Virgil Trucks Shares Autograph Blessings

Look up “Southern Gentleman” in the dictionary. In my volume, there’s a picture of pitcher Virgil Trucks.

As someone who grew up during the Great Depression, Trucks knows the value of kindness. “Some people could pay. Some couldn’t. How would I know who could afford it? It’s best to sign for everyone. To stop signing? That would not be the proper thing to do.”

Even at age 94, Trucks seems anything but retired, considering that he’s getting 10 to 20 letters a day to answer. “I live in a rural area, but the mail carrier brings it all to my front door. I’ve been getting a lot of baseballs to sign.”

He tells of scrapbooks assembled with correspondence from fans and collectors. We collect his autograph. Trucks collects our words. “I’ve had letters from everywhere, even Japan and England. I’ve kept so many of them.”

Currently, Trucks is out of copies of the autobiography book he’s sold. Will he authorize another edition? It seems that he’ll let the fans decide.

Trucks chuckled and thanked me when I repeated someone’s praise first aired on the forum. This collector called Trucks “the Babe Ruth of autograph signers.”

When I told him that most collectors take pains to show proper by-mail etiquette, Trucks noted that some kids still don’t send a SASE. “I write them back. I sign. But I remind them to send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to others if they’re going to be collectors. I know other players would throw away the letter without a return envelope. They head straight for the trash.”

The former pitcher paused when I asked about grateful collectors. Discussion has surfaced over how the hobby could shows its collective thanks for Trucks’ decades of signing. If someone wanted to send him money for thanks? Maybe a favorite charity to help?
“Any money I get [from collectors] goes to my church, Amazing Grace Worship Church. At church, they have a place to mark [on the tithe envelope] for ‘unexpected money.’ That’s what I call it [the donations].”

Giving. Rewarding fans. Trucks can’t imagine being anyone else. “I’ve always been this way. I always signed for everyone, even during my career. After a game at the ballpark, or outside the hotel, you could have 100 kids waiting — especially in New York.

Even out of uniform, they still knew you. I tried saying once, ‘I’m not a player.’ Everyone piped up, ‘You’re Virgil Trucks!'”

At the end of our conversation, I thanked the hobby legend once more for all the autographs.

“It’s my pleasure,” he said. “As long as I’m able, I’ll keep signing.”

Coming Tuesday: A Visit With Virgil Trucks

Even at age 94, Virgil Trucks strives for all-star
penmanship. This image comes courtesy of William
Regenthal and his “Foul Bunt” blog. Check out
the fine interview William did with “Fire.”

Happy Memorial Day, everyone.

I wanted to salute a World War II veteran and a truly memorable person — Virgil Trucks.

Drop by tomorrow (Tuesday) for a conversation about autographs. Fans have been seeking his signature for 60 years now. Find out why he remains a hero of the hobby. Want to reward Mr. Trucks for his autograph? He tells how.

What Should I Write To Them About? Golf!

Here’s a quick tip for the holiday weekend:

Baseball is a sport. Players are sportsmen. Some might define the term as “doing stuff outdoors.”

Golf has strange ties to baseball. It’s the top activity for someone’s off day. Charity tournaments. Every former player I’ve tried to call (even the 80-somethings!) are often “out on the course.”

The Tom Stanton book is a fun read. How could golf appeal to a superstar baseball player? The clues are all in Stanton’s fine dual biography.

Sadly, some former players might have considered baseball their job. Golf was their PASSION.

Make a connection in your letter. Golf might be a perfect opportunity.

Is MLBPAA Discouraging Alums To Sign Autograph Requests Through The Mail?

Hobby news has it that Coates
will sign for $10 per by mail.
I’ll settle for the facsimile!

As first reported on the forum back in March, former Yankee Jim Coates replied to a collector who sent $5 for an autograph that he had received a letter from the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association.

According to the note from Coates, the MLBPAA was discouraging members from signing random fan mail, because autographs were being re-sold on the internet.

Some collectors speculated that the MLBPAA might try this to hype interest for private signings.

I’m going to write to Coates, not for an autograph, but in hopes of acquiring a copy of the letter. I’ve e-mailed the MLBPAA. A staff member replied, “Are you sure it was us?”

No, I’m not sure. If anyone gets a copy of this actual letter, I’d like to know just what it says. What group is the warning from? Who signed the letter? If I learn more, I’ll offer the actual accuser a chance to detail the supposed evil in our hobby.

Orioles Manager Earl Weaver Changed Tom Shopay’s Life By Asking Two Questions

Cal Ripken Jr. collected
this card A LOT! I found
this specimen and some
great reading at
the Orioles Card website!

Judge a great leader by words and deeds. Tom Shopay saw the best of both from Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver.

“One thing Weaver said that I remember was…

You have two choices when you step on the field. You can win or lose. Why step on the field if you are going to lose?”

I saw that Shopay had worked twice as a reserve catcher in Baltimore. Sometimes, the smallest statistic can uncover the biggest tale.

“It was his [Weaver’s] idea. I was breaking in a catcher’s mitt during batting practice for weeks. Then, Andy Etchebarren was traded to the Angels and Earl always had three catchers. So he came up to me and asked if I ever caught before. At that point, I knew where he was going.

I said, ‘Hell, Yes!’

The only time I ever put on catcher’s equipment was when two catchers got hurt in college and they asked for a volunteer.

I ended up by catching two full big league games and extended my career two years.”

Shopay grew up in Bristol, Connecticut. See how his hometown honored him. Measure Shopay’s grin to see how much the honor must mean.

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