Friday, January 31, 2014

1988 Donruss, Mike Birkbeck

#49 Mike Birkbeck

This is the second of three cards that Mike Birkbeck signed for me in Omaha in 2012. Mike is the pitching coach at Kent State and he signed the cards for me before a game at the College World Series, hence the "CWS 2012" inscription.

Mike pitched in the Majors for parts of six seasons with the Brewers and Mets. He was almost exclusively a starter and he has a career record of 12-19 with a 4.86 ERA. 10 of his wins came for the Brewers in 1988 when he made a career-high 23 starts, finishing the season 10-8 with a 4.72 ERA and 64 strikeouts.

Mike's best Major League season might just be his final season in the Bigs. In 1995, he made just four starts for the Mets. After a rough initial outing where he gave up three runs in six innings, Mike went on to pitch 21.2 more innings while surrendering just two runs. Unfortunately, the Mets lost all three games while scoring just six total runs. Mike, however, got a no decision in each one.

After that season, Mike went on to pitch in Japan for parts of two seasons. He only made ten starts there and went 2-2. Those two wins, though, were his first "Major League" wins since 1988.

I am heading up to Royals Fanfest tomorrow and I am pumped. I am not expecting to rake in the autographs there like I did five years ago, but I am still excited. It has been a long, cold winter and I am ready to get some autographs. I even got some cards from the 2014 Topps set that I am ready to get signed. If I can do that, this will be the quickest that I ever got a card from the most recent Topps base set signed.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

1987 Topps, Ken Oberkfell

#627 Ken Oberkfell

Here is the first of three cards that I got signed by Ken Oberkfell at a Wichita Wingnuts game last summer. Well, at least it was supposed to be the first of three. Since then, it has turned into the second of four since my kid got a card signed by him and then abandoned it in his room.

Ken played for six teams during his sixteen year Major League career. I already had his '81 Donruss card signed a few years back from when he was with the Cardinals and I was able to add three different teams this go around. I was glad to get this card signed because I had gone two years without getting a card from this set signed. On top of that, when I think of Ken, I always think of him as a Brave. He only played for Atlanta for about four seasons, but that was right when I was really getting into baseball and would watch any game that was on TBS or WGN. Because of that, he is ingrained in my head as a Brave.

I was a little worried about getting this card signed in blue with him wearing a blue jacket in the photo. It would have looked a little better in black, but I am not disappointed in the outcome at all.

Ken is the manager of the Lincoln Saltdogs of the American Association.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

1987 Topps, Mike Maddux

#553 Mike Maddux

Here is a card that I got signed outside of Kauffman Stadium last year. It was the last homestand of the season and the Rangers were in town. Mike is the Rangers pitching coach and he showed up to the park in a cab with Andy Hawkins and Jackie Moore. All three guys signed autographs that day, though Mike tried to make an excuse not to.

It was a Sunday, so it was a getaway day for the Rangers. They were leaving Kansas City after the game. All of the coaches had a bag or two when they got out of the cab. Mike had a pull along suitcase and another bag. When he was first asked to sign, he said that he couldn't because of his bags. They guy that asked said it was alright because he would hold his bag for him. So, Mike signed for a couple of minutes and every person he signed for had to hold his bag while he signed their item. It was a little strange, yet comical at the same time.

He signed just one of the three cards I had of him that day, but that was one more than he signed for me the previous year. That time, I tried to get him inside the park in the bullpen. It was a little before game time and he was in there waiting for the starting pitching to start warming up. I finally got his attention and he came over and caught my autograph book I dropped down to him. He took one look at the single card I had of him, his 1990 CMC Albuquerque Dukes card, and looked back up to me and asked if I had any Major League cards of him. I told him that was the only card I had and he threw the book back up to me and walked off. It seems like Mike doesn't like to sign his minor league cards.

So, if you ever have the chance to get Mike Maddux's autograph, make sure you bring a Major League card of him.

Monday, January 27, 2014

1987 Procards Ft. Myers Royals, Brian McRae

#2245 Brian McRae

Here is a card that I got signed at Royals Fanfest last winter. Brian is a regular at the event and I have lost track of how many cards that I have signed by him. It has gotten to the point where now I just focus on getting oddball and minor league cards signed by him. He is going to be at Fanfest again later this week and I think I still need a Mets card signed by him. So, that is going to be one of my goals Saturday.

I got this Ft. Myers Royals teamset for Christmas many years ago. I got one card signed from the set in 1993 and it took me twenty years to add this second signed card. I am going to try for number three on Saturday, but Fanfest has pretty much been hit or miss the last several years. You just hop in an autograph line and hope whoever shows up at the table is someone you really need autographs from and not Brian McRae. No disrespect to Brian, but I still do not have anything signed by Salvador Perez. He is my number one goal for Saturday.

Apparently, Brian was drafted by the Royals as a second baseman. He played that position for his first four professional seasons before switching to the outfield for his first full season of AA in 1988. At the Major League level, Brian never played the field at any position besides centerfield.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

1987 Fleer, Bobby Thigpen

#507 Bobby Thigpen

Yesterday, I posted a card from the White Sox old bullpen coach, Juan Nieves. Here is one from their current bullpen coach, Bobby Thigpen.

I got this card, and another one, signed by Bobby at Spring Training last year. We went to see the White Sox game and got there early enough to watch the players do their morning workouts on the back fields. Unfortunately, the Major League camp was not working out that day, but all of the minor leaguers were. Most of the autographs I got that day were from the minor league coaches. Towards the end of the workout, though, I noticed a guy signing who had driven out to the field on a golf cart. I had no clue who it was and I had to ask one of the other guys. Turns out it was Bobby. I thought for sure that I would recognise him if I saw him, but that was not the case.

I was pretty excited to get these cards signed because Bobby was a Major League record holder for many years. In 1990, he saved 57 games for the White Sox. That was eleven more than the old record that was set by Dave Righetti in 1986. Bobby's record stood for eighteen years before Francisco Rodriguez saved 62 for the Angels in 2008. Bobby is still in second place for the single-season saves mark. Dave Righetti, however, has dropped out of the top thirty.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

1987 Fleer, Juan Nieves

#352 Juan Nieves

Here is the first of three cards that Juan Nieves signed for me in 2012. Juan was the White Sox bullpen coach at the time and he signed the three cards for me in Kansas City by the visiting team's bullpen prior to the start of the game.

I just checked Juan's career stats and I was shocked to see that he only pitched for three seasons. I went over to Wikipedia to see if I could find out why his career was so short and all it said was that an arm injury ended it.

He tried to pitch for a couple more seasons in the minors, but apparently his arm was not holding up. He made three starts in AAA in 1989 and seven in A-ball in 1990. That was the end of his career until he made a comeback bid with the independent Sioux Falls Canaries of the Northern League in 1998. He made five starts with them and went 0-3 with 8.06 ERA before re-retiring and dedicating himself to coaching.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

1987 Fleer, Chris Bosio

#338 Chris Bosio

Here is the first of three cards that I got signed by Chris Bosio at Spring Training last year. Chris is the pitching coach for the Cubs and I was able to get the cards signed by the Cubs bullpen before a game against the Brewers in Maryvale.

This was my second encounter with Chris as I was able to get him to sign three cards for me two and a half years ago when he was the pitching coach for the Brewers AAA in Nashville. Those cards were signed in Des Moines at an Iowa Cubs game. It's kind of funny that the first time I got him was while he worked for the Brewers and was visiting the Cubs. Then this last time, he was working with the Cubs and visiting the Brewers.

Chris is going to be back with the Cubbies again this year. He is one of the few holdovers from Dale Sveum's staff. Speaking of the Cubs coaching staff, I noticed that Eric Hinske is now their first base coach. I guess I did not realize that he had retired.

Monday, January 20, 2014

1987 Donruss, Barry Larkin

#492 Barry Larkin

Here is a card that I got signed by Barry Larkin at the College World Series in 2012. Barry works some college games for ESPN during the tournament, so it is not uncommon for him to be in Omaha. I saw him there a few years back at the AT&T Fanfest tent and got an 8x10 signed by him. Unfortunately, he would only sign the 8x10 at that time.

When I saw that he was going to be signing in 2012, I was excited because he wasn't going to be in the AT&T tent (where only signing the 8x10 is the norm). Instead, he was going to be a the Capital One booth. There was one small problem, though. I did not take any cards of Barry with me. So, when I got the chance, I went over to the card shop across the street from old Rosenblatt. There, I was able to find this card. It set me back $1.50, which I thought was a little steep. But, I got it signed, so I cannot complain.

Barry got inducted into Cooperstown in 2012. But, since the CWS is in June, he had not been inducted yet. Otherwise I would have asked for a Hall of Fame inscription.

Barry is fun to meet. The first time I met him, he had just started working college games and I asked him who he was paired with when he worked the Super Regional. He told me and then started asking what I thought about the little fight that Brett Wallace got into with his Arizona State teammate. Then, the time I got this card signed, I was wearing a Royals cap and he started asking about the All Star Game the Royals were hosting late that summer. He seems like he would be a fun guy to just sit and watch a game with. He likes to ask questions and get others opinions rather than just talk non-stop and be the life of the party.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

1987 Donruss, Mike Birkbeck

#33 Mike Birkbeck

Here is the first of many late '80s signed cards from Brewers pitchers. I didn't plan it that way. It just sort of happened.

I was able to get this card and two others signed by Mike Birkbeck at the 2012 College World Series. Mike is the pitching coach at Kent State and I got the cards signed before the Golden Flashes very first College World Series game. While I always come home from Omaha with autographs from Fanfest, getting Mike was the only time that I have ever 'graphed at an actual game in Omaha.

I thought that it was pretty cool that he inscribed "CWS 2012" on all three cards. It was kind of an afterthought for him as he signed all three cards with just his signature. He then went back and added the inscription to each one.

I started collecting cards in 1985 and all I saw my first two years was Topps and 1986 Sportsflics. This Donruss set was the first set I had seen besides those two and I loved this set. 1987 was a fun year to collect as Topps brought back the Future Stars and Rookie Cup subsets. But, I love this set more because of the Rated Rookies and Diamond Kings. I finally added a signed Rated Rookie card from the set to my collection.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

1986 Topps, Jackie Moore

#591 Jackie Moore

Here is a card that I got signed before the Royals last home game last season. The Rangers were in town and Jackie was their bench coach. I got this card signed when he was dropped off at the park in a cab with a couple of other coaches. When I asked him to sign, he started walking over to a person a few people down from me. Then I called his name again and he came over saying that the sun was blinding him.

Jackie managed just parts of three seasons with the A's in the mid '80s. He was named manager mid-season in 1984 after Steve Boros was fired. He finished the year just under .500 with a 57-61 record. In 1985, his only full season as manager, he lead the A's to a 77-85 record, which was fifth in the division. His club started off 29-44 in 1986 before he got fired, only to eventually be replaced by Tony LaRussa.

For his career, Jackie's A's were 163-190 under him.

Jackie will not be back with the Rangers this season. He has been replaced as bench coach by Tim Bogar.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

1986 Topps, Ron Roenicke

#63 Ron Roenicke

Here is the second and final card that I got signed by Ron Roenicke at Spring Training last year. The first one was from the '86 Fleer Update set and you can see that by scrolling down a couple of posts. Ron is the manager of the Brewers and he signed this card for me after the game against the White Sox at Camelback Ranch, which happened to be the nicest park we saw on out trip.

Ron has managed the Brew Crew since 2011. His first season there, he led the club to a 96-66 record and won the National League Central behind Ryan Braun's MVP season. The team beat the Diamondbacks in the divisional series before losing the Cardinals in the NLCS. The Brewers slipped to third in 2012, but did post an 83-79 record. This past season saw Ron post his first losing record, in part to Braun's suspension, of 74-88.

After breakout years from Jean Segura and Alexis Gomez and a full season of Braun, it will be interesting to see how the Brewers do this season.

I took this card with me to a Royals game to get signed a few years back when Ron was a coach for the Angels. I obviously did not get it signed there, but it did end up with a couple of wrinkles in the lower right corner. Unfortunately, I had so many cards to search for on my trip, that I did not have the time to find a replacement for it.

Ron sure does have an interesting signature.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

1986 Topps, Bobby Wine

#57 Bobby Wine

Last year, I posted this card of Bobby Wine that I unlocked in the Topps Diamond Giveaway. It was a card from his playing days and was the reason I was even writing to Bobby. But, right before I sent the card out, I decided to throw this card in the envelope with it. As you can see, Bobby signed it, too, and now I have a signed card from his playing days and as a manager.

Technically, Bobby was never a full time manager. He was the interim manager for the Braves at the end of the 1985 season after Eddie Haas got fired. He lead the team for the final 41 games of the season and went 16-25 during that time. Chuck Tanner replaced him for the 1986 season. But, Bobby got one final baseball card from the ordeal and it fails to mention interim anywhere on it.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

1986 Fleer, Ron Roenicke

#U99 Ron Roenicke

Here is a card that I got signed on my Spring Training trip last year. I went and saw Ron's Brewers play the White Sox. Since I see the Sox play a lot in Kansas City, I focused on getting 'graphs from the Brewers that day. Not too many guys signed before the game and even fewer signed afterwards. In fact, Ron was the lone post game signer. But, he took his time and signed for everybody that wanted one and I came home with two cards signed by him.

I usually take three cards of a player/coach when I go 'graphing, but, for some reason, I only took two of Ron. The only explanation I can come up with for that is because I had to get cards for so many people on the trip, I didn't feel like searching for one extra card.

Ron played in the Majors for parts of eight seasons with the Dodgers, Mariners, Padres, Giants, Phillies, and Reds. He was a .238 hitter who hit 17 home runs, including a career-high of 5 in 1986.

Ron was drafted five times before he ended up signing.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

1986 Fleer, Steve McCatty

#427 Steve McCatty

Here is the second card that Washington Nationals pitching coach, Steve McCatty, signed for me at Kauffman Stadium last year. The first card I posted was his '85 Topps card and it can be seen here.

Steve pitched his entire Major League career with the A's. That career spanned parts of nine seasons where he went 63-63 with 5 saves and a 3.99 ERA. His best season was the strike-shortened 1981 season. That year, he matched his career best with 14 wins while having his best ERA (2.33) and most complete games (16) and shutouts (4). Unfortunately, his best season didn't carry over into the playoffs as he gave up 5 earned runs in just 3.1 innings in his lone appearance that postseason.

I just checked the Nats site and Steve is returning to the club in the same role this season.