I’ve never been proud of the fact that I sold my entire collection of baseball cards while in college to pay for Ramon noodles and beer. But that is a decision that I’ve had to live with now for well over 20 years. Although I didn’t begin collecting again until after a decade and a half had passed, I never stopped following baseball religiously. I did check out the card styles and brands during those off years, but I never purchased any.
The discovery of two things in the late 90s led me back into the hobby: the Arizona Fall League and getting cards autographed in person.
I can never sing enough praises of the Fall League, and I certainly don’t intend to go into all of that here and now. (However, you can read my discussions of the Fall League in my personal blog from my 2005 and 2007 trips if you wish.) Suffice to say that in my opinion, the Fall League remains the best game in town- and well worth the travel if your town isn’t Phoenix.
In the “old days,” the Fall League used to produce and sell baseball cards. The best thing about that was it gave me an opportunity to get signatures from players that I had otherwise been unable to obtain cards of. The worst part was that the cards usually weren’t released until the final week of the short season, which resulted in a next to impossible challenge of getting the entire set signed. Scratch that…. the WORST part was when the powers that be decided to stop producing the cards altogether. My guess is that they found the chore of obtaining proper licensing too much effort or something along those lines.
When I collected cards as a kid in the 70s, I always hated opening a pack (most of us opened packs back then, not boxes) and finding a card of a player I had never heard of. Of course I collected them just the same, because my goal was to have an entire set. When I jumped back into the fray in the late 90s however, I wanted those cards of guys who hadn’t made it into the major leagues yet. My goal had changed due to how much I enjoyed collecting autographs.
So, even though Topps was still tops in my book, I immediately began searching for minor league sets, or thumbing through Bowman singles at card shows looking for the guys in the Fall League, or trying to anticipate who would come through the Valley of the Sun the following autumn so I would be loaded for autographs.
It was about that time that I realized something odd… I had become a sucker for cards of players captured in the act of autographing memorabilia for fans. Whenever I have more than one card of a guy that I’m hoping to get signed, you can bet that if one of them contains such an image, that card will be placed on top in the event that he only signs one.
And that leads to these images of cards I have gotten signed in person that fit that description. The Milton Bradley card is an Arizona Fall League card from 1999 featuring Denton Hanna photography. Normally I will go for blue Sharpie, but some players insist on using their own writing implement. I would never start an argument with Milton.
The Glen Perkins card is a 2004 Just Rookies. I often hear people claiming they don’t care for Just products, but I love them! I don’t need team logos, glossy finishes, or foil on cards- especially those that I get autographed. The other thing about Just is that they tend to produce cards of players that I stand a good chance of running into. If Just Minors was a person, I think he would be the kind of buddy that I would want to make mix tapes for.
The Chad Qualls card is from Upper Deck’s 2002 Minor League set. Although “technically” I can’t prove that Chad is in the process of signing anything, I’d give you odds that he was. I asked him about it when he signed the card for me. He replied that he didn’t remember, but “probably” was. Works for me!
The Fernando Tatis card is from the 1999 Topps set. A tough autograph as he doesn’t seem to enjoy signing anymore- hard to blame him if the photo is a representative sample of the scene he has faced day in and day out over the past 13 years. It is a GREAT photo, and I wish I had taken it! Better yet, I wish I had been one of the fan hands depicted in the photo. How freakin’ kool would it be to recognize yourself on a baseball card? Please let me know if you are able to identify yourself on a card.
I will be posting images every so often of some of my favorite cards of players caught “in the act” of signing autographs. Those of you wishing to strike up a trade proposal should keep this particular fetish in mind as you thumb through your stacks of duplicate cards.