An Incredible Experience at Banner Island Ballpark

I’ve been collecting in person autographs for about the past five years. It is something that I am very passionate about. I do not sell my autographs, occasionally I’ll trade for players/teams I can’t get on the West Coast.  I just do this for fun and to meet ball players. I don’t expect players to sign everything I have. If they only sign one, then that’s fine with me.

Every once in a while I have an experience that is truly incredible and beyond words. Last night I had one of those experiences! May 6th was the Stockton Ports Annual Alumni Night. Unfortunately the way it works they never really know who is going to come to the event until they actually show up. Some alumni will RSVP the week of the game, but some just happen to show up.

So a good friend of mine, Jesse, and I were graphing that night and the Ports were introducing the Alumni that were there and they announced a very familiar name: Dion James.

I know Dion still lives in the Sacramento area. I sent a TTM request in October 2015. I received the cards back signed in just 2 weeks. I just had no idea he would be there.

Dion was a first round draft pick in 1980, 25th overall, by the Milwaukee Brewers. He was drafted out of McClatchy High School in Sacramento. Dion played 11 seasons in the Majors with the Brewers, Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians and the New York Yankees.  Dion played 124 games for the Stockton Ports in 1981 batting .304 with 43 stolen bases.

Stockton Ports MLB Wall

Stockton Ports in the MLB graphic at Banner island Ballpark. Dion James: Year Played in Stockton 1981, MLB Debut 1983

I’ve learned to always carry a ROMLB with me because you never know who is going to show up at the ballpark. We found Dion on the concourse looking at some of the graphics and banners the Ports have posted around the ballpark. We approached him and asked for his autograph. He was more than happy to do it for us.

Dion James Ball

ROMLB Signed by Dion James

He signed a ball for me and an autograph card for Jesse. Then he said “I have something special for you guys. Hold on a moment.” He pulled out a stack of his own cards and proceeded to give 3 cards to the 2 of us and signed them all. I took the one I wanted and Jesse got the other two. Dion shook our hands thanked us for asking him to sign and being a fan. He also commented to us, “you made my day.” I said to him, ” Mr. James, you made my day!”

Dion James Card

1985 Fleer given to me by Dion James

Interactions like this will always make me a fan of a person for life! He was really nice when we asked him to sign and I would have been happy with the ball. The fact that he give us some of his own cards and signed them for us is above and beyond anything I could have expected. Thank you so much Dion for the experience! I will always remember it!

TTM Update: 6 successes

In the past 8 days I have received six TTM successes. Five successes were from the batch sent out the week of September 28th. Four of these successes will be featured in this post.

The first was from Ernie Broglio. Ernie is best known for being the key piece the Chicago Cubs received in the trade that sent Lou Brock to the St. Louis Cardinals. This is arguably the worst trade in MLB history. Lou would go on to have a Hall of Fame career. Meanwhile Ernie, who was a good pitcher with the Cardinals, did not improve upon his success and eventually faded out. Ernie signed 3 of 3 cards in just 5 days. Thank you Ernie!

1959, 1960, 1966 Topps cards autographed by Ernie Broglio

1959, 1960, 1966 Topps cards autographed by Ernie Broglio

My next success was from former Negro League player and Chicago Cub George Altman. George started his professional career in the Negro Leagues in 1955 with the Kansas City Monarchs. He would make his MLB debut with the Chicago Cubs on April 11, 1959. He would go on to play 9 season in the Majors with the Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals and the New York Mets. George was an All-Star in 1961 and 1962. He signed a 1960 Topps, 1 penny sleeve (which should have been 1967 Topps) and included a signed business card in 8 days. Thank you George!

Signed items from George Altman

Signed items from George Altman

Bobby Meacham was my next success. Bobby played parts of 6 season (1983-88) with the New York Yankees. His career never really took off the way the Yankees had anticipated. He wound up often injured and he finished his career with a .236 batting average. Bobby signed 3 of 3 cards in 9 days. Thank you Bobby!

1987 Fleer, 1988 Topps, 1988 Score cards signed by Bobby Meacham

1987 Fleer, 1988 Topps, 1988 Score cards signed by Bobby Meacham

The final success featured in this post was received from Davey Lopes. Davey is currently a coach in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. He was a 4 time All-Star and played 16 seasons with the Dodgers, Oakland Athletics, Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros. Davey signed 1 of 1 in 10 days. Thank you Davey!

1987 Fleer card signed by Davey Lopes

1987 Fleer card signed by Davey Lopes

Now I know some of you may be thinking: If Davey Lopes played for the Athletics, then why did you send an Athletics card? Quite simply, one of the primary sets I am trying to get autographed is the 1987 Fleer. I will be sending more requests to him as he really only signs 1 per request. So eventually I will have an Athletics card (or two) signed by Davey.

The other 2 successes with be featured in their own separate posts.

TTM Batch: September 28, 2015

Now that baseball season is over, I can turn my attention to one of my favorite hobbies, collecting TTM autographs. As much as I try, it is too difficult to regularly send out TTM requests during the season. Quite often I am going to games to collect autographs in person or I am listening to or watching games. So here is my final batch of the regular season.

Jim Robertson – Philadelphia Athletics – 2 cards
Jose Lind – Pittsburgh Pirates – 2 cards
Ernie Broglio – St. Louis Cardinals – 3 cards
George Altman – Chicago Cubs – 2 cards
Davey Lopes – Houston Astros – 1 card
Fred Stanley – Oakland Athletics – 3 cards
Bobby Meacham – New York Yankees – 3 cards
Craig Paquette – Oakland Athletics – 3 cards
Ben Zobrist – Oakland Athletics – 1 card
Clayton Kershaw – Los Angeles Dodgers – 1 card

This batch was sent out September 28th (7 requests) and 30th (3 requests). Note: The team listed is the team on the card, or on the majority of the cards I sent out. I will post updates as requests come back.

TTM Batch Contents

Over the past couple of weeks I have revised my approach to sending out TTM requests. Typically one batch consists of 1 book of stamps. This allows for between 5 and 10 requests to be sent. This is dependent on how many cards I send to each player. The batches will be broken down into the following minimum requirements.

2 Oakland Athletics players
2 from any of the following set:
-1981 Fleer
-1987 Fleer
-1988 Topps
1 Pre-1976 player

If there are more stamps available, then requests can be from any category. I selected the year 1976 since that is my birth year.

I have organized my batches in this way because I have been wanting to have more vintage cards signed. Also this help me to maintain my focus within the TTMs.

One of my big-picture goals is to get at least on card signed from every Major League Team including ones that have moved or no longer exist. This is a tough goal when considering some teams have not been around since the early-1950s. The Philadelphia Athletics moved to Kansas City after the 1954 season. The St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore to become the Orioles after the 1953 season.

However, doing some research I found that there are some players who are still alive and are willing to sign cards and other items through the mail.

In my latest batch that I sent out I wrote to former Kansas City Athletics pitcher Bud Daley who was an All-Star in the 1959 and 1960 seasons. I included 2 cards a 1959 and 1960 Topps for him to sign. (I will post photos when I get these back)

My next batch (and last for 2014) will include 2 players from the 1950s and 1960s. The first is former Kansas City Athletics outfielder Russ Snyder. Here are the 1960 and 1961 Topps cards I will be sending out.

Russ Snyder 1960 and 1961 Topps

Russ Snyder 1960 and 1961 Topps

The second is exciting to me. If successful it will be my first Philadelphia Athletics card signed. The player is former shortstop, Joe DeMaestri. Joe played with the Philadelphia and Kansas City Athletics from 1953-1959. He was an All-Star in 1957. Here are the 1954 Bowman and 1960 Topps cards I will be sending.

Joe DeMaestri 1954 Bowman and 1960 Topps

Joe DeMaestri 1954 Bowman and 1960 Topps

The only reason I am sending a New York Yankees cards is because I am trying to get 1960 Topps cards signed when ever I can. It is one of my favorites of the vintage designs. Joe did also play for the St. Louis Browns in 1952, but I have not yet found a card in the condition I want that I can afford.

These goals will be a challenge, but it is exciting to find players from these organizations that are still around that are willing to sign.

Showoff Sunday: California League Coaches – North Division

In this edition of Showoff Sunday I will be displaying autographed cards of former Major League Players turned California League Coaches. At this time there are 15 coaches in the California League who have had Major League experience. The range of experience is anywhere from 1 or 2 seasons to more than 10 years.

For this post I will focus on the North Division of the California League which includes the Stockton Ports, Modesto Nuts, San Jose Giants, Visalia Rawhide and the Bakersfield Blaze. I will begin with the coaching staff of the Stockton Ports. Manager Ryan Christenson played with 4 teams including the Oakland Athletics and the Texas Rangers. I have had 12 cards singed by Ryan so far this season.

Ryan Christenson Autographed Cards Pic #1

Ryan Christenson Autographed Cards Pic #1

Ryan Christenson Autographed Cards Pic #2

Ryan Christenson Autographed Cards Pic #2

Ryan Christenson Autographed Cards Pic #3

Ryan Christenson Autographed Cards Pic #3

The pitching coach for the Stockton Ports is John Wasdin. John has MLB experience with 7 different team, but most notably the Oakland Athletics, Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers. To date, I have been able to get 6 cards autographed by John this season.

John Wasdin Autographed Cards Pic #1

John Wasdin Autographed Cards Pic #1

John Wasdin Autographed Cards Pic #2

John Wasdin Autographed Cards Pic #2

Next up is the pitching coach for the Visalia Rawhide, Gil Heredia. Gil came up in the San Francisco Giants organization and played with 3 other teams the Texas Rangers, Montreal Expos and Oakland Athletics. I got 3 cards signed by Gil during Visala’s first series in Stockton (April 10-13, 2014).

Gil Heredia Autographed Cards

Gil Heredia Autographed Cards

The last cards I will feature on this post is the current San Jose Giants manager Lenn Sakata. Lenn is best known for his time with the Baltimore Orioles. He also played for the Milwaukee Brewers, New York Yankees and the Oakland Athletics. I got these 3 cards signed during the recent series against the Ports in Stockton (May 13-15, 2014).

Lenn Sakata Autographed Cards

Lenn Sakata Autographed Cards

There are a few other coaches in the Northern Division that I have yet to get autographs from this season. Those former players include Dave Burba (San Francisco Giants, Cleveland Indians), Tom Browning (Cincinnati Reds), Pat Kelly (Toronto Blue Jays) and Robby Hammond (Arizona Diamondbacks).

Next week I will feature the coaches in the California League South Division.

TTM Success 03/07/2014: 3 more from Spring Training

The day after receiving 3 success from Spring Training TTMs, I received a total of 4 more successes. 1 was from former Major League pitcher Rick Reuschel and 3 were from the second batch of Spring Training TTMs. The second batch was sent out on February 28th, so these three were a very quick turnaround.

The first was from Oakland Athletics reliever Evan Scribner. Evan was originally drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 28th round of the 2007 June Draft. One of Evan’s early highlight was in the 2012 regular season finale with the Athletics. He pitched 3 scoreless innings in the Division-Clinching win. Evan signed a 2013 Topps card for me. The autograph is really sharp and I like how the uniform number is inside the “S” of his last name.

TTM Autograph of Evan Scribnet

TTM Autograph of Evan Scribner

The next I received was from current Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim pitcher Hector Santiago. Hector was recently acquired by the Angels as a part of a 3 team trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Chicago White Sox. Hector was nice enough to autograph a 2012 Topps Update card.

TTM Autograph from Hector Santiago

TTM Autograph from Hector Santiago

The 3rd Spring Training TTM I received was from Don Baylor. Don is currently the hitting coach for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He was a 2 time Oakland Athletics, playing for them in 1976 and once again in 1988. Don is one of 2 players to reach the World Series in 3 consecutive years with 3 different teams. 1986 – Boston Red Sox, 1987 – Minnesota Twins, 1988 – Oakland Athletics. Don autographed 3 cards for me: 1987 Fleer, 1988 Topps and 1988 Topps Traded.

TTM Autographs of Don Baylor

TTM Autographs of Don Baylor

Fun Fact: Eric Hinske was the other player to play in 3 consecutive World Series with 3 different teams. 2007 – Boston Red Sox, 2008 – Tampa Bay Rays, 2009 – New York Yankees. Interestingly enough all 3 teams are in the American League East.

 

TTM Success 01/25/2014: Tim Birtsas

This past Saturday, January 25th, I received another TTM autograph. This time it was former Oakland Athletics pitcher Tim Birtsas. Tim pitched in the Athletics organization from 1985-87. Tim was originally drafted by the New York Yankees in 1982, but did not make it to the majors until his time in Oakland. He was included in the trade between the Athletics and the Yankees that sent Rickey Henderson to New York.  Tim would go on to pitch for the Cincinnati Reds from 1988-90.

Tim autographed 2 cards for me: 1985 Fleer Update and 1988 Topps

TTM Autographs of Tim Birtsas: 1985 Fleer Update and 1988 Topps

TTM Autographs of Tim Birtsas: 1985 Fleer Update and 1988 Topps

LaRussa on HOF’s Expansion Era Ballot

Three of the greatest managers of the past generation headline the Hall of Fame’s Expansion Era Ballot.  Long-time Atlanta Braves skipper Bobby Cox, New York Yankees manager Joe Torre and Oakland Athletics manager Tony LaRussa appear on the ballot for the first time.

Tony began his managerial tenure with the Chicago White Sox, who he led from 1979 until halfway through 1986.  His record with the White Sox was 522-510 (.506).  He led the them to a first place finish in 1983. After leaving the White Sox LaRussa took the job with the Oakland Athletics.  This was the team where his career would blossom.  He would be with the Athletics from 1986 until 1995.  Tony’s record during his tenure was 798-673 (.542).  He led the Athletics to 4 1st place finishes (1988-90, 92), 3 American League Pennant (1988-90) and 1 World Series victory in 1989.

After leaving Oakland, Tony took the helm of the St. Louis Cardinals where Tony would finish out his managerial career.  Tony was with the Cardinals from 1996 until 2011.  His record was 1408-1182 (.544).  He would lead the Cardinals to 7 first place finishes (1996, 2000, 02, 04-06 & 09), 3 National League Pennants (2004, 06, 11) and 2 World Series victories (2006 & 11).

Tony was nothing, if not consistent in his managerial record. He was a plus .500 manager with all 3 clubs he has led.  His career record is 2728-2365 (.536) in 33 years.  He led his teams to 12 1st place finished, won 6 League pennants and 3 World Series titles.  Tony is third on the all-time list for victories and is the best manager of his generation.

The Ichiro Debate

On Wednesday night Ichiro Suzuki of the New York Yankees collected his 4000th professional hit.  The key word here is: professional.  In no way am I saying MLB hits, I am talking professional hits.  Career pro hit number 4000 was MLB hit number 2722, good for 59th all-time.

Ichiro has become the epitome of the professional hitter since he joined the MLB in 2001.  Prior to joining the MLB Ichiro spent 1992-2000 in the Japanese League.  In the Japanese League Ichiro collected 1278 hits.  From 1994-2000 he had an average of 177 hits per year.  During his tenure in the MLB his average hits per year have increased to 217 (through 2012).  Even though his hits total per season have tailed off in the last 2 years he is still one of the most consistent hitters in the league.

With regards to the total 4000, some will say that his time in the Japanese League does not count, it’s no better than the AAA level in America.  To that I say get over yourself.  The Japanese League does count.  It is the highest level of professional baseball in Japan.  Ichiro has flourished in the MLB as his 2722 hits will attest.  

I am not an Ichiro fan.  I do not like the Mariners or the Yankees, the 2 MLB teams he has played for.  I do have respect for what he has done and I respect him as a player.  Ichiro will reach the Hall of Fame when he does retire.  It is not the 4000 professional hits that will get him there.  It will be his MLB stats and the way in which he plays the game that will get him there.

I know this blog is about the Oakland Athletics and their farm system, but this blog is really about baseball.  There may be some off-topic posts from time to time.  This was a topic too important not to cover.