Hearing A Different Harry Caray

Signature off Topps contract,
an indicated by “Jr.”

Joe Cunningham raised an interesting point about broadcaster Harry Caray.

I asked about the former Cardinals mikeman. I assumed Joe and all the Redbirds owned a funny story about the boisterous broadcaster.

Cunningham replied:

“Harry Caray was a good announcer. Just don’t go into a slump –“

Sounding like a fellow fan remained Caray’s famed style. Until Joe, I had never thought how it would have felt (or sounded) having the “fan” with the microphone disappointed in you.

Speaking of disappointments…

I risked a question asking about 1959. Cunningham received all-star honors for his career year at the plate. His .453 on-base percentage astounds me. How close was the Cardinal to a batting title at .345? He answered:

“I was batting against Aaron in 1959 and we went down to the last game. Then, he went into a playoff and got a few hits and beat me out.”

Joe Cunningham Salutes Ken Boyer

Joe C still has the same
slanting Willie Stargell-like penmanship!

Have autograph collectors ever give Joe Cunningham his due?

A tireless signer, he often would take two lines for a signature. “Joe” on top, last name on bottom. Every letter stands out in the whole name.

I’m guessing that more Midwestern Cardinals fans met Joe than any former player in the 1970s. He’d make any appearance on behalf of the team and his sales job. I considered him the team’s ambassador for more than a decade.

I asked the New Jersey native about Ken Boyer. Cunningham replied:

“Ken Boyer was a good friend. I gave him the nickname ‘Captain.’ He ran well, especially on a triple. A country boy!”

Then, Cunningham surprised me with some philosophy, something I bet he never would have shared during his after-dinner banquet appearances.

“Baseball has changed. Curt Flood brought on free agency through the courts. The owners owned us for 100 years. Today, the players run the game.” 

Tomorrow: Cunningham opens up about broadcaster Harry Caray.

Why Paul Schaal Is An Autograph All-Star

Although I try to get prompt thank-you notes mailed to all the former players who respond, some get my attention first.

1. Did they write a page or more?
2. Did they include a photo, photocopied clippings or other gift?
3. Did they make an extra effort for me?

Defining #3 may be toughest to judge. Sometimes, it just takes an extra look at the envelope.

When Paul Schaal wrote back, I remembered I used a Kansas address (thanks to http://www.sportscollectors.net/). However, the envelope was postmarked Honolulu, Hawaii!

The question is NOT whether Schaal winters there, or was just on vacation.

The real mystery is how a former player could be so dedicated to fans that he’d pay attention to mail in HAWAII. “I’ll swim later, dear. First, I need to get these autographs signed.” What’s next: postmarks from Walt Disney World or Mall of America?

Imagine seeing the fan beside you at the ballpark ruffling papers. While you’re keeping score and cheering, the next fan mutters, “I really need to respond to these letters from relatives.”

To the former players who take the time and effort to sign from their winter homes, vacation spots or anywhere days before a hectic holiday, they deserve our extra thanks. More than knowing that baseball still matters to them, their devotion to signing says that we, the fans, still matter, too.

Tomorrow: Cardinal Joe Cunningham honors teammate Ken Boyer.

Paul Schaal Remains Royally Grateful

All-Star Rookie Honors,
Airbrushed Cap?

Paul Schaal wasn’t shy at the hot corner. Like so many 1960s American League infielders, he faced a new creature in Astroturf. What infields did he appreciate most? Schaal recalled:

Without me asking, he offered to sum up years in the majors.

To learn more about Schaal, check out this superb profile by Bruce Amspacher.

Kansas City fans appreciated Schaal, too. Enjoy this tribute at Royals Retrospective.

“I made many lasting friends in baseball. Many great memories. I played for two great organizations and two great owners, Gene Autry and Ewing Kauffman.”

“Fenway and Kansas City were favorites. Always played a step or two back on turf.”

Paul Schaal Solved ‘Sudden” Sam McDowell

George Brett’s

Paul Schaal was more than a slick-fielding third baseman.

Schaal didn’t shy away from his defensive reputation. Just survey the years he indulged Topps photographers with the same “crouch with glove outstretched” famous pose.

Schaal did his share of hitting in more than a decade with the Angels and Royals. His favorite target was “Sudden” Sam McDowell, who surrendered three homers.

I asked if each dinger was a fastball when the Indian was behind on the count. Schaal replied:

“Always looked fastball off McDowell. Easier to ‘adjust’ if it was a curve. Two were off his fastball. As best as I can remember, one was off a curve. He had great stuff.”

Another pitcher Schaal hasn’t forgotten is Boston’s Jose Santiago.

A 1968 beaning brought a fractured skull, putting Schaal’s career in doubt. Hospitalization and a trip back to the minors were his first hurdles in a comeback. Inner ear problems would remain.

“The occasional dizzy spells were the toughest. Was unable to focus well on field pop-ups.”

Cardboard Icons is a fascinating blog. This post about Schaal and his 1970 Topps card will have you double-checking all those old card backs.

Tomorrow: Schaal shares his gratitude.

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