I've talked in the past about my misadventures in Little League. But an early highlight of my amateur career was the day I got to meet Tippy Martinez. It was our season-opening parade in Spring 1994, and he was the guest of honor. Things got off to a rough start when the smallest member of our team, a second baseman/pitcher named Dave, came limping over to the rest of us and told us that the car that was transporting Tippy had just run over his foot. Yes, this actually happened. Thankfully, he wasn't seriously injured and didn't miss any games.
The rest of the day went better. Tippy made some remarks at the post-parade picnic, nothing that I can remember nearly fifteen years after the fact. Then he stayed put and signed autographs until everyone who wanted his signature had gotten it. Most of the other kids just had him sign their hats, but I wasn't about to do that. As you'll see a little later in this entry, those hats were a cheap eyesore. Besides, I was a member of the Yankees. Though Martinez started his career in the Bronx, it just wouldn't have been right to have him sign a Yankee hat. I only had one of his cards in my still-nascent collection, so that made my decision easy. The card you see above became my first autographed card.
The story doesn't end there. As the day's events wound to a close, my mother, my younger sister, and myself headed to the parking lot. On our way, we happened upon Tippy, who was on his way out as well and was by himself. My mom took the initiative and asked the Orioles Hall of Famer if he'd mind posing for a few pictures with us. He couldn't have been more polite, as he quickly agreed and stood alongside both my sister and myself for individual photos. My sister couldn't have cared less, as her half-bored, half-anugished expression showed. Though I still didn't have a complete grasp of just how important Martinez had been as the go-to reliever for the Orioles from the mid-1970's through the mid-1980's, it was still something of a thrill to me.
Though the giant puffy hat and recycled polyester uniform didn't do any favors to a kid in the midst of an awkward phase, I think you'll agree that Tippy Martinez looked pretty good for a guy who'd been retired for six years and was nearly forty-four at the time.
For the purpose of soothing my own bruised ego after sharing this picture with you, I'd like to state for the record that baseball-reference.com lists Tippy's height as 5'10", which means that in the ensuing years, I've surpassed him in stature. So there's that.