Thursday, November 27, 2014

1996 Leaf Signature Series Extended, Matt Mantei

#120 Matt Mantei

Here is the final card that I have to post from this set. Like most of them, I bought this card to make up for a ball that I got signed at a game. Matt signed my ball at a Royals game in 2003 while he was with the Diamondbacks. That ball probably cost me $16. This card cost me $0.75.

I like to say that signing autographs is good karma for a player. More often than not, it seems like a player that signs for me before a game tends to have a good game. That was the case for Matt that game. Though he was a little a shaky (three walks in two innings), he and the D-Backs prevailed and Matt got the W.

Matt pitched in the Majors for ten seasons with the Marlins, Diamondbacks, and Red Sox. He pitched exclusively out of the 'pen and compiled a 14-18 record with 93 saves and a 4.07 ERA. His best season was with the D-Backs in 2003 when he had a career-high 29 saves with a 2.62 ERA.

For some reason, I picture Matt as a dominant closer from his era. But, he never made an All Star team and never recorded a 30 save season. I don't know what I was thinking.

Here is the ball that Matt signed for me that day.

I like Matt's signature. You cannot read it, but it is stylish.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

1996 Leaf Signature Series Extended, Jason Christiansen

#28 Jason Christiansen

Here is a card of Jason Christiansen that I picked up from COMC for ninety-nine cents. I bought this card because I got Jason's signature at a Cardinals game in 2000. Since it was 2000, the autograph was on a ball and not on a card.

That was quite the road trip. I can't remember what prompted my buddy and I to make the trek to St. Louis. I actually don't remember a whole lot about the trip. The only thing that I vividly remember is staying in the most ghetto motel that I have ever been in.

The place looked pretty normal from the front, so we went in and got a room. Then we drove around to the back where the actual rooms were and we were like "WTF did we get ourselves in for". There were two or three rooms where people were sitting outside on lawn chairs drinking forties. We quickly found our room and hurried inside. Inside was not much better. The furniture looked like it was picked up from yard sales as nothing matched. On top of that, the chain lock was hanging from the door and not attached to the wall like the door had been kicked in at some point. Then we checked out the bathroom and discovered that the toilet from the room above ours was leaking and dripping straight into our toilet. Needless to say, neither of us dropped a deuce that night. We didn't sleep that well either.

Jason pitched in the Majors for eleven seasons with the Pirates, Cardinals, Giants, and Angels. He pitched exclusively out of the bullpen and posted a 27-26 record with 16 saves and a 4.30 ERA. His best season came with the Pirates in 1998 when he appeared in a career-high 60 games and had a 2.51 ERA, 6 saves, and 71 strikeouts.

Here is a picture of the ball that Jason signed. It is a cheap souvenir ball and the Sharpie signature has bled a bit. Mike Timlin also signed the ball. I need to get a card signed by him as well. He also has one in this set, but right now it costs twice as much as this card did.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

1996 Leaf Signature Series Extended, Mike Aldrete

#2 Mike Aldrete

On yesterday's post of Joe Vitiello, I mentioned that I bought the card for no other reason than the fact that he was a former Royal. Well, here is a card I bought for no reason at all. I bought it just to get an autograph along with cards I was buying from COMC. Mike never played for the Royals and I never got him to sign a non-card item at a game. But, I now have this sweet card of him and it set me back only ninety-seven cents.

Mike played in the Majors for ten seasons with the Giants, Expos, Padres, Indians, A's, Angels, and Yankees. He got some decent playing time with the Giants in the late '80s, appearing in 100+ games twice. He played first and the corner outfield spots. In 1987, he had his best season. He hit a career-high .325 with 9 home runs and 51 RBI.

After the Giants traded him to Montreal, Mike got relegated to back-up duty. He would stay in that role for the rest of his career.

As noted on this card, Mike got traded to the Yankees. In his short tenure with them, he had a couple of firsts. He made his Major League pitching debut that season. He came into a game in the eighth inning in Milwaukee with one runner on. The Yanks were down by eleven and he escaped with just one hit and the inherited runner scoring. So, he has a career 0.00 ERA.

The second first he accomplished in pinstripes was playing in a World Series. He was a defensive replacement in game one, who was then pinch hit for in the ninth. He did get an at-bat, though, in game four. He pinch hit for the pitcher and grounded out to short. That was the extent of his World Series action.

I like the photo on this card. Minus the batting cage and the missing facade at Yankee Stadium, it is reminiscent of some older Topps cards.

It is kind of funny that Mike signed above his name on here. Every other card I have from this set has the signature below the name.

Friday, November 21, 2014

1996 Leaf Signature Series, Joe Vitiello

#232 Joe Vitiello

This card set me back all of ninety-five cents. Like the Sal Fasano and Ricky Bottalico cards I also posted from this set, I got this one just because Joe is a former Royal. The only difference, though, is that I never saw Joe play.

Joe was drafted by the Royals in the first round of the 1991 draft out of Alabama. He signed quickly and was assigned to Eugene in the Northwest League. He tore up that circuit over the 19 games he played there (.328 avg, 6 HR, and 21 RBI). He was then bumped up to AA where he struggled. He hit just .219 there over 36 games.

The next season was spent entirely in the Florida State League before spending all of 1993 in the Southern Association (AA). In 1994, he was moved up to AAA Omaha and that became Joe's home for the next six seasons. Over that time, he was called up to Kansas City yearly from 1995-99. But, he could never stick with the Big League club.

As a Kansas City Royal, Joe played in 205 games and hit .235 with 21 home runs and 83 RBI. With the Omaha Royals, though, Joe played in 431 games and hit .304 with 80 homers and 312 RBI. Joe Vitiello was essentially a AAAA player.

After his time with the Royals, Joe played five more seasons, mostly at AAA. He did spend one season in Japan and did have a couple of call-ups with San Diego and Montreal. He did real well with the Expos, too, hitting .342 over 76 at-bats. But, it was back to the minors the next season which ended up being his last.

For his career, Joe was a .248 hitter with 26 home runs and 104 RBI.

Monday, November 17, 2014

1996 Leaf Signature Series, Jason Giambi

#77 Jason Giambi

Like yesterday's post, here is a card I bought to make up for not having a card to get signed at a ballgame. This one was more expensive than the ones that I usually pick up from this set. But, I still got it for under $4 and that is not bad for Jason Giambi.

Back in 2000, I started going to a bunch of Royals game. I was in Manhattan, attending Kansas State, and Kansas City was less than two hours away. I probably averaged at least a dozen games a year during my four years there. That first year, I tried getting autographs at every game I went to. I would try to get balls signed at that time, and that proved to be an expensive endeavor that netted very few big name players. In other words, it was a waste of a ball.

That season, I went to most of the games with a girlfriend. I would try to 'graph the Royals and I would send her over to 'graph the visitors. She had no clue what she was doing, and didn't want to do it in the first place, but she did so anyways (kind of like my wife does now). To make it simple, I told her to just go over there and wait for someone to start signing and then get in on the action.

One day, the A's were in town and there must not have been many 'graphers at the ballpark. Because of that, she was standing all alone with her ball. Jason Giambi walked by and asked her if she wanted him to sign it. Yes, you read that part right. Jason Giambi asked her if she wanted his autograph. To this day, I am still amazed by how that worked and am a big Giambi fan because of it. I have been to hundreds of games since then and still have not seen anything like that take place. Did I mention that he was in the middle of an MVP season, too?

I know that Giambi had taken a lot of flack for his PED use and I understand that. And, I wasn't too high on him when he was with the Yankees. But, nevertheless, this is still one of the best autograph stories I have ever witnessed. Because of that, I had to acquire a signed card of him to share it on here.

Never mind the fact that I got three cards signed by him at The K about six months later.

Here is the ball he signed for me almost fifteen years ago. Unfortunately, I was not using blue pens then and the ink has faded a bit.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

1996 Leaf Signature Series, Marvin Freeman

#73 Marvin Freeman

Here is another COMC addition that cost less than a dollar. I bought this card because I got Marvin's autograph at a Rockies game in 1996 and all I had to get signed was a Rockies program. I was barely collecting cards at the time and didn't even realize I would be heading to a Rockies game when we went to Colorado to play some baseball games. So this card is to make up for not getting a card signed at the game. There will be a few more like this coming up with this set.

Marvin played in the Majors for ten seasons with the Phillies, Braves, Rockies, and White Sox. He was both a reliever and a starter while getting most of his starts at the end of his career. Marvin's career record is 35-28 with 5 saves and a 4.64 ERA.

Marvin's best season came with the Rockies in 1994. That season, he was 10-2 with a 2.80 ERA over 18 starts and a relief appearance. Those are pretty good numbers for a pre-humidor Rockies pitcher. Unfortunately, he could not reproduce those numbers the following seasons in Denver as his ERA jumped to 5.89 the next season and 6.04 the season after that.

This apparently is the first Rockies card I have posted in over two years.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

1996 Leaf Signature Series, Sal Fasano

#65 Sal Fasano

The next COMC pick-up is this card of Sal Fasano. Like most of the cards that I buy from this set, this one cost me one dollar.

There wasn't any real reason why I bought this card. Sal used to play for the Royals, which is a plus, but that is about the only thing that ties me to him. I guess I just really like his mustache. Unfortunately, Sal wasn't wearing his trade mark Fu Manchu when this card came out. Here is a better look at it.

I like to call this style of mustache the "Ft. Polk Special". When I was in the Army, I had to go to Ft. Polk for a week of training. While I was there, it seemed like every civilian working on the post had a mustache like this.

Sal played in the Majors for parts of eleven seasons with the Royals, A's, Rockies, Angels, Orioles, Phillies, Yankees, Blue Jays, and Indians. The journeyman catcher was mainly a third-stringer who only got called up when one of the first two catchers got hurt. His best season came with the O's in 2005 when he hit .250 with a career high of 11 home runs.

For his career, Sal was a .221 hitter with 47 dingers.

Sal is currently the Blue Jays catching coordinator.