A Meaningful NY Yankee Autograph Collection? ‘The Lost Collector’ Found a Way!

Check out this 2005 TTM success from Phil Rizzuto. Says A.J. — “I sent him a nice note and a few memories I had of him, including the way my Italian grandmother and I used to enjoy the way he talked about food on air. I also included a check for a few dollars in hopes that he would sign my card. Not only did he sign my card, but sent a small signed photo (It read: “Tell Nonna I sure would love to have some of those ravioli”) and sent my check back and wrote on it “No Charge, AJ. Scooter #10″. It just goes to show that a sincere letter can go a long way.”

Reader feedback is the best. I love writing about collectors, because it inspires more stories. We can learn so much from each other.

Take A.J., for example. A humble guy, he asked me to withhold his last name. All names aside, you should know him as “The Lost Collector.” This talented fellow blogger shared his personalized plan for collecting what he cares about — along with the tale of how he returned to the hobby after getting overwhelmed with card choices and other challenges. I’m grateful that he tells his story in the following e-interview.

Q: I love the Yankees project. What was the inspiration? You acquired all the signed cards yourself TTM? What was the time span?

A: I’ve been interested in signed Yankees cards via TTM for as long as I can remember. Back in high school (early 2000s), I had TTM success from Gil McDougald (on 1959 Topps) and Mel Stottlemyre (on a 1972 Topps).  I loved having vintage cards signed, and three years ago I had the idea to try and get a signed Topps card of a different Yankees player for as long as Topps has been in the business. I could never send out requests with any consistency, but having this project as my goal kept me interested in the hobby and sending out requests on a regular basis. I had to acquire the cards, research who to send to from which years, and then take the chance of sending. I did in fact acquire all of the cards myself via TTM requests (and many other cards too that didn’t make it into the project). I also managed to complete the project without sending to any players who require fees, which just goes to show how many generous signers there are still out there.

 Q: Steve Kraly is Mr. Binghamton. What kind of response did he supply?

A: I’m glad you asked. I did in fact mention to Mr. Kraly where I grew up, and he wrote me a very nice note back, about two pages in length. He told me a lot about his time playing in Binghamton, such as his stats before being called up. He shared other fond memories, including the fact that he met his wife there. He still lives there and stays involved in the game by being the official scorer of the Binghamton Mets (Double A). I sent him two 1955 Topps cards, asking him to keep one, but he signed both and returned them to me.

Q: THE LOST COLLECTOR is a great title. What’s been different — and better — in your second time around as a hobbyist?

A: The second time around, I feel like I’m a lot more mature and focused (despite my blog title). Back in my early days of collecting, I’d pull a card and immediately look at what it was “worth” in Beckett. That has changed now. I can’t tell you the last time I’ve looked in a price guide. It’s more fun now because the cards have a lot more personal worth to me. I still feel “lost” at times based on all the card issues I missed while I was out of collecting (the certified auto craze and game-used cards really happened while I was gone), but it gives me something to look forward to in trades – knowing that there are so many Yankees cards out there I haven’t seen and don’t own.

Q: I love how you quiz minor leaguers about a future goal. Who’ve been some of the best answers?

I often ask a player who they admired growing up, and what pitcher/batter they most look forward to facing. I get a lot of the usual suspects – Jeter, Pujols, Griffey.

 Q: What’s been the most fun, satisfying parts of having a blog?

A: Having a blog has kept me interested in collecting. Not only does it give me a place to trade and acquire new cards, but it’s a daily activity in the hobby that doesn’t have to revolve around buying new cards or visiting a shop. Every day, I scroll through my blogroll and check out what everyone is talking about. In this sense, it keeps me interested day in and day out.

Sometimes, your
all-time favorite
player still signs
TTM, A.J. found!

Q: Current autograph project/focus/goal?

A: My focus lately has been minor leaguers/prospects. I follow the Yankees minor league system closely, so when I am able to get a TTM success from guys I’m a fan of – whether or not they actually make it to the majors – is an awesome feeling. I would like to start a new project soon, but for now I’m enjoying sending to minor leaguers. I have a five-month-old son, and have gotten a few players to personalize cards to him (Pat Neshek and Virgil Trucks have done it), so perhaps I’ll shift the focus away from my collection and start getting cards signed for him. It could be cool for him to have when he’s older.

 Q: Advice for almost-lost autograph collectors, those who may be getting disillusioned with
lowTTM response rates, scribbly signatures, guys who charge, etc.? Do you see any silver
linings to the dark clouds in the autograph hobby?

A” It’s definitely getting tougher and tougher. I’d advise anyone struggling with the hobby to think of your own project – one that’s both attainable and challenging (i.e. trying to collect a signed team set of 1987 Topps). I’ve never been so inspired to send out requests than I was when I only need a few more cards to complete my own project. It kept me interested and focused, and I’m not sure I’d be TTMing today if it wasn’t for my project’s completion driving me. Lastly, don’t send anything you can’t afford to lose. There’s always the risk, no matter who you send to.

Coming Monday: Remembering Twins pitcher Dave Boswell

What Would You Ask 1953 Yankee Steve Kraly?

Posted June 29th, 2011 by Tom Owens and filed in 1953 New York Yankees, Binghamton Mets, Steve Kraly
As of today, no ebay takers
for this 1954 specimen,
priced at $38.99. His 1955
Topps might remain the
collectible of choice…

Calling all Yankees and Mets fans…

I just received a response from Steve Kraly, pitcher for the 1953 Yankees. I sent him three questions. He wrote back without answers. Instead, he gave me permission to call to chat about any questions I’d have.

Kraly is so much more than a “cup of coffee” guy with the Yankees. Check out this great feature from 2008.

I didn’t know Kraly was a beloved part of Binghamton Mets history. Besides, I’ve never talked to the inspiration for a bobblehead, before.
Kraly was generous. I wanted to share, too. Through Monday, I’ll be compiling other questions YOU might like answered. I’ll include those in my conversation.

Coming Thursday: Comparing Virgil Trucks to a Hall of Famer.