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 http://www.sportscollectors.net/ 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.”