Sunday, November 30, 2014

1996 Topps, Phil Nevin

#348 Phil Nevin

Here is the first of three cards that I got signed by Phil Nevin at Spring Training this past year. Phil is the manager of the Diamondbacks AAA team in Reno and he was nice enough to sign the cards for me after working out the D-Backs infielders on the miniature infield field. When I first got to that spot, I had no clue who he was. But, luckily, there were other 'graphers out there that helped me out.

Phil is a former number one that pick that ended up playing twelve seasons in the Major Leagues with with the Astros, Tigers, Angels, Padres, Rangers, Cubs, and Twins. He was a stud in college and won the Golden Spikes Award and the Most Outstanding Player Award as he lead his Cal State Fullerton Titans to the College World Series championship game in 1992. He was taken first overall by the Astros in the draft and started his pro career the following season.

Phil skipped a bunch of minor league levels and started off at AAA. He hit great there, hitting .286 with 10 home runs and 93 RBI in his first season. The repeated AAA the next year and did good again, though his numbers fell off a bit. He did get a September call-up to Houston, but hit just .117.

The problem with Phil at that point was his defense. He was drafted as a third baseman, but in his two seasons on the Astros AAA team, he had 60 errors at the hot corner. He had 3 errors there as well during his September call-up. He had 17 errors in AAA through 57 games the next season when Houston traded their former number one pick to the Tigers for Mike Henneman.

The Tigers went to work on finding a position Phil could play at the Major League level. As an American League team, I do not know why he would not be just a full time DH. Phil spent most of the '96 season at AA working on a variety of positions, but mostly catcher. He would only start two games at catcher for the Tigers, though, before they shipped him off to the Angels.

With Detroit, Phil spent parts of three seasons at the Major League level and he hit .246 with 19 home runs and 66 RBI.

I had completely forgotten that I had posted a Padrograph of Phil about three years ago. That card can be seen here.

It is probably hard to read on this scan, but the gold foil part on the cards reads "NOW APPEARING". Is this supposed to be a replacement for the Future Stars subset?

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.

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.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

1996 Collector's Choice, Mike Sweeney

#438 Mike Sweeney

Here is a card that I got signed at All Star Game Fanfest in Kansas City in 2012. I was pretty excited that Mike was taking part in the event for a couple of reasons. The main reason I was excited was because I had never got a card signed by him in-person. When he was playing for the Royals, I was into getting balls signed. The other reason I was excited was because he has never attended Royals Fanfest and I was looking forward to seeing him after his playing days were over.

I became a Royals fan in 2000 and Mike had a career year that season. In 2000, Mike hit .333 with 29 home runs, 105 runs, and 144 RBI. On top of that, he walked more than he struck out. It was insane. That Royals team had the best offensive season that the franchise had ever seen. It was a fun time to be a new Royals fan, but it would have been even better if they had some pitching to complement the likes of Sweeney, Joe Randa, Jermaine Dye, Johnny Damon, and Carlos Beltran.

Side note: Of the previous five players mentioned, only one has ever attended Royals Fanfest- Joe Randa. Something needs to be done to rectify that.

If I remember right, Mike ended up hurting his back during an All Star break while riding in a vehicle with his family in California. He had constant back issues after that and was never the same player again. That really sucked as a Royals fan as he was the one the franchise dished out the long-term contract to. Nevertheless, he is the face of the franchise for the 2000s and one day he will be in the Royals Hall of Fame. Now if only he would show up for a Royals Fanfest.

I decided to get this card signed because I liked the stripes and you can see Mike's shinguards. Mike finished his career a pinch hitter/designated hitter, and had his best times as a first baseman, but did begin his career as a catcher. I would assume that most people have forgotten that.

I got this card signed early on the first day of Fanfest. The guys that authenticated stuff must have been a little dumbfounded that I was getting a card signed as they put the sicker on the front of the card. All of the other cards that they authenticated the rest of the week had the sicker placed on the back.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

1996 Best Harrisburg Senators, Scott Forster

#12 Scott Forster

Here is the last of four straight minor league cards. Next, I will be coming with some guys with Royals ties before hitting a solid month of Leaf Signature Series.

Here is another Best team set card that was sent to me by Ryan, from The Great Orioles Autograph Project. Like the card I posted yesterday, I assumed Scott Forster was another career minor leaguer. And like yesterday, I was wrong again.

Scott made it to the big leagues for one season with the Expos in 2000. He made it into 42 games and it looks like he was mainly used as a left-handed specialist since he only pitched 32 innings. Or he might have only pitched 32 innings because he did not do so hot. That season, he went 0-1 with a 7.88 ERA. Yikes, that is a lofty ERA for 42 games of Major League work.

I mentioned that Scott might have been used as a LOOGY based on that fact that he is left-handed and pitched in less innings than games. So, I decided to look at his splits for that season and that definitely was not the case. Scott fared much better against righties than lefties. He faced 36 more righties that season than lefties and the righties hit just .195 while the lefties teed off for a .289 average. Left-handed hitters also hit one more home run off of him than righties.

After his one season in The Show, it was back to the minors for Scott. He pitched for four more seasons, splitting time in three different organizations and with three different Atlantic League squads.

Monday, November 3, 2014

1996 Best Binghamton Mets, Brian Edmondson

#6 Brian Edmondson

Here is another minor league card that was given to me by Ryan, from the Great Orioles Autograph Project. This was part of a small lot of random autos and Royals that Ryan sent me a couple of years ago.

When I got this card, I assumed that Brian Edmondson was just one of the many minor league players that never made it to the Major Leagues. It turns out that I was wrong.

Brian was originally drafted in the third round by the Tigers in 1991. He advanced up to AA with them before landing in the Mets organization. He spent three years in the Mets system and in his final year, he posted a 1.23 ERA at AA and a 2.90 ERA in AAA. The Braves took notice and selected Brian in the Rule V Draft after the season.

He made his Major League debut with the Braves in 1998 and was 0-1 with a 4.32 ERA in 10 games. The Braves designated him for assignment in June and he was picked up by the Marlins, whom he finished the season with. He was back with the Marlins again in '99 and pitched in 68 games for them, all out of the bullpen.

He seems to have missed all of the 2000 season, but played for three more seasons after that in the minor leagues. For his career, Brian pitched in 121 Major League games and was 9-12 with 1 save and a 4.98 ERA.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Royals Playoff Contest Results

The Royals made a great run through the playoffs, but ultimately came up two runs shy of winning it all. They ran into a beast of a pitcher who now is probably my least favorite player in baseball.

Sorry it took me so long, but the results are in. Nobody picked the Royals to lose in seven games. One person picked them to lose in six and that is our winner. Congrats to Paul, from Paul's Random Stuff. I will get your prize out to you sometime this week. If your address has changed, let me know.

Thanks to all that entered.