One day remains until the curtain rises on the 2018 Major League Baseball season.
One day more until the games count… but don’t tell that to the 25,000 fans and one proud dad who watched Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit a walk-off home run to give the Toronto Blue Jays a 1-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in a exhibition game at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium last night. (Fun footnote… Vladimir Guerrero Sr. hit the last walk-off home run in an official Major League game in the ballpark in 2003.)
On the other hand, the Los Angeles Dodgers are probably happy to have a little more time to get ready… an exhibition game between the Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels at Dodger Stadium came to an early end last night after a pipe broke and flooded the field, leaving the grounds crew to cope with a smelly mess.
The Oakland Athletics are probably enjoying the headlines.
Speaking of the A’s, they’re bringing back an old mascot to help celebrate their 50th anniversary season. According to Baseball Digest, Harvey the Rabbit started delivering baseballs to the home plate umpire during games in the 1960s when the Athletics played in Kansas City. The A’s brought him to Oakland when they relocated, but he last appeared at the Coliseum in 1971. The new Harvey is remote-controlled and will serve a more limited role: bringing out the baseball for the ceremonial first pitch.
I’m generally in favor of anything that seems fun and unique, but I do wonder if there’s any nostalgic outcry for a mascot last seen 47 years ago.
And to bring us back around to the Mets, Todd Frazier let us know about a cool thing they will be doing this season:
Tony Phillips, a member of the 1989 World Series champion Oakland Athletics, died of an apparent heart attack according to a report by Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. He was 56.
Phillips recorded 2,023 hits during an 18-year major league career. He spent nine years with Oakland over two tours of duty, and five years with the Detroit Tigers. Near the end of his major league career, Phillips appeared in 52 games for the 1998 New York Mets. As recently as last year, he was still playing independent baseball.
A couple of weeks ago, I showed off the first two signed cards that I’d gotten back from spring training camps this year. Since then, I’ve gotten 11 more envelopes back so I’m looking at a 26% response rate with about two and a half weeks to go before teams break camp.
Unfortunately, only 10 of my 13 responses resulted in signed baseball cards that will go into my collection. The folks at the Atlanta Braves’ spring training complex are apparently not accepting mail this year, so both of my letters came back “Return to Sender.” (I had tried Fredi Gonzalez and Eric Young Jr., in case you’re curious.)
I did get a signed card back when I wrote to Minnesota Twins pitcher Tommy Milone, but I have no idea who signed it.
This is what Milone’s autograph looks like on a Topps-certified 2013 Allen & Ginter card (image taken from an eBay listing.)
This is the card I got back today. The two signatures don’t even look similar to me, beyond the letter “T.”
But let’s move on to happier topics. Continue reading “Spring training autographs, part 2”
I found a surprise waiting for me in Friday’s mail – a signed Mark McGwire 1988 Topps card. When McGwire joined the Los Angeles Dodgers as their new hitting coach for the 2013 season, I mailed this card (one of my favorites of the late 1980s) to him and asked for an autograph. I didn’t really expect to see it again, but it wasn’t a big risk – I must have at least a dozen more.
Well, almost two years later, I have my autograph. And if it’s the last one I add to my collection in 2014, it’s a fine way to end the year.
Most people can’t look at McGwire without seeing a cheater who used steroids, and they’re not wrong.
But I also remember the 1998 home run race between McGwire and Sammy Sosa that captured national attention, even though I wasn’t really paying much attention to baseball that summer. (I was too busy graduating college and figuring out what came next.)
And I remember the young Oakland Athletics slugger who hit 49 home runs in his rookie season and was half of Oakland’s “Bash Brothers” with Jose Canseco. I loved watching their home runs on sports highlights shows long before any of us were really thinking about steroids in baseball.
McGwire will never earn a place in Cooperstown, and I won’t argue that he belongs there. But he definitely does belong in my collection, and his autograph joins Clayton Kershaw‘s as one of my favorites that I got through the mail in 2014.
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Brad Halsey, a former major league pitcher who also played for the Trenton Thunder and Long Island Ducks, died Friday in a recreational climbing accident, according to a USA Today report. No details about Halsey’s death have been officially made public – the news was initially shared by his former agent.
Halsey, 33, began his career in the New York Yankees organization and played for the Trenton Thunder in 2003 as a prospect. He later returned to the team at the end of his professional career in 2011 after a stint in indy baseball that included a season with the Atlantic League’s Long Island Ducks in 2009.
One of Halsey’s claims to fame was being traded for Randy Johnson in 2005. Halsey was also the pitcher who surrendered Barry Bonds 714th career home run in 2006, which tied the San Francisco Giants’ slugger with Babe Ruth‘s career mark.
Halsey pitched in 88 major league games for the Yankees, the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Oakland Athletics between 2004 and 2006. His career record was 14-19 with a 4.84 ERA.
While Halsey appeared on over 200 different baseball cards, I only have two in my collection: one from Upper Deck SP Prospects from 2004 and one from the Topps flagship set in 2006.