Saturday, January 18, 2014

Hounding Report: Texas Rangers Caravan in Waco, January 18

The furthest I've ever traveled solely for the purposes of getting autographs was maybe about 45 minutes or so. This was 20 years ago when my dad and I went to a couple card shows at the Euclid Square Mall and Ashtabula Mall in Northeast Ohio.  In Euclid was then-looking-like-a-future-Hall-Of-Famer Carlos Baerga, while in Ashtabula was real-future-Hall-Of-Famer Ozzie Newsome. While I did a few other events that sent me further (Wichita Falls, TX to Cleveland, OH anyone?), those had other primary reasons.

That mark has been eclipsed today with a 90-minute drive to Waco, TX for the Texas Rangers Winter Caravan.  After our success last week over in Frisco, Chris and I decided a quick dash down to Waco would be good. It's not too crazily far to get there, the crowd shouldn't be as bad as the stops in Grapevine, Mesquite, or Arlington, and it's a good way to get J.P. Arencibia, the new acquisition as the Rangers' backstop, along with normally-tough signer Mike Maddux.

The drive down was pretty easy, aside from thinking I was going to get busted by a cop ten minutes into our trip for doing 70 in a 60. Fortunately a truck was going a good 75 or so and I was off the hook.  We got in at about 10:45 for a 12:30 signing, putting us 23rd and 24th in line.  The great thing about this is that Academy was handing out numbered tickets so you could get yours and walk around the store to kill time instead of just standing around.  We also met up with Matt, another collector who were were hanging out with in Frisco.

Anyways, they started pretty much right on time, just after 12:30 with the line moving pretty well.  Maddux was in a surprisingly good mood compared to how we usually see him at the Ballpark on game days.  In a year of graphing, I had only gotten him once, and it was on a single card.  This time, he signed three of the four cards on my board.  Neal Cotts did the two cards I had which Chris hooked me up with (one goes back to him).  J.P. Arencibia signed all four cards I had of him, commenting on how well-prepared I was with the book and having all of them lined up in order and everything.

Since we got through quickly, we decided to jump the line once more, chatting with a few of the other collectors we've seen around at games and other various signings up in the DFW area.  I decided this time I'd only go for two Maddux cards-- fortunately Matt helped me out and got two more done for me, while Arencibia signed the last card I had of him.

On the way back, we hit the famous Health Camp for lunch.  If you are ever in Waco, you must try them out. They've been doing shakes and burgers for 66 years now, and have been located at the Waco Traffic Circle for the last 65 of those years.  It was excellent, and I plan to go there every time I find myself in Waco, which hopefully isn't very often.

On the way back to Arlington, Chris recommended we do a little grave-stomping and visit Hall of Famer Tris Speaker. For those unaware, Speaker was from Hubbard, TX and is buried there in Fairview Cemetery, located at the end of NW 2nd Street.

The current residence of the second-greatest Pre-WWII center fielder
It took a lap of the cemetery and Chris remembering it was near a flagpole until we found it.  Speaker is buried next to his wife and under a flagpole, placed in memory of both the American and Confederate soldiers who are buried there (Speaker was a member of the Naval Reserves).  Atop the flagpole is an eagle, placed in memory of Speaker, who was known as The Grey Eagle.

An eagle for The Gray Eagle
As a longtime Cleveland Indians fan, it seemed it would be idiotic NOT to stop by.  Speaker was a top player AND the manager of the Tribe's first World Series winning team in 1920, hitting .388 with an AL-best 50 doubles.  From 1909 to 1927, Speaker hit below .300 only once, while hitting above .350 nine times.  He led the AL in OBP four times, homers once, hits twice, doubles eight times. He was the 1912 AL MVP with the Red Sox and was on the winning side in all three World Series in which he appeared.  As a fielder, he had possibly the best range of any fielder in the game; his glove was said to be "where triples go to die."

The plaque below the flagpole
Speaker was a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame's second class in 1937, one of eight men selected for the honor after the inaugural five-player class of 1936.  After his baseball career, he managed some independent teams, owned a number of businesses, was chairman of Cleveland's boxing commission, commissioner of a short-lived indoor baseball league, and served as an "ambassador of goodwill" for the Indians.  He worked to help turn then-second baseman Larry Doby into a top-flight center fielder, one who was eventually elected to the Hall of Fame. This is a major contrast to the allegations of Speaker being a member of the Ku Klux Klan: Doby, of course, was the American League's first black player.

"I never let him know how much I admired him when we were playing against each other...
It was only after we finally became teammates and then retired that I could tell Tris Speaker
of the underlying respect I had for him." - Tyrus Raymond Cobb

Speaker died at age 70 from a heart attack while pulling a boat back to dock after a fishing trip on Lake Whitney.

TOTALS: 14 autographs (13 for me, 1 for Chris)

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