Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Non-Hof Autographs: random 2009 Indians

During 2009 Spring Training, my aunt (who is a massive Cleveland Indians fan), asked if I'd like to join her in Phoenix for a few days of baseball and sunshine.  I had never been to spring training, so I quickly agreed.  We ended up going to several games - a few with the Indians, one with the Dodgers, and a game with the Rangers (which I've already mentioned).

Spring Training is an amazing time to get up close and personal to big league players.  During the time there, I ended up getting several signatures on a Cleveland Indians score book.  The cover was autographed by coach, Luis Rivera.  Other signatures found on the pages include manager Eric Wedge, and players Travis Hafner, David Delucci, Ryan Garko, Jamey Caroll, Trevor Crowe, and Shin-Soo Choo.

Of this group, Hafner has done the most in his career in the bigs.  Caroll has found a niche as a utility infielder, and Garko has displayed moments of powerful hitting at the corner positions.  However it might be Choo who has the best big league career by the time these players all retire.  If he does have a Hall of Fame worthy career, he would be the first Korean (and Asian) player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

As mentioned before, Spring Training is an amazing place to get signatures.  I also have a ticket stub that has several Indian players on it, but that will be for a future installment.  It is also where I met Bob Feller and obtained my first ever Hall of Famer signature.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Failure (sort of) #6: Hank Aaron


Hank Aaron will forever be remembered by baseball fans as the man who broke Babe Ruth's all time home run record.  He is a figure who has many fans, and many enemies (those angry with him for breaking Ruth's sacred record for instance).  Aaron's home run record was surpassed just a few years ago by Barry Bonds (although many still consider Aaron the rightful record holder because he was never linked to performance enhancing drugs the way Bonds has been).

Today I recieved the above photo - a quite striking black and white image of Aaron's historic home run.  It is signed - but sadly, this signature is just a printed autograph.  I did not receive my original 3x5 note card back, nor did I receive this item in my SASE.

I have mixed feelings about this one.  For starters, its been weeks since I received my last through the mail autograph, so it was quite a thrill to get some mail today.  I've also read plenty of web forums that indicate that Aaron does NOT sign through the mail and any signature you get back will no doubt be a fake.  This one is somewhere in between.  It appears to be his actual signature, but it is clearly a mass produced item that Hammerin' Hank certainly did not sign.

I've come to realize that I appreciate whenever I get at least something back in the mail.  Whether it is a price list showing what it costs for an autograph, or just a fan photo, I appreciate that something is sent to me.  Currently I've got 25 requests sent out that I do not know if I will ever see again.  That sense of unknowing is sort of scary in a collection like this.  Did my mail get lost?  Did the player simply throw away my request?  Is their stack of incoming mail so large that I may receive something a few years from now?

Sadly, I have no way of knowing.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Non-HoF Autographs: Roy Halladay


Roy Halladay was easily my favorite Blue Jay during his tenure with the team.  While I was broken-hearted to see him go to the Phillies (and then pitch a perfect game this year), I still admire his ability from a distance.

I was in attendance at his second career start when he came within one out of throwing a no-hitter, and I watched him pitch incredible games on several occasions.  Through many up-and-down seasons of Blue Jay baseball, he was a constant bright spot.

I obtained this autograph through the mail.  I sent it to him care of the Jays, and included a return envelope, not knowing if I'd ever see it again.  It arrived autographed in thin sharpie (making it somewhat hard to read) several months later - much to my delight.

I really hope he enters the Hall of Fame one day, and if he does, I hope his plaque shows him with a Blue Jay cap on his head.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Non-HoF Autographs: Random 2009-10 Blue Jays

Over the last few years I've dragged this ball (which I originally snagged during batting practice at a game in Oakland) with me whenever I attend a game involving the Blue Jays (ironically, never in Toronto), on the off chance that I get a signature or two.  It has paid off to the point that I now have eleven different signatures on this particular baseball.

They are a bit hard to make out, but if my memory serves me correctly, the following players are included - Brandon League, Scott Richmond (his autograph is enormous), Mike McCoy, Bill Murphy, Ricky Romero (you can read about getting his autograph right here), Scott Downs, Lyle Overbay, Jesse Litsch, Kevin Millar, Brett Cecil, and Brandon Morrow (who ironically was obtained by the Jays in a trade for the other Brandon on this ball, and came within one out of a no-hitter earlier this season).  

As far as potential Hall of Famers?  It is still far too early to tell in the careers of many of the pitchers - Romero or Morrow may have a shot - but most of these guys will probably never see the eternal shrine of Cooperstown.  But with this particular ball, the enjoyment has been about simply meeting these guys in person long enough to get them to sign their names.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Non-HoF Autographs: Jonathan Broxton


I'm a fan of any pitcher who throws really hard and can get a strike-out in a tight spot.  At times, Jonathan Broxton is just that pitcher.  He's a big guy, and he throws close to 100 mph on a consistant basis.  He is an All Star, and may prove to be worthy of the Hall of Fame when he arrives at the end of his career.

Unfortunately, at the time of this blog posting, he has not been doing quite so well.  He temporarily lost his closer role, and has been struggling to get hitters to swing and miss.

I blogged about getting this autograph over at my other blog.  I think it would be really cool to get Russell Martin to autograph the bottom of this image.  Oh, and I guess it would be fun to get the hitter, Albert Pujols (a player who is almost certainly going to be elected to the Hall of Fame) to sign as well, but chances are pretty slim for that to happen.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Non-HoF Autographs: Josh Hamilton


I snagged this autograph at a spring training game in 2009.  Josh Hamilton played the first few innings and then headed to the showers.  At this particular spring training park, the players had to exit the field by walking all the way down the first base line and out through a gate in the outfield wall.

Of course when the fans saw him sauntering down the long walk right in front of them, everyone clammored for an autograph (including me).  He was nice enough to sign for a long period of time - long enough for me to make it from the opposite side of the stadium to where he was standing.  Sadly he signed my ticket stub upside-down, but I guess that isn't that important.

Hamilton's career began as a super-prospect touted to become one of the greatest ever.  A huge signing bonus led to living life large, and ended up leading to substance abuse problems.  Many thought his career was finished, but he cleaned up, found religion, and has turned into the incredible major leaguer that everyone expected him to be.  One wonders if his years facing his demons will cost him a shot at the Hall of Fame.  I guess only time will tell.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Non-HoF Autographs: Various Players

This ball has a similar story to my Indians logo ball.  It was also from the summer of 1997 when my aunt took me to a variety of ballgames.  One somewhat unique aspect of this ball is that during that same summer the MLB All Star game was played in Cleveland.  My uncle had tickets for he and his son, but my aunt and I did not, so we watched from the parking structure which overlooked left field.

Half way through the game my aunt's cell phone rang.  It was my uncle, informing us that their seats were right beside All Star pitcher, "Mudcat" Grant (who happens to be one of thirteen black players to have won 20 games in a single season), and if I wanted to get something signed, I should meet him at the nearest gate.  My uncle took him my cheap plastic covered baseball and he signed right on the sweet spot.  Had I known how good of a player he had been, I probably would have retired this ball with just the one signature, but alas as a young boy I was just interested in getting more.  I think the rest were obtained at Indians games throughout that summer (with maybe one exception).

As you can see, other than that notable signature, the ball has a mixed bag of signatures - everything from journeyman players Trenidad Hubbard (obtained at All Star Fan Festival 1997!) and Charlie O'Brien (who if I'm not mistaken, I got his signature at a game at Toronto's SkyDome), to big league sluggers like Brian Giles and David Justice (although my pen ran out of ink while he was signing).

What may turn out to be the most important autograph on this ball is the one from Omar Vizquel.  Certainly Vizquel has never really been known for his hitting ability - although he was a good hitter in his prime - but he is one of the defensive wizards of this era.  It will be interesting to see if the voters for the Hall of Fame give him any consideration.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Non-HoF Autographs: Jason Jacome, Tony Fernandez, Casey Candaele, Jose Mesa

This ball contains four seemingly random signatures.  What they do share is that all four players were on the 1997 Cleveland Indians - a team that won their division and narrowly lost the World Series that year to the upstart Florida Marlins.

I'm almost certain that none of the players who ever signed this cheap souvenir Cleveland Indians baseball will ever be inducted into the Hall of Fame.  Jacome and Candaele had much longer careers than I ever imagined, but they were utility players at best, bouncing from organization to organization.

Mesa and Fernandez both had lengthy careers, and both made All Star teams when they were in their prime.  Mesa once led the league in saves, and Fernandez once led the league in triples.  I remember being very excited to get Fernandez to sign because he had been a Toronto Blue Jay on two separate occasions before playing with the Indians, and once after I got this signature.

My mom grew up in Northeastern Ohio, so many of my childhood vacations were spent driving down to Ohio to visit our relatives.  My aunt is an avid Indians fan, and she would take me and my young cousin to a handful of games each summer.  We would go early and stay late, always making sure to hang around the player parking lot which in those days had a wrought iron fence which kids and autograph hounds could shout at players to come over and sign their souvenirs. 

Good memories.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Non-HoF Autographs: Aaron Hill, Justin Speier, Reed Johnson


This particular baseball is pretty special to me.  I got it on my birthday while attending a Blue Jays/Orioles game at Camden Yards in Baltimore.  Tony Bautista hit a screaming liner right at me.  I put my hand up, and knocked down the ball (saving my friend Josh's life, as he tells it).  Another friend was kind enough to give the ball to me after he snagged it from the ground (it was my birthday after all).

It lived in my car for a little while, rolling around on the floor (so sad how I treated this treasured item!), so it has a few cuts and nicks.  I carried it with me to several games, hoping to get it signed by some Blue Jays.

The first was a youngster who has since made a big impact - Aaron Hill.  I got his autograph at a game against the Nationals at the old RFK Stadium.  He signed in black sharpie (something I've since learned isn't the best idea since the marker can bleed on a baseball).  The second, a middle reliever who was playing for the Blue Jays at the time named Justin Speier.  I don't remember when I got his signature.  The third and final signature on this ball was from Reed Johnson - a marginal player at best, but a great one to remember because I obtained it at one of the last games the Blue Jays ever played at Yankee Stadium.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Non-HoF Autographs: Andre Ethier


I decided to fill the down time between obtaining autographs of Hall of Famers by filling you all in on the autographs I've obtained of other current and former players.  The above autograph is from current LA Dodger, Andre Ethier.  You can read a full account of how that autograph was obtained at my other blog.

Andre's career is relatively young.  He is off to a great start, and may one day be inducted into the Hall.  But for now, he qualifies as a non-Hall of Famer autograph.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Proposal.

I've hit a dry spell with my Hall of Famer autograph requests.  I haven't received one in the mail since way back on July 30th.  Hopefully my recent wave of mailings will result in some success stories to share with my faithful readers (if there are any...).

However I've been considering sharing my autograph collection from players who have not yet been inducted into the Hall.  One way would be to show you the players who could potentially be inducted (I have only a few of those), or I could show you all of my baseball autographs - no matter how obscure.

Is there a general consensus?  Does anyone actually read this thing? 

Friday, August 20, 2010

Update

I sent out a big wave of autograph requests though the mail today.  A good portion were players who are currently playing, but who I suspect will be inducted into the Hall of Fame when their playing career is over. 

This raises a question in my mind - is it important to just simply have the player's autograph, or do I want to obtain it after they have been inducted?  The obvious benefit to post-induction is that the player will often include their induction year in their signature (as shown in a few examples I've posted on the site).  The downside is, as soon as a player is inducted, their popularity skyrockets and it can become almost impossible to obtain their signature (see Cal Ripkin Jr., a fantastic player who rarely signs, and never through the mail).

I also sent out some more requests to players who have already been inducted.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Update

I haven't had anything in the mailbox since Bruce Sutter's RTS on August 6th.  Currently I'm waiting on 19 HOFers, to whom I've mailed but have had no response.  A little disheartening, although I've heard that it can take months before you hear back from some.

Al Kaline appears to be one that returns items quite quickly - sometimes as soon as four or five days after sending it out.  I sent an envelope out to Mr. Kaline on July 13 - a full month ago.  I'm wondering if he doesn't sign blank 3x5 cards.  Hmmm...

At this point I'm not sure whether to send out another wave of autograph requests, or just hang tight and be patient.  Maybe something will come in soon.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Failure #5: Bruce Sutter


Ugh.  The string of failures continued today with the arrival of a Return To Sender from Bruce Sutter.  This was only the second time I've received one of these.  At least when a player sends back a request for money you know that it arrived at the right place.  This one however, leads me to believe that either the address I have is wrong, or Mr. Sutter just isn't accepting mail right now.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Failure #4: Rich "Goose" Gossage


The autograph attempts are sadly turning into a string of rejection letters.  This time one from Goose Gossage arrived with a small note card with a pre-typed apology note, as well as a photocopied signature (a nice touch that I wish more rejection letters would include).  The note points the autograph seeker to his website, which plays "Bad to the Bone" when you visit.  Wow.

Somewhat ironically, the note included a HAND WRITTEN request for $20.  I suspect he hires someone to do this - wouldn't it just be easier to stop paying them and sign whatever comes in instead of paying someone to do this?  Ah well, I'm just angry at another failure.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Failure #3 (sort of): Brooks Robinson


Could it be?  Two failures on one day?  Yep, on the same day that I received the return from Rollie Fingers, I also received this letter.

While this wasn't quite as frustrating as Mazeroski's return to sender, it was rejection never-the-less.  Brooks Robinson included a kind letter saying that because of technology, more people have his address than ever before.  He apologized and pointed me to his website if I would like to purchase an autograph.

It did soften the failure a little bit to receive a Brooks Robinson postcard, but alas, it was not signed - not even with a printed signature.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Failure #2: Rollie Fingers


I missed getting Rollie Fingers' autograph at the recent All Star Fan Festival because I was in line to get Gaylord Perry's autograph.  Not to worry I told myself - Perry is the older player (and thus, probably will stop signing before Fingers) and I figured I could get Fingers' autograph through the mail.

Sadly, I was mistaken on the latter.  I received this form letter on the same day that Lee MacPhail's autograph arrived.  The small card informed me that in order to obtain an autograph, I must include $10 with my request.

Maybe someday when we have a little extra income I'll try again.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Lee MacPhail (1917-2012)


On July 30th I received three return envelopes in the mail.  The first one I opened was the above package from Lee MacPhail.  Mr. MacPhail was a big league front office executive and is the oldest living inductee in the Hall of Fame

I was pleased to find that he had not only signed the card I sent, but also included a signed postcard showing his Hall of Fame plaque.  Both items were signed in blue sharpie, and his induction year was included on the card stock.

Update: Mr. MacPhail passed away on November 8, 2012.  At the time of his death, this was the sixth article in my collection.  While this is an extremely cherished autograph, it no longer counts toward my goal of acquiring an autograph from every living Hall of Famer.