What’s in a name?
The 2013 Topps Heritage Minor League Baseball cards are on shelves with the usual assortment of top prospects along with autographed and relic cards. It’s a 200-card set with an additional 25 short prints.
If you are working on a set, you have to buy an awful lot of packs to get those 25 cards that are far scarcer than the base cards. It looks like there are about four per 24-pack box. Or you can go online and try to pick them up.
But that’s not what we’re here to talk about.
The real lure to Da Babe is the vast array of nicknames.
Sure, there are the usual clubs that use the moniker of the major league affiliate. Many are far more creative.
Cats are popular — River Cats, Fishercats, Rock Cats, Mudcats, Hillcats. And there are dogs — Sea Dogs and Riverdogs. Then there are Rockhounds, which might go better with Rock Cats and Blue Rocks.
Then come the water creatures — Crawdads, Shorebirds, Manatees, Hammerheads, Baybears, Blueclaws, Sand Gants, Threshers, Stone Crabs, Blue Wahoos, and we can probably throw in Whitecaps.
There are assorted other animal-sounding names such as Flying Squirrels, Ironpigs, Jethawks, Snappers, Bats, Loons and Mud Hens (made famous by Jamie Farr as Cpl. Klinger on the CBS TV program “M*A*S*H”).
Then there are those that are probably in classes by themselves — Jammers, RiverBandits, 51s, Tincaps, Biscuits, Tourists, Railriders, Lugnuts and just plain Nuts.
There are many more, but you get the idea.
Dear Babe: I actually have a ball signed by the Houston Astros pitchers involved in the 2003 no-hitter.
— Tom Bragg, Houston.
How many Astros does it take to pitch a no-hitter? The answer is six. That’s the number of hurlers who combined to no-hit the mighty New York Yankees June 11, 2003.
The sextet included Roy Oswalt, Brad Lidge, Peter Munro, Kirk Saarloos, Billy Wagner and Octavio Dotel. The Astros won 8-0 in Yankee Stadium. Not only did they set a record of six pitchers in a no-hitter, but Dotel tied the major league mark with four strikeouts in the eighth.
The Astros’ record stood for nine years before six Seattle Mariners pitchers no-hit the Dodgers, 1-0, June 8, 2012. The six who combined for that no-hitter were Kevin Millwood, Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor, Lucas Luetge, Brandon League and Tom Wilhelmsen.
Other than six pitchers appearing in the no-hitters, the other common thread is that both starting pitchers left with groin injuries. Oswalt departed in the first inning, while Millwood left after six no-hit innings.
“It’s a neat item, but none of these guys is terribly hard to get. It took some effort though,” said Mike Breeden, an autograph expert and former Sports Collectors Digest columnist, who valued the ball at $175-$200.
That said, there might be a premium if you can find someone who collects balls signed by pitchers who no-hit the opposition. Whether or not the players are accommodating signers, it takes dedication to get six sigs on the same ball, especially after the participants have left for other teams, which is usually what happens in this era of free agents.