Monthly Archives: September 2012

2012 Mets Debut Autographs

Familia and familiar faces

The September call-up tradition usually means a big influx of minor leaguers for the season’s final weeks, with teams getting up to 15 additional players to use as they see fit. For the Mets, this meant calling back most of the players who had been up with the club at some point this season plus two new faces. Jeurys Familia made his much-anticipated debut in relief, a role that most of the experts see him in long-term. Fred Lewis, who spent time with the Giants and the Reds before having a quietly solid season in Buffalo, made his Mets debut in the following inning as a pinch hitter. Everyone else shown here was back up with the big league club at the end of the season except Kirk Nieuwenhuis (AAA DL), Vinny Rottino (claimed off waivers), Rob Johnson (DL), Jack Egbert (AAA DL), Omar Quintanilla (given away to the Orioles), and Garrett Olson (finished the season in Buffalo). And this is the way the season ends.

Andres Torres Ronny Cedeno Ramon Ramirez Jon Rauch
5 April 2012 5 April 2012 5 April 2012 5 April 2012
Frank Francisco Kirk Nieuwenhuis Jordany Valdespin Jeremy Hefner
5 April 2012 7 April 2012 23 April 2012 23 April 2012
Zach Lutz Vinny Rottino Rob Johnson Robert Carson
24 April 2012 4 May 2012 9 May 2012 18 May 2012
Jack Egbert Omar Quintanilla Elvin Ramirez Justin Hampson
28 May 2012 29 May 2012 3 June 2012 25 June 2012
Josh Edgin Matt Harvey Garrett Olson Kelly Shoppach
13 July 2012 26 July 2012 8 August 2012 16 August 2012
Collin McHugh Jeurys Familia Fred Lewis
23 August 2012 4 September 2012 4 September 2012

Previous Entries:

Hello, goodbye

Between offseason acquisitions, injury replacements, and general roster crunch, a lot of players have made their first Mets appearance in 2012 – 16 in the first three months of the season. Of those, most have spent time on the DL, been sent down to the minors, or, in the case of Vinny Rottino, been put on waivers and claimed by the Indians. Jon Rauch has been healthy but became a major scapegoat after getting hit hard in a few games and Kirk Nieuwenhuis earned a call-up when Andres Torres was injured on opening day and has stuck around ever since. Omar Quintanilla is the only other call-up with a chance of sticking long-term, largely because of his lack of options and the Mets’ lack of depth at shortstop. With the Mets still in contention, the looming trade deadline should bring in some new faces by the trade deadline.

It’s Harvey time!

Back in April, you may have been wondering how many starting pitchers the Mets would have to lose to call up Matt Harvey before August. The answer turns out to be three, with Pelfrey and Gee out for the season and Santana on the DL. As the Mets spiral out of contention, it’s time to see who’s ready for next year. That means we get to see Harvey pitch for the big league club in late July. For a team that was expected to finish in super-last place and trade all of its players with a pulse for a can of nuts with a springing snake in it, a decent first-half run and a couple months of Harvey in the rotation isn’t a bad deal. While he may have exceeded all expectations in his first start (5-1/3IP 0ER 3H 2BB 11K, plus 1-2/3 scoreless innings from fellow 2010 draft pick and July call-up Josh Edgin), it will take a while to see if he will live up to the hype.

From Fenway to Flushing

And then there were two. With Johan Santana out for the season, only Jon Niese and R.A. Dickey have lasted this far in starting rotation. I thought Jeff Kent was supposed to be on Survivor, not the Mets starters… Taking Johan’s slot (initially at least) will be Collin McHugh, who has had a great year so far in Binghamton and Buffalo, despite being overshadowed by Zack Wheeler at both stops. McHugh’s last minor league start before his call-up was at Fenway Park for Futures at Fenway, where he pitched 7 scoreless innings in Buffalo’s 2-0 win over the Pawtucket Red Sox. His next destination would turn out to be another big league park as he was tapped to start at Citi Field the following Thursday, where he went another 7 scoreless innings against the Rockies. Kelly Shoppach made a similar trip by way of the Boston Red Sox. Claimed on waivers and traded for PTBNL Pedro Beato, Shoppach was acquired in an attempt to improve offensive production at catcher. The deal also gives the Mets staff a close look at Shoppach, who will be a free agent at the end of the season and was in their sights last offseason. Shoppach homered for his first hit with the Mets and has been a big part of the team’s recent resurgence.

10 Lee Mazzilli Autograph Cards Every Fan Should Own

Shamelessly pandering to Mets Police

It’s been a rough nine months here at Collect The Mets as I realize just what is involved in scanning and presenting thousands of cards, especially when I keep buying more cards faster than I can process them.  It doesn’t help when I go off on tangents like game recaps.  The content just isn’t going up as fast as I would like and the readership suffers as a result.  The Twitter followership is doing well by comparison, but that’s probably because I don’t tweet often enough to be annoying.

So it wasn’t too much of a shock that I didn’t make the Mets Police Twitter 86 list.  If anything, I probably owe 86% of my Twitter followers to Mets Police.  I knew what I needed to do to get more attention though – more cowbell, er, I mean more Mazzilli.  And so I reached back into my extensive archives to put together this piece.

Longtime readers will know that Lee Mazzilli has been in my autograph collection since the early ’90s, when I met him at an autograph signing in Filene’s.  When certified autograph cards became all the rage, Mazzilli was sadly absent amid all of the Gary Carter, Keith Hernandez, Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Davey Johnson, Mookie Wilson, and even Kevin Mitchell autographs.

2003 Sweet Spot Classic

Presumably, there are no more than 25 Mazzilli fans. Otherwise, this could be a problem…

Fans would have to wait until 2003 for the first Lee Mazzilli certified autographs.  Upper Deck finally ended the drought with three Yankee Greats autographs in 2003 Sweet Spot Classic.  This was a three-tier parallel autograph set featuring blue autographs (not numbered), black autographs (numbered to 100 or less), and red autographs (numbered to 25).  Other notable Mets in this insert set include Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

2003 UD Yankees Signature

It wasn’t a long wait for Mazzilli’s next autograph appearance in 2003 UD Yankees Signature.  The Pride of New York autograph insert set featured just about every notable person ever associated with the Yankees, so finding Mazzilli in there wasn’t a big surprise.  Also featured in this set are Don Zimmer, Dwight Gooden, David Cone, and several other Mets whose first names do not start with D.

Mazzilli was also featured on the Pinstripe Excellence dual autograph insert set with fellow also-Met Mike Torrez.  Like Mazzilli, Torrez was also on the small-town autograph circuit in the early ’90s, though for some reason I have two of his autographs from back then.

Upper Deck was on a massive Yankees kick in 2003.

But that’s not all!  Mazzilli was featured two more times in 2003 Yankees Signature, this time on a pair of Yankees Forever triple autograph insert cards.  Triple autographs are common these days when you can just slap three sticker autos on a card and call it a day, but in the olden days, you had to get three different people to physically handle the card for these sort of things.  With guys like Paul O’Neill and Dave Winfield on these cards, Mazzilli clearly wasn’t the main draw.

2006 Fleer Greats of the Game

Surprisingly, Mazzilli did not have any autograph cards in 2004 or 2005, when products like UD Timeless Teams, UD Past Time Pennants, Topps All-Time Fan Favorites, Topps Originals, and Donruss Timelines went heavy on players from the ’86 Mets.  His next appearance would be in the UD-produced 2006 Fleer Greats of the Game.  In addition to the base Greats of the Game Autographs card, Mazzilli was featured in the Nickname Greats insert set with the inscription “Italian Stallion.”  These would be Mazzilli’s first and only sticker autographs.  At least he was finally shown as a Met.  Other Mets featured in one or both of these sets include David Cone, Sid Fernandez (“El Sid”), Howard Johnson (“HoJo”), Tom Seaver, and Rusty Staub (“Le Grand Orange”).

2007 Sweet Spot Classic

Things came around full circle when Mazzilli made his final autograph appearance in 2007 Sweet Spot Classic.  Unlike the 2003 version, this one shows him as a Met.  Also unlike the 2003 version (as well as just about every Sweet Spot autograph from the era), only one version of this card was produced, numbered to 199.  Other Mets in this set include Tom Seaver and Keith Hernandez, all with cards numbered to 16.

And that’s all there is.  Mazzilli has never had an autograph card in a non-UD product and has never had a game-used memorabilia card.  If you’re looking for a premium Mazzilli card, these ten are the only ones you have to choose from.

Update: Two more Lee Mazzilli autographs for the obsessive collector

What a difference a year makes.  After not having any certified autograph cards for five years, Lee Mazzilli was back in action with more autographs and not just for Upper Deck.  Still nothing from Topps though…

2012 SP Signature

Technically, this 2012 SP Signature Mazzilli autograph existed back when I originally wrote this piece.  However, being from the unlicensed Upper Deck and featuring no player photograph, it was an easy one to overlook.  Upper Deck didn’t even release a checklist for this product, instead letting the product “speak for itself” and encouraging collectors to check out YouTube and eBay for more information.  So yeah, this exists, Lee Mazzilli’s autograph on a sticker stuck on a generic card.  Mazzilli’s autograph also exists on a 6-player autograph card (numbered to 10) and an 8-player autograph card (numbered to 2).  I will almost certainly never own these, so we’re done having all of Mazzilli’s autographs here.  Oh well.

2013 Panini Hometown Heroes

It only took a decade, but the Upper Deck monopoly on Lee Mazzilli autograph cards has been broken!  Panini included Mazzilli in 2013 Panini Hometown Heroes, their response to Topps Archives.  Hometown Heroes / Fan Favorites, get it?  Already without team names or logos because of that other baseball card monopoly, Panini went with a rather uninspired design and color scheme on Hometown Heroes, one that brings back memories of 2005 Diamond Kings, one of the ugliest products in recent memory.  Blue ink on a light green background just doesn’t work.  At least there’s an actual picture of Mazzilli this time…  Though it doesn’t look like he’s in a Mets uniform.  Parallel versions numbered to 25 and 1 also exist, but what’s the point?  A different border color isn’t going to save this card.

So there you have it, two more autograph cards (plus four low-numbered variants) for you to chase if you need to have everything Lee Mazzilli.  Ball’s in your court, Topps.

A Major Thanks to the Minor Leaguers

Bringing my autographs into the 21st century

One of the things I missed as a kid, not having attended any Mets games except that one time with my brother’s Scout troop, was the chance to meet the players and get autographs before the games.  It never even occurred to me that this was a possibility, it always seemed like something only the lucky few up front got to experience.  The first time I was able to see such things firsthand was at Yankee Stadium in 2000, where it was only kids getting autographs and the general atmosphere made anyone without baby teeth feel like a selfish monster for wanting to interact with the players.  Stars like Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Alex Rodriguez, and Edgar Martinez were right there just a few feet away, but my place was taking pictures from the other side of the screen.  I was too old now to take part in the things I missed out on as a kid.

Screw that, I’ll do whatever I damn well please, age-appropriate or not.  I watch cartoons, collect action figures and baseball cards, and ask baseball players for autographs before games.  It beats getting drunk and passing out naked on the side of the road, that’s for sure.

My autographed baseball collection began back in the ’90s when autograph signings were plentiful at every card show or random event (or non-event).  Even with over 1,000 certified autographs on baseball cards now in my collection, it’s the ones that I got in person that mean the most.  I’ve got a pile of Gary Carter 1/1 autographs, but how about this Lee Mazzilli autographed ball, with the ink faded and bleeding into the cover?  I never met Carter, but I did meet Mazzilli in Filene’s in the Galleria at Crystal Run in Middletown, NY.

Almost 20 years later, that stack of signed balls was looking a bit outdated.  Ed Kranepool is still the longest-tenured Met, but he hasn’t played since the ’70s.  Tommie Agee, Catfish Hunter, Enos Slaughter, Bob Feller, and Bobby Thomson have passed on.  It was time to do something to breathe new life into this collection and this year’s minor league games looked like the perfect opportunity.

Let me just say that doing this sort of thing does not come easy to me.  I would prefer it if there were some designated off-field spot to get autographs, like a holding pen for the players to mill around in before being let onto the field.  I think there are laws against that sort of thing though, so the only window of opportunity is from the time the players enter the dugout until they are done with warmups.  Even this wouldn’t be so bad if there were a place set aside for autographs, but in most cases there isn’t.  I hate to get in anyone’s way, but the only place to wait for autographs is either in front of someone’s seats or in the aisle that people use to get to their seats.  Some people are polite and understanding when they ask to get by, but others react to any perceived wrongdoing with outright hostility.  And if that weren’t enough, you have to make a spectacle of yourself to get the players’ attention to ask for an autograph when they’re trying to warm up for a game.  If I had tried to do this as a kid, I probably would have run off to hide in a dark corner out of embarrassment.

Binghamton Mets, 11-13 May 2012, Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, Manchester, NH

11 May 2012 Game Recap
12 May 2012 Game Recap
13 May 2012 Game Recap

This would be my first test and the early results weren’t very positive.  After arriving too late for autographs to the first of the three games I had tickets to, I only managed to get the autograph of Juan Centeno before the second game (and even then only after someone else called him over to the edge of the dugout).  I did get the lay of the land though and arrived on day three ready to ambush the players as they entered the dugout from the clubhouse.  My approach worked and I got Mark Cohoon, Matt den Dekker, Reese Havens, Jefry Marte, and Raul Reyes to sign the remainder of the six baseballs I had brought to this series.

Brooklyn Cyclones, 7-8 August 2012, Lelacheur Park, Lowell, MA

7 August 2012 Game Recap
8 August 2012 Game Recap

My next chance for autographs was three months later when the Brooklyn Cyclones came to town.  This team was loaded with recent draft picks and day one went about as well as coud be expected – Brandon Nimmo, Phillip Evans, and Kevin Plawecki all spent plenty of time signing on the field next tot he dugout.  With all of the big signing bonus picks out of the way, I had plenty of options for the last three balls I had with me on day 2 (should have brought more…).  Jayce Boyd’s solo home run provided all of the offense the night before, so he was an obvious choice.  Boyd’s 2012 draft classmate Stefan Sabol is also a promising prospect, but I was more interested in the autograph itself – just look at it.  Never pass up a chance to get Stefan Sabol’s autograph, it’s a thing of beauty.  Julio Concepcion rounded out the day’s autographs.

Buffalo Bisons, 18 August 2012, Fenway Park, Boston, MA

18 August 2012 Game Recap

Down to my last chance for autographs this summer, I brought 12 baseballs to Fenway when the Bisons came for Futures at Fenway.  With so many future and/or former Mets on the team, it was impossible to prioritize who I was after.  And, based on my experiences to date, opportunity would dictate wh I would be able to have sign for me.  When Wally Backman appeared in the dugout, my first target became clear.  I absolutely was not leaving without Backman’s autograph; this was just the third time I had met someone from the 1986 team.  Unfortunately, getting to him was a problem, as was the person in front of me who started a long conversation with Backman when I finally got within arm’s reach.  After waiting politely for a while, I forced my way in for the autograph.  I hated to do it, but nobody seemed to mind.  Mike Nickeas, Val Pascucci, and a few other players were nearby at that end of the dugout, but the crowd around them was just too thick to get through.  Reluctantly, I left that area to take my chances in the outfield.

Things started out slowly at the edge of the outfield, but eventually Lucas May, C.J. Nitkowski, and Robert Carson came over for autographs, while many other players passed by in one direction or another.  With the outfield emptying out, I went back to my seat behind the dugout in pursuit of one final player – Josh Satin.  When I got there, several players were milling around in the dugout, but few were visible enough to identify.  Lucas Duda, too tall to miss even in a dugout, didn’t hear when I called to him.  Neither did Satin a few moments later.  Rather than stand there like an idiot shouting his name over and over, I chose to stand there like an idiot holding up a ball and a pen until he looked in my direction while scanning the crowd and motioned for me to throw the ball and pen over.  Hey, whatever works.  After that, I probably could have shouted random player names and gotten someone’s attention, but I decided to just be satisfied with the five autographs I was able to get.  And then I saw this directly in front of me as the player introductions began:

Jeurys Familia had been right in front of me all along!

And so ended my first season of hunting for autographs at baseball games.  The final tally of 17 autographs in 6 games was better than I would have expected, but less than I could have gotten knowing how everything works.  Still, it was enough to fill a shelf up with 32 autographs, all but three of which were obtained in person (which three should be obvious).  With the top two rows filled with prospects, there are bound to be a few changes in the years to come, with some of this year’s autographs inevitably getting shuffled off to another shelf with guys like Dave Telgheder, Mike Torrez, Willie Randolph, and Lou Piniella.  Hopefully some of the ones who stick around will start a second championship row above the players from 1969 and 1986.

Oh, and a note to the 17: check your mail.  A small token of my appreciation was mailed out at the end of August, I don’t know if it made it there in time for some of you.