Last week, I went out garage saling to see if I could find anything interesting and sports-related. I had spotted an ad in the paper that said a property near me had a bunch of "sports memorabilia" for sale last Saturday, and I wanted to check it out.
Sadly, the memorabilia in question was some cheap plastic stuff from early last decade, and the owner wanted $75 for a big box of it... I wouldn't have bought it if it were $10! On the way home, I got the urge to check out another garage sale off a side street near the highway. The homes around there were pretty junky, so I didn't expect to find anything - although you never know. The homeowner was an older guy in his 50's or 60's and had a garage packed with junk all over the place: seat cushions from a bingo hall, tools, really old electronics stuff, beat-up furniture, crappy trinkets, etc. I didn't stay very long... just a cursory look. But as I was leaving, the guy asked me if there was anything I was looking for in particular. I told him I was always on the lookout for baseball stuff, and he went digging in a drawer. First, he pulled out a framed football card from the '90s... worth about ten cents, and a couple binders of cards that I wasn't interested in.
But then, he dredged up two baseballs: one a "photoball" from the Diamondbacks' 2000 season commemorating Randy Johnson's 4000th strikeout, and the other a 1998 Japan All-Star Series MLB team-signed ball. He wanted $3.00 for both, and I happily obliged. At first, I didn't recognize any of the signatures, but after bringing it to Hot Corner Sports Cards, a couple of guys did recognize about five of the signatures: Sammy Sosa, Greg Vaughn, Al Leiter, Curt Schilling, and Damion Easley.
Unfortunately, there's almost no record of which players were involved in the '98 exhibition series between the Major League Baseball all-stars and the Japanese league all-stars, so finding a list of players has been really hard. Until today. I finally found a page in Japanese that had at least a partial list of the American players, and I started comparing the signatures on my ball to stock photos of those players' signatures. There are 27 autographs on the ball I've got, and I was able to identify 23 of them, leaving just four unknown. Here's my list thus far:
On the "sweet spot": Mike Hargrove (manager) AKA "The Human Rain Delay"
Side 1 with the Series logo: Unknown #1, Sammy Sosa, Unknown #2, Carlos Delgado, Rick Helling
Side 2 with Rawlings logo: Trevor Hoffman, Unknown #3, Greg Vaughn, Dan Plesac, Javier Lopez, Tom Gordon
Side 3: Kevin Millwood, BJ Surhoff, Billy Wagner, Jason Kendall, Garret Anderson, Nomar Garciaparra, Unknown #4
Side 4: Jason Giambi, Devon White, Curt Schilling, Brett Tomko, Damion Easley, Al Leiter, Jamie Moyer, Andruw Jones
Not exactly a bad list of players! Indeed, my $2 investment for this ball should certainly pay off. Another 1998 Japan All-Star team signed ball (albeit with better-quality signatures) surfaced eight days ago on Ebay, and it sold this morning for $147.50!!!! That seller didn't list any of the players' signatures, so if I can find out the remaining few on my ball, I would imagine it could go for a similar price should I ever decide to sell it.
As soon as I get my camera working, I'll post a couple photos. 'Til then, my next post will be on DBacks FanFest from this Saturday in just a little while.