Catching Cardinal ‘Cot’ Deal

Catch “Cot” in the
1994 Topps Archives.
His Sig Still Sparkles!

Am I waving the white flag as a collector?

Not quite. I still crave quality responses from former players. This month, I’ll be sharing those, too. However, I’m beginning 2011 by appreciating the letter I send, too.

I wrote to Ellis “Cot” Deal, nicknamed for his cotton-top hair. Including his signature, I received just 20 words back. No complete sentences. Nevertheless, I was so pleased that he responded over the holiday break. He’ll be 88 on Jan. 23.

Most of all, I wanted to send my thanks to Cot. He’s a World  War II veteran. Plus, he’s survived prostate cancer. Two inspirations.

“Thanks, Tom.”

I asked about his 1954 victory against the Cincinnati Reds. In that 14-12 slugfest, the pitcher collected two RBI to make the difference. What did he remember?

“The double I hit.”

In more than a decade as a major league pitching coach, I was sure Cot would have a favorite accomplishment. Sounding like a political candidate, he replied gently with his greatest pleasure of that tenure:

“Having so many proteges.”

He knew Fred Hutchison as a teammate and boss. If “Hutch” hadn’t been taken so early by cancer, what kind of managerial career could Cot have foreseen for his friend?

“The best.”

I enclosed a second piece of stationery as usual. This allows the former player not to try writing microscopically in the margins. When I noted that I’d like to know any of Cot’s thoughts about 48 years in pro ball, he responded:

“Too many, Tom.

Good luck, Tom —

Cot Deal”

What lessons did I learn from this letter? I believe that some retirees will always attempt to offer same-day responses to fan mail. When someone is facing an 88th birthday, their urge for speed might grow. No problem. I like to think of Mr. Deal sitting in his Oklahoma apartment, admiring that stationery I made for him, printing out his career in a one-paragraph series of headlines atop the page. I consider it his first birthday present. He can spend the winter pondering what memories he’d choose to fill that page. It can be a letter to himself.

One of my favorite sites, Baseball Almanac, relied on Pat Doyle to glean more answers from Cot Deal.

3 thoughts on “Catching Cardinal ‘Cot’ Deal”

  1. Tom, this is going to sound random and crazy. Cot was one of my grandfather’s best friends. He and his wife were friends with my grandparents up until their deaths. I recently found a bunch of old baseball cards in my dad’s attic (none too collectible) but I found one of Cot’s old cards.

    I would love to send him a letter and have him sign the card for me. As my grandparents are no longer with us, I cannot get his contact information. This sounds crazy, but could you possibly share this with me? I think it would be great to have. Thanks.

  2. Tom, I knew Cot for several years and that was really the way he talked when answering a letter or email. He would simply answer the question put to him in a straight forward manner. Don’t take it the wrong way, it was just him being him. From time to time you could get him on a kick and he would start telling stories about all he had seen and done in baseball and you would hope he never stopped. I have a collection of emails from him where he had taken the time to write out some of the stories and published a book several years ago. He only had a few printed, mainly for friends and family, but I cherish those emails and stories. I will try to send an email and share a few of those stories if you like.


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