Alright, time to get this thing back in gear, particularly if I want any shot of this year’s March report to be on time. There are other things to blog about too! Some particularly fun items have arrived in the past few months, including a rather fun batch today. But, this draft is already prepped and I feel compelled to make some progress. Perhaps I can start alternating between these “back issues” and the new stuff. So, let’s have a look at some autographs which arrived a year ago!
Steve Finley: 1/1
The first return of March 2021 was from a cheap private signing with Steve Finley. Steve was an important part of the core of the Astros teams of my youth; the ones which made me fall in love with baseball in the first place: Bagwell, Biggio, Caminiti, Gonzo, and Finley. That damn Padres trade in 1995 crushed me and broke up the band. I do have a signed 8×10 from Steve which I got at FanFest in 1992 or 1993, and a signed card I picked up at a show some years ago, but I was unsure of its provenance and the chance to upgrade his Astro-graphs entry fairly cheap was too good to pass up. I chose his 1993 Flair card, and I think it turned out pretty swell.
Mark McLemore: 3/3, 89 days.
In sharp contrast to the fixture that Steve Finley was in Houston, Mark McLemore’s Astros career was a blip. The second baseman was a free agent signing prior to the 1991 season, and he managed to sneak into 21 games as an Astro. Casey Candaele was the primary second baseman, with veteran Rafael Ramirez and rookie Andy Mota each handling 27 games. He was released at the end of June, and the following year Houston made a Spring Training decision to move Craig Biggio to second base. I remember Mark mostly as a Ranger, where he spent 5 of his 19 seasons. He’s back with the club as an analyst, and when I noticed that he’d begun signing, I dashed off a request to the Rangers. His 1991 Leaf is his only Astros card, and the 1998 Stadium Club set is one of my favorites to get signed. I added the 1998 Score for the fun factor. While players manning TV cameras are not as cool as players with still cameras, it’s always a treat to get something signed where a ballplayer is doing non-baseball activities.
Cesar Cedeno: 2/2
While Steve Finley was the premier Astros outfielder of my youth, a couple decades earlier that was Cesar Cedeño, who was considered the best outfielder in the league for a couple years. I’ve tried a few times to write him via the lower-level Astros affiliates he’s managed, without success. When a private signing showed up on SCN, I hopped in with two cards, one for the Astros binder and one for the 1981 Fleer pages. They’re awesome!
Chris Coste: 2/2, 97 days.
Chris Coste (pronounced coast) got into 299 major league games across his four seasons, but the route that the backup catcher took to The Show was not traditional. Coste went undrafted out of Concordia College, where he is now the head coach, so he joined an independent team. He spent 5 years in indy ball, becoming a fixture with his hometown Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks. The Indians took notice and signed him in 2000 – I actually saw him play with Akron that year, and his 2000 Akron Aeros card had previously held his spot in the Astrographs binder. I finally churned out a custom of him and sent it off, along with an extra copy for him to keep, which he signed (and apparently I didn’t scan).
Mike Gallo: 1/1
Another private signing, but this was the cheapest of private signings! I’ll add a new Astro to the binder for just five bucks any day of the week! The lefty specialist got into 160 games for Houston from 2003-2006, including a very nice number in 2004, and pitched 116 innings for the club overall.
Mike Capel: 3/3, 209 days
Mike is a Houston native, having attended high school in Spring, a suburb north of Houston. He went to college up the road in Austin, pitching for the University of Texas and getting drafted by the Cubs in the 13th round in 1983. He made it to The Show in 1988, getting into 22 games for Chicago, then 2 games for the Brewers in 1990. He wrapped his career with a few years in the Houston system, getting into 25 games for the Astros in 1991 while still putting in 30 appearances for the AAA club in Tuscon. Mike didn’t make it back to the big leagues, but he did put in another 83 appearances for Tuscon in two more seasons. This return was the third new Astro-graph on the month!
Jerome Williams: 1/1
Another cheap private signing for a short-term ‘Stro without any actual Astros cards. The Hawaii native was picked up prior to the 2014 season, getting into 26 games with Houston before being released, signed by Texas, and then claimed by the Phillies. His signature pink glove honors his mother, who had breast cancer. I don’t really like using photo day shots unless they’re all I can find, but I had to make an exception for this one.
Alright, there was one more private signing return which arrived in March. It was a bit of a splurge, but I told myself this one was a combination birthday present and reward for finally finding a job after the craziness of 2020.
Are you ready?
Randy Johnson: 1/1
Yessiree, the big one is none other than the Big Unit! I’ve made many a mention around these parts and on Twitter about how incredible his brief run with the Astros was. Getting to see it in person really was just astonishing. I’ve wanted to get this 1999 Stadium Club signed for quite some time, so I finally bit the bullet and treated myself. This left me needing just two Hall of Fame Astros for the collection: Ivan Rodriguez and Nellie Fox.
There’s obviously one clear highlight among the bunch, but this all-Astros month checked off 6 previously unfilled Astro-graphs and got me an upgrade on Steve Finley and Chris Coste. What a month!
Don’t fret, in an effort not to bore the heck out of you or me, I’m going to start mixing up the subject matter around here.