Coaches With No MLB Playing Experience Are Autographs Worth Collecting; Hope Is Coming!

Al Vincent: Never a day as
an MLB player. But the
coach was a HOF storyteller!

This week, baseball address king Harvey Meiselman posted some hopeful news on http://www.sportscollectors.net/.

Harvey is listening to collector wishes. He noted more than one request for including coaches in next year’s Baseball Address List.

Aren’t all coaches? Only those with at least a game of major league playing experience. A former player who found a second career coaching will be still be listed in the main section. He’s continued to recognize these men in the List by noting their playing debut dates.

Harvey is talking about having a supplemental section as part of the list just for these coaches without a day of MLB playing time. He cited Cincinnati’s Mark Berry as an example.

Harvey estimated that he’d need to invest 70-100 hours of labor to find all the living coaches from this unique category of baseball history. Think Mike Quade, before he became Cubs manager.

I learned what rich sources of history these forgotten men are when I wrote Remember When: A Nostalgic Look at America’s National Pastime (Metrobooks, 1996). I tracked down career minor leaguer Albert Linder Vincent, who joined the Detroit coaching staff in 1943.

Vincent wrote me a multi-page letter telling about his career. In 1938, as a Texas League manager, he had his batters wear football helmets for 5 innings (years before the majors adopted batting helmets). Baltimore’s use of an oversized catching mitt to handle future Hall of Fame knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm? It wasn’t manager Paul Richards with this brainstorm, but Vincent.

The partial list of players he coached in the minors is impressive: Dizzy Trout, Virgil Trucks, Hal Newhouser, Fred Hutchinson, Wally Post, Joe Adcock, Alex Grammas, Joe Nuxhall. Future managers Danny Ozark and Mayo Smith played for Vincent.

Vincent added, “You would have to ask them if they were aided by my efforts.” Seeing the many winning teams he led, I know the answer.

Vincent wrote me: “Coaches are non-entities by and large, and lose their identity in the job, the exception being an established star giving a coach credit. It happens, but all too seldom.”

He died in 2000. I want to give all the Al Vincents credit. I want to write to them all. Please, Harvey. Help us find them, while there’s still time to save these stories.

How Does A Rookie Catcher Handle Knuckleballers Phil Niekro & Hoyt Wilhelm? Very Carefully, Says Bob Didier!

Didier: “He was out.”

As a Little Leaguer, I couldn’t have caught a knuckleball with a butterfly net.

That’s why I marvel at Bob Didier. He was named to the Topps All-Rookie team in 1969. That year, the Braves catcher broke in catcher two future Hall of Famers, knuckleballers Phil Niekro and Hoyt Wilhelm.

I wrote, asking Didier to describe those fluttering deliveries. He responded with a gem of a letter:

“Niekro was the starter and he threw his knuckelballs harder and it broker sharper. Wilhelm threw his knuckleball softer but would have 2 or 3 different breaks at different times.

I waited until the ball stopped roll and I picked them up.”

Didier’s 1973 Topps card is classic. The action shot is supreme. The 1972 Mets roster says #21 was Cleon Jones. Any details about the card?

“He was out.”

I asked about Didier’s father, super scout Mel Didier.

“He signed Ralph Garr, Cecil Upshaw, George Stone, Andre Dawson and Gary Carter, among others.

He taught me to respect the game.

My dad has (written) a book about his life in baseball, Podnuh, Let Me Tell You A Story — A Baseball Life.”

Didier shared a few tales with a Cape Cod League reporter in 2008. Read (and listen) here!

 

How Does A Rookie Catcher Handle Knuckleballers Phil Niekro & Hoyt Wilhelm? Very Carefully, Says Bob Didier!

Didier: “He was out.”

As a Little Leaguer, I couldn’t have caught a knuckleball with a butterfly net.

That’s why I marvel at Bob Didier. He was named to the Topps All-Rookie team in 1969. That year, the Braves catcher broke in catcher two future Hall of Famers, knuckleballers Phil Niekro and Hoyt Wilhelm.

I wrote, asking Didier to describe those fluttering deliveries. He responded with a gem of a letter:

“Niekro was the starter and he threw his knuckelballs harder and it broker sharper. Wilhelm threw his knuckleball softer but would have 2 or 3 different breaks at different times.

I waited until the ball stopped roll and I picked them up.”

Didier’s 1973 Topps card is classic. The action shot is supreme. The 1972 Mets roster says #21 was Cleon Jones. Any details about the card?

“He was out.”

I asked about Didier’s father, super scout Mel Didier.

“He signed Ralph Garr, Cecil Upshaw, George Stone, Andre Dawson and Gary Carter, among others.

He taught me to respect the game.

My dad has (written) a book about his life in baseball, Podnuh, Let Me Tell You A Story — A Baseball Life.”

Didier shared a few tales with a Cape Cod League reporter in 2008. Read (and listen) here!