A collector, part of Cooperstown?
That’s one fascinating possibility lurking within the correspondence collection kept by the National Baseball Hall of Fame research library. The 25-page list produces many surprises, none of which may be on public display.
Everyone knows that Hall of Famer Don Sutton has been a reluctant by-mail signer for years. Well, the HOF owns a hand-written letter from the pitcher, offering advice to a young player in 1966. An article from the period documents the exchange.
Players like Jackie Robinson saved letters of support from fans. Browsing the list, I found one fan wrote Robinson six times from 1952-55.
Sure, the archive includes lots of business letters: owners, commissioners, journalists.
However, none of those official missives would match a single hand-written bit of correspondence between players and fans.
That’s the joy of Baseball By The Letters.
For the Cincinnati Reds, an autographed baseball is the equivalent to the “get out of jail free” card in MONOPOLY.
Joey Votto’s anger over a fan who outdueled him for a foul ball was rectified by a post-incident autographed baseball.
Brandon Phillips used signed-ball diplomacy previously.
Votto has used autographs to make a statement before, explaining why he wouldn’t sign for Cubs fans.
The inspiring website www.sportscollectors.net notes that collectors through the mail have gotten 365 responses (69 percent success rate overall). However, the last recorded response came in June, 2015.
I predict this won’t be the last time the Cincy slugger depends on autographs to gain center stage.