Saturday, July 28, 2012

RBI (96) Will the Thrill TTM...

Another nifty 365 TTM return made it's way back to me and I was happy to see when I opened the envelope a 1987 Topps back. Who was nice enough to sign for me? I was thrilled to see Will 'the Thrill' Clark had autographed my card.

Clark was taken by the San Francisco Giants with the 2nd overall pick in the 1985 amateur draft after winning a Silver Medal in the 1984 Olympics. He flew to the Majors and made his debut in April 1986, homering in his first at bat off Nolan Ryan. He would be one of the premier 1st baseman in the National League while he played for the Giants and remains a fan favorite despite leaving for the Rangers, Orioles, and Cardinals.

He retired as a 6-time All Star, Gold Glover, and 2-time Silver Slugger. His career stats after 15 seasons in the MLB are mighty impressive with 2176 hits coming from a career .303 average and .384 OBP. He drove in 1205 RBI while smacking 284 Home Runs which supported a .497 slugging percentage. Clark was put in the College Hall of Fame, Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, and the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame, but Cooperstown will not call as he was dropped off the ballot after failing to receive 5% of the vote in 2006.
Mr. Clark signed this 1987 Topps card that I sent to his home address after only 33 days. I was really happy to add Clark to my collection and it's always nice to check another '87 Topps off the list.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

At the mid season review...

We are only a few days away from the MLB trade deadline and GM's are busy fielding offers for those players who are available and unavailable. So as collectors I'm curious what 2 autographs have you gotten this 2012 season that are your pride and joy that other collectors should hang up the phone when it comes their availability. Any discussion to Jerry Dipoto involving Mike Trout ends with a click and my 8x10 of him and my Derek Jeter ball are unavailable. Who are your top 2 autographs from this season so far that you wouldn't even listen to an offer before the trade deadline?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

RBI (95) Josh Hamilton

Most of the time my titles are in someway related to the player, but a few have no gimmicky introduction, Nomar (kinda), Derek Jeter, and now Josh Hamilton.  Sometimes the player is all you need to say and Hamilton is the kind of player that speaks for himself.

The North Carolina native was taken 1st overall by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the 1999 MLB Draft. He was a surefire star in the making until his well publicized issues with drugs and alcohol derailed his fast rise through the Minors. It wouldn't be until after a rehab stint to get sober that he would eventually be taken by the Chicago Cubs in the Rule 5 draft and traded immediately to the Cincinnati Reds.

With the Reds Hamilton finally made his long awaited MLB debut in 2007. He had a solid rookie year with the Reds but would be traded to the Texas Rangers in what now looks to be a very lopsided deal, being sent for only Edison Volquez and Danny Herrera. The rest is history as Hamilton's Rangers have been one of the dominant offenses in the MLB.

His strong offensive numbers in '08 gave way to injury in '09, but then he broke through with an electric AL MVP and Batting Title 2010 season. He has been a 5-time All-Star, won 2 Silver Sluggers, and taken the Rangers to consecutive World Series appearances. Despite being taken in 1999 Hamilton only has 6 years of playing time in the MLB and those years have been plagued by injury due to the abuses in his youth. His numbers are still astounding at 146 Home Runs, 505 RBI, and a career average of .307. Despite his injury history, Hamilton has put these elite numbers while playing in the outfield, if he eventually becomes a full-time DH later in his career I have the feeling Josh will be slugging for years to come if he chooses to remain in baseball.

I got this Josh Hamilton autographed 2011 World Series baseball in person at Angel stadium. I know the Rangers didn't win 2011, but I really like the ball and taking the Rangers to back to back World Series' was really cool to me so I opted to go with this commemorative ball instead of a blank. Luckily though I was able to eventually get another Josh Hamilton autographed baseball.

When Josh was signing my friend asked if he had a charity to which Josh responded he had one already and was working on another. I asked what the new would be, and he laughed and said "I don't know, that's what we're working on." I'm don't doubt there are already some causes being decided between, and whatever cause Josh throws his support behind I'm sure will be much better helped because of it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Autograph Collecting Essentials

One thing I want to bring up is the Autograph collector's essentials. There are things that separate the casual fan from the grapher from the hardcore collector. One thing I need to preface this post with is that everything here is personal opinion.

Every collection is unique, but there are some things I have figured out from my collecting that I'd like to offer as a few suggestions on "how to collect autographs" at a baseball stadium. It's in no way the final authority and I pick up new ideas and suggestions all the time, collecting is fluid so don't be afraid to try new things.

Baseballs: While it may seem like a great idea when you're just getting into the hobby to pick up a nice looking $5 souvenir baseball at the stadium, don't do it. If you touch the souvenir ball you realize the ball is made of a synthetic material that won't maintain the signature over time, the Rawlings Official Major League Baseball like used in a game is the only way to go. They can be expensive, but if you want it to last, get it on a ROMLB. When it comes to team balls or players you like but just want the signature more than a perfect display piece batting practice balls work just fine if you clean them up.
  • Note: If you're getting a baseball signed don't be afraid to ask for what you want. Be polite and say please, but if you want the sweet spot or have a specialty baseball (Gold Glove ball, All Star ball, etc) ask the player to sign where you want. The worst they can say is no and all you can gain is a perfect piece. Some players will only sweet spot and have no problem doing so, but have to be asked politely first.
  • Leave a few Ziplock/sandwich bags in your main bag. You spent the time getting the ball signed, so after you get it autographed put it in the plastic bag, wrap it up, and lock the seal that way the autograph won't get rubbed and a spill in the stands won't ruin your piece.
White Hi-Poly Eraser: If you get a batting practice baseball that is just a little nicked up but not bad or a glossy card a firm but not overly aggressive rub down with an eraser can help make a ball look fresher. If you're working on a ball be sure to not go against the grain of the leather and cause more scuff marks to the leather. You can also use these to remove some of the gloss from very glossy cards (Bowman 2011's, Topps 2012 Series 1's) to help them take a signature better instead of streaking. You can get one of these at a office supply store for about $1.00 or I prefer to use the one on the end of a Papermate mechanical pencil since it's more precise.

Markers: Sharpie. Don't fight the hype, go name brand and fine tip. I know a lot of people like Staedtler quick dry markers, but I lose too many markers a series to want to drop that sort of money and if you prepare your cards ahead of time or get cards on nice stock like Heritage or Ginters you don't need a quick dry anyways. Also many players tend to fear signing for people with a fancy marker since they would peg you as a dealer not a collector.

The color of the marker should be determined by your preferences and the piece you are getting signed. Even a card or photo is a piece of art or Topps wouldn't have art directors, on staff photographers, and editors for their product. Photos you've taken yourself deserve to have the signatures pop and stand out to showcase your work. Take a second to look at the image and think of what color will stand out and not blend into the background.
  • Silver, I like to use for Photos with dark backgrounds or on Black/Blue/Red Jersey numbers, I stick with Sharpie because I like a thinner standard signature look, but I know many who love to go with a high quality thicker end Elmer's Silver paint pen. Very commonly you'll see the DecoColor Silver, but when using a Deco remember to prime the tip with paint and you must run the marker over a blank page prior to ensure no bleeding or leaking.
  • Blue, it's the hobby norm and typically a way to tell the difference between a weekender and a collector. Most cards and photos will pop with little to no fade to the signature with blue. Blue is what I think is the way to go when it comes to a White Jersey number as it stands out more.
  • Black, now some people think black has no use for a collector. I disagree. Some cards with lots of blue backgrounds or jerseys make blue not show at all. It may fade a bit eventually, but on a card I find it not to be a concern if stored properly. On hat brims or grey jerseys I think black looks good as it stands out against the color more than blue and if it's being worn will fade a little but still stand out as a signature not a smudge.
Pens: When it comes to a pen everyone has their own look. You get a baseball signed with a pen you must have it signed in blue. Black will fade very quickly. Avoid black ink autographs on a baseball. Black is for people with no idea what they're doing or shops who want it to fade in a year so you have to come buy a new autographed baseball for some ridiculous mark up. Now personal preference lets you choose thickness of the pen.

A standard .7 fine blue ball point pen looks thick and good from a distance, but will normally have a little bit of a white gap if the signer isn't pressing firmly because it will skip bumps in the leather of a ball. Lately I've been on a kick using a Uniball Jetstream .7 because it's a nice vibrant blue that doesn't catch much of a skip if any. For a while I was using a BIC Round Stic extra fine with the rubber grip at the end, because it gives a little bit of a thinner signature but the pen runs true and won't really pick up the bumps of a .7 and I like it's shade of blue. I always carry both and hand the BIC's to the families holding black sharpies and baseballs (shudder).
Derek Jeter Jetstream 1.0 mm Left,  Mark Langston BIC Round Stic Extra Fine .07mm Right

Regardless, blue and ballpoint. Fine or extra fine tip is all up to you.
  • Note: Carry a scrap piece of paper to run your pen on before handing it to the player while he's signing for someone else. Running it on your wrist will put oils on the tip and encourage a clog. I use the hat trick. Put an extra slip in the inside brim of your baseball cap and you always have your scrap paper easily accessible to scribble on. You can use your ticket back instead, but be prepared to mark up a potential piece of memorabilia if the game becomes historic by say a no-hitter or perfect game.
Cards: I know a lot of guys who only get baseball's signed on the sweetspot. I think it's essential though to carry cards because let's face it not everyone is someone you want to display on a sweet spotted $15 baseball or even on your batting practice ball if you aren't starting a team ball. The rookies or journeyman players are fine on a card or on a team card.

You also never know who you are going to run into at the stadium or event so I get my blog's "business" cards signed that I use as autograph cards. I know there are the generic autograph signature cards and the famed "sweet spot" autograph card, but I like the feel of having the custom card signed. Below are Rob Gronkowski's autograph on the left and Rainn Wilson's autograph on the right.
  • Note: I like to vary how I carry my cards. Some people are only autograph seekers while I'm also a ballhawk. I don't carry a full sized binder with card sleeves because it's too cumbersome. I carry 2 mini 4 pocket 10 page binders by Ultra Pro. One for the home team, one for the visitors. Some people like card boxes and I will use one on occasion if I don't plan on carrying a bag but I find the edges get messed up if you're in a rush to thumb through the cards.
  • Many collectors at stadiums utilize notebooks with blue tape on the corners to hold their collection and provide a flat surface for the player to sign on. I'm not a fan for a few reasons. You look like a dealer or a hardcore collector and some of the more established players tend to avoid you. I like slipping in under the radar to get my one. Some players if they have the card taped will actually start the autograph on the card but end off the page so you get half a signature. I've seen people hand pages with other players taped to the page but get refused signatures because they don't notice their card next to their fellow player or actually sign the incorrect card.
Photos: For some of the upper tier players or personal favorites sometimes a baseball or a card isn't enough. I've dabbled in printing 8x10 photos from various places and come to a few conclusions. Like all things the photos you print and where you print from are personal preference. I know many guys who swear by photo printing by various places and frankly I don't always understand the hype. I've tried professional developers Adorama to mixed success. I've tried the instant print machines from Walmart and CVS which I don't recommend since the photo stock is oversized and you'll have to trim it yourself and if you aren't confident don't bother getting someone important's autograph on something you may ruin sizing for a frame. I've bought photos from guys who print at Costco and the gloss is nice but the stock feels kind of flimsy to me and it just doesn't hit the right note for me though the price is excellent. My personal preference is the photo center at Walgreens, it's a nice gloss level and solid stock for a reasonable price considering there's almost always some sort of deal being offered online. But try it for yourself, despite the belief that a photo is a photo it's really not. The same way a typewriter and your at home printer has their own unique traits so do the photo print machines and their operators. One office supply store I like the poster prints from has a long time photo tech who has long nails and I've had to have posters reprinted because of long scratches that showed in the light.

Well folks that's that. Like I said everyone has their own preferences on how their collection looks and these are just my own opinions and preferences. A handy beginner's guide to getting some quality in person autographs in your collection that I will add to as time goes on.

If you're interested in learning about autograph collecting through the mail you can read my essentials post here.

I'm often asked how to get autographs at Angel Stadium or how to get autographs at Dodger stadium, I posted a guide on what I think are the actual in the field essentials on how to get autographs in person at a MLB stadium.

I'll also likely add a section on storing autographs.

Monday, July 16, 2012

RBI (94) A Pair of Rehab Hits...

The past week there have been a few stars making a few rehab starts with the local minor league teams here in Southern California. Matt Kemp made one recently but I wasn't in town to go out and try to get him. I did however return from my vacation with the perfect timing to recharge my batteries and get ready to graph.

I eased myself back into graphing with a rehab start of my own by going to get Andre Ethier when he made his second rehab start out in Rancho.
Ethier was really nice and signed for the reasonably sized crowd that was waiting for him, even doing multiples and taking photos with people. I had Andre Ethier autograph this 2011 Topps Lineage and an 8x10 photo that I'm working on getting done.

It was a pretty short wait for Andre and I got to get him pretty quickly. It was a nice and easy at bat to get ready for graphing again.

I worked a full game though when I went to try and get Angels pitcher Dan Haren for his start at Inland Empire with the 66ers. I only had to wait about 45 minutes for Ethier. I had to wait 2 and a half hours for Haren, thankfully it was only in the mid 80's today.
Haren is a tough guy to get. He rarely signs at the stadium and I've heard stories of him being spotted out and about without a very happy ending for the fan who saw him. I wasn't really sure if he'd even sign especially with 7 of us waiting for him. Surprisingly though he parked his car and walked over to us waiting for him and started to sign. I was happy to finally add him to my 2011 team ball. It took him a while to find a spot to sign because it's almost complete and is that much closer with a Dan Haren autograph on my baseball.

All in all not a bad way to end my minor league assignment and get prepared for the Angels coming back home.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

RBI (93) ...Combine For A No-Hitter...

The Mike Witt and Mark Langston combine for a no-hitter call is one of my favorite calls in Angel team history. And every time the Angels take the field I get treated to it as part of the pre-game video introduction.

For those who don't know, Mike Witt is a very tough autograph to get a hold of. He's been notoriously rare to get through the mail and doesn't often do appearances. For the 2012 Angel Fan Fest, the team had Witt come out for the fans. He was really pleasant and nice to meet while signing and he sweet spotted my ball. He wasn't able to write his Perfect Game inscription, so I had a back up plan to make sure my run in with Witt remained a special one.

Mark Langston is a incredibly personable and kind signer, I've never seen him turning down a request when he's on the way to prepare for the Angels radio broadcast. That's especially special considering he had a very notable career as a 4 time All-Star, 7 time Gold Glover with 179 Wins and 2,464 Strikeouts. I had gotten Langston on a few cards, but I had something special planned to recognize his part in Angel history. After getting Witt I kept the ball in my car and the next home series ran to get it and had Langston not only sign the ball, but he was nice enough to inscribe "No Hitter" for me.
The game was special to Angel fans for a long time because until Ervin Santana's in 2011 no halo had tossed one since the Langston/Witt no-no in 1990. Langston started the game against his long time team the Seattle Mariners and tossed great 7 innings. Witt came in and finished the final 2 innings to complete the no-hitter.

Both guys were class acts and this is one of my highlight pieces in my collection.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

RBI (92) A 365 Return Rolls in...

It's been a while since I received a successful 365 challenge return and I've been working on a batch right now, so I thought I'd share the success. It was a quick and very surprising return by a great signer, Arizona Diamondback's starting pitcher Daniel Hudson.

Hudson was a 5th round pick in the 2008 MLB draft, taken by the Chicago White Sox. He flew through the minors and reached the White Sox in September 2009 for a taste of the bigs. He returned to the minors but then was called up in 2010 to replace Jake Peavy following Peavy's injury. Hudson was suitably impressive in his time in the rotation that when the White Sox decided to make a playoff run and wanted veteran innings eater Edwin Jackson, the Diamondbacks took Hudson and a minor leaguer for Jackson.

Hudson was dynamic in the 2011 season, helping ace Ian Kennedy push the Diamondbacks into an unexpected divisional title. He also collected a little piece of hardware for himself in his first year in the National League, being awarded the 2011 Silver Slugger award for a pitcher.
Daniel Hudson was nice enough to personalize and autograph this 2012 Topps Heritage for me c/o the Arizona Diamondbacks after only 12 Days. I'm very happy to have Hudson's reply as I think he's going to be a good solid ace potential pitcher despite his recent injury troubles that will require Tommy John surgery.

On a side note, one of the things that inspired me to write this one was a recent run in with D'backs ace Ian Kennedy. Kennedy informed me he doesn't get to this TTM during the season...but he knew one guy who does...

RBI (91) 100 Years of Fenway and a Red Sox Hall of Famer...

There's no witty tie in for this one, just a few facts.

Fact I just went to Boston for vacation.

Fact my streak of consecutive games with an autograph is over. I went to the night game of the Red Sox-Yankee Saturday double header and didn't get anything. I didn't try any pre or post game graphing and inside I only saw Robinson Cano sign 3 autographs while walking into the dugout.

Fact the next night I decided to treat myself on said vacation to one more game during Fenway Park's 100th Anniversary. I went to a ticket reseller since I knew I didn't have enough cash on hand to get a ticket on the street and was informed of another fact.

Fact the only tickets available were in a suite.

Fact I sat in a suite in Fenway Park.

Fact I have a new streak going.

Story time.

I was informed that the only tickets that were still available were in a suite that the company bought and was selling off. I decided I didn't care and HAD to get into the game to watch the greatest rivalry in sports in the greatest baseball park in the greatest city. Life in the suite. Awesome. Worth every penny.

I however was called during the game and stepped outside to watch the game on the flat screen through the window and take the call. While on the call I saw what? Just a crowd of people asking for an autograph on the floor below me. I immediately turned and sprinted down a pretty good distance to get to the ramp and then down. I caught my target of attention right as he was saying goodnight to a staff member and was walking toward his luxury suite.

"Mr. Tiant, can you sign my ticket please."

Louis Tiant in all his mustached glory turned around, shook his head, and said "Man you kids crazy man" as he reached his hand out toward me. He pulled out his own sharpie and autographed my ticket before putting his sharpie away. Why is this important? Because he handed the ticket back to me with one hand while I said thank you, and as he nodded with his other hand gave me a grandfatherly pat on the cheek "There you go, get out of here."

El Tiante. In Fenway Park. One on One.

For those not versed in El Tiante he is a Cuban born player who played from 1964-1982 for the Indians, Twins, Red Sox, Yankees, Pirates, and Angels. He was a 3 time All-Star, '75 Babe Ruth Award winner, and 1972 AL Comeback Player of the Year. His career line stands at 229-172 with a 3.30 ERA and 2,416 Strikeouts. He was the starter for Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, arguably the greatest game ever played.

He was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 1997 and Hispanic Heritage Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002. He has not made it into Cooperstown and it will be up to the Veterans Committee if he gets to take that plunge. Regardless I have a Louis Tiant autograph in my collection on commemorative Fenway Park ticket stock from a Yankees vs Red Sox game. Awesome.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

RBI (90) A Freshman (fish) All-Star...

Well it's official the Angels have 4 selections in the 2012 All-Star Game in Kansas City, and they're sending some fresh fish to the game. And by fresh fish I of course mean 1st time All-Star 20-year old outfielder Mike Trout.

Trouty attended All-Star festivities before in 2010 at the Big A when he was a member of the 2010 XM Futures Game. You can read more about his minor league career and that game in RBI (1) In honor of the events across the pond...

A 2011 call up let Trout flash his Home Run power and speed, but he showed the need to make adjustments at the plate. His 2012 call up has been that and more and he has boosted his average and OBP by more than 100 points to be in contention for the batting title while demonstrating 20/40 potential. His call up has helped sparked the Halos to play some of the best ball in the MLB and push them in contention for a wild card spot.

I doubt this will be the last time Trout makes an appearance at the All Star game so I hope he gets used to not having a break come July. At least this year he will have some comfort having Mark Trumbo, Jered Weaver, and CJ Wilson along for the ride.
I was able to get this Mike Trout autographed 8x10 photograph in person at Angel Stadium before an Angels game and it's a great piece to have with the 2010 Bowman Platinum Mike Trout Autograph I already have.

Update: I'm glad I was able to get such a large photo signed considering how difficult it's become. Especially now that Mike Trout is officially the 2012 AL Rookie of the Year.