When Tigers Broadcaster Ernie Harwell Spoke, Pitcher Nate Robertson Listened!

Posted September 21st, 2011 by Tom Owens and filed in Baseball Chapel, Detroit Tigers, Ernie Harwell, Jeff Jones, Nate Robertson
http://www.gifts.com/ had this
Nate Robertson autograph for
$95. Too much?  I think he’d sign
for two stamps and a sincere
letter!

At last, I have the first response from my letters to veterans who played AAA ball this year. Check out the list of 10 I
sought out from this July post. I had forgotten how some players will save their fan mail until season’s end.

Pitcher Nate Robertson started game 1 of the 2006 World Series. I found the former Tiger in care of the Tacoma Rainiers, Seattle’s top farm club.

I asked him about his Detroit days, getting to have an exclusive audience with legendary broadcaster Ernie Harwell. Robertson replied:

“Ernie would share with every detail any story you asked about, but the most interesting story to me was the one about how he had a hand in getting Baseball Chapel started for the players and staff in the game.”

From his years in the game, I wanted Robertson’s take on who helped him most. One name surfaced:

“Jeff Jones is my favorite pitching coach. He’s done a very good job communicating on a professional and personal level.”

Lastly, Robertson made me question just how fictional the movie Bull Durham is! The mound conference scenes are high points in the movie.

Therefore, I asked this hurler what are the best or worst things catchers have said to him on the mound during a game. Robertson’s reply?

“I don’t know, never paid much attention. Ha!”

He closed his letter not with his autograph, but his favorite Bible verse: Matthew 22:37

Coming Friday: Meet Patrick Carter, ultimate Braves autograph collector!

Looking for the ‘Crash Davis’ 2011 All-Stars

Former Cub Bobby Scales sent me a message in June.


Has time improved
Tracy’s autograph?



No, I didn’t get mail. I got the symbolism of his career decision. He joined the Nippon Ham Fighters June 27. He played more than 10 minor league seasons, but he isn’t quitting. Scales hasn’t stopped loving the game.
Minor leaguers over age 30 are an endangered species. I think the movie Bull Durham is more real than we might imagine. These men know that 2011 might be a last hurrah. They want to keep playing while they can. I know that waiting one more season to write them could be too long.
I selected eight veteran names, names of men who tasted major league glory once. Those I wrote to include…
Nate Bump

Randy Flores
Eric Junge
Mike Lamb
Nate Robertson
J.C. Romero
Terry Tiffee
Andy Tracy

The ninth man’s life and career is unfolding like a TV movie. David Newhan grew up the son of famed L.A. Times baseball writer Ross Newhan. The young Newhan debuted in 1999, a versatile utilityman. In 2009, a surfing accident and broken neck seemed to end Newhan’s diamond career.

Some reporters questioned how Newhan could still walk, or even be alive.

Newhan went to spring training with the 2011 Padres, attempting a AAA comeback. That goal fell short. However, the love of baseball didn’t wane. Newhan became a coach at class A Lake Elsinore.

My 10th man is double-A hurler Pat Venditte, a relative youngster.

No, baseball’s first legitimate ambidextrous pitcher (aside from a 1995 inning by Greg A. Harris) is not one of the minors’ senior citizens. I think his lack of blazing fastball makes him questionable to the Yankees. I can’t imagine a team not needing lefty AND righty help. Buy one, get one free. Venditte will be a Youtube immortal, even if the majors don’t call. Cooperstown should call dibbies on Venditte’s reversible fielding glove.

This batch of baseball warriors impress me. I’ve found a few other “old timers” still active in AAA. Sadly, according to results posted on http://www.sportscollectors.net/, these men stopped answering fan mail years ago. In a way, they gave up early.

I’m hoping the waning weeks of the season will produce some surprises. Don’t give up, guys. You throwback players are living history!

Coming Friday: Pitcher Dennis Bennett ponders possibilities.