Roy Hawes is OUR Roy Hobbs

Roy Hawes is a working-class Roy Hobbs.

You remember that Robert Redford character in The Natural? That Roy got his second chance at glory — one more season to make good.

The real Roy Hawes got only one week.

But what a week!

Hawes was promoted to the Washington Senators, debuting Sept. 23, 1951. He went 1-for-6 in part-time duty. He performed flawless, error-free, at first base throughout the week. Back in the minors the next year, Hawes continued through the 1960 campaign, never to see the majors again.

Still, he’s cherished those magic moments. He wrote about his promotion:

“My owner at Sherman-Denison, Texas (Big State League, class B team) informed me. I was thrilled. Quite a jump. September 1950 class D to the majors in one year? God moves in mysterious ways.”

And that hit against Philadelphia Athletics pitcher Bob Hooper?

“I took the first pitch (fastball), missed the second pitch. He threw me a knuckleball on the next pitch and I singled up the middle.”

He signs:

“Good luck. God bless you and thanks for the honor. Roy Hawes, Washington Senators, 1951.”

Yes, I bolded those last four words. Those are words worth remembering. It’s my honor to know that some players savored their precious “cups of coffee,” sharing the sweet taste with any fan who asks.

One Batter at a Time, One Letter a Day

I could envision a rookie pitcher quaking at the sight of an all-star slugger at the plate, another in the on-deck circle and a bench full of other wood-wielding beasts. How would that harried hurler cope?

Easy. One batter at a time.

As I rejoined the autograph collecting hobby, I needed such a game plan.

I started with one goal. What would each letter seek from a current or former player? I voted against another signed baseball card, instead seeking an answer to a question about each person’s baseball career.

To be honest, that was the easy part.

Choosing the people to contact became my greatest challenge. I could be alphabetical. No, thanks. How about writing to all the oldest retirees first? The window of opportunity could close faster.

Although I’m trying to stick with that strategy, I’m straying. When I read about a fascinating moment in baseball history, from last season or decades ago, I act. Especially if I uncover something relating to my own fandom.

For now, the best I’ve done is to commit to a letter a day.

I’m no Joe DiMaggio, but this is my consecutive game streak. Just one a day. More is fine. However, I know one missed day can turn into a hobby-less week. Or month.

I’ve been amazed at the candor and detail of each letter I receive. I’m sure that sticking a tape recorder in someone’s face wouldn’t produce the same quality memory. It’s up to each respondent to write his history, his way.

How do you keep your hobby growing, while keeping the rest of your life in balance?

Grant Jackson, 207 Victories?

I just saw on the forum section of that relief pitcher Grant Jackson might be through.

Through? Through with answering fan mail. Some through-the-mail collectors have been getting their cards returned unsigned.

This sad turn of events comes after reviewing Jackson’s stats. Collectors had logged 207 successes for Jackson, a 96 percent success rate. Nearly everyone received a bonus in their return. Along with their requested autographed, Jackson would tuck in a signed postcard from his Pirates days.

Years ago, he sent me one when he pitched with the Orioles. Throughout his 18-year career and after, Jackson has been a rock-solid signer.

We may never know why he stopped signing by mail. His change of heart should remind collectors to make every letter count. Be individualized. Be personal. They do read what you write.

Even with younger retired players, there’s no forever. Don’t assume you can wait to get a response by mail.

What’s been your biggest disappointment, or surprise, through the mail, lately?

Joe McCarthy Thanked Me

Joe McCarthy, manager of seven New York Yankees World Champion teams, earned his Hall of Fame membership in 1957.

He earned my fandom shortly before his death in 1978 at age 90.

Dear Tom, Thanks so much for your very nice letter. Joe McCarthy

When he returned my autograph request with a bonus, I knew that he’d been signing fan mail for decades. Nevertheless, I felt like an all-star.

Our letters do get read — and appreciated. A batting average keeps track
of hits, not outs. Savor your hits in this hobby, learn from your misses, and you’ll be destined for a Hall of Fame collecting career.

Online Baseball Autograph Museum!

Is there a hobby hall of fame for autograph collectors?
I think Sean Holtz deserves membership.

Living close to two spring training camps in Florida in the early 1970s, Sean began a collection of front-signed baseball cards that’s topped 6,000 specimens.

Imagine looking at a collection so huge, knowing that the authenticity
of every signature is guaranteed.

Yes, Holtz offers three-plus decades of autograph knowledge on his
Baseball Almanac website. Afraid that an autograph of a deceased player might not be
the real thing? Start with a peek at what Sean collected.

My rubber-stamped through-the-mail “return” via the Cubs in 1972 from Ron Santo is
NOTHING like the real signature Sean displays. I was delighted to see the lengthy bio page that followed the autograph pictured.

As you’re writing for autographs, please write Sean. Send him an e-mail. Thank him for the research he’s sharing. Our hobby needs stars like Sean.

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