|Signature off Topps contract,
an indicated by “Jr.”
Joe Cunningham raised an interesting point about broadcaster Harry Caray.
I asked about the former Cardinals mikeman. I assumed Joe and all the Redbirds owned a funny story about the boisterous broadcaster.
“Harry Caray was a good announcer. Just don’t go into a slump –“
Sounding like a fellow fan remained Caray’s famed style. Until Joe, I had never thought how it would have felt (or sounded) having the “fan” with the microphone disappointed in you.
Speaking of disappointments…
I risked a question asking about 1959. Cunningham received all-star honors for his career year at the plate. His .453 on-base percentage astounds me. How close was the Cardinal to a batting title at .345? He answered:
“I was batting against Aaron in 1959 and we went down to the last game. Then, he went into a playoff and got a few hits and beat me out.”
|Joe C still has the same
slanting Willie Stargell-like penmanship!
Have autograph collectors ever give Joe Cunningham his due?
A tireless signer, he often would take two lines for a signature. “Joe” on top, last name on bottom. Every letter stands out in the whole name.
I’m guessing that more Midwestern Cardinals fans met Joe than any former player in the 1970s. He’d make any appearance on behalf of the team and his sales job. I considered him the team’s ambassador for more than a decade.
I asked the New Jersey native about Ken Boyer. Cunningham replied:
“Ken Boyer was a good friend. I gave him the nickname ‘Captain.’ He ran well, especially on a triple. A country boy!”
Then, Cunningham surprised me with some philosophy, something I bet he never would have shared during his after-dinner banquet appearances.
“Baseball has changed. Curt Flood brought on free agency through the courts. The owners owned us for 100 years. Today, the players run the game.”
Tomorrow: Cunningham opens up about broadcaster Harry Caray.
Although I try to get prompt thank-you notes mailed to all the former players who respond, some get my attention first.
1. Did they write a page or more?
2. Did they include a photo, photocopied clippings or other gift?
3. Did they make an extra effort for me?
Defining #3 may be toughest to judge. Sometimes, it just takes an extra look at the envelope.
When Paul Schaal wrote back, I remembered I used a Kansas address (thanks to http://www.sportscollectors.net/). However, the envelope was postmarked Honolulu, Hawaii!
The question is NOT whether Schaal winters there, or was just on vacation.
The real mystery is how a former player could be so dedicated to fans that he’d pay attention to mail in HAWAII. “I’ll swim later, dear. First, I need to get these autographs signed.” What’s next: postmarks from Walt Disney World or Mall of America?
Imagine seeing the fan beside you at the ballpark ruffling papers. While you’re keeping score and cheering, the next fan mutters, “I really need to respond to these letters from relatives.”
To the former players who take the time and effort to sign from their winter homes, vacation spots or anywhere days before a hectic holiday, they deserve our extra thanks. More than knowing that baseball still matters to them, their devotion to signing says that we, the fans, still matter, too.
Tomorrow: Cardinal Joe Cunningham honors teammate Ken Boyer.