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.

If My Grandma Collected Autographs…

“A watched pot never boils.”

— Bessie Walton

My grandma would not be happy with me. I’ve been puzzled and peeved over the lack of replies in my mailbox in June. Why? Why me? What’s wrong with me?

She’d say, “Who knows? Do something. Do something more.”

Some team is bound to face a June swoon. This is my time.

The only answer is to write and mail more letters. I’ll never hit with the bat on my shoulder.

Grandma Walton would want it that way.

Bill White Slams Autographs

Say it ain’t so, Bill.

I searched his memoir Uppity for insights about why he stopped accepting fan mail, choosing the “Return to Sender” route. Was he becoming baseball’s Greta Garbo? Had Dr. Mike Marshall influenced him with talk of autographs and real heroes?

Instead, he clings to the old, simplistic notion of everyone being a greedy dealer. He writes:

“When I was a player we never thought twice about giving some kid an autograph, or handing out signed baseballs…These days, of course, a lot of the big-name players have six-figure contracts with agents to market their autographs, and professional dealers have squeezed out the kids. If you give somebody an autographed baseball these days, you can probably expect to see it on eBay a week later.”

White endured years of racism and prejudice. He writes with restrained clarity, offering compassionate reviews of loudmouths like Cincinnati owner Marge Schott. Books that I’ve read by Frank Robinson and Bob Gibson boil over with an anger tsunami at bigotry. White is detailed but measured in his criticisms.

How I would have loved even one extra page detailing his views on fan mail.

Pondering Bill White’s ‘Uppity’ Autograph

White still begins each
autograph with that
dynamic “B”

How long will Yankees announcer-turned-author Bill White keep signing autographs? For a unique perspective on White’s signature, I turned to bookseller Bobby Plapinger of Oregon’s R. Plapinger Baseball Books.

“I suspect that the “supply” of signed copies of Uppity will come pretty close to equalling demand for same fairly quickly – UNLESS there’s is now, or at some time in the future, something really “special” or.. notorious, about the book or White.

I don’t believe his reticence to sign has caused his autograph on items other than books to be especially expensive – I could be wrong though.  If I’m not… the cost of a signed book right now – assuming you’re not one of the lucky ones to attend one of the tour stops – is probably retail for the book + cost of a Bill White autograph.

Once the book gets remaindered … ITS cost will drop severely – so… at that point the value would be – pretty much whatever White’s signature on a different item would be, as the “value” of the unsigned book will be negligible – if that…

I suppose it’s possible that at some point in the distant future… when Bill & I & you are long, long gone… there could be some demand for signed copies of this book from future buyers.. but.. geez.. I can’t even tell you there will BE future buyers for books – used or otherwise – that far in the future.

It will probably not come as a surprise to you to learn that some of the people who come to see Bill on his “limited book tour” are doing so with the intent of reselling books he’s signed for them at a profit.

It’s not unusual to see one or two… sometimes more – of these – appear on e-bay relatively soon after purchase/signing.  Currently there’s one listed at a “buy it now” price of 79.99.  It’s been there since April & the seller’s now soliciting “best offers”. So I’d say current price is somewhat less than $80.

Now.. maybe once people read your blog & realize how few signings White is doing it’ll increase demand a bit – there are currently 2 signed copies for sale on various used book sites – one for $107, the other for $165….You’d think the two less expensive copies ($80 & $107 would be gone in a month or so…. Will be interesting to see what “the market” is offering then.  In the “old days” I might even be tempted to make the e-bay seller an offer, in the hope/belief that at some point in the not-too-distant future I could justify asking $165-ish…..  but.. that was then & this is now.

Of course….. if in the book – or because of the book – Bill admits to having an affair with Steinbrenner’s wife – or with George – or some such thing…. that could cause prices to skyrocket.  But the book’s been out long enough that I think you can assume something like that is highly unlikely.

Now.. if you had a copy of the new ESPN book signed by Chris Berman, Mike Tirico & Tony Kornheiser – THAT might get you a couple of bucks……!!!!!

Anyone can receive a PDF of my 2011 Signed Baseball Book List by e-mailing me at baseballbooks@opendoor.com & requesting one. 10% off if they mention your blog & buy something.”

Bobby is a true baseball fan and avid reader. He’s the best teammate out there for help building an all-star lineup of baseball books.

Catcher (and Father) Tom Satriano Surprises

Did Topps recycle this
same photo in 1969?

Tom Satriano may have been among baseball’s luckiest catchers.

I asked him what was the worst injury he suffered behind the plate.

“In Hawaii in 1971 — dislocated pinky finger.”

I asked about daughter Gina Satriano, who played for the Colorado Silver Bullets baseball team once managed by Hall of Famer Phil Niekro. When my wife wrote Belles of the Ballpark, her book about the All American Girls Professional Baseball League, we believed that some of these women could have been major leaguers. Do the Satrianos believe, too, that women could play in the majors someday?

“We both agree with you.”

Coming Tuesday: noted baseball bookseller Bobby Plapinger considers the value of autographed copies of Bill White’s Uppity.

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