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.

Grant Jackson Throws a Polite Strikeout

Same Artistic Autograph!

Strike three!


I can’t imagine hearing the umpire’s call followed by an apology from the mound.

Or, with Grant Jackson, I could.

I got a November letter with my questions returned — unanswered.

In unmistakable Jackson handwriting was:


What followed was


not just on my letter, but on a color postcard-sized picture that he provided.

Yes, that’s my bad news. But there’s good news. For several weeks in 2010, Jackson letters were returned unopened, RTS. He is signing again.

Also, he seems interested in fans. Although he’s not going to answer questions for free, it seems, he might write a book someday. Let him get paid once for sharing his story, and we’ll all be richer for it.

Autograph University Inspires for 2011

Are we giving gifts as collectors?

Often, the hobby is about GETTING. Quantity tops quality.

That’s why Matt Ray’s all-star attitude is a gift to us all this Christmas. His new blog is Autograph University.

I confess. He’s a detour for me. I’m not an “in person” guy. Also, I’ve passed on the sigs of other sports or entertainment celebs.

However, I see lots of common ground between us. His About Matt page has a great story about the connection of baseball and autographs he shared with his father. He isn’t beyond asking a question or two when a signer has a moment to chat.

Best of all, Matt has a “Thank You” page. Everyone who’s ever signed in person or posed for a picture with him is getting an additional salute.

Matt isn’t being greedy with his success, either. He’s detailed the HOW of finding the signers, sharing how he discovers events, schedules and locations. With his recent marriage, Matt has discussed how he’s being more selective in his hobby. I stress this all the time. To fully appreciate autographs, decide who NOT to collect. Does anyone have enough time, money or space for one of everything?

Autograph University is fun and informative. I’ll hope to have more to share about this Boston area collector in 2011.

Little ‘Birdie’ Told Orioles of Dan Boone

His dream never died!

Christmas is the time of miracles. However, miracles are all around us, all the time. Don’t like the “M” word? Okay…try movie moments.

I love the Dan Boone comeback story. (Yes, baseball history insists he’s forever DANNY, no matter how he signs his name these days…)

After the Astros gave Boone a chance in 1982, everyone thought Boone’s days in baseball were over.

Except for Dan Boone. And his wife.

They both understood that the dream remained. She encouraged him to pursue a chance in the newly-formed Senior League in 1989. Orioles scout Birdie Tebbetts, at age 77, marveled at how the lefty had mastered a new pitch: a knuckleball. Against all odds, Boone became a 36-year-old prospect with the 1990 O’s. The dogged left-hander got his second chance in the bigs.

Boone wrote:

“My conversations with Birdie was mainly after the Orioles signed me. He told me how the Orioles thought he was crazy to recommend me to them. So I was happy to do well for Birdie. I know he was proud of me.”

The pitch that transported Boone back to the majors wasn’t that new for him. He added:

“I started to mess around with the knuckleball when I was around 12 years old. My Uncle showed me the grip and I would practice throwing it just playing catch with friends. I never threw it in a minor league game in the early years but experimented with it in big league camp with the Angels and Padres. when I went to the Senior League in Florida is when I developed it into my #1 pitch.

I used it to strike out Johnny Bench in Cincinnati in 1981.

The reason why pitchers don’t use it much is it is a difficult pitch to master. Most managers and pitching coaches don’t like the pitch.”

Kudos to the website 21 Greatest Days for telling the stories of Boone and other minor league miracles so well!

Pitcher Dan Boone Says NO To MLB Draft

Here’s an early Christmas gift from all of us, courtesy of former pitcher Dan Boone. The Christian hurler includes the verse John 15:13 with all his signatures.

Additionally, Boone begins his letter with another vital insight:

“Dear Tom,

“Thank you for a great letter. Most of the time, people just want my autograph on a baseball card. But I always enjoy it when someone wants to know more about my career.”

The word just jumped out at me. For collectors who think, “Ask questions in a letter? Former players just want to sign autographs.”

Maybe. Maybe not. You never know unless you try.

Boone debuted with the 1981 San Diego Padres. His path to the bigs wasn’t direct. The lefty holds the distinction of being drafted five times. He explained:

“Regarding being drafted five times, I was in college at Cerritos Junior College in 1973 when first drafted by the Angels after my freshman year. The real reason I never signed until after my senior year was I wasn’t ready and I was enjoying college baseball. The Yankees basically drafted me out of a computer and didn’t offer any money to sign. The Padres drafted me behind Bob Shirley and didn’t offer much either. So I was happy to sign with the Angels after my senior year at Cal State Fullerton.”

Tomorrow: Boone tells of the pitch that gave his career a second chance while recalling the elderly scout who believed in him.

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