Vance, Vern Law and Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day, Everyone!

Ever wonder how to give a lifetime present to a Dad? Look at the love Vance Law shared about his father Vern. Here’s a classic reply, one I shared in my book Collecting Baseball Cards: The 21st Century Edition:

“{On the 1985 Topps “Father and Son” card} I was honored to be pictured with my father. At the time, there were not too many father-son combinations to have played major league baseball. That was special. It gave us a special link to this great game, and I was proud that people would know that I am my father’s son.”

— Vance Law

From 1962: Now Pitching (and Hitting), Ray Rippelmeyer!

Nearly 50 years later, what would you remember most: the great day at the lake, or “the one that got away”?

Pitcher Ray Rippelmeyer debuted April 14, 1962. His visiting Senators faced disaster. The Indians teed off on starter Claude Osteen. While toiling for just one out, Osteen surrendered five hits, a walk and six earned runs.

Newcomer Rippelmeyer responded with 5.2 innings of scoreless relief. Washington’s rally wasn’t enough, resulting in a 6-4 outcome.

Yes, first-ever games can yield fun memories. I pored over box scores and found a more intriguing game to investigate: May 3, 1962, at D.C. Stadium versus the Boston Red Sox. Here’s Rippelmeyer’s recap:

“That day in early May was one I’ll never forget. It was an afternoon game and I didn’t even think I would pitch as I had warmed up seven times the night before and never got in the game. My arm was weary. In the second inning, Claude Osteen got into trouble and I was called in the game with the bases loaded and two outs to face the “Yaz.” I got him on a ground ball to short to keep the score at 3-0 Boston.

I hit my home run my first at bat and then held them scoreless until I batted again and hit a line drive to left field off of Mombo’s (Bill Monbouquette)curveball.

I couldn’t believe George Case gave me the steal sign. I took off and Jim King hit a line drive over my head into right center and I went to third and Case is waving me home. I ended up scoring on a IBH to right with a big slide at the plate.

I shouldn’t have even been hitting as I was dead tired and I got in trouble the next inning. With two outs and the bases loaded, Eddie Bressoud, shortstop, hit a ball off the end of the bat between first and second that hardly made the outfield grass. Two runs scored and I was so angry I overthrew the next couple pitches to get Pete Runnels out, but had hurt my arm and I wasn’t the same the rest of the year.

I feel very fortunate to have had the chance to play in the major league. Even if it was only a short time. I had a good playing career and won over 100 games in AA and AAA ball in a period of 10 years. I stayed in the game and coached for a long time. I just finally retired after the 2007 season for good. I spent the last 14 years with the Mets.

For a farm boy that went to a small high school of 125 in Valmeyer, Illinois and never played in any organized games until I got into high school, I got farther than I even had hoped. I’m 77 now and I still relive my games in the majors and many big day I had in the minors.”

Thanks to SportsCardDatabase for the card image. Every collector should know about this invaluable resource.

Phils Coach Ray Rippelmeyer’s Pet Project: Pitcher Steve Carlton

Ray Rippelmeyer impresses me. I wrote to him asking about his legendary work as a 1970s Phillies pitching coach. Also, I quizzed the former pitcher on his only career homer.

The pride of Valmeyer, Illinois, the 77-year-old baseball scholar shared how he transformed Steve Carlton from thrower to pitcher, writing:

“Steve Carlton was my pet project. I had seen him pitch in Tulsa when I was a pitching coach in the minors for the Phillies. I had seen him throw a hard breaking ball besides his big 12-6 overland curveball. The Cardinals wouldn’t let him throw it, as he told me the first day he threw for me after the trade. He said they told him he would lose his curveball if he threw a slider. I told him they didn’t know what they were talking about and we were going to throw it. The rest is HISTORY.”

Another prize pupil of Phils coach R.R.?

“I was with Bob Boone (as roving instructor) when we made him into a catcher from a third baseman. he had the arm and good hands and was willing to work. I got him down low and we talked a lot about calling games.”

Tomorrow: It’s April 14, 1962. Take the mound with Ray in his major league debut.

Learn why he says, “That day in early May was one I’ll never forget.”

I just found an example of Rippelmeyer’s autograph online. Those 1970s Topps cards, fitting the floating heads of an entire coaching staff onto one card? Ray squeezed his name onto the 1974, saving room for other Phils. Learn more about the card at this link!

Cub Jim Bolger Shares Pinch-hit Wisdom

Jim Bolger’s career in the majors stretched from 1950 to 1959. From making a major league debut at age 18, Bolger found infrequent moments in the limelight. He led the senior circuit in pinch-hitting in 1957. When the Cubs notched a home win against Milwaukee on May 2, 1958, they had Bolger and his three-run homer onto Waveland Avenue to thank. (We have to thank for that insight!)

Bolger sent a revealing reply to two questions:

Q: What was your secret to pinch-hitting success? Why do you think some players have never fared well as pinch-hitters?

A: Hit the first pitch that looked good to hit. They were afraid to look bad at the plate.

Q: Not a lot of 1950s players wore eyeglasses. When did glasses seem like a burden or challenge?

A: They were a burden from day one. I had some very good years in the high minors but the fact that I wore glasses was not a good thing in a lot of people’s minds. One manager said that a player wearing glasses couldn’t play center field.

I ended up disappointed in the years that I stayed in the majors. My career wasn’t as good as I expected it to be, but I always wanted to play pro ball ever since I was six years old. After high school, I could have gone to just about any college in the states to play football, but my heart was in baseball.

Admiring “The Amazing Shea Stadium Autograph Project”

“Get your own autograph!”

No, I don’t think that was a line from a Seinfeld episode. I do think it might be good advice for collectors.

Take a look at The Amazing Shea Stadium Autograph Project blog. I think collector Lee Harmon is doing many things right in his hobby game plan. The Mets have amazed Harmon. Harmon amazes me.

1. He found a way to go beyond blank index cards as collectibles. These homemade, customized cards are beauties! The only problem I could imagine is the player who loves the look of the custom so much they want to send back a common gum card substitute.

2. He’s set a specific goal. I think too many collectors flame out trying to get every card ever made signed, one signature of every player in history or some other huge, frustrating task.

3. He’s letting ex-Mets be famous again. If you were told that you were one of just 791 people being asked for a signature because of your unique past (playing in Shea), wouldn’t you want to help? Retirees should like helping Harmon with his goal, considering that they tried to achieve goals for years as players.

4. His collection is personal. Harmon’s blog shows how he loves the team. Most of all, through his own card (and HIS OWN autograph), he proves how he treasures the memory of Shea.

For some of the tough signers, I’d think Harmon could point them to the blog. Here’s proof that he’d honor any autograph he receives. While he’s not promising to get any old-timer back in the Mets lineup, he’s sharing their career and life story with more than 10,000 readers. Not a bad consolation prize.

A standing O to Lee Harmon. I’ll stay tuned!

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