Brave Taylor Phillips Tamed 1956 Redbirds

Posted January 31st, 2011 by Tom Owens and filed in Don Blasingame, Milwaukee Braves, Stan Musial, Taylor Phillips, Wally Moon
Does he look like a
‘T-Bone’ to you?

Lefty Taylor Phillips offered me a quick reply to questions. He ended his letter, “Thanks for thinking of me. God bless.” He even added a favorite Bible verse (Romans 12:13).

What surprised me most is that he used the F-word.


I keep asking players about career highlights. Retired players are used to “my biggest thrill” questions. I want to hear about the most fun they had that year. I haven’t had any takers on the question until Mr. Phillips.

Some biographers love the snarky comment about this pitcher’s lifetime batting average being only .053, just six-for-113 in six total seasons. I pointed out that his were six hits more than I ever had in the majors! I asked which singles were most memorable:

“All of them!”

And fun?

“The most fun one: I drag-bunted and the ball went to center field.”

Of course, I won’t pass up a chance to hear about someone’s best day ever (fun optional). For Phillips, I was sure that day would have been Aug. 9, 1956. He was pitching before a home crowd in Milwaukee’s County Stadium. At game’s end, he owned a three-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals. What were the high points for the young left-hander? Phillips answered:

“First Major League start. Complete game. The three hits I gave up, Don Blasingame, Wally Moon, Stan Musial, all left-handed hitters.”

(Thanks to for preserving these moments of baseball history.)

Tomorrow: New York Met Bud Harrelson tells how Casey Stengel made a difference in his career.

Fernando Valenzuela on Disabled List, Due to Autograph-Seeking Fan? Could Have Been!

Posted January 30th, 2011 by Tom Owens and filed in Fernando Valenzuela, Joe Amalfitano
“No! Not My Face!!!”

“‘Nando! ‘Nando!”



Wait. Here’s the whole story.

My wife is on the field at Dodger Stadium shooting photos in 1988. She is exclusive witness to baseball history, a “could have been” spin on the 1988 World Series title for Los Angeles.

Fernando Valenzuela emerged from the dugout. He grinned sheepishly as children chorused his name. Slowly, he turned, whipping the young fans into a frenzy. Slowly, he took a program to autograph.

Suddenly, someone shouted. Valenzuela tried to identify the voice as he stared into the sun.

All he saw was an underhanded baseball hitting him in the face.

Coach Joe Amalfitano witnessed the mishap. He started shouting and scolding. The embarrassed pitcher held the offending baseball. The throng sucked in its collective breath. All Valenzuela did was smile, sign the ball and roll it back across the dugout roof.

No disabled list time. No pitcher who swore off autographs. But a lesson.

Some players, current and former, are looking for a scapegoat. One excuse to stop signing for everyone. Like Dirty Harry hissing, “C’mon, punk. Give me a reason!”

Will you be the one who changes hobby history?

Thanks to one Diana Helmer, for sharing this classic tale. Someone who likes baseball, the hobby and ME? I feel like a World Series winner, too!

Twin Bobby Randall’s Autograph Insight

Posted January 29th, 2011 by Tom Owens and filed in Bobby Randall, Iowa State University, Minnesota Twins

This same expression
greeted collectors
at a KC hotel

“How do you not look like a stalker?”

Scour the blog comments here. One person brings up a good point. In-person collecting isn’t the same as through the mail.

I haven’t tried the “graphing” in person game for more than 20 years.
Why? Because I remember Bobby Randall.

I had gotten him at the Kansas City hotel where the Twins stayed in the late 1970s. I remember him pointing, snorting and shaking his head at us collectors in the lobby. He muttered something to a couple of teammates.

Fast forward to Iowa State University. The retired second sacker was the college’s baseball coach. I interviewed him for the ISU paper.
After I was done talking about his career, I confessed that I had coaxed him to sign in my youth.

“Did you like collecting autographs?” he asked with a grave expression.
I replied with enthusiasm. That’s when I asked the hardest question.

“Didn’t you like signing?”

Randall, a professed Christian, sighed and scowled. “It was always, ‘HERE. HERE. Sign this! And THIS and THIS!’ You could never look up.”

The ex-Twin’s face at Iowa State matched his frustrated glare in that KC hotel lobby.

Randall remains a great by-mail signer. Back then, he volunteered to go give a talk to summer day-camp kids when my counselor wife asked. He talked with every single camper, signing for each after individual chats.

Know that there’s going to be a Bobby Randall or two in every team you seek out for signatures. Before you get too zoned on getting as many autographs as possible, remember how the signer feels. Ask the hard questions:

How does it feel to sign autographs for a group of fans? How can collectors collect better?

The answer might help refine your collecting game plan, as it shapes our hobby’s future.