Pitcher Jackie Collum Brushed Me Back!

The older he got, the
larger the signature. Plus,
I’m betting most autographs
read “Jackie”

This memory might be subtitled: “My Dumbest Day As An Autograph Collector.”

As a geeky teen, I met the 1950s pitcher. My Uncle Mel Adams lived in Grinnell, Iowa. He knew Collum from the golf course.

Uncle Mel arranged a meeting. Being a regular customer at Collum’s Pioneer Gas Station helped.

Collum shared great tales, including roommate Sandy Koufax wanting to sleep in during Yom Kippur. I asked what then-current pitcher might resemble him most from his heyday? Collum chose Randy Jones.

Collum had told my uncle that he’d autograph whatever I brought. I had a baseball and Collum’s 1955 Bowman. I marveled at his looping, precise penmanship.

Then, I blurted:

“Thank you for signing. An autograph dealer I know wants 85 cents for your autograph.”

Collum’s dark eyebrows lowered. He glared like I was crowding the plate against him. He flashed a slightly-curled upper lip. Impish glee, or a slight sneer?

He gave a quick snort. “Good!” Collum answered. “If I keep not signing those letters from collectors, maybe my autograph will go up to a dollar!”

Yes, he threw me the sarcasm slider. Seeing my regret, his face softened. With a sincere smile, Collum added, “If you have any other cards, come by the station. I’ll sign those, too.”

Years later, my wife and I came back to his station as children’s authors. He spent an hour with us, sharing his life story. As children’s book authors, we were going to teach for a week at the middle school.

Students gasped at the thought of a real major leaguer returning to live in their town. They loved his career highlights and his devotion to Grinnell. Trouble is, they had never heard of Jackie Collum.

I asked for a show of hands. “Who thinks Jackie Collum is dead?”

All hands shot up. The only student who disagreed was someone named Nathan Collum — Jackie’s grandson.

Collum did die in 2009. He reminds me that a non-signer through the mail can be a pal in person (or vice versa). And his spirit would be grinning today, knowing that his autograph as a deceased player has long surpassed the 85-cent mark!

For a great look back at Collum’s career, enjoy this fine feature by William Sherman.

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