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.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

1996 Leaf Signature Series, Ricky Bottalico

#31 Ricky Bottalico

Here is a card of Ricky Bottalico that I picked up from Check Out My Cards. This one set me back all of one dollar.

I have a thing with COMC where I do not like making a purchase from the site without adding at least one autograph to my order. And I like that one autograph to be cheap. Luckily, that is easy to do with this set as I have amassed a decent collection of it while rarely going over the one dollar mark. That is kind of sad considering how much a pack of this product used to cost back in the day and the reason for the cost was the one autograph in the pack.

Ricky Bottalico caught my fancy because he is a former Royal. He spent just one year in Kansas City and it was the first year I was a fan of the team. Ricky was brought in to be the closer on a team with a very powerful offense. The only problem was that the pitching was horrible and he did not get as many save chances as was expected. Plus, his ERA was close to 5.00, so he just became part of the pitching problem instead of actually helping to fix it. But, he did finish the season 9-6 with 16 saves. That was the last time he ever hit double digits in saves.

Ricky had his hey-day early in his career withe the Phillies. He had back-to-back 34 save seasons in 1996 and '97 and was an All Star in '96. After things went south in Philly (and his ERA went north of 6.00), Ricky saw time with the Cardinals, D-Backs, Mets, Brewers, and a second go-around with the Phils.

He finished his career after the 2005 season with a 33-42 record with 116 saves and a 3.99 ERA.

Monday, November 10, 2014

1996 Collector's Choice, Doug Henry

#627 Doug Henry

Here is one of my most recent Doug Henry signatures. Doug is the bullpen coach for the Royals and he is one of my two go-to guys on slow 'graphing days.

Between the Royals late success this season and getting married, it was kind of a strange end of the year for 'graphing The K this season. Over the final five games I went to, I got two cards and one ball signed. Doug Henry signed the cards and David Ortiz signed the ball.

It all started in early September when we went to The K for my bachelor party. We got to the park about three hours before gametime. While I might have been able to catch the second Red Sox team bus about then, that was not the mission. We were there strictly to tailgate. And tailgate we did. We might have overdone it a bit as most of us do not remember the game. But, that is what bachelor parties are for, right?

Then, we went to the last Royal's regular season home game of the season against Detroit. I was a few weeks away from getting married and had no time to get cards ready for the Tigers. But, I took some Royals cards with me to see if I could get them signed at the pregame autograph session. I had only been to one Sunday autograph session this summer and Billy Butler and Bruce Chen signed. I had seen some other ones and they almost always had one starting pitcher and one position player signing. But, for the final one of the year, they had Dusty Coleman and Francisco Pena. I no cards of either guy with me, so we got out of line and I settled with Doug Henry.

The last three games I went to were all playoff games, one from each series. We did some form of tailgating at each of those, so autographs were not a priority. But, once I found out where the Fox pregame booth was set up at game one of the World Series, getting a ball signed by David Ortiz turned into a must. I stood around for some time, but I eventually came out on top.

I picked this card up from COMC this summer so I could get a card signed by Doug that was not a Brewers card. He apparently has a Topps Total card that pictures him as a Royal. I need to find that card before next summer.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

1996 Collector's Choice, Les Norman

#576 Les Norman

Here is the second and final card that I got signed by Les Norman at Royals Fanfest this past winter. I posted my first Norman card about three months ago and that card can be seen here.

Les played parts of two seasons with the Royals in 1995 and '96. He was an outfielder that could play all three spots and he hit .169 in the Majors. In 89 at-bats, Les had 15 hits, all of them singles except for a lone triple. He drove in 4 runs while scoring 15 and swiping one bag.

After that, Les was back down in the minors. He played in AAA through the 2000 season. He then retired, only to re-appear in the Northern League for a few games in 2003 and 2005.

Les is now in radio and his Saturday morning show, "Breaking the Norm", can be heard on a handful of stations in the Midwest.

The foil signature on this card varies a great deal from his current signature.