houston Astros in the 5th round of the 1966 draft, Johnson wouldn't make his debut until 1972 and became a regular contributer in 1974. Once he finally broke into the regular roster Johnson made the most of it and stayed in the Majors for 15 seasons. Despite playing for seven different teams, Johnson made the most of his time with the Yankees winning World Series Championships in 1977 and 1978. His tenure with the Yankees came to an end when he famously got in a locker room fight with future Hall of Famer Goose Gossage in the showers after Goose began to tease him. The jokes became nasty and eventually turned to blows with Johnson breaking Gossage's thumb resulting in the Boss shipping him out to finish the 1979 season with Cleveland.

Johnson retired with a .258 career average, 699 RBI, and 196 Home Runs. What's most impressive of those homers, is that 20 of them were pinch hit, good enough for the MLB record until Matt Stairs broke the mark in 2010.
Cliff Johnson signed this 1977 Topps card I got from the Topps Diamond Anniversary. He autographed the card after 55 days to the card sent to his home address.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

RBI (43) Another World Series Champion...

Yup, the World Series may have gone to the Cardinals in 2011, but in 2002 it went to another scrappy wild card team. That would of course be the Angels. A key to the 2011 Cardinals success and the Rangers downfall was an effective bullpen. The Angels had just as effective a bullpen in 2002 with some key role players like setup man extraordinaire Scot Shields.

Taken in the 38th round of the 1997 draft Shields broke into the Majors in 2001 with the Angels. After he joined the bullpen Shields provided a shield of any lead given to him as part of the bridge to the Angel closers. He was a reliable arm for the better part of a decade appearing in various roles as a starter, setup man, long reliever, and starter. In 491 Games with 15 starts he had a career 3.18 ERA to go along with a 46-44 record.

Despite getting a solid 21 Saves as an occasional closer the real magic was his 156 Holds across 697 innings. It's absurd to think about what Shields career record would be had injury not eventually limited his effectiveness at the end of his career given his 6.62 and 5.28 ERA in his last two seasons. Without his ability to maintain leads closers Troy Percival, Francisco Rodriguez, and Brian Fuentes would not have been able to come into so many games to reach the elite level they did during their Angel careers.

Shields was a key part of the Angel championship run and success as American West Champions throughout the decade, with him eventually being recognized by Sports Illustrated as the Setup Man of the Decade. Normally closers get all the glory and recognition, but without a topnotch setup man and relievers, teams can't truly play championship level baseball. Shields is one of the best to play the game, and it really was amazing to watch him work through opposing batters with his two-seamer. It's shocking he was never taken to an All-Star game, but he got the ring he deserved.
I was able to get this Scot Shields autograph through the Angels 50th Anniversary celebration and he was nice enough to sign this Topps 2007 Angels Team Card for me with a "2002 WS Champs" inscription.