Harmon Killebrew + Uppity Ump Humble Chicago Hurler Ken Frailing!

Another matching autograph!
His sig still makes every letter count!

Pitcher Ken Frailing shared a sly sense of humor with me in his thoughtful reply.

While Frailing didn’t have the longest career, he spent it all in Chicago, going from the White Sox to the Cubs. I asked how it felt being part of the four-person deal to obtain legend Ron Santo on Dec. 11, 1973.

“Ron Santo was, and is, an icon in Chicago. We had met a few times. He was a great guy as well.

It was a real break for me. The Cubs needed left-handed pitching and I needed to be on another team. The Sox had great young arms, Rich Gossage and Terry Forster, for example.”

The Cubs got a quick return on their investment. Frailing worked in 55 games for the 1974 Cubbies. The stat shows just part of his workload, Frailing confirmed:

“I was up in over 100 games in 1974. I was tired at the end of the season.”

Frailing wasn’t an exclusive reliever for his new team. On May 27, 1974 (with thanks to http://www.retrosheet.org/), the lefty compiled an unusual complete-game win against the Giants at Wrigley Field. While he wasn’t the day’s most mystifying moundsman, Frailing put on a show at the plate: three hits and three RBI.

“I had a nifty 14-hitter and a complete game. I threw 158 pitches in that game.

I remember getting those hits and especially against a left-handed pitcher (Mike Caldwell).”

When Frailing summed up feelings about his career, he added one amazing bonus, writing:

“Baseball was a great part of my life. I really enjoyed my time and the memories are priceless.

Example: my major league debut in old Yankee Stadium. It doesn’t start any better than that.

Let me share one story from my career. 1972 — Chicago White Sox.

I am pitching to Harmon Killebrew. I got 1 ball, 2 strikes and throw a breaking ball over the heart of the plate. The umpire calls it a ball.

When the inning is over, I am walking to the dugout and the umpire meets me at the foul line and says, “Hey, rookie. Who do you think these people pay to see, you pitch, or Killebrew hit?”

I knew where I stood in the scheme of things.


Thanks for your interest. May God bless!

Ken Frailing”

Tomorrow: Happy 57th baseball anniversary, Tom Bradley!

Max Alvis Saw Few Dividends In Brewers Trade

My Alvis autograph
on his letter is a
match to this card!

Max Alvis got in on the ground floor with Milwaukee. The new Brewers needed tested talent fast. How did he see the transaction?

“My trade to the Brewers was a surprise, but it probably should not have been. I had knee surgery in 1969 and it was untested, plus the Indians had gotten (Graig) Nettles. It should have been an opportunity for me, but I got off to a slow start and did not contribute much.”

I don’t think Alvis wants any sympathy, however. He concluded:

“I was a hard worker and I was always trying to improve, especially as a fielder. I enjoyed every minute that I was a major league baseball player and I have no regrets.”

I just found a memorable essay of a Cleveland fan who wanted to look like Max Alvis as a boy. Be sure to check out the prize package the Plain Dealer may offer this essayist: a Bob Feller autographed baseball and more!

Tomorrow: Rubber-armed reliever Ken Frailing remembers.

Run, Jim Kaat! Max Alvis Grabbed A Bat!!!

As a kid, I thought the
Topps “Giants” set only
had the tallest players.
Alvis looks like he’s
ready to swallow
a whole baseball!

Pssst…don’t tell Cooperstown.

Voters have toyed with the idea of Jim Kaat gaining Hall of Fame membership. He’s worthy on many counts. However, he might want to leave his encounters with Max Alvis off the application.

Thanks to http://www.retrosheet.org/, I relived some of those 1960s match-ups. Of those 31 hits against the lefty, Alvis pounded half those for extra bases. I’m guessing that most of those nine walks were no accident, either.

The most remarkable part of chasing Mister Kaat? It was news to Alvis. He wrote:

“Jim Kaat was one of the greatest pitchers that I ever played against. Not only could he pitch, but he could hit and was the best fielding pitching I ever saw. It is a surprise to learn that I was that successful against him.

I must have been real lucky.”

Alvis is one of the decade’s top “what if” hitters. How many extra homers would he own hitting in a cozy ballpark, instead of Cleveland’s canyon-like Municipal Stadium?

“Cleveland Municipal Stadium was a big stadium. Probably because it was home to the Cleveland Browns, also. The park was not real Home Run friendly, but the great pitchers of the Indians probably appreciated that fact. We always had good center fielders who could roam that big space and protect the pitchers.”

Don’t miss “Max-imum Overdrive,” a fine tribute to the slugger written by Todd Newville.

Tomorrow: Alvis reflects on his Cleveland departure and overall career.

How Does 1960 Yankee Hal Stowe Really Feel?

I imagined Topps having
the scenic background
posters, like the
discount photographers use!

“It’s not you, it’s me…”

How many times have you heard that on a TV show or movie? I’m surprised more autograph collectors don’t hear that from more retired players.

Pitcher Hal Stowe was a kid when his life changed. Ask anyone who says they were perfect and mature at age 23, making all the right decisions, and I’ll bet that puppet’s wooden nose might be growing.

Stowe began his pro career in 1959. In 1960, after reeling off a dozen straight wins, he got his promotion to the bigs. Stowe shut down the Red Sox in one September relief outing. In 1961, after an impressive spring training, legend has it that a dispute developed between the pitcher and manager Ralph Houk. Banished to the bench for an entire season, Stowe’s demotion to AAA proved to be a career ender.
Stowe penned on my letter

“To Tom, My Best to you and God bless

Hal Stowe, Yankees ’60”

However, his answers were terse:

I asked if he saw the Red Sox as just another foe or a special rival before his debut.


(Indicating that the opponents were just that.)

Being with the legendary Yankee personalities, I wondered if he’d have roommate tales. Who were his roomies, and what adventures did they have?

“Robin Roberts, Phil Linz, Clete Boyer”

Phil Linz?!? Did Stowe like harmonica music better than Yogi Berra would?

Lastly, I hoped to get a comment about the 1962 Topps cards. Check out the background. I guessed it was a minor league setting or spring training. Trees like that growing in Yankee Stadium?!? Most of all, I asked Stowe how he felt (or feels today) seeing that card.

Stowe answered with two question marks. Nothing more.

The lesson I take from Stowe’s response? Even 50 years later, disappointment may not disappear. If you don’t get a response from your letter, if a question is ignored or a card isn’t autographed, don’t take it personally. We’ll never truly know how it felt then to be a major leaguer…or how it feels today.

(Kudos to Historic Baseball for pointing out Stowe’s enduring fame at Clemson University, where he pitched stellar college ball.)

Tomorrow: Run, Jim Kaat! Max Alvis is coming!!!

Ten From Then: Get Signers While They’re Hot!

I have a soft spot in
my heart for the
players Topps “decapped.”
Does Short look happy
with his “traded” pose?

I don’t know if any of these players were outgoing during their careers. Letters to each were “out going” this week:

Bill Almon
Cuno Barragan
John Hetki
Ted Kasanski
Buddy Lively
Hector Lopez
Rance Mulliniks
Curt Raydon
Bill Short
Ed Wojna

Why these 10? I was trolling the “recent responses” from http://www.sportscollectors.net/. It’s the best bargain in the hobby, I must repeat. They’ve signed for others, and they’ve signed fast. I wanted to float some questions the way of 10 receptive retirees. Stay tuned…

Meanwhile, I’d appreciate any reader feedback as to what I may (or may not) have to look forward to in my mailbox from these guys.

WEEKEND UPDATE: Here’s a P.S. from Dan Cote, creator of the autograph blog “Signed D.C.” The new dad/Twins fan snared a signed Michael Cuddyer photo for his newborn daughter, after the two watched their first Twins game together on TV. Dan’s update includes:

“I did tell the whole story and even asked for a personalization to her if at all possible.

For all I know, it’s possible he didn’t even read the letter, just signed the photo. But he did retweet my twitter thank you to him this morning and added the comment “Cool story. You’re welcome!” so at least he’s read the story now.”

Dan’s actions help all of us. Any time a major leaguer can be convinced that an autograph is a personal gift (not just an item to be resold), we all win!

Tomorrow: the mystery of 1960 Yankee pitcher Hal Stowe

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