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.