Holy Cow! Baseball Stories Are Everywhere, Free For the Asking

Posted June 28th, 2011 by Tom Owens and filed in Harry Caray, Jane Gephardt, Richard Gephardt

Who should I collect?

That’s one question I get a lot from beginning collectors. Or, advanced collectors get in slumps.

Even team collectors complain sometimes.

Here’s an idea:

If you want to collect one team (such as the St. Louis Cardinals), don’t limit yourself to men who wore the uniform.

There are great fans everywhere. Fans who’ll share their stories.

Living in Iowa, I found this out prior to the 2004 presidential election.

Missouri Congressman Richard Gephardt appeared. Often, crowds ignore candidate spouses.

Jane Gephardt appeared.

“You’re from Missouri,” I said. “Of course, you’ve seen lots of Cardinals baseball.”

She asked if I was a fan, too.

I countered, “How big of a fan are you?”

She grinned. “When the team fired Harry Caray in the 1960s, I protested in front of the ballpark carrying a picket sign!”

If you’re not having any luck getting responses from baseball players by mail right now, consider adding a few baseball fans to your collection. You’d be surprised who shares your passion. Best of all, these famous fans could have swell stories to share.

Grateful Pitcher Kurt Kepshire Pays Tribute To Fallen St. Louis Cardinals Catcher Darrell Porter

Posted June 27th, 2011 by Tom Owens and filed in Dan Cote, Darrell Porter, Kurt Kepshire, Signed DC, St. Louis Cardinals
Dan Cote dazzles again. I’m a weekly follower of “Signed DC.” Dan collected Kepshire in 2010.
The Portland picture is priceless. Smile, Kurt!

I took a chance writing to pitcher Kurt Kepshire.

This guy is a speed signer. I saw samples of his abbreviated autograph, combined with his speedy response time. He’s the kind of guy who might sign the cards before the postman gets the mailbox lid opened.

I worried that he might not take the time to respond to, or even read, a question in a letter. You know the type? The person who gets your e-mail and writes back HA HA before seeing the second sentence.

Impressively, Kepshire fielded all three of my three questions. When I asked about memories of batterymate Darrell Porter, Kepshire wrote:

“Him helping me with back-to-back shutouts. Great guy. Sad loss.”

The beginning and the end are the keys to Kepshire’s delight over beating San Francisco in his debut July 4, 1984. (Thanks, http://www.retrosheet.org/!) He replied:

“Taking the mound for the first time and getting a standing ovation at the end. Great memory.”

Lastly, the grateful hurler avoided any chest-thumping bragging when I asked about his back-to-back shutouts in September, 1984. Not only did he beat the Cubs (at home!) and Expos, he faced other call-ups, foes he couldn’t have extensive scouting reports on. How does he recall those wins?

“Pitching against some great players and achieving that goal with the help of my teammates.”

Pitcher Jackie Collum Brushed Me Back!

Posted June 23rd, 2011 by Tom Owens and filed in Grinnell Iowa, Jackie Collum
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.