Mark Twain Today: Sign Fan Mail or ‘Die’?

“The report of my death was an exaggeration.”

— Mark Twain


No, the superstar author wasn’t trying to avoid getting fan mail by faking his own death. He just cleared up a mistaken reporter who confused Twain with an ill relative in London.

There’s more confusion over the motives of several retired baseball players. Fan mail has been returned with a “Deceased” notation. Not a “refused” or “RTS.” As if the hobby world will cease and desist only when they think the signer is dead, suddenly making a rumor real?

According to http://www.sportscollectors.net/, the latest mystery man has been John Goryl, former infielder and Twins manager. One check with baseball address king Harvey Meiselman clouds the picture. According to Harvey, Goryl moved across town.

The humorous part of this development mirrors any Mark Twain story. Will a baseball retiree stop getting pension checks after trying to throw autograph collectors off the trail? Could Major League Baseball announce the “death” to the universe?

Harvey noted that more than one collector-customer of his Baseball Address List has found a retiree returning mail “deceased,” even when the person is anything but. Health problems could be a factor. Or, the former baseball player feels he’s given enough back to fans, as was the case of Bill White.

The message for this disturbing trend is clear: don’t assume willing signers will give out autographs forever, even when they’ve been out of the spotlight for years. Those tasting anonymity may be the first to put their pens down.

Meet a Teammate-Fan of Teen Al Kaline!

Bob “Red” Wilson spent the 1950s marveling at his job and his co-workers. Today, he’s still making sense of it all.

For starters, he witnessed the arrival of a teen teammate named Al Kaline, who jumped straight from high school to the majors. When did he get a hunch about future Hall of Fame membership for the Tigers phenom?

Wilson replied:

“He could run, throw and hit and was only 18!”

Wilson’s biggest amazement came over his success versus the New York Yankees. For those 21 matchups, Wilson batted a sizzling .354. He served as “designated” catcher for Frank Lary. Wilson saw his batterymate earn a 16-3 record against the noted rivals, in addition to the nickname “Yankee Killer.”

The former catcher summed up:

“Frank Lary and I had no magic. Things just seemed to happen. We both were competitive and enjoyed playing together.

It was a thrill to play baseball in the American League. While the challenge to do well was always a discomfort, you soon realize that condition is present in any job you take pride in succeeding at!”

To learn more about Wilson’s career, check out the masterful bio by Jim Sargent at the SABR BioProject website.

The one unsolved mystery about Wilson’s 1958 season? Where are his arms? Was he baseball’s first contortionist catcher?

Minor League Front Offices Yield Buried Treasure for Autograph Collectors

The minor league season has one month left. Comb the minor league front offices for autograph signing bonuses.

Here in Iowa, I know the Iowa Cubs have Nate Teut in corporate sales. Pitcher Teut’s “cup of coffee” came with the 2002 Florida Marlins.

I wrote to him when doing an article for the team yearbook about minor league cards. Teut (pronounced TOYT) had great insights about how it feels to get your first-ever card, even if it’s in a minor league set.

He’s a class act, as evidenced by his page on the Iowa Cubs website.

There are former players stuck at desks for four more weeks. I think they’d enjoy nothing better than seeing some fan mail at their workplace. reliving more exciting times. Ask them a question. I’m betting the response you get will be big league, all the way.

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