Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Year In Review

It's that time of the year again. The time to remember, rejoice, and relive some of our greatest moments over the past 365 days. Aside from graphing, 2013 was a very tough year for me personally. It was the first full year that I had to live without both of my grandmother's, who passed away late last year. (Stay with me, I'll get to the autographs eventually). The year had its ups and downs. It threw curveballs at me that I certainly didn't expect. But none the less, as the year comes to a close tonight at 12:00, it's time to look back at all of the great (and not so great) autographs I acquired in 2013.

Biggest jerks of 2013:

I was actually debating whether or not to make a "biggest jerks" list this year, but after including one in last year's recap, I figured that I might as well keep the tradition alive. I must say that it was actually very tough to find three players that I'd classify as jerks this season. 99.9% of the players I met were either very friendly, or very quiet, which certainly does not qualify them as jerks. But without further a due, my biggest jerks list of 2013:

3. Corey Perry- Perry actually qualifies as one of the 99.9% I was talking about just moments ago, but it's the little things he's done that puts him at number three. I actually hate to do this, as Corey has been my favorite player on the Ducks since I began following hockey in 2007, but the fact is, he's not a very friendly guy. In the ten or more encounters I've had with Perry this year, I may of gotten one word out of him. Once again, being quiet does not automatically qualify him for the list, but when you have at least ten different signature varying from "C1" to "Corey Perry 10", or when you intentionally get out of your car and speed walk into the facility just to avoid three people, that's when you qualify. And that's why Corey Perry makes the top three. (I still love you Corey!)

2. Art Monk- Monk may also be an unfair addition to this list, but since I'm running out of name's, the NFL Hall of Fame member lands himself on number two of this list. At a football event earlier this year, Monk walked in with former teammate Darell Green and, without even giving us the time of day, looked straight ahead and went "I don't sign memorabilia". No explanation, no "Sorry guys, I have a contract:, just the fact that he couldn't sign memorabilia. What really made me curios is when I saw multiple people walking around the stadium afterwards wearing Art Monk signed jerseys.

1. Alex Rodriguez- No, there's no terrible, autograph related story involved. In fact I've never once even tried to graph him. I just hate A-Roid, and with all of the steroid accusations coming out AGAIN this past season, I figured it's fair to put this cheater as the number one jerk of the year.

Nicest players of 2013:

3. Craig Kimbrel- While I only met Kimbrel one time this past season, the numerous stories I've heard of him land him at number three this year. Now I may be a bit biased in this selection, as over the past two years I've grown to really like the Braves' young closer, but the stories of him signing everyday in Atlanta and on the road justify this selection. Watch out Mo, Kimbrel may have a run at your record (probably not).

2. Justin Masterson- Masterson is one of the classiest guys in the game, and he's the only athlete making a return appearance on the list (although Addison Reed gave him a good run at it). I was a bit worried that Masterson would possibly get a bigger head after being selected to the All-Star game this past year, but his recent trip to Anaheim proved me wrong. Justin signe for at least twenty minutes each day of the series, and was extremely friendly and talkative. No doubt that Justin Masterson deserves to be on this list.

1. Brandon Barnes- Not only has Barnes grown to be one of my favorite outfielders this year, but he's also one of if not the nicest guy I've ever met. It's tough to explain exactly how nice of a guy he is in just one paragraph, so I'll leave it at this... He's a great ballplayer, a great guy, and an even better follower of Christ. Thank you Brandon and good luck with Colorado. 

And now for the best part... The top ten autographs of 2013:

10. Paul Molitor- Paul Molitor is in my opinion the most underrated and overlooked member of the Hall of Fame. Now some people may disagree with me, but when thinking of great players, who do you honestly think of? Mays, Mantle, maybe even Rickey Henderson who self portrayed himself as "the greatest of all time". What if I told you that Molitor had more hits than all three of those players. Even more than Mantle who is arguably the most popular player to ever don a baseball uniform. I'm not saying that Molitor was a better player than Mantle, but in all honesty Paul Molitor does not get enough credit for being one of the greatest hitters of all time. I was able to pick up this Paul "Leo" Molitor ball on Ebay a few days ago, and the only reason that it is number 10 and not higher is simply because it was not obtained IP, but none the less it's still one of my favorite pieces in my collection.

9. Jim Palmer- Having the opportunity to meet Palmer was by far one of the coolest experiences at Angel Stadium for me this past year. It's not everyday that you get to meet an HOF'er while at a baseball game, so I was certainly honored to get an autograph from one of the most dominant starting pitcher's from the 1970's. 

 8. Joe Greene- While I didn't necessarily have a great experience with the handler, one of my best autographs of 2013 still comes from Mr. "Mean" Joe Greene. Even though the handler, who's suppose to "help people", basically screwed up my football, I was still able to get this beautiful NFL Hall of Fame mini helmet from one of the greatest players in NFL history.

7. Dale Murphy- This is probably a very curious choice to some, especially since I ranked him in front of three Hall of Famer's, but none the less my seventh best autograph of the year comes Braves' legend Dale Murphy. "The Murph" was one of the most popular players in the 1980's, winning back-to-back NL MVP's in '82 and '83. He is also one of my favorite old school players, so when I got the chance to meet him last month I certainly took advantage of it. On top of that, Murphy also has one of, if not the nicest autographs in baseball, so when you put all of that together Mr. Dale Murphy comes out as my number seven autograph of 2013.

6. Tony LaRussa- I actually haven't even posted about this autograph yet, so ladies and gentlemen, the newest addition to my collection, this Tony LaRussa 2012 All-Star baseball. Even though I just received this ball in the mail yesterday, LaRussa's amazing managerial career earns himself a place on this list. Personally, I think it's the coolest autograph I've gotten all year, but since it was not acquired IP it settles in nicely at number six.

5. Lou Brock- It's been one of my main goals to meet Mr. Lou Brock since I missed out on meeting him at All Star Fan Fest in 2011. Thankfully, Brock made one of his first SoCal appearances earlier this month at Frank and Sons, and I was finally able to complete my two year long goal of meeting the Cardinal legend.

4. Mike Trout- Some people may call me crazy for ranking a third year player in front of multiple Hall of Fame members, but the fact is, Mike Trout is the best player in baseball, and very well could be the best player of all-time. This is one of a few Trout's I acquired at the Big-A this year, but it is by far my favorite. Even though he signed it further under the logo than I'd prefer, it's still a beautiful signature and is probably the SECOND best Trout in my collection.

 3. Teemu Selanne- As you guys have probably been able to guess by now, "The Finish Flash" is one of the classiest and most respectable players in the sports world. I've never heard one person, no matter which team they may or may not root for, say something negative about Teemu, and in his final season I think it's very fair to put him in the top three. Teemu signed this jersey for me a couple of months ago, and I can't wait to get it framed and display it proudly.

2. Tony Gwynn- While Gwynn may never have won a World Series, or even an MVP, he is still one of the greatest ballplayers to ever put on a cap and uniform. To hit .338 over a 19 year career is impressive enough, but the fact that he did it all with the same team is even more impressive. Gwynn is the definition of a "franchise" player, and while we watch so many players go from team to team every offseason, it was never in doubt that Tony Gwynn would be in any other uniform than a San Diego Padres' one (even if their uniforms were pretty hideous at times). The respect I have for Gwynn is truly unmatchable and for that reason he is number two.

1. Bob Gibson- In case you guys couldn't tell, yes, I am a big St. Louis Cardinals fan. That is one of the reasons why you'll notice two, and now three, Cardinals on this list. But Cardinal fan or not, I think it's fair to say that Bob Gibson is a deserving choice as the best autograph I acquired in 2013. Gibson had an absolutely tremendous 16 year career, winning 251 games, two CY Young's, 2 World Series MVP's, 9 Gold Glove's, and multiple other accomplishments/awards along the way. Despite some pretty ugly stories I've heard of Gibson, he was one of the nicest people I've met this past year, and to have the chance to talk to him for a good three or four minutes was an absolute honor. Once again, I think it's fair to say that Mr. Bob Gibson was the best autograph I got in 2013, what do you guys think?

It's truly been an amazing year for my collection. I did loose count of how many autographs I got this past year, but I think it's fair to say that I reached the 1,300 autographs goal that I set one year ago today. One, not so wise grapher told me earlier this year that "kids only get caught up in quantity, they never care about quality", but judging off my top ten list, I think it's pretty obvious that said grapher was wrong. And while I won't try to top that 1,300 total this next year, I do have a couple of goals that I'd like to live up to:

1. Add at least ten more baseball Hall of Fame members to my collection
2. Add 5 MVP winners AND 5 CY Young Winners to my collection
3. Get at least four jerseys signed by star players and/or Hall of Fame members

I'd like to thank quite a few people for helping me out this past year, starting with Alex G, Rob G, and Kyle for not only being a great people to graph with, but being great friends outside of graphing as well. I'd also like to thank Mike, Benson, Lori, Daniel, Scotty, David A, Amber, Joe Chon, Jeremy, Matt Crocker, Moe, Robert, Ryan, Victor, George, Greg, Franz, Mical, Tyler, Spencer, Larry, Josh, Clint, Jose, Eddie, Alex Cala, and a few others for helping to make this year a very special one for all of us. I'd also like to thank a couple of very immature people, who helped teach me what NOT to do or be when I grow older. I'm looking forward to see what 2014 has in store! Thanks for reading!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Recent Pick-Ups: Niekro, Fernandez, Perry

With the baseball offseason in full flight, many graphers here in SoCal have been experiencing a "baseball withdraw". On top of a few recent signings, I've been able to keep my withdraw to a minimum by picking up some great items online. Here are some of the more recent items I've picked up:

I was able to pick up this Phil Niekro black baseball a couple of weeks ago in a trade with a friend of mine. Usually, I'm not a huge fan of trading, but we were able to work out a deal that neither of us could resist. This is actually the first ever black ball that I've ever received signed, and I must say, I'm very happy with how it came out. I'm not sure how many more I'll get in the future, but I can guarantee that I will be adding a few more of these to my collection next year.

The second item I recently picked up was this 8x10 photo signed by former Twins' pitcher, Jim Perry. I was able to pick up this photo for only $8 directly from the MLB shop, and am very happy with the way it turned out. The photo also comes with MLB and Mounted Memories authentication, so overall it was a great pick-up for a great price.

And of course, I saved the best for last. I was able to pick up this beautiful Jose Fernandez rookie year stat ball, also from the MLB shop, for a great price in my opinion. The ball has Fernandez's win/loss record, ERA, strikeout totals, NL All-star, and 2013 NL Roy all from this past season. Usually, I'm opposed to buying items of current players, but I was able to pick up this baseball for about the price of a usual sweet spot on Ebay. Just like the Perry photo, the ball comes with both MLB and Mounted Memories authentication, and will be a great addition to my collection.

I will try to keep everybody updated on my purchases throughout the remainder of the offseason. I currently have two amazing baseballs in the mail that are expected to arrive next week, so when I get both I'll get a post up immediately. Thanks for reading and Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Tommy Lasorda Signing and Matt Davidson Camp Recap: 12/22/13

This past Sunday was a very busy day for myself. After doing absolutely nothing on Saturday, my Sunday consisted of spending hours in the car, and even more hours in line. For the first event, Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda was having an autograph signing at the Westfield Century City mall. Just last weekend I skipped a Lasodra event to go to the Tony Gwynn signing in El Cajon, so it was nice to get another shot at him just eight days later.

I decided to arrive at the event around 7 am, four hours before the signing was scheduled to start. I was initially about thirty people from the front of the line, but of course that grew to about sixty as the signing drew closer. Tommy showed up a few minutes late, but began signing right away. To my surprise the line moved fairly fast, and about thirty minutes later I was up at the front of the line. I was able to get both of my 11x14's signed, with some help on the second one of course.

After getting Tommy, I decided to make my way over to another event in Yucaipa, where White Sox third baseman and Yucaipa native Matt Davidson was hosting a free baseball camp along with a few other Major Leaguers. I'm not going to sit here and bore anyone to death with stories of children playing baseball, so here are the cards I was able to get signed.

Matt Davidson- 9/9
Jake Marisnick- 3/3
Tyler Chatwood- 4/4 (personalized one to a friend)
Jacob Nottingham- 1/1

A big thanks to Matt Davidson for putting on the event. I've been a big fan of his ever since I won a game used bat of his on Twitter back in February, and I'm looking forward to watching him play with Chicago this year. Also, a big thanks for Tommy Lasorda for signing earlier in the afternoon. And finally, a shout out to Scotty, Tyler, Franz, George, and everybody else I ran into during the day. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Tony Gwynn Signing: 12/14/13

MLB Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn made an appearance at El Cajon Ford this past Saturday. Unlike most of Gwynn's signings at his dealership, this one seemed to slip under the radar of the most graphers. Luckily, I was able to get some last second info and made my way down to El Cajon early Saturday morning.
After a long, two hour drive, I arrived at the dealership a few minutes past eight. Gwynn was scheduled to sign in under an hour, so I grabbed a spot in line about 30 people back and began the wait. The wait went by fast and Gwynn showed up right a nine and began signing immediately. I had heard a few people at the front of the line say that Gwynn wasn't looking to well, but nothing prepared me for what I saw when I actually got up to the legend. It was very apparent that Gwynn had suffered a stroke not long ago. His speech was completely blurred, he was wearing a neck brace, the entire right side of his face was completely paralyzed, and he was shaking uncontrollably. It was actually sad to see one of the game's greatest players be in such horrible health. Both my friend Kyle and I were stunned that he was even signing in the condition he was in, but somehow he got through the entire line signing two items per person. In total, I was able to get four items signed.
As you can see, some of the baseballs came out a bit shaky, but again, considering the condition Gwynn was in I was amazed that he even signed. Either way, I'm still very pleased with the results and will definitely keep Tony in my prayers. A big shout out to Kyle for making the wait go by fast. And as always, thanks for reading!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Bob Gibson and Lou Brock Signing: 12/7/13

St. Louis Cardinal legend's and MLB Hall of Famer's Bob Gibson and Lou Brock made an appearance this past Saturday at Frank and Sons Collectible Show. For those of you who are not familiar with Frank and Sons, they host autograph signings nearly every weekend in So-Cal.Hhowever, most of these signings are paid, so I tend to stay away from them. But being the big Cardinals fan that I am, I couldn't resist the opportunity to meet two of the greatest players in franchise history.

I arrived at the show around 12:30 and made my way over towards the autograph station to pick up my tickets. Gibson and Brock had already begun signing, and the line was only about twenty people long, so I hoped into the back and began waiting. My original plan was to get two HOF baseballs signed by both players, however I opted to get two ROMLB's signed instead since the event had sold out of HOF balls. I also had to decide which two inscriptions I wanted, but in the end I decided on "64-67 WS MVP" for Gibson and "HOF 85" for Brock. Both guys were extremely nice and inscribed what I had asked for on each baseball.

I also decided to get both items PSA'd immediately after getting them signed, which was only an extra $8 for each baseball.

While on the topic, I'd like to mention that PSA has been scamming some people lately, so while they are very reputable, be careful if you ever decided to send your items in. You wouldn't think you'd have to worry about the #1 authenticating company in the world mistreating your items or giving you the wrong certificate, but according to a few of my close friends, you do.

Overall, it was a great event and a true honor to meet two legends of the game. I probably could've bought signed baseballs of the two cheaper online, but the small difference in price wouldn't of made up for the tremendous honor of meeting two of my idols. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Matt Leinart Signing at USC: 11/30/13

USC legend and former Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart was scheduled to sign autographs prior to Saturday's game at the legendary Los Angeles Coliseum. The signing was part of the Nissan Heisman House tour, which travels to different universities across America every weekend. Even after a long day of graphing on Friday, I was still too tempted to pass up the opportunity of getting one of the best QB's in recent NCAA history.

After a 40+ minute venture of trying to find a parking spot, I finally made my way over to the Heisman House, where I met up with my friend Spencer. We were informed that the autograph line for Leinart would not form until 2:30, so to kill some time Spencer and I grabbed a quick bite to eat. When we returned we noticed a small group of people forming around, but not in, the autograph line. Spencer and I both figured this was the start of the Leinart line, and indeed we were right, so we both grabbed our places in the line about 15 people back.

Leinart showed up about ten minutes late and immediately sat down for a quick, but entertaining interview with ESPN anchor Neil Everett. Afterwards, they set up a table in the middle of the stage and Leinart began signing autographs. The rule was one item per person, but Leinart was signing anything you put in front of him. In the end I was able to get a total of four items signed, including a USC mini-helmet with "04 Heisman".



Overall it was another great event, and while I may of made the mistake of not attending the Blake Griffin signing, I don't regret it a bit. A big thank you to Spencer who helped me out immensely today. Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Dodgers Holiday Mall Tour: 11/29/13

The Dodgers Holiday Mall Tour made it's second stop of the year on Friday, as former All-Star's Steve Garvey and Steve Sax were scheduled to sign autographs in Woodland Hills. While Garvey was undoubtedly the better player of the two, I think it's fair to say that most of the graphers, including myself, were at the event more for Sax, who rarely makes appearances in Southern California anymore.

After dealing with some Black Friday traffic, I arrived at the mall around 10:00. Steve Garvey was scheduled to sign in one hour, while Sax was scheduled to sign later in the day. The line for Garvey wasn't very long, and by the time I got in it, I was about 50 people back. Like always, Garvey showed up on time and began signing right away. It took me about 30 minutes to get to the front of the line, and I was eventually able to get my Dodger Stadium 50th Anniversary ball signed by the former MVP.

After grabbing some lunch, I hopped back in line with my friend Scotty for Steve Sax. After a long wait, Sax showed up and, like Garvey, began signing immediately. I was roughly 20th in line and was able to get another 50th Anniversary ball by Sax, as well as an 8x10 that I picked up from my friend Daniel.


Since the line wasn't ridiculously long, I decided to go back around for a second time and get a ROMLB signed.

I was very surprised to say the least at how different the final signature looked from the other two. I'm used to player's signatures looking different at times, and I do realize that the signature was rushed since I was towards the back of the line, but I've never seen two signatures look so drastically different. Either way, it's "unique" to say the least.

A big thanks to Steve Sax, Steve Garvey, and the Dodgers for coming out and putting on another great event. A quick shout out to Scotty, Scott Sr., Daniel, Franz, Larry, and Daniel G., who were all at the event. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Dodgers Holiday Mall Tour: 11/16/13

The Dodgers Holiday Mall Tour kicked off for the second straight year on Saturday afternoon, with former Dodgers' Steve Yeager and Maury Wills scheduled to sign at the Westfield Culver City mall. Last year, the Mall Tour was a "blessing" to So-Cal graphers, giving us a chance to graph baseball in the offseason, so I was looking forward to the first stop of this year's tour.

I decided against arriving to the signings early and instead showed up at the mall around noon. Yeager had already begun signing, but as expected he had blown through the small line and was sitting alone at the autograph table. Since there was no line, I decided to get my two 1985 Topps cards that I brought along.

While getting Yeager was a nice bonus, my main goal for the day was Maury Wills, who was scheduled to sign from 2-4. I had brought along three items for Maury to sign, and figured that I'd be able to get all three items signed easily, especially since he showed up about fifteen minutes early. However, since Wills was signing everything and taking photos, the line began to move at a snail's pace. After about 40 minutes of waiting, I was finally able to get up to Maury and handed him my 11x14 photo first to get signed.

When I asked Maury to put "586 Career Steals" he asked me if I'd like "104 Steals 1962" on it as well, which I of course said yes to.

I also got some help getting my Gold Glove baseball signed, which he inscribed "LA Dodgers" and "2x G.G. '61 '62". 

I decided to hop back in line to get my third and final item signed. Unfortunately, the second go-around took even longer than the first, and it took nearly an hour and a half just to get back up to Maury. Luckily, the wait was well worth it, as I got my Rawlings Big Stick bat signed with "NL MVP 62", "7x All-Star" and the famous saying "Go! Go! Go! Maury Go!".

Overall it was another great event, and I look forward to attending a few more of the Mall Tour events in the weeks ahead. A big shout-out to George, Willie, Larry, Scotty, Scott Sr., Amber, Daniel, Mike, and everybody else that helped make the time fly.

A quick side note- Dr. Alex Corbin Liu will be hosting yet another appearance at his Optometry Office, this time with Rock-n-Roll great Rudy Sarzo on November 23rd. Additional details are on the flyer below.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Dale Murphy Signing at the OC Dugout: 10/7/13

Braves legend and former NL MVP winner Dale Murphy made an appearance at the OC Dugout on Thursday, November 7th. The event was one of the rare paid signings that I've attended, but since Murphy rarely makes appearances in Southern California I decided to cough up the money.

With the signing scheduled to start at 5:00, I arrived a few minutes early and picked up my tickets for the event before hopping in line. To my surprise there were only about six or seven people in front of me, but from what I heard a majority of the people showed up later in the night. Murphy arrived a few minutes late but apologized on his way in, saying that "the traffic is worse here than it is in Utah", which got a few laughs. I decided to get a bat and a ROMLB signed, both with "NL MVP 82, 83" on them. Murphy was very personable and signed both items beautifully, and also took a photo with me (as seen above).

Overall it was another great event put on by the OC Dugout. I've stated this before, but I love attending paid signings, and I hope to attend a few more in the future. A big thanks to the OC Dugout and Dale Murphy for the great event.

P.S.- Lakers' guard Xavier Henry will be signing autographs next Saturday, November 16th at Harry's Dugout. While I won't be attending the event, I highly encourage any Laker fans to make it out. Prices and more info are on the flyer below.

Thanks for reading!