Saturday, October 20, 2012


Tim Corcoran was signed as a free agent by the New York Mets on March 4, 1986. The club was looking for a left-handed bat from the bench and saw the veteran as a possible solution. The Mets first assigned the first baseman/outfielder to the Triple-A Tidewater Tides, but Manager Davey Johnson shared that he might be regarded "insurance" if Keith Hernandez were suspended by Major League Baseball for any length of time for past involvement with drugs.

Tim enjoyed a strong spring training and seemed poised to make the opening day major league roster. The last cuts to achieve the 24-man roster from training camp were Ron Gardenhire and Doug Sisk. Both players had to clear waivers, so Corcoran was not officially added to the Mets roster until days after the season began. He seemed to make his New York Mets debut on April 24, 1986. Announced as the pinch-hitter in the sixth inning of a game facing the Cardinals in St. Louis, he was pulled back when a call to the bullpen brought in a left-handed reliever. So his first actual chance to hit came on April 29th at Fulton County Stadium when he grounded out to second base as a pinch-hitter in the 10-5 Mets victory over the Atlanta Braves.

The Mets sent Corcoran back to Triple-A Tidewater on May 8th. They needed the roster spot for outfielder Mookie Wilson who was activated following his recovery from an eye injury sustained during spring training. The move to the Tides would last a month before Tim was promoted back to the big leagues.

Corcoran made two pinch-hit appearances at Shea Stadium. They were the only two home games he would enter as a Met, and both came facing the San Diego Padres. He lined out to the shortstop on June 3rd, and drew a walk the next day during New York's 4-2 win on June 4th.

The last day of his New York Mets career came on June 6th at Three Rivers Stadium. In the first game of that day's double header with the Pirates he pinch-hit for Ron Darling and grounded out to the pitcher. Corcoran gave Keith Hernandez a rest in the second game and was given the start at first base. Tim grounded out in three of his at-bats, but did draw a walk and was on base for Rick Aguilera's home run during the 10-4 New York rout of Pittsburgh.

The Mets officially released Corcoran on June 9th, but after clearing waivers he completed the year with Tidewater. In 86 games for the Tides he hit one home run, with 24 RBIs, and a .260 batting average. He was hitless in seven at-bats for the eventual 1986 World Champion New York Mets that year.

Tim played two more seasons of minor league baseball in the Philadelphia Phillies system before ending his playing career. Following that he returned home to California, and became a professional scout for the Anaheim Angels. He won "The Nick Kamzic Award" as the Angels' Scout of the Year in 2000.

Corcoran led California State University, LA to back-to-back Pacific Coast Athletic Association championships in 1973 and 1974. He was inducted into the Golden Eagles Hall of Fame in 1985.

Tim Corcoran signed his card in the set for my good friend Jessie during the JP's Sports & Rock Solid Promotions "Fall Classic Show" in White Plains, New York on October 5, 2012.

Monday, October 15, 2012


Mike Marshall joined the New York Mets when he was signed as a free agent on August 19, 1981. The right-handed reliever had been out of baseball since pitching for the Minnesota Twins in June of 1980, and had failed to start with a team following the resolution of the labor strike in 1981. "I wanted to see if Mike could still do it physically," said the Mets' manager, Joe Torre of the four-day tryout he gave Marshall two weeks earlier. "It's obvious he had it. Mike throws a good screwball and a good slider. Anybody with pitches that go two ways is tough. Plus he, knows how to win—he's proved that."

Mike was actually "Dr." Marshall  with a Ph.D. in kinesiology, and taught the subject at both Michigan State University and St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. He believes that his studies have allowed him to develop a better pitching motion. "I know the injurious flaws in the 'traditional' baseball pitching motion that injure baseball pitchers and how to eliminate all pitching injuries." Marshall states on his website. "I also know the mechanical flaws in the 'traditional' baseball pitching motion that decrease velocity, release consistency and the variety and quality of pitches pitchers can throw and how to correct these mechanical flaws."

The veteran was an innovator throughout his pitching career. Mike was one of the first relievers to run in from the bullpen, and insisted that despite the established mindset he could pitch nearly every day. He proved it correct in 1974 while setting the major league record of most appearances during a single season with 106.

With New York he would appear in 20 games and post a 3-2 record, with eight strikeouts, and a 2.61 ERA during 31 innings of work. Marshall felt that his work as a union representative with the Major League Baseball Players Union led to his exit from many teams. The conclusion of his career with the Mets was no different. "The Twins released me the year before. And then in that year there was no season 'til near the end." explained Mike in 2012. "I don't touch a ball in that entire time, then I go in there and have a 2.6 ERA. And that's something, because I'm not fit, I don't have quality on my pitches, and I'm still able to do that. I fully expected that I would be pitching the next year, and planned to, but the Mets released me, because the manager didn't like this guy that got free agency into professional baseball."

Dr. Marshall formed his Pitchers Research/Training Center in Zephyrhills, Florida after leaving the game. He also hosts a website and is a featured lecturer about his pitching philosophy and technique. Only one of his students has been able to introduce their unusual new throwing motion into the professional leagues. Jeff Sparks threw briefly with the Tampa Bay Rays team, but was determined as difficult to work with and returned to the minor leagues. "The coaches aren't interested in learning," Mike says. "They just demand that the kids change back." Marshall's school was closed when a special-exception request for home-schooling was denied by Pasco County. Mike contended that it was not a business because he does not charge a fee only room and board for his students.

During his playing days Mike was notable as a rare ballplayer that refused to sign autographs for even the young fans. "As an athlete, I am no one to be idolized," He once said at the ballpark while denying a fellow teammates son his signature on a baseball. "I will not perpetuate that hoax. They say I don't like kids. I think that refusing to sign autographs, I am giving the strongest demonstration that I really do like them." Instead Dr. Marshall has only relaxed his unwillingness to sign for fans through two limited signings where he charged $250.00 and $185.00 or more per autograph.

Mike Marshall signed his card in the set during Chris Potter's private signing with him on April 10, 2012.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Jim Tatum signed with the New York Mets as a free agent on December 26, 1997. The versatile player had first made the major leagues in 1992 with the Milwaukee Brewers. When he signed a minor league contract with New York it occurred during the same time the Mets were in discussions in bringing in Japanese pitching ace, Masato Yoshii. Tatum had played the previous season in Japan alongside Yoshii on the Japan Series Champion Yakult Swallows club.

"The practices were tougher than the games. That's what they want. They want it so the games just come naturally," Jim explained. "It really clicked for me in Japan. I saw a different culture and a different work ethic. I thought I was really working here. But over there I realized I wasn't really working at all." Bobby Valentine became a fan of his hustle and the many ways that Tatum might help the team. The Mets manager added Jim to the opening day roster for the 1998 campaign as a bench player that might even serve as the third catcher as needed.

Jim made his Mets debut on March 31, 1998 at Shea Stadium. He struck out as a pinch-hitter in New York's 1-0 opening day victory over the Philadelphia Phillies. Tatum's first home run for the Mets came as a walk-off pinch-hit three run shot off Houston Astros closer, Doug Henry on April 22nd. The two-out blast completed a 10-7 comeback victory. "Is it surprising?" Tatum asked afterward. "No, because I know I can do stuff like that...You put 500 at-bats in me, who knows what I'll hit?"

Injuries to the starting lineup allowed many opportunities for Jim to fill in at various positions. His first start at third base on May 17th in San Francisco was memorable to him and his teammates. "I give him a nine for the somersault," Bernard Gilkey said after the game. "Give him two points for the takedown of Rey. And he did one of the best juggling acts I've ever seen on the third one. It was amusing. It loosened us up, I'll tell you that." Giants hitter, Darryl Hamilton fouled off two consecutive pitches in the first inning that eluded the third-baseman Tatum. Both falling untouched to the ground aided by a bright sun and a near collision with shortstop, Rey Ordonez. "On the third one, I just got lucky and guessed where it was going," said Tatum. "When it was hit, I thought, 'I better catch this one.'" The catch brought a sarcastic applause from the crowd, the Mets team to cheer from the dugout steps, and a sheepish grin to Jim's face.

Tatum appeared in his final game as a Met on June 11th, and was released a few days later. Jim complained that he was injured when he was designated for assignment and filed a grievance that was eventually settled with the Mets. He finished with 2 home runs, 13 RBIs and a .180 batting average in 35 games.

Following his 16 year playing career (that took him through the majors, minors, Japan, Korea and Mexico) he became the host of The Jim Tatum Show. A sports radio talk show in Colorado that he was a part of for seven years.

He ended up back on the field as an umpire in 2008. Tatum graduated the Jim Evans Umpire School and began calling games in professional Independent League baseball. "I'm still learning," Jim offered that season. "If I was 22 years old, I'd say I want to be a major league umpire. All I can do right now is be the best umpire I can be in the Atlantic League."

Since then Tatum has began a new baseball career, becoming the hitting coach for the Washington Wild Things of the Frontier League in 2012. "I wasn't going to just go out there and collect a check and hang out. I have too much reverence for the game of baseball. Everything that I have emotionally, physically, spiritually, and financially is because of baseball. Why would I want to take advantage of that?"

Jim Tatum signed his card in the set for me before the Washington Wild Things and Florence Freedom game at Whitaker Bank Ballpark in Kentucky on August 25, 2012.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Andy Tomberlin was traded from the Oakland Athletics organization to the New York Mets on May 1, 1996. The left-handed outfielder was acquired to replace injured Mets prospect, Jay Payton at Triple-A Norfolk. Tomberlin was undrafted out of high school, but won a contract with the Atlanta Braves in a 1995 open tryout camp. "I wanted to be an outfielder," Andy said. "But they ran out of pitchers. They knew I could pitch so they asked me to come out of the outfield. I struck out the side, so they asked me to pitch another inning. I struck out the side again. So they signed me as a pitcher. But I still wanted to be an outfielder."

Tomberlin got his wish while in the minor-leagues and proved to be a valuable hitter there. He was promoted to New York in mid-June and made his debut with the club on June 17, 1996 facing the Pirates in Pittsburgh.

His first start resulted in his first hit with the team. Andy was the right-fielder and added his first home run in the sixth-inning of the Mets 5-3 loss to the Cincinnati Reds at Shea Stadium on June 20th. Tomberlin would enter 63 games for New York that season, but only 17 of those in the outfield. The majority of this appearances came as a pinch-hitter. He ended the year with three home runs, 10 RBIs and a .258 batting average.

A strong showing during spring training earned Andy a spot on the 1997 Mets opening day roster. Unfortunately a herniated disk in his back forced him to the disabled list on April 10th. He would not be able to play the remainder of the season. The free agent, Tomberlin played the next year with the Detroit Tigers before returning to the Norfolk Tides for the 1999 season.

"I'd like to start coaching and eventually manage," Andy told the New York Daily News in 1997. "I've invested too much time in the game not to put it to use after I am done playing." Tomberlin started that path first as a scout for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2001, and then moving to his first minor-league coaching position in 2003. He had progressed to the position of Triple-A hitting coach for the Charlotte Knights in 2012.

Andy Tomberlin signed his card in the set for me following the Charlotte Knights and Indianapolis Indians game at Victory Field on August 6, 2012.

Sunday, July 8, 2012


Ben Johnson came to the New York Mets along with Jon Adkins when they were traded from the San Diego Padres in exchange for Heath Bell and Royce Ring on November 15, 2006. "Ben Johnson is a versatile outfielder who can play all three spots, has speed and shown some power," said Mets general manager Omar Minaya. "He is just 25-years-old and we feel he has yet to reach his potential."

The outfielder began the 2007 season at Triple-A New Orleans, but was summoned to New York when Shawn Green suffered a chip fracture in his right foot. Ben joined the club on the road in Los Angeles. Waiting to make his Mets debut as a defensive replacement in right field facing the Giants back at Shea Stadium. He was hitless in two at-bats during New York's 5-4 victory over San Francisco on May 29th.

Johnson would appear in a total of nine games for the Mets before he was returned to New Orleans on June 11th. Ben was sent to the Zephyrs once Shawn Green was reactivated. During his time in New York he recorded five hits in 27 at-bats, including a double and RBI, for a .185 batting average.

While playing with New Orleans, Ben suffered a broken ankle attempting to slide into second base. "The worst injury that I had sustained up to that point was a broken hand," said Johnson. "This was by far the worst I had ever been injured." The fracture required surgery on August 6th. His recovery prohibited any return to the roster in 2007, and lingered as he attempted to make the team in spring training the next year. He was officially released on May 5, 2008. Team officials left Johnson an invitation to return to the organization if his condition ever improved.

Ben continued an attempt to return to baseball. He was signed as a free agent with the Detroit Tigers in 2010. Unable to reach the major leagues, Johnson became the assistant coach for the Arizona Centennials of the Freedom Professional Baseball League in 2012.

Ben Johnson signed his card in the set for my friend Dana Dominion before a Arizona Centennials game in June 2012.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Robert Person joined the New York Mets when he was traded from the Florida Marlins organization in exchange for Steve Long on March 30, 1994. The 25-year-old right-hander was sent to Double-A Binghamton where he compiled a 9-6 record with 130 strikeouts and a 3.45 ERA. Person split the 1995 campaign between Binghamton and Triple-A Norfolk. He was rewarded with a late-season call up to New York when rosters expanded at the close of the year.

Robert was used primarily as a starting pitcher in the minors, but made his big-league debut from the Mets bullpen on September 18, 1995. He threw two scoreless innings in the 7-1 New York loss to the Atlanta Braves at Fulton County Stadium. Days later, a steady rain at Shea Stadium postponed his home debut and first starting assignment in the major leagues. "I was on edge all night and I was so pumped up," Person was quoted. "My objective was to show what I can do and to pitch to the hitters like I can." Robert got that chance on September 27th, and made the most of his opportunity. He threw seven innings of one-run baseball and was credited with the 5-4 victory over the Cincinnati Reds. Person also added a pair of singles and scored a run. "Getting my first major league win and my first major league hit were both just as exciting as the other," beamed Robert. "I was proud of myself and my team."

Person was given a chance to pitch from the New York bullpen to start the 1996 season. He struggled early and was returned to Norfolk at the end of April with a 8.44 ERA. He returned to the Mets in June, but this time in the starting rotation. It was a change that seemed to make all the difference. Robert  hurled 20 innings in his first three starts while striking out 20 hitters. "I'm not looking over my shoulder," Person said. "I'm pretty confident now." When injured Mets pitcher, Paul Wilson returned from the disabled list it returned Robert to the relief core on July 12th. He finished the year pitching a combination of the two roles that yielded a final record of 4-5, 89.2 innings, 79 strikeouts and a 4.52 ERA.

That winter the Mets traded Person to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for John Olerud on December 20, 1996. Robert would pitch nine years in the major leagues. Including a 15 win season with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2001.

Life after professional baseball was a struggle for Person. Bad business decisions saw the money he had earned disappear. "It's been hard," Robert told Sports Illustrated in 2011. "Sometimes I get down, But I try not to stay down. When you're playing you assume—by investing your money—you'll be set for life. Well, I trusted the wrong people. Bad people who took advantage." The former pitcher found limited work as a carpenter in Largo, Florida and played in several recreational leagues. "I left my ego at the door a long time ago."

I created Robert Person's card in the set from an autographed index card purchased from Kyle's Sportscards on November 20, 2011.

Monday, June 18, 2012


Mike Scott was selected by the New York Mets organization in the second round of the free agent draft on June 8, 1976. The right-hander from Pepperdine University pitched very well for the Double-A Jackson Mets, but not as strong at the Triple-A level in 1978.

Scott earned a spot on the Mets staff with a good spring training the next year. He made his major-league debut with New York on April 18, 1979. Mike threw two innings in relief of Pat Zachary during the Mets 6-5 loss to the Expos in Montreal. His next appearance was as the starting pitcher at Shea Stadium on April 24th. Scott threw five innings and was credited with the victory in the 10-3 win over the San Francisco Giants.

Mike led the club's pitching staff with a 3.90 ERA in 1981. His 13 losses, and 100 runs allowed were the team highs the following season. The Mets traded Scott to the Houston Astros in exchange for Danny Heep on December 10, 1982. "Inconsistency has been Mike's tag," explained Mets broadcaster, Tim McCarver at the time of the trade. "But he could be a good pitcher someday."

"I was just trying to hang on." remembered Scott. "I think that you go through different phases when you get to the big leagues. The first phase is just to hang on. You try to stay on the team and see if you belong there or not. The next phase is to produce and do something, be one of the guys who contribute. After that you want to win a World Series."

The hurler added a new weapon by learning the split-fingered fastball from legendary coach, Roger Craig after joining the Astros.

All seemed to come together for Mike Scott in Houston during 1986. He would throw a no-hitter on September 25th at the Astrodome to clinch the National League Western Division title. The victory earned the right to face the Eastern Division winning Mets in the Championship Series. Scott dominated New York in his two starts, but saw his Astros fall to the eventual World Champions 4 games to 2. Although a member of the losing team, he was named the Most Valuable Player of the 1986 NLCS. It was the first time in baseball history that this had ever occurred.

Mike's performance was clouded by accusations that he illegally scuffed the baseballs he threw. The controversy was revisited during MLB Network's program "1986: A Postseason to Remember". "We knew this during the season," Keith Hernandez revealed during his interview. "because when you're the home team, every foul ball that goes up to the screen and gets rolled back down, the batboy collects it. It doesn't go to the visitor's side, It goes to the home team side, so we knew." Mike Scott returned with, "They can believe whatever they want to believe. Every ball hits the ground has something on it...I've thrown balls that were scuffed but I haven't scuffed every ball that I've thrown."

Scott left baseball after the 1991 season. Facing a surgery with a long rehabilitation he chose to leave with a career record of 124-108. The Houston Astros honored their right-handed star by retiring his jersey number 33 in 1992.  "I would have traded me too." Mike offered in 2003. "I have no animosity to the Mets. They got me to the big leagues." Scott has enjoyed time with family, and playing golf in his retirement. "My wife and I talked about traveling. We haven't really gone to Europe. I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing now. I'm enjoying it."

Mike Scott signed his card in the set during a private signing in Houston on January 6, 2012.

Friday, June 8, 2012


Kevin Roberson joined the New York Mets organization when he signed a minor-league free agent contract on November 12, 1995. The switch-hitting outfielder was invited to spring training camp in February. Roberson was taking part in team physicals when a routine blood test became eventful. "Sometimes when I take those tests, I start to feel like that," Kevin said. "I can't explain it. I just feel a little light-headed." He had to lie down for 10 minutes before the test could be completed.

Roberson earned the final outfield spot on the Opening Day roster after showing a quick bat with power. The slugger recorded five home runs in Florida. He made his New York Mets debut on April 3, 1996. Kevin delivered a pinch-hit single off Dennis Eckersley in the ninth inning of New York's 5-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals at Shea Stadium.

Kevin got his first start of the season on April 27th. Manager Dallas Green was looking for help to shake up a struggling lineup. Roberson responded with a ninth inning three-run home run to help the Mets rally to a 7-4 win over the Pirates in Pittsburgh. He showed too much inconsistency at the plate to become the regular right fielder. The Mets chose to promote a highly-touted Alex Ochoa from the minor leagues to fill the position. Roberson appeared in 27 games before being outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk on June 1st where he finished the season with the Tides. He ended up with three home runs, 9 RBIs, and a .222 batting average at the major league level.

Kevin left the organization when he signed as a free agent with the San Francisco Giants on November 25, 1996.

I created Kevin Roberson's card in the set from an autographed index card purchased from Kyle's Sportcards on November 20, 2011.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


Junior Noboa joined the New York Mets when he was selected off waivers from the Montreal Expos on October 8, 1991. The infielder had first gained attention in 1989 while a member of the Expos' Triple-A baseball team in Indianapolis. Junior led the league in hits while recording a 340 batting average that season. The Mets signed him to a one-year contract on January 30, 1992.

Junior made his Mets' debut on Opening Day. Noboa came off the bench during New York's 4-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. It was the first of 46 appearances that year. Only five of which came in a starting role. The right-handed hitter struggled at the plate. Registering only a .149 batting average that led to his option down to Triple-A Tidewater on July 27th.

The Mets granted him free agency on October 16th, and he would sign with the Cincinnati Reds organization. Noboa retired from his playing career following the 1995 season. Junior established a baseball academy in his native Dominican Republic and became the Director of Latin American Operations for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was presented the Roland Hedmond Award in 1997 as the member who best bestowed the "Diamondback"approach to the game. Junior was promoted to the position of Vice President, Latin American Operations in 2011. 

I created Junior Noboa's card in the set from an autographed index card purchased on October 17, 2011.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


David West was selected by the New York Mets organization in the fourth round of the free agent draft on June 6, 1983. The left-hander came to professional baseball straight from Craigmont High School in Memphis, Tennessee.

West established himself as a high level prospect with fine work in the minor leagues. Unfortunately for the southpaw there was an abundance of quality pitchers in New York. His 12-4 record with the Triple-A Tidewater Tides earned him the starting assignment at the 1988 International League All-Star Game and a late season call-up to the Mets. David made his long anticipated big league debut on September 24th in St. Louis. He threw five innings to earn the victory in New York's 14-1 win over the Cardinals. The performance was followed with an inning of relief work in Philadelphia four days later. He finished his first taste of the major leagues with two appearances, a 1-0 record and 3.00 ERA.

David was invited to major-league training camp the next spring with hopes of joining a talented starting rotation. He pitched well, but was assigned to Triple-A due to the depth in New York. "How can I go back to Tidewater and improve on a 1.80 earned run average?" West asked. "I came here expecting to make the team. I knew the Mets already had six good starters but I felt if David West pitched well, something would happen. I'm disappointed. I'm angry. I'm also not in a position to go in and demand anything. The ball's in their court. I have no leverage."

The young hurler was brought back to New York on June 11, 1989 with the trade of Terry Leach to Kansas City. This time he was assigned to work from the bullpen, and allowed him to make his first game appearance at Shea Stadium on June 15th. Although a starter his whole career, West thrived in his new relief role. The Mets ace pitcher, Dwight Gooden was removed from the rotation with an arm injury in July. David was given the opportunity to replace him. The rookie took the mound at Shea on July 6th, and allowed seven runs in just four innings of work facing the Cincinnati Reds. His second start yielded harsher results with eight runs in less than three innings against the Houston Astros.

David was returned to the bullpen. Just minutes before the midnight trading deadline, the Mets traded the formerly untouchable West, along with Rick Aguilera, Kevin Tapani, Tim Drummond, and Jack Savage to Minnesota on July 31, 1989. New York received pitcher Frank Viola from the Twins. "I know we're giving up a lot for Viola, he's one of the premier pitchers in baseball," Mets manager Davey Johnson said. "Any time we can get a player of this caliber, you have to make the trade."

After a 10-year major league career, that included a World Series with both the Twins and Philadelphia Phillies, the left-hander retired from pitching in 1999. He remained near the game by first serving as a high school pitching coach in Florida. Then later joined the staff at Memphis Baseball Academy in October 2011.

David West signed his card in the set for J&M Sport Cards at an autograph event held at 263 Marketplace in Warminster, Pennsylvania on April 7, 2012.

Monday, March 26, 2012


Tim Spehr came to the New York Mets when he signed a free agent contract on January 8, 1998. An injury to the elbow of Todd Hundley created a void at catcher for the Mets. Spehr, a six-year minor league free agent saw the opportunity to earn a roster spot in spring training. "All I can ask for is what they are giving me here," Tim said in March 1998. "but nobody has any control if they go and make a trade for a guy."

Tim was known as a fine receiver, but historically had not been as strong a hitter. However, in preseason games he was swinging his bat with great results. "It's only March 7th," he explained. "and there's still a lot of spring to go. Every catcher in the game is aware of the situation here when a major catcher like Todd is out. But just because I've put a couple of good games together doesn't mean to say I'm a star hitter."

Spehr made his Mets debut as the teams catcher on March 31, 1998. He started the game and remained behind the plate for all 14 innings of the 1-0 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies. It was the veteran's first career Opening Day assignment. "I don't know," Tim jokingly said afterward. "If I've ever caught 14 innings in a season." He was able to add a pair of hits in his five at-bats that afternoon. "Usually I'm coming in as a catcher on the squad, but No. 2 or No. 3," Spehr said. "Here I'm not sure how much I'm going to play, but I know I'll play a fair amount. It's a challenge, but a welcome one. It's not something I'm leary of."

The native Texan was excited for the opportunity and the chance to live in the city. "I wanted to be in New York. I love that Manhattan area. There are plenty of places to eat and go out." Spehr noted. "I'm going to enjoy being a New York Met...It's something I said a few years ago, I wanted to play for one of the New York teams. Now I'm here. But I know that this city can eat you alive. You have to be prepared to do your job each and every day you come to the ballpark."

One of the most memorable plays of his Mets career came amazingly while playing first base. During his first ever game appearance there he pulled off something that a regular at the position would be proud of. "I don't think you'll ever see it again," said Mets manager Bobby Valentine. Cincinnati Reds outfielder, Reggie Sanders blooped a hit into left center field. Both Mets middle infielders and outfielder, Bernard Gilkey rushed to retrieve the ball. Sanders saw second base uncovered and raced to stretch the hit into a double. The alert Spehr saw what was happening and won the race to second base against Sanders. Even catching the throw from the outfield and tagging the surprised Sanders for the out. "I felt like a quarterback out there," Gilkey said of his throw. "It was really classic," said Valentine. "I'll bet that's his last putout at second base from left field in his career. Just call it a hunch."

Unfortunately his time with the Mets was ended on a play at the plate on May 4th. The backstop suffered a broken bone in his left wrist as a result of a lunging tag of Arizona Diamondbacks, Kelly Stinnett in the game at Shea Stadium. Tim returned to catch the next inning. "He came out to me and told me to relax and stuff," Mets pitcher, Brian Bohanon remembered. "He never hinted he was hurt." After the game x-rays revealed the break. Spehr had only managed a .137 batting average, but had become quite valuable in handling the Mets pitching staff. "Not only have I become very comfortable with Timmy, but I've gotten very close to him as a friend and a teammate," Al Leiter said after the news. "It's upsetting to know he's going to be out awhile."

The Mets acquired future Hall of Famer Mike Piazza to become their catcher in May. Spehr's contract was sold to the Kansas City Royals when he returned from the disabled list on August 31, 1998.

Tim returned to Dallas after his playing career and embarked on a successful career in real estate. He remained involved with baseball as a coach working with teams from the Centerfield Baseball Academy in Plano, Texas.

Tim Spehr signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to him on March 25, 2012.

Friday, March 16, 2012


Dennis Cook came to the New York Mets when he was traded from the Florida Marlins in exchange for Fletcher Bates and Scott Comer on December 18, 1997. The left-handed relief pitcher was part of the 1997 World Championship team. "They started trading everybody," Cook said. "In a way it was sad, because of everything we'd accomplished. We put so much hard work into it, and it's gratifying when you do that and something positive comes out of it."

The Cook family grew significantly back in Austin, Texas. Dennis and his wife welcomed their first children, a set of triplets. He was excused from part of spring training to be home for the event. "It was an incredible experience," Cook said. "and I appreciate the Mets giving me the time to enjoy it. I don't know what will happen to me the rest of my life, but nothing will ever replace this. It was a miracle."

Dennis made his Mets debut during Opening Day at Shea Stadium on March 31, 1998. Throwing an inning and a third of the New York 1-0 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies. He would lead the team in appearances with 73 during his first season. Finishing with a 8-4 record, one save, and a 2.38 ERA.

The Mets would earn the National League Wild Card in 1999. Cook did his part with a 10-5 record, three saves and a 3.86 ERA. Dennis registered 68 strikeouts in his 63 innings pitched during the regular season. The southpaw then did not allow an earned run in any of his postseason appearances.

New York would once again secure the N.L. Wild Card entry in 2000, but it was a challenging year personally for Dennis. Several rough outings caused his ERA to rise to 5.34. "I have the same stuff, but good mechanics come with consistent work, and I would say I'm not where I want to be with my mechanics right now," Cook said in mid-August. "I've had stretches of being very good but when I've been bad, I've been very bad this year." When the postseason arrived he was ready. Again he did not allow a single earned run that included three appearances against the New York Yankees in the World Series.

By mid-season of 2001 the Mets had decided to part ways with the impending free agent. Dennis was traded along with Turk Wendell to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for young lefthanders, Bruce Chen and Adam Walker on July 27, 2001. "I'm excited about it," said Cook. "Philly's right in the thick of it. It's a little bit sad knowing how you spent four years together, World Series team, a lot of friendships. But that's the nature of the beast."

Dennis retired from baseball in 2002, but returned to the game in 2010 when he was named the head coach for Team Sweden. Cook has participated in Mets Alumni Association events including the City Harvest event in 2011.

Dennis Cook signed an index card for Nick Duinte of Baseball Happenings in New York City on June 4, 2011 that was used to make his card in the set.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Bob Hendley joined the New York Mets when he was traded from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Rob Garner and Johnny Stephenson on June 12, 1967. The deal was needed because Don Shaw was the only left-handed pitcher on the New York staff, and was facing the possibility of being called to Army duty in Vietnam. Hendley had only made seven relief appearances for the Cubs to start the season. "I'm happy to come to the Mets," Bob said after the trade. "I need work and I'll start or relieve, whichever Wes Westrum says."

Hendley's greatest moment at Shea Stadium had come years earlier in a San Francisco Giants uniform. As a starting pitcher he was never expecting to be summoned from the bullpen to finish a contest. That is exactly what happened during the second game of the doubleheader on May 31, 1964. After 23 innings, the Giants took a 8-6 lead, and manager Al Dark called upon the last available pitcher he had to throw the bottom of the ninth. "That was the only time I was ever scared to take the mound," said Hendley. "After playing for over seven hours I did not want to be the one to ruin it for the guys." He did not, and retired the Mets in order to preserve the victory.

Bob would make his Mets debut on June 17, 1967 at Shea Stadium. The southpaw threw a scoreless ninth-inning of relief during the 1-9 loss to his former Chicago teammates. Bob was moved into the Mets starting rotation after that appearance. While facing Pittsburgh in New York, Hendley was forced out of the game with an elbow injury on August 13th. "I pitched for nine years of my baseball career with an injured arm," Hendley told me in 2012. "I remember when the bone chip broke free. It was like a pea under the skin. It locked up my elbow and I had to take my fingers and slide it to even move my arm." During this time in baseball most injured players were released without the possibility of reaching their major-league pension. Fearing that the left-hander was back on the mound just seven days later to battle through till the end of the season. In September the pain in his elbow had become too great to hide.

Bob finished the year with a 3-3 record, two complete games, and 3.44 ERA in 15 games. He decided to undergo elbow surgery that winter. "The Mets were good to me," said Hendley. "They never tried to release me while I was rehabbing the injury." His recovery effort took him to Triple-A Jacksonville, and Tidewater the next two years. Failing to return to New York, Bob decided to retire from professional baseball following the 1969 season.

Bob returned home to Macon, Georgia to spend time with his family and enjoy some hunting and fishing. His love for the game brought him into his second career as a high school coach. Hendley first joined Tattnall in 1972. Then moved to River North Academy where he won a state championship. It was after that school closed in 1983 that the former major-leaguer would join legendary coach, Bubber Adams at Stratford Academy. The duo would guide the program to much success winning five state championships during the next 19 years. Including teams that featured both of Hendley's sons. "I knew that he was a great teacher of fundamentals of the game, and my strong suit was organization." explained Coach Adams. "I think we made a very good team and had some great baseball teams and players." Stratford alumnus, Jay Cranford recalled, "I don't think there was a day where he didn't enjoy what he was doing. He was a really good mentor; he'd give you advice and watch over you. He was a good role model—a very ethical, moral man with character."

Bob Hendley signed his card in the set for me before the Stratford Alumni Game at Bobby Hendley Field in Macon, Georgia on March 10, 2012.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


Jay Payton was selected by the New York Mets in the first round (29th overall pick) of the 1994 free agent draft. He was teammates with Nomar Garciaparra and Jason Varitek while attending Georgia Tech. The right-handed hitting outfielder got off to a successful start in the Mets minor league system. Payton captured batting titles in both the New York Penn League in 1994 and the Eastern League in 1995. Unfortunately Jay had ruptured a ligament in his right elbow late in that second season. Doctors performed a ligament reconstruction procedure that was only the first of four surgeries eventually needed over the next two years. "I'm definitely frustrated and disappointed," Payton said of the injury in 1997. "They say everything happens for a reason, but this doesn't make sense. Maybe 10 years from now it will."

Payton worked through painful rehabilitations to continue his path to New York. His efforts seemed to be rewarded in May of 1998. The Mets found themselves shorthanded with ten players on the disabled list. Jay was summoned to Shea Stadium as a replacement. "I almost wanted to cry," Payton explained of the promotion. "It's been so long. I've waited so long because of the injuries. I'm just happy. Really happy." Disappointment was to return when the young outfielder was returned to Triple-A Norfolk without an appearance.

Jay did make his eventual major league debut as a late season call-up on September 1, 1998. He was inserted as the left fielder facing the Padres in San Diego. Payton delivered base hits in each of his first two at-bats during the 9-8 road loss. He actually hit well during the short audition in New York. Jay posted a .318 batting average in his 22 at-bats to close the year.

He returned to Norfolk, but earned a second September promotion in 1999. Payton's breakout season came the next year when he made the Mets Opening Day roster. Jay established himself as the club's starting center fielder during the 2000 National League Championship campaign. He helped the Mets win the Wild Card entry with 17 home runs, 62 RBIs, and a .291 batting average. His success continued with home runs in both the NLCS and World Series. Jay's blast in Game Two of the Subway Series came off New York Yankees closer, Mariano Rivera.

"I don't get all the hoopla," Payton said after the NL Championship banner was raised at Shea Stadium the next April. "I kind of watched it go up for a half-second, then got my arm loose and got ready for the game. Come Wednesday, nobody's going to care about that banner except us and our fans. We've got to get back to business as usual and try to get us another banner up there next year—maybe one a little better."

Jay struggled through a tough season in 2001 that was complicated with a strained right hamstring. He was traded the next year along with Mark Corey, and Robert Stratton to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for John Thomson and Mark Little on July 31, 2002.

After retiring from baseball in 2011, Payton has enjoyed time with his son in Oklahoma. He serves as a professional hitting instructor at Hitting Skilz in Edmond.

Jay Payton signed his card in the set for my friend, Lou before his appearance at the Baseball Assistance Team dinner in New York City on January 28, 2012.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Tim Bogar was selected by the New York Mets organization in the eighth round of the free agent draft on June 2, 1987. A natural shortstop, who joined Eastern Illinois University as a walk on member of the baseball program. Tim not only made the team, he garnered all-conference honors after hitting 17 home runs while posting a .408 batting average in 1987. "He wasn't a superstar," Bogar's former high school coach Bill Wurl recalled. "He was a thinking player. He did the little things needed to win."

The Mets selected the infielder as a co-winner of their Class-A MVP award in 1988. He was told that a faster path to the majors might occur through more of a utility role. Tim proved his extreme versatility on September 4, 1991. Bogar appeared at all nine fielding positions in a single game as a member of the Triple-A Tidewater Tides facing the Richmond Braves.

Tim's big-league career began when he was the last player named to the New York roster to start the 1993 season. Bogar would make his major league debut on April 21, 1993 at Shea Stadium. The righthanded batter struck out as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning of the Mets 10-0 victory over the San Francisco Giants. His appearance 12 games into the campaign earned him the "a-Trophy Award" for 1993. Newsday writer, Marty Noble began recognizing each season the last man on any team's Opening Day roster to make a game appearance. "I guess congratulations are in order," Bogar said when informed of the distinction. "Now I can say in my short major league career I've won an award. I figured I'd be the last on this team to play, but I didn't know I'd be the last in the major leagues. To be honest, I'm glad it's over."

Injuries, and an eventual trade of Tony Fernandez in June made Bogar the club's starting shortstop. He responded well to the assignment. Tim became a favorite of both the coaches and his teammates. Bogar's rookie season unexpectedly ended following the best game of his Mets career on August 14th. Starting at second base he collected four hits and 4 RBIs during a 9-6 New York victory over the Phillies in Philadelphia. Two of the hits were home runs. The second of which was of the inside-the-park variety. "That's the farthest I've ever run in my baseball life," Tim wheezed after the ninth-inning feat. "I got added wind when I saw how excited Cubby (third base coach Mike Cubbage) was." Bogar's slide at the plate resulted in a broken hand that required season-ending surgery.

Tim returned to the Mets the next spring, but found himself in the definite role of a reserve player. A trade brought over José Vizcaino to become the starting shortstop for 1994. Bogar began to add first base and the outfield to his major league resumé. He would continue to help the club from the bench through the end of the 1996 season.

The four-year Mets player was informed during the final days of spring training camp he was not in the club's plans for 1997. New York first designated him for assignment, and then traded Bogar to the Houston Astros in exchange for Luis Lopez on March 31, 1997. "How it all went down when I got traded to Houston, there wasn't as much of a need for me on the team that year," Tim explained in 2012. "They decided to go in a different direction. It was actually a really good thing for me. I enjoyed my four years in Houston and I got to play a lot more, and I actually went further with my career in Houston than I ever would have in New York. There's always a reason for something."

Bogar started his second career in baseball as a minor league manager for the Astros organization in 2004. He moved to the Cleveland Indians system and was named the Eastern League Manager of the Year with Akron in 2006. Tim's return to the major leagues as a coach came during the 2008 season with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The next year he joined the Boston Red Sox coaching staff. "One of my former pupils," Bobby Valentine said of Bogar in 2012. "He's a very good baseball man and future manager at the big league level, no doubt."

Tim was inducted into the Eastern Illinois University Hall of Fame in 1998.

I created Tim Bogar's card in the set using an autographed index card acquired by Jessie from the noted collection of Dr. John Davis, Jr. on February 9, 2012.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Tom Wilson joined the New York Mets when he signed a minor league contract on May 7, 2004. The contract came at the conclusion of a busy period that saw Wilson with three organizations. He initially went to spring training camp with the San Diego Padres, but was released after failing to secure the job of back-up catcher there. Tom signed with the Oakland Athletics who sent him to Triple-A Sacramento. After two weeks he was released, and signed the contract that put him with Triple-A Norfolk to begin the 2004 season.

Vance Wilson suffered a right hamstring sprain while running the bases, and was forced to the 15-day disabled list. In need of a catcher, the Mets promoted the other Wilson on June 15th to fill the void. He made his debut with the team the next day at Shea Stadium. "It's been a whirlwind," Tom said after the game. "I'll tell you what, it's nice to be back up. I thought I would make the Padres, but I talked to the Mets before I signed with Oakland." His pinch-hit assignment against the Cleveland Indians was his only appearance before being sent back to Norfolk on June 20th. The Mets needed to clear roster space in New York for the return of José Reyes from the disabled list.

Tom was summoned back to New York on June 26th. This time he was needed behind the plate for the second game of a Subway Series contest with the New York Yankees. Wilson started the nightcap of the doubleheader in the Bronx on June 27th. Tom collected his first Mets hit during the 11-6 loss that night. However, it would be his uniform to make headlines the next day. Tom and relief pitcher, Jose Parra were in the black uniforms worn by the rest of the team. However, theirs read "Mets" across the chest while their teammates had the appropriate road "New York" jerseys. The error went unnoticed for a time, as Wilson's shirt was unseen beneath his chest protector. When he came to bat in the top of the third inning the mistake was made apparent. " I had no idea." Tom said when asked about it after the game.

The man referred to as a "journeyman" would appear in a total of four games for the Mets and was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for Tony Socarras on August 17, 2004. "Hey, you can call me what you want," said Wilson. "As long as my phone keeps ringing. That's the way I look at it."

Tom completed a 16-year professional playing career in 2006. The next season he joined the Trenton Thunder club as their hitting coach. Wilson remained in the Yankees organization, and began a career as a professional scout in 2009.

Tom Wilson signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on February 7, 2012.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


Calvin Schiraldi was drafted by the New York Mets in the first round (27th overall) of the free agent draft on June 6, 1983. The right-hander was named Most Valuable Player of the 1983 College World Series as a member of the University of Texas Longhorns. "Seven of our scouts saw Calvin during the year, and each one gave him a glowing report." Joe McIlvaine, director of scouting for the Mets said. "He has the makeup to become an excellent power pitcher and we feel his future is just unlimited."

Schiraldi performed well in the Mets minor league system, and earned a late-season promotion in 1984. As rosters expanded he was brought up from the Triple-A Tidewater club to make his major league debut on September 1st. Calvin was the starting pitcher that game, but yielded five runs in just an inning and a third of work facing the Padres. He did not factor into the decision once New York rallied to a 10-6 victory over San Diego. Schiraldi finished that year with a 0-2 record and disappointing 5.71 ERA.

Calvin began the next season back at Tidewater. He was quickly recalled to New York on April 20, 1985. Schiraldi's first start back occurred on April 22nd. It resulted in his first career major league victory. A Mets 7-6 win over the Cardinals in St. Louis.

The rookie pitcher fractured his right small toe, and was forced onto the disabled list for two weeks in May. Calvin was struggling at the big league level. His worst outing came on June 11th in Philadelphia. Schiraldi surrendered 10 earned runs in just 1-1/3 innings during the 26-7 destruction of the Mets by the Phillies. It was no surprise that New York returned him to the Tides on June 19th.

A return back to the Mets happened when rosters expanded at season's end. Calvin came from the bullpen and recorded the final two outs of the fifth-inning on September 14th. That game would become his last for the Mets. He was traded to the Boston Red Sox along with Wes Gardner, John Christensen. and LaSchelle Tarver in exchange for Bob Ojeda, John Mitchell, Tom McCarthy, and Chris Bayer on November 13, 1985. His performance over the two seasons in New York yielded a 2-3 record, and 7.63 ERA in 15 appearances.

"I had my chances in New York and didn't capitalize. My last two years have been up and down," said Schiraldi. "I've got the stuff to get the hitters out, but I've got to get myself straightened out and start thinking about pitching instead of trying to blow the ball past hitters like I was still in college."

Calvin is best remembered by Mets fans as a member of the Red Sox. Schiraldi was on the mound for both New York victories in Games Six and Seven of the 1986 World Series. On the 25th anniversary of the event, he told ESPN that although unhappy with the outcome of the game and series he would not change the experience. Calvin values how the adversity changed him into the person he has become today.

Schiraldi finished a eight-year major league career in 1991. Calvin became a high school teacher and baseball coach at St. Michael's Catholic Academy in Austin, Texas. He credits those things learned in his baseball career, particularly in Game Six of the World Series to forming his core values and coaching systems. You'd be surprised," Coach Schiraldi was quoted in 2000. "For me, personally, it's a tremendous satisfaction in that you get to watch kids for four years and watch how they grow not only baseball-wise, but maturity-wise. In fact, it was more satisfying for me when we won our first state championship than anything I did in pro ball. Just watching them dog-pile on the field and the elation in their faces was awesome."

Calvin Schiraldi signed his card in the set for my friend, Lou during the 1986 Red Sox 25th Anniversary Show in Wilmington, Massachusetts on November 5, 2011.

Friday, February 3, 2012


Bobby Klaus joined the New York Mets when his contract was purchased from the Cincinnati Reds on July 19, 1964. "A new team is always exciting." Klaus said about the move. The Mets representative for the mid-summer classic at Shea was not as excited to see the second baseman come on board. "Let them move him to third base," angrily said Ron Hunt upon hearing the news he was losing his position. "He ain't made the All-Star team yet, has he?"

The Mets did elect to install Klaus with his superior glove into the middle infield. Casey Stengel liked what he saw in the young player. Evidence of that exists at the Mets Hall of Fame and Museum in a hand-written note where the manager describes Bobby as a "fair bunter and good hustler". Klaus made his New York Mets debut on July 30, 1964. The day of the legendary manager's 74th birthday. Stengel celebrated the day while the club hosted the Los Angeles Dodgers at Shea Stadium. Bobby was hitless in four at-bats during the 5-3 loss.

For his first season, Klaus would end up with two home runs, 11 RBIs, and a .244 batting average in 56 games. Done while playing a mix of both second and third base positions defensively. Bobby says he has fond memories of those days "playing with an old pro like Roy McMillan." The veteran shortstop's experience was of great value to the recent big-leaguer.

Klaus took a job with team sponsor Rheingold Beer during the off-season. "I was a pack-out man in Queens." remembers Bobby. During his time with the Mets, the Klaus family lived in Flushing. He was often seen there playing games of catch with his young daughter, Kelly and teaching her and friends to sing "Meet the Mets". Bobby was even known to join in neighborhood games of touch football.

In 1965, the infielder was once again asked to replace Hunt. This time it was when Ron suffered a separated shoulder injury that sent him to the disabled list from May 12th through August 4th. Bobby shared time at second base with newly-acquired Chuck Hiller during Hunt's absence.

He finished the year with two home runs, 12 RBIs, and a .191 batting average in a total of 119 games. The Mets chose to trade Klaus along with Wayne Graham and Jimmie Schaffer to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for Dick Stuart on February 22, 1966.

Bobby would not return to the major leagues again, and retired from playing baseball in 1969. He was a member of the San Diego Padres system and took over as their Triple-A manager midway through the 1968 campaign. The Illinois native remained in California after baseball and started a new career with the San Diego bio-tech company, Gen-Probe. Klaus has since retired to enjoy the role of grandfather to 10 grandchildren. He even constructed a high-rise treehouse for the group in the backyard of his home.

Bobby Klaus signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on February 2, 2012.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


Mickey Lolich was traded to the New York Mets along with Billy Baldwin from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for Rusty Staub and Bill Laxton on December 12, 1975. The lefthander had been the Most Valuable Player of the 1968 World Series while with the Tigers. Lolich at first vetoed the trade, but later reconsidered and signed a two-year deal with New York. "I had been in Detroit for 13 years," Mickey said. "I was comfortable there and I didn't want to leave." Negotiations with Mets' general manager, Joe McDonald and club president, M. Donald Grant changed his mind. "I'll be a starting pitcher here," the 35-year-old Lolich explained. "I think with a four-man rotation like the Mets have, we're gonna scare a few people, especially in Pittsburgh. I think it's the best four-man rotation in the National League."

Mickey was always far from the build of the typical ballplayer. "I'm over 200 and somewhere below 300," he once said. "Weight is always a big deal to everybody, but it's the arm and not the belly that you pitch with. I'm the roly-poly, I'm the beer belly, but I'm the hero to that guy watching me on TV—the all-time left-handed strikeout pitcher."

The biggest challenge for the veteran was not on the field. It was the decision to leave his wife and three children to live at the Lolich home in Washington, Michigan. "If I adjust and the family adjusts," he said in April about playing beyond 1976. "I'll play one more year. If not we'll retire. The longest we've been apart is two weeks. Now it'll be months."

The southpaw admitted it felt strange to put on the Mets uniform after so many years with the Tigers. He made his New York debut at Shea Stadium on April 11, 1976. Mickey lasted just two innings in the 7-6 loss to the Montreal Expos. Surrendering three runs (two of which were unearned) on three hits. Actually it was his fourth start before Lolich was able to register his first Mets victory. He struck out nine Atlanta Braves hitters in a 3-1 win on April 28th. "It feels super," said Mickey afterward. "I just wish it had come sooner. I might have been pressing a little bit. But I'm glad now that I've won this one. The first one always seems the hardest."

An anemic Mets offense plagued most of the lefty's starts. He was shutout four times and lost several other games where New York scored only one run. "I'm a completely different pitcher now than before," Lolich was quoted in August. "I throw more sinkers, more off-speed pitches and try to let the hitters do themselves in. My strikeouts are down to four or five a game. I could have a better record, but I've blown some leads too. I've been getting the ball up too much all year. But from every point of view except the win-loss record, it's been a satisfying season so far and I'd like to be here next season."

Mickey finished the year with an 8-13 record, 120 strikeouts, and a solid 3.22 ERA in his 31 starts. Despite the success, Lolich ultimately chose to retire from baseball in 1977. He was unable to deal with the distance from Michigan that pitching in New York presented. "I enjoyed playing there," he later said. "To me, the Mets were a super organization. I lived upriver, near Nyack, and that was nice. But it was the first time I was separated from my family and when the season ended, I figured, hell, this is a good to to retire."

Lolich became an automobile salesman that winter. After spending the next summer playing first base for the VFW team in the Romeo, Michigan recreational softball league he amazingly returned to the major-leagues with the San Diego Padres in 1978. He officially retired from the game for the final time following the 1979 season.

Back in Michigan he successfully founded Lolich Doughnuts in Lake Orion. He operated the business for 18 years before selling it in 1997. "I don't do anything...I've finally found something that I'm good at," Lolich said in 2010. "I tried making donuts but they all had holes in them. Now I watch the grass grow." Mickey and his wife are actively involved in many charities and the lefthander is a regular coach for the Detroit Tigers Fantasy Camp.

Mickey Lolich signed his card in the set for my friend Tom Carlon at the Tigers Fantasy Camp in Lakeland, Florida on January 21, 2012.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Kevin Appier was signed by the New York Mets as a free agent on December 11, 2000. The reigning National League Champions were forced to fill the void of their exiting ace pitcher, Mike Hampton. The Championship Series MVP signed a record-setting contract with the Colorado Rockies. Appier was inked to a four-year deal with the Mets just days later. "New York is a very exciting city," Kevin said from the baseball winter meetings in Dallas. "You can't get a bigger stage than that. If we do great, that's only better. I'm glad to have the opportunity."

"Right from the beginning, we knew Kevin Appier would be right in the mix of pitchers we were trying to pursue," Mets general manager Steve Phillips said. "Obviously we had interest in the Hampton and (Mike) Mussina fronts, but those ran parallel with discussions with Kevin. We feel fortunate to get a pitcher of his caliber."

Appier's unorthodox delivery and pregame bullpen rants preceeded him. "It's extremely, extremely, extremely important to me to give everything," He explained. "So I'm crazy-intense out there. Being that way and being able to draw everything I have into my work, I think that's been a key in the success that I have had."

Kevin made his Mets debut on April 4, 2001 at Turner Field facing the Atlanta Braves. He went six strong innings in a wild game that the Braves won in the bottom of the ninth inning. "It's just two down, 160 to go." said Appier after the game.

The righthander got the distinction of pitching the home opener at Shea Stadium on April 9th. A sellout crowd of 53,640 were on hand to see the raising of the 2000 National League Championship banner. Behind seven innings from Appier, and Mike Piazza's two home runs, the Mets answered with a 9-4 victory over the Braves. "The crowd was amazing," Kevin said. "This was like my in-person introduction to New York and to get a win is very sweet."

Appier would pitch well enough the first half of the season, but suffer poor run support in many of his outings. In seven of his first 12 starts, the Mets scored three or fewer runs. Resulting in a 3-5 record. "I think I've got my rhythm back," Kevin said. "If I hit my spots and get action on my fastball, I can get the job done. That's been happening lately." Things would begin to turn around for the veteran in July. He finished the year going 7-2 in his last 17 starts, and saved his best game of the season for October 6th at Shea. Kevin threw eight shutout innings, while striking out a season-high 11 batters during the Mets 4-0 victory over the Montreal Expos. It would be his final start of the year, and his last as a New York Met.

Kevin finished 2001 with a 11-10 record, 172 strikeouts, and a 3.57 ERA. He was the team leader with 206.2 innings pitched, and 33 starts. The Mets traded Appier to the Anaheim Angels in exchange for slugger, Mo Vaughn on December 27, 2001. "To add a hitter like Mo is something we never envisioned," Mets GM Phillips said the day of the deal. "In typical years you don't have a chance to get a player of Mo's caliber."

Appier would pitch for the Angels during their 2002 World Series Championship. He retired from baseball in 2006, and spends time on his 450-acre working farm in Paola, Kansas. Kevin tends to black angus cattle, horses and crops there. The former ace enjoys keeping to himself and chooses not to own a cell phone. He feels that baseball is something in his past. "I'm a victim of a child's imagination," Appier said. "When I was a kid, that's what I thought about. I said, 'I wanted a ranch'. I never imagined camels, but that's my wife's thing. She really likes camels and I thought it would make a nice gift. I've been haunted by it ever since."

I created Kevin Appier's card in the set from an autographed index card purchased from Kyle's Sportscards on November 20, 2011.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Darren Bragg joined the New York Mets when he was signed as a free agent on January 9, 2001. The left-handed hitting outfielder was brought in on a minor-league contract. He suffered a hamstring injury during spring training camp that cost three weeks of playing time. It was decided best to assign Darren to the Triple-A Norfolk Tides to begin the 2001 season.

The major-league veteran had a clause in his contract allowing him to ask for his release if not on the big-league roster before May 1st. "I'm fine," Bragg responded on April 30th when asked if he was leaving the Tides. "I'm not going anywhere." The Mets rewarded both his patience and performance by promoting him to the Mets on May 15th. In 32 games for Norfolk, he had four home runs, seven RBIs, five stolen bases, and was batting for a hefty .333 average.

Wearing uniform number 56 (in honor of his football hero Lawrence Taylor) the Watertown, Connecticut native made his Mets debut at Shea Stadium on May 16, 2001. "I've always tried to go all out," said Darren. "I'll run into walls. I'll jump into stands if that's what it takes. Like LT. He didn't let much stop him. That's the way I want to play the game." He was inserted as the lead-off hitter facing the San Diego Padres and delivered a double in his first at-bat.

Bragg's best performance in a Mets uniform came on May 24th. He collected four hits and scored three runs in the New York 11-3 victory over the Florida Marlins at Shea. Darren's defense was also on display earlier with a diving catch in right field. "That was my best play of the night," beamed Bragg after the win. "I saved a run. That was big. If that was the only thing I did all night, I'd be happy.....The four hits makes it better." His batting average stood at a stellar .343 during those first nine games with New York.

The next nine games were a stark contrast to his initial success. Darren collected just three hits in his next 23 at-bats. Seeing his average on the season fall to .263. On May 31st while facing Philadelphia, Bragg misjudged a high pop fly in left field. It fell for a base hit and allowed the Phillies to rally for an eventual 6-3 victory at Shea. "That's the first time I'ver ever lost a ball and not caught it." Darren said. "Sometimes I lose it and recover in time. I wasn't able to recover on that one." With injured outfielder, Benny Agbayani set to return, the Mets chose to designate the outfielder for assignment on June 7th. "I thought I could help this club and I still do," Bragg said. "In this game nothing really catches you by surprise."

The New York Yankees claimed Darren on June 12th. He returned days later to Shea Stadium, but this time in the visitor's dugout during the Subway Series. "The Yankees were my team growing up," said Bragg. "I couldn't ask for a better scenario." He appeared as a pinch-hitter on June 16th and flew out to left field. Darren was designated for assignment by the Yankees on June 30th. Bragg was resigned by the Mets and brought to major-league spring training camp in 2002. Unable to find a spot in the club's outfield he was given the chance to join the Atlanta Braves that April.

After his 11-year playing career ended, Bragg became a hitting coach for the Dayton Dragons in 2007. Serving later in the Cincinnati Reds organization as an outfield coordinator for the minor-leagues. He has continued teaching the game to younger players by establishing The Hit Club in Thomaston, Connecticut.

I created Darren Bragg's card in the set from an autographed index card purchased from Kyle's Sportcards on November 20, 2011.