Here’s great TTM autograph advice from an all-star collector

This autograph hobby needs more Rich Hansons.

I included Rich in Baseball By the Letters for the first time in 2010. In the years since, I’ve sought his impressions of the hobby. He’s like the canary in the coal mine. When Rich is pleased with his hobby successes, we can all benefit from his experiences.

I asked him if COVID fears may be limiting his successes TTM autograph signers. Rich replied:

“I’ve been doing very well on autograph responses, but that’s because I have more time to do my homework to determine who is and is not signing. “TTM Autographs Galore” is a good resource site as is “Baseball autographs through the Mail. ” Current players, we’re pretty much out of luck with.  I’m hearing that most of the teams are just throwing away requests, using COVID as an excuse to jettison something they don’t want to be bothered with anyway.”

Again, I’m thankful for Rich’s comments. His answers should prompt two questions in everyone:

  1. When collecting TTM autographs, what am I doing well on? (Such as response rate, special requests, getting inscriptions, etc.)
  2. In what area could I improve? (Invalid addresses, getting non-responses, etc.)
Andy Messersmith autograph
www.baseballalmanac has an incredible variety of authentic autographs as illustrations.  Messersmith stopped signing in retirement, making his autograph a major rarity.

By non-responses, I mean the “I don’t sign autographs any more,” handwritten turndown from Andy Messersmith, or an unopened envelope that reads ‘Now with PastPros.’

Rich knows that TIME is the secret sauce collectors need. Check a site like www.sportscollectors.net to see if a retiree has been an invisible non-signer, or signing for free, of late. If Mister X hasn’t responded to a request in the last five years, don’t assume he’ll never sign again. Just know that your odds of a reply could be shrinking.

Join a Facebook group for collectors, just like Rich did. Keep track of your hits and misses, so you can give another collector a specific answer to “what kind of a response did you get from this guy?”

A journalism professor told me once, “If your mama says she loves you, check it out.” Or, in other words, trust but verify. Some of the victims of hobby burnout, those who’ve given up on TTM, may have survived by fine-tuning their methods. 

Save yourself. Save your collection.

 

 

Before ‘The Shot Heard Round the World,’ Bobby Thomson owned another fun nickname


Here’s a post from 2010. I felt blessed to receive a TTM reply from Bobby Thomson, only months before his death that same year. It’s my pleasure to share it again!

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Bobby “The Shot Heard Round the World” Thomson owned a nickname even before his pennant-winning home run against the Dodgers in 1951.

An ethnic nickname!

In today’s politically-correct society, speaking of one’s heritage might seem controversial. Some might say offensive. But Thomson, born in Glasgow, Scotland, began sporting the moniker “The Flying Scot” soon after his 1946 debut. In today’s baseball landscape, where colorful nicknames are an endangered species, I had to get Thomson’s take on the title.

He wrote:

“Thank you for writing.

The ‘Flying Scot’ was fine with me. It explained what I was all about — birthplace and moments when I had a chance to use my speed. A sportswriter obviously came up with the name.

Regards,
Bobby Thomson”

I loved reading about the Scotsman who swatted 264 career home runs in The Echoing Green: The Untold Story of Bobby Thomson, Ralph Branca and the Shot Heard Round the World (Vintage) and Miracle Ball: My Hunt for the Shot Heard ‘Round the World

One of baseball’s best ambassadors, Thomson savored every game.

And every nickname.

It’s all in the envelope: here’s one easy but overlooked step TTM autograph collectors should start doing NOW

The key to getting more responses revolves around writing better letters, right?

Maybe.

However, the world’s best letter may never be seen. What makes your envelope special?

Imagine that you are a retired baseball player. Your wife helps you sort your fan mail. Will you be seeing all the envelopes in chronological order?

Not necessarily.

Bugs Bunny stamps“Have you ever seen a stamp like this before?” she asks you. She passes you THAT envelope. You take turns studying the new commemorative. Then, that envelope gets opened first.

Stranger things have happened. Here’s a recent commemorative that even gives a nod to baseball.

These 10 classic Bugs Bunny scenes reimagined by current Warner Bros. artists includes a shot from the 1946 short Baseball Bugs. In this cartoon, Bugs plays all nine positions in hopes of beating the Gashouse Gorillas.

Try something new. Try WHAT’S new. Or, what’s up? Good luck TTM.

Pitcher Al Worthington’s autograph comes with an honest, caring letter

Collector Tom Rydel shared some useful information with fellow autograph collectors recently.

Reported first on www.sportscollectors.net, Tom shared a letter from former pitcher Al Worthington. In the note, Worthington apologizes for misplacing Tom’s cards. (In reality, all were returned in one week!)

Tom made the great suggestion that other collectors mark the backs of their cards with their name and address. That way, a misplaced card could rejoin its SASE faster. He suggested a post-it note.

Worthington Al autograph
Look at the penmanship, even at age 91. Best of all, Worthington resists the temptation to call “W——-” a real autograph. Collectors get every letter from him!

The idea inspired me. I think those small return address stickers would fit on a post-it note. Avoid writing and rewriting your address by hand. Plus, those stickers will be easier to read than bad handwriting (such as mine!).

I asked Tom about his autograph collecting roots. He replied:

“While living in the Detroit area the Tigers won the world series in 1984 and my love for the game grew. The following season my dad taught me how to write letters (TTMs) to players on the Tigers. My favorite players were Alan Trammell and Cal Ripken Jr. I still have all those autographs today and have grown my collection 36 years later. I still send out TTMs today and enjoy the hobby very much. There is nothing like getting an autograph in the mail.

I mostly collect baseball, basketball and football. I’m living in Minnesota now where hockey is very big and in-person autographs from hockey players is always fun when visiting teams play the Wild. If I have an item of someone (sports, politician, Olympian or actor) I will try to get it signed if at all possible.”

Tom’s a thoughtful collector who employs a main belief of mine: collect anybody and anything you want.

Tom’s thoughtfulness is catching. I wanted to ask all the readers if they could expand on Tom’s idea. Worthington and his wife, in their letter, noted that they were trying to develop a system to better keep track of which cards go in what envelope.

At age 91, Al Worthington deserves supportive teammates on Team TTM. I’ll mail on any other suggestions, Tom’s and otherwise, to the couple.

Lastly, there’s another message here. If someone in their 90s gets confused about keeping cards sorted, couldn’t a retiree in his 40s get mixed up, too? Try the return address post-it note for anyone you contact. Thanks again, Tom Rydel.

 

A look back: Phillies pitcher Pat Combs saluted announcers Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn

In this strangest of baseball seasons in my lifetime, I crave traditions. I want those soothing voices of friends on the radio. A former pitcher wrote back on this subject. He told me once that my admiration wasn’t misplaced.

Here’s a post from back in 2011:

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When do you know you’ve made it? When do you feel like you belong?

I asked Philadelphia pitcher Pat Combs what his four-hitter versus the Cardinals during his 1989 rookie season meant. (Thanks http://www.retrosheet.org/ for the memories!) Combs wrote:

“The Cards game was great! What I most remember is that it proved to me how good my ‘stuff’ was. It showed me that good pitchers get hitters out. The key is to make good pitches.

My wife was in the stands that day.”

combsCombs should get extra credit for his final-month victories in 1989 and ’90. I pointed out that pitchers are facing September call-ups, guys without substantial scouting reports. By contrast, word spreads fast about how pitchers are pitching. Combs added:

“When I arrived in ’89, I had the same type of finish. I seemed to get stronger as the year progressed. The only attribution I could come up with is that my fitness level was extremely high. I would stay in great shape throughout the season, and simply outworked most of my peers.”

Two reasons that Combs remains memorable to Phillies fans are announcers Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn. What does the former pitcher cherish from these beloved voices?

“Harry K and Richie (Whitey) were great men. They so much enjoyed the game and the players. We could sit and talk for hours with them. Both were very kind and gentle men.”

After reading about Combs’ Christianity, I decided to end my letter with my favorite Biblical passage. Combs replied:

“Tom, yes, James 2:14-17 are great verses. We must always practice what we preach, and walk in the ways of our Lord Jesus. He showed us the Way!

Pat”

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