Matt Merullo caught for six years in the major leagues for the White Sox, Indians and Twins. He is now a scout for the Arizona Diamondbacks and kindly shared some baseball card stories with me. Read on for a new angle on the Billy Ripken card, another umpire card, and how baseball cards help him in his scouting job.
"Years ago I met Billy Ripken when he was playing briefly for Cleveland. He told us a story about how he posed with a bat resting on his shoulder. The card was released before anyone realized the knob of the bat had some four letter words on it. The best part was when I signed a player years later as a scout and that player's father happened to be the plant manager for the Fleer company that made the card unknowingly. I went to the house to sign the player and his father proceeded to tell me the whole story of the Ripken card from his angle. His boss was not amused but within weeks they sold more cards than ever! He kept his job.
My favorite card is one where I am tagging out a runner at home and the ump is right behind me pumping his fist calling him out. When the card came out the umpire in the shot (Al Clark) said he loved the card and that it had taken him 20 years in the majors to get a picture so good of himself. I told him we should get the actual photo from the company and he said "great idea". 3 weeks later when I was in Chicago, a framed autographed photo that was identical to the card was waiting for me in my locker. It was signed 'To Matt, it doesn't get any better than this my friend!--Al Clark". I have it hanging in my home.
I am not a collector but I do have quite a few cards around. As a scout I like to use them as references to players I'm comparing."
Thanks! That card shows this game from June 27, 1991, a 5-2 White Sox victory. In the second inning Pete O'Brien was thrown out trying to score from first on a Jay Buhner double as Lance Johnson and Ozzie Guillen executed a perfect relay to Merullo to get O'Brien. In the bottom of the third Merullo would drive in the game's first run with his second hit of the game.