Monday, October 27, 2014

Pitcher Jeff Robinson Departs At Age 52

Keep www.baseball-almanac.com
bookmarked. They have an awesome
collection of authentic autographs.
I was touched to see this obituary of pitcher Jeff Robinson, deceased at age 52.

The comments posted for this former Tigers pitcher included his grieving wife. She was editing the obit. Her added comments show another side to the departed moundsman.

Some collectors might have experienced Mrs. Robinson's kindness years earlier.

Many who got confused, sending cards of pitcher Jeffrey D. Robinson might get a polite, hand-written note explaining the mix-up.

She was the perfect teammate.

The obit notes that Robinson has twin sons playing baseball on the community college level. I bet she'd help them with their fan mail, too. Let's hope they get the chance.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Pitcher Ryan Tatusko Keeps Fans First in Korea

A 2014 Hanwha Eagle
(courtesy Ryan Tatusko)
Some say the love the game.

Others SHOW it.

I marvel at players like Ryan Tatusko. A major league organization sells your contract to another league in another country? No problem for newly-married former Texas Rangers and Washington Nationals prospect who wound up 2014 pitching for the Hanwha Eagles in Korea. 

Some collectors seeking signatures on Tatusko's 2011 cards who blinked may have puzzled at how to find the hurler.

Just look on social media. Facebook. Twitter. He never forgot his fans.

Knowing that postal mail could be tricky, I vowed to get a burning question answered online:

Do baseball fans in Korea crave TTM autographs as much as we do?

His reply?

"We don't get SASE stuff, but the fans wait and wait and wait for us to come out of the stadium. And I don't think they've seen my cards (Korean?) back in the states."

My bonus? I suggested that the right-hander ask his newlywed wife for her autograph, considering all the challenges she's facing [He praised you as "unbelievable," Mrs. T!] as he works in a new country. He added:

"I do. She won't give it to me. LOL."

I don't know how many games Tatusko could win for a 2015 team. However, I can't imagine any other pitcher, this side of Pat Neshek, winning more fans than "Tusk" could.



Monday, October 20, 2014

Where Was Baseball By The Letters?

I could tell you.

Or, let me SHOW you.

I rode shotgun as my wife Diana Star Helmer put the finishing touches on a new edition of Belles of the Ballpark. If you liked the movie A League of Their Own, you'll love the true story.

The AAGPBL player roster shrank each week as we worked. Nevertheless, there's new correspondence with more than a dozen players. Many new chapters await!

We've submitted 70 possible photos to our editor, TRIPLE the amount of the first edition.

Lessons learned from a summer of girls league letters?

1. The league ended 60 years ago. Alums are age 80 and above. Health problems (or non-stop travelers) mean some responses won't be fast.

2. Penmanship should be renamed penWOMANship. Many of these women became teachers. Their sparkling handwriting -- sometimes, like calligraphy -- astounds me.

3. These women still love the game. Answers to our letters proved it. One former player wrote a great explanation of why batting averages were lower than major league stats. To make sure I agreed, she added a last-minute detail. She TAPED her baseball card on the back of the envelope, back side up. 

No ego. She didn't care about her picture. She just wanted me to see how her stats changed from season to season (just like the letter explained).

Summer Game Books looks like they'll be a rising star in the world of baseball books for many seasons to come. We're happy to play for their team. The book arrives in spring, 2015.

It's good to be back!




Thursday, August 14, 2014

AAGPBL Calls: Girls Leaguers Still Sign!

A book deadline is calling.

I need to say, "See you in September." Not forever, but only until I can help get one epic story back into print.

Meanwhile, you'll find an archive of more than 900 posts here to keep your summer sizzling.

When I return, I'll have news about the much-anticipated new and expanded edition of Belles of the Ballpark, thanks to talented co-author Diana Star Helmer and Summer Game Books. The AAGPBL survivors who are still physically able are signing by mail, by the way. I heard from 13 who answered questions for the book. Some were 90 and above. Write to these wondrous women soon.

Thank you for your support of the blog since 2010. I've always insisted that I'm about the stories behind the signatures, instead of mere autographs.

You'll see more of why this project has been so important this fall. When September call-ups happen, I'd be grateful if you'd promote me back to your active roster.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Goodbye, Detroit Tigers Catcher Bob 'Red' Wilson

To the end, he signed first name and nickname.
Gotta love those 1950s players

Bob "Red" Wilson passed away Aug. 8. He didn't write me the longest reply in 2010, but it was one of my most memorable returns.

I wasn't alone. The last check at the ever-reliable www.sportscollectors.net says that Wilson signed 131 out of 135 requests.

The 1950s players are going fast. They feel a special obligation to fans, even those not born when they played. 

Plus, so many from that decade never stopped being fans. Wilson wasn't big on discussing himself. Ask about Frank Lary or Al Kaline, and he lit up. When you're writing to the men of the 1950s, don't forget to ask about the stars they admired.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Mind-Melding With Future Seattle Mariners: Insights From An Appalachian League Clubhouse Manager

This is a baseball first for me.

My friend. On his own baseball card!

Lynn "Chipper" Cripps is the real thing. He deserves a real card.

The clubhouse manager told his Facebook universe about his Pulaski M's, Seattle's Rookie League affiliate. On Tuesday, he shared news that the Choice minor league team set had arrived.

Plus, he noted that he started getting autograph requests himself. "Gotta laugh," he added.

I asked what he saw from the young players surrounding him. His response:

"The guys were super excited as l was to receive our first batch of ball cards. There were card collectors and autograph seekers at our stadium the first day the Appalachian League cards came out. It's a blessing to to have a picture of yourself on a ball card, kind of an awestruck type moment. Most of the guys are first-year players, so they were super pumped. I have probably signed about a dozen ball cards so far for people who have came to our home games. Since the cards just came out the other day, lm sure the actual fan mail card/autograph hounds will be sending them via mail shortly. Yes plenty of Sharpie pens around here, pal. The biggest thing for fans to remember is be patient and respectful when seeking an autographed card from a player or staff member."

Lynn reminds every one of his friends with mere-mortal occupations that he loves his job. However, he's mentioned that his life as a "clubbie" can feature 17-hour days. That's right. He's logged hours of 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. during homestands. Therefore, getting fan mail to players might be just one umpteen daily duties he tackles.

Therefore, especially when writing to youngsters in the low minors, realize that teams will do the best they can getting letters to players. That's the patience he hints at. And, when you're deciding if you just want player autographs, realize that the clubhouse manager loves baseball just as much as anyone in that starting lineup. Unsung heroes are worth collecting, too.

Thank you, Chipper!




Monday, August 4, 2014

Former Chicago Cubs Pitcher Ed Mayer Reminds Us Why Autographs Matter

Photo courtesy Brian Salgado
Many thanks to collector Brian Salgado for this great update:

"I wrote to Mayer asking for a signature on his 1958 Topps card because he threw out the first pitch at my four-month-old son's first game at Wrigley Field. Not only did he sign the card, but he sent the letter pictured in the attachment. 

It reads:

"Hi Brian:
"Thank you for the nice letter. I'm glad that your family enjoyed the game and Noah was a winner! 
"Say hi to Noah's grandparents for me. Real fans like you make the game of baseball special and I am proud to have played ball for the Cubs. 
"I have a nice article on the internet. Google search Eddie Mayer/Cub and pop on the entry that says 'Almanac.'
"I hope you enjoy it.
"Best Wishes,
Ed Mayer"

"This is unofficially my son's first autograph through the mail and his first letter from a former player. He's off to a good start, I'd say! "

When I wrote about Ed Mayer back in 2010, sharing his letter, I learned he was a former teacher, too.

I love the lesson the ex-hurler delivers, a lesson for all of us.

Brian's example shows that a personal letter matters. You won't always get such a class response as what Mr. Mayer sent. However, you'll land the former player's major league effort when you share of yourself.

Additionally, the Ed Mayer victory for Brian unlocks the secret of the hobby.

The thrill won't come from a price guide. Sharing the stories behind the signatures: that truly matters.