Saturday, September 8, 2018
2004 Topps Cracker Jack, Rafael Palmeiro
#38 Rafael Palmeiro
This has been a pretty bleak year for in-person autographs. Spring Training wasn't as good to me as I had expected. I've only been to three Royals games and did horrible at two of those. The Kansas Stars jumped ship for Louisville. The only place where I have got any consistent action has been at Wingnut games and through the mail requests.
The majority of cards I get signed at Wingnuts games are Bowman and Topps Pro Debut cards. Every now and then, a team has a guy with a bit of big league experience, or maybe even a coach. But this year, something unheard of happened. Rafael Palmeiro, at 53 years of age, signed a contract with the Cleburne Railroaders and I knew I would be getting his autograph when the team came to Wichita in May.
In the days leading up to the game, I was a bit nervous. Cleburne was playing up north and Raffy was not on the road trip. Luckily, he met up with the team in Wichita and was at the game I attended.
I got to the game about five minutes after the gates opened and, to my amazement, Raffy was already on the field. He was down in the dugout talking to another player. I went down there and waited for a break in the conversation so I could ask him for his autograph. When he came over, I was in awe with how well conditioned he looked. Besides for his grey beard, he looked like he belonged there and still looked like a Major League slugger. We traded some banter about his experience in the American Association as he signed my three cards and a ball.
I stayed at the game long enough to see him bat twice. In his first at-bat, we snagged a foul ball before he popped up. Then, in his second at-bat, he roped a single to right field. That was the first time I had seen him play since 2004.
Even though Raffy ended his career on a sour note, he still finished with 3,020 hits and 569 home runs. Getting him to sign for me at a Wichita Wingnuts game was the highlight of my 'graphing summer.