Reading Between the Lines of An Autographed Baseball Book

Bobby Plapinger is one of America’s foremost names to baseball book collectors.
As “R. Plapinger Baseball Books,” he’s become an adored author in his own
league. Look at his sale catalog, and you’ll see his mini-reviews are
penned by a grateful, learned fan of the game.

I asked BP (no, not THAT B.P.) what noted autographs he’s discovered in
his years as a bookologist. He offered two juicy tales:

“The first starts in 1989 – probably in the Spring. I was on my annual trip to New York to visit family… and… of course … the Strand bookstore.

By pure chance, I arrived in the Strand’s Rare Book Room on the day they
were unpacking books from Bob Fishel’s estate.

I recognized the name Fishel, but wasn’t well acquainted with him. I did,
however, “know” alot of his books & purchased quite a few of them – many
inscribed to Fishel by the authors.

When I got the books home & had a chance to carefully inspect them, I learned a little more about Bob Fishel.

Turns out he’d started out working for Veeck & the St. Louis Browns – he was
the guy who “found” Eddie Gaedel.

After the Browns, Fishel worked for the Yankees for a long time, before
finally ending up in the American League office. The annual award given to
baseball publicists is named after him.

It was clear from many of the inscriptions that “baseball people” considered
Fishel not only to be a friend & colleague, but a beloved one.

A copy of Bill Veeck’s “sequel” to his autobiography (“Veeck as In Wreck”) –
“The Hustler’s Handbook”, had a page long inscription in Veeck’s handwriting
that read, in part, “To Bob… It’s almost impossible to … explain how
much you’ve meant.. to us”.

In the copy of his “It Takes Heart” which he gave to Fishel, Mel Allen wrote
“To Bob, It has been said: ‘What we have done for ourselves alone dies with
us, what we have done for others in the world remains and is immortal.’ To
me, Bob, you are immortal. I am sincerely grateful for your warm friendship.
Mel Allen.”

Other inscriptions from other authors were similarly heartfelt, but these
two, in particular, struck me as almost transcending “inscriptions in a
book”. To me, they were almost like letters from the authors, testifying to
the strong feelings they had for their close colleague and friend.”

At press time, Bauman Rare Books was selling the Mel Allen signed edition for $800.

Friends of this blog need to email Bob at Tell Bob that “Baseball By The Letters” sent you. Ask for his latest catalog, which he’ll send as a PDF.

Tomorrow: The intriguing untold story of a baseball book’s wink-and-nod inscription.

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