20 November 2012

al downing's autograph attracts lurkers

the dodgers seem to have placed a high level of importance on staying connected to their former players, at least from my stunted vantage point.  yes, i know that the fox group somehow managed to irritate sandy koufax of all people to the point of him disassociating himself with the team, and that frank mccourt cast steve garvey out towards the end of his ownership tenure, but through it all the team maintains a healthy roster of former players who serve as ambassadors to the fans and the community at large.

the twins do it here, too, and i assume that it is happening in other major league cities, but even back in the 1970's i was aware of the dodger alumni speaker bureau which might have been one of the first baseball alumni groups of its time.  anyway,  one way the dodgers integrate alumni into the fan experience is to have former players sign autographs before games and on special occasions.  they have even printed up oversized cards for this purpose for the fans who don't bring anything specific to be signed.  for example, here is lee lacy's card that he signed for me at the dodger game i attended back in august.
not a bad card, with an image from the world series at home in dodger stadium.

in addition to the lacy card, i recently picked up one of al downing's team issued cards for a couple of reasons.
first of all, i have been a fan of downing's for a long time.  i don't really remember him pitching, as he finished his career early in the 1977 season, which was just when i was starting to pay attention to the game.  i do remember meeting him once in the early 80's at a hot stove dinner (or was it the don sutton celebrity golf tournament?) and being excited not because i met the guy who gave up hank aaron's 715th career home run, but rather because i met a guy who wore the dodger uniform.  downing signed my autograph book that night, telling me 'good luck'.  since then, i have added to my downing autograph collection with some through the mail successes and certified releases.

secondly, i wanted this card because of the photo.  we are treated to a nice image of downing pitching in dodger stadium during the 1976 season.  we know it is 1976 because of the patch on downing's sleeve.  we also know it is dodger stadium because of the home whites, the yellow field level seats, and the field level scoreboard, complete with the union 76 logo which is partially obscured.

the player partially obscuring the unocal logo is another reason why i wanted this card.  that is, of course, steve garvey lurking over there at first base, coming off the bag as the pitch is delivered.  it's always nice to find steve garvey lurking around, but he's not the only dodger lurker to join downing on an autographed card.

i mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago that i have picked up some certified downing autos. well, here's one of them - from 2003 upper deck yankees signature series
yes, it's another autograph series that panders to yankee fans.  and another card that i purchased because of the dodger connecton.  well, two dodger connections, actually.  the card, of course, features downing from his time with the bronx bombers.  and, even though the upper deck logo gives the dodger player some anonymity, i am pretty sure it's johnny podres.  this photo was likely taken during the 1963 world series, and downing and podres were the game 2 starters, with game 2 held at yankee stadium.  it all makes sense to me.  as does collecting al downing autographs.

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