I love listening to Doug Glanville talk about baseball. His writing sparkles, too.
In 2008, he wrote an apology of sorts for all his unanswered fan letters through the years. The column, first appearing in the New York Times, can be read here from Doug’s fascinating website.
For everyone who’s grumbled, “He switched my card” or “He kept one,” this is proof that players are human. Glanville didn’t talk about getting secretarial help from his teams to keep mail sorted and answered. I like his essay, too, because you get a feel for what kind of letters mattered most to him.
In an update to Glanville’s efforts to get his fan mail under control, I checked the always-helpful http://www.sportscollectors.net/. I think collectors got scared away from writing Glanville after he admitted in print that he hadn’t answered every letter. Collectors had a 53 percent success rate through the mail with the center fielder. Sure enough, he’s taken more than 1,000 days to answer several letters.
Twenty-eight years later, my wife and I still hear from people muttering that our thank-you notes were sent to the wrong people. We confused a couple of the gifts with the givers. To deal with hundreds of cards a year belonging to various strangers? Eeek!
The reasons to remember former Expos pitcher Steve Rogers are many. The first-round draft choice in 1971 was the 1973 Rookie of the Year from The Sporting News. He averaged a decade of double-digit winning seasons. Besides all that, he sported one of the sport’s best ‘staches. As player-turned-Fox commentator Kevin Millar might say, “awesome man hair!”
These days, Rogers works at the Players Association. He’s special assistant to Michael Weiner in charge of player pension issues. He could add one more victory to his history page, advocating for the 874 fellow players who deserve pensions. Steve Rogers was the alter ego of comic book superhero “Captain America.” This Rogers can be a super hero again, too.
Author Doug Gladstone suggests contacting Rogers or Weiner at the address below. Other places to voice support for baseball’s forgotten men follow:
Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball
245 Park Avenue, 31st Floor
New York, NY 10167
Major League Baseball Players Association
12 East 49th Street, 24th Floor
New York, NY 10017
Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association
1631 Mesa Avenue
Copper Building, Suite D
Colorado Springs, CO 80906
I asked Doug about a list of all the men denied pensions. He replied:
“Strictly speaking, there is no online list to see who is getting hosed and, as you can well imagine, the union was less than forthcoming whenever I tried to make contact with them. (Frankly, they guard the names of the 30 player reps so tightly, you’d think they were guarding the secret formula of Coca Cola, which is stored in a vault in the main headquarters of Sun Trust Bank in Atlanta). Since they were less than cooperative when I was doing my research, I had to use that great online resource, http://www.baseball-almanac.com/, to figure out who was getting shafted.
A list IS maintained by the MLBPAA. I would therefore advise you to tell your readers to contact Dan Foster, the alumni group’s executive director, at 719-477-1870, x112. He probably will be less than forthcoming too, however. B/T/W, his direct email is firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Lastly, here’s a non-autograph reason to write to players. The player union keeps the names of team representatives quiet. If you spot a player mentioned in print, such as “Cardinals player representative Kyle McClellan,” make a note. These players have special powers. When the next contract between teams and the player union takes places in 2011, the pension-less 874 needs to be negotiated. All players need to know that they shouldn’t forget those who came before.
Other known team reps include:
Jeff Francoeur, Mets
Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies
Hunter Pence, Astros
Mark Texeira and Curtis Granderson,Yankees
Stop by Doug’s website for updates. Most of all, get A Bitter Cup of Coffee: How MLB and the Players Association Threw 874 Retirees a Curve
Share it with other fans, collectors, media — anyone who’ll listen. I’ve yet to receive a ransom note from one of the 874 saying, “Baseball has robbed me of a pension, so I’m punishing autograph collectors by demanding $$$ per signature.” These are fellow fans: good, deserving men who want to keep their love for baseball. If the crowd roars, MLB has to listen.
In 1975, Brooks Robinson basked in the twilight glow of a sterling career. Meanwhile, teammate Baltimore teammate Jim Hutto struggled for a second chance after his debut with the 1970 Phillies. Five more seasons of minor league exile followed.
Doug Gladstone is author of A Bitter Cup of Coffee: How MLB and the Players Association Threw 874 Retirees a Curve
He caught up with Hutto, who tried to reconnect with his famous teammate years later. Hutto is one of the pension-less veterans who’ve sought recognition for their service to the game. As Gladstone tells it:
“There is also a tremendously poignant October 7, 2008 letter from Jim Hutto, the former Phillies and Orioles catcher, that is liberally quoted from. It was sent to Brooks Robinson, the Hall of Famer who now serves as president of the Board of Directors of the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association (MLBPAA):
“I am crippled with arthritis brought on by the abuse I put my body through playing baseball. I am permanently disabled physically, but my brain is still working. And it’s telling me that no one in baseball has the balls to do what is right and put our group of 900 or so guys on the same level playing field with all those other guys who are receiving benefits. I am just a regular person who played baseball once upon a time. At my age, I’m just trying to get out of bed every morning and do what I can to make ends meet. I am trying to get by with some dignity and as hokey as this may sound, I want to be able to look upon my baseball life as a good thing. The other 900 ballplayers feel the same way.’
Hutto is still waiting for the courtesy of a response.”
Please, go the Doug Gladstone’s website to learn more about this wrong. Buy his book if you can. Then, get ready to go to bat for 874 deserving players. Good letters can do more than obtain autographs. Good letters can change lives.
Tomorrow: the author tells all, giving a list of the people and places fans can contact with their protests.