New Harvey Meiselman Address List Includes Warnings For Toughest By-Mail Signers

At last, the USPS is making the majority of
new commemoratives FOREVER stamps. I’d
use these beauties on fan mail FOREVER!

I’m a slow but sure member of this hobby.

At last, I own a copy of Harvey Meiselman’s amazing 2011 Baseball Address List.

I ordered my copy Friday, July 1. Harvey e-mailed, saying he’d send the list by Priority Mail the next day. On Tuesday, July 5, the package arrived.

I’m glad Harvey added a “tough?” column. A “Y” is a warning, meaning, “Yes, the dude is tough.” Harvey studied online autograph websites, and branded the signers who’ve replied 25 percent or less with the warning.

So often, even experienced collectors lose valuable cards. It’s still okay to try a “seldom” signer. Just don’t risk your most expensive collectible with your autograph request.

I’ve used Harvey’s addresses for years. He remains the best of the hobby. Find him at http://www.sportsaddresslists.com/.

Coming Monday: Cardinals utilityman Mike Ramsey recalls a blast off future Hall of Famer Don Sutton.

Steve Kraly, 1953 Yankee, Honors Fans

A card of one meant gum for all in 1955!

Steve Kraly is more than a member of the 1953 New York Yankees. He’s a baseball legend in Binghamton, New York.

His record-setting season of 19 wins and 19 complete games got him his promotion to the majors. He’s been official scorer for the Binghamton Mets so long that fans honored him in 2008. In fan voting, Kraly was the winner in the team’s “Choose the Next Bobblehead” ballot.

He didn’t take the honor lightly. At the game’s bobblehead giveaway, he spoke briefly to the crowd.

“I was very humble,” he recalled. “I dedicated the figurine to the fans. I pointed to both dugouts and told the teams, ‘We’re only as good as our fans.’ Fans make the difference.”

Kraly lives in hobby infamy as #139 in the 1955 Topps set. He says that “$2,500 and a case of Topps bubblegum” were payment for his appearance. I asked if the facsimile signature is simply reproduced from the contract he signed as a minor leaguer. Nope. He remembers signing a facsimile card for the signature reproduction.

Kraly’s voice swells with pride as he tells of being selected by Topps to be part of the “Authentic Signature” series in the Heritage set. Kraly remembered that he was asked to sign only 50 of his 450 cards in red ink.

Kraly speculates that his 1955 Topps and his inclusion on the fabled 1953 team combine to keep the fan mail coming. How many letters come? “Lots,” he says. “I get some almost every day.”

The ex-Yank sounds stunned that some collectors include money with an autograph request. “I send back money,” he explains. “I write and ask the collector to donate this to their favorite charity. Or, I suggest they could donate to the children’s home here.”

The Children’s Home once served as an orphanage. Kraly’s late wife Irene was one of many children benefiting from the home’s services. In her honor, Kraly benefits the Home.

I said, “Casey Stengel and the Mets bought your contract in 1961. But you gave up baseball because of her.”

I could hear Kraly’s smile. “I had worked one day at IBM. I came home. She had the news. She asked me when we were leaving. I said, ‘You and the two kids are more important.'”

Kraly’s fondness extends to Stengel. “The best manager ever,” Kraly says. “He treated everyone equally. At that time, there was just eight teams in each league.” If an arm injury (blood clot) hadn’t short-circuited his career, Kraly thinks he could have been a part of the Bronx Bombers for 4-7 years.

Kraly pauses. His tone changed. “Now, there’s 30 teams. But there’s not that many good major leaguers. Today’s players are spoiled.” I imagined Kraly’s harsh assessment of current autographing habits and fan relations.

More than a half-century later, the fan mail still comes. One letter Kraly received was from Kenneth Hogan, a New York City firefighter. Hogan wanted some information for the book he was writing: Batting 10th For the Yankees: Recollections of 30 Yankees You May Not Remember.

Kraly called Hogan. They spoke. The former pitcher was so pleased with the finished results that he offers ordering information for the title.

Anyone who writes to Kraly will remember him. Crisp handwriting, with every letter legible. Know that your letter will get read. One way to offer your thanks in advance for Kraly’s guaranteed reply would be shown by sending the lefty a dollar or two with your letter. Earmark the donation for the local children’s home. The veteran pitcher’s wife has passed away, but the love hasn’t. Kraly is still pitching for Binghamton’s kids — including the girl named Irene.

Coming Friday: Why Harvey Meiselman’s 2011 baseball address list is the best yet.

Writing to Mike ‘Hit Man’ Easler & Company

A sweet stroke with
bat AND pen!

In the last batch of letters I sent, I chose non-pitchers.

I chose nine “if only…” players.

I remember seeing each of them play. Stars? They were in my eyes. They didn’t hold back, leaving it all on the field. The nine include:

Mike Easler
Ricky Jordan
Tom Lawless
John Grubb
Wilbur Howard
Mike Laga
Herb Washington
Johnny Ray
Greg Gagne

Readers: what have your experiences been corresponding with these nine? I’ll share results as they arrive!

Fan Mail, Autographs Matter To Iowa Cubs

WGN, are you listening? Randy is
Cubbie blue, through and through!

Randy Wehofer loves baseball.

Listen to him call just an inning of an Iowa Cubs broadcast and you’ll agree. You’ll forget he’s media relations director. Instead, you’ll think of him as one of the smartest, funniest fellow fans in the ballpark.

His signature home run call? “Get outta my yard!”

I’m grateful that Randy took time to give us an inside look at fan mail and autographs for a AAA team. Here’s our exchange:

Q: Do you see players reading fan mail? Does it make a difference to players?

A: I can’t say that I see the guys reading mail very often, but I try not to be hanging around in the clubhouse too often. I’m in and out several times a day, but I try to get what I need done in there and get out. As far as making a difference, I’m sure that all depends on the individual player and the sincerity of the note. Within any team, there is a wide variety of personalities, just like any office or a big extended family. Undoubtedly you’ll have some that love the attention and some that try to avoid it – just like your friend or cousin that tries to keep their birthday a secret every year and hopes everyone forgets.

Q: Estimates on how much mail I-Cubs receive weekly?

A: I don’t handle all the mail, but I see 5-10 envelopes a day for someone in the clubhouse.

Q: Without naming names, have you seen players ever practicing their autographs?

A: I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but I’ve never seen it. I have heard guys giving teammates a hard time for how their autographs look from time to time.

Q: I understand the MLB tutors the newest minor leaguers to avoid signing
blank index cards, due to a possibility of identity theft. True?

A: I’ve not heard that, but in this day and age that sounds like it would be good advice.

Q: Well, what would you suggest that a collector send (with their SASE, of course) to be signed, if they’ve yet to find baseball cards of that I-Cub?

A: There are photos of all of these guys all over the internet. I’d say if you don’t have a card, find a photo, crop it, print it out, and make your own card.

Q: The Iowa Cubs are famous for their autographed ball giveaway. Does the tradition continue in 2011?

A. It will be on Monday, August 22 this year. It is a huge undertaking to get all of those balls signed, stored, bagged, and distributed. It is one of the most labor intensive projects that we do for one promotion all year.

To learn more about Iowa Cubs promotions and tickets, go to http://www.iowacubs.com/.

Coming Wednesday: Who’s the next nine Tom has written to?

Baseball In Wartime Site Celebrates 10 Years

A must-see website for fans, collectors

Happy Fourth of July, Friends!

If you want to feel proud to be an American, and proud to be a baseball fan, take a moment on this holiday to savor Gary Bedingfield’s amazing Baseball In Wartime website. The biographies of player veterans from World War II are inspiring.

What does this have to do with autographs or writing to retired players?

Gary is racing against time. Pick up your own daily newspaper. Read the obituaries for a week. Chances are you’ll find at least one WWII vet in the death notices. In larger towns, it’s almost a daily occurrence.

Gary knows that insights about being “over there” in World War II will disappear when those men do. Likewise, those autographs from sure-thing signers like Bobby Doerr and Virgil Trucks aren’t going to be there forever.

Some time remains for Gary, and for us. There’s still some vets out there. Write to one today, if for no other reason than to say thanks. Save an extra thanks for Gary Bedingfield, who reminds us that baseball players can be heroes off the field, too.

Coming Tuesday: an inside look at fan mail from a triple A team.

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