Would Rogers Hornsby Sign TTM For You?

I spotted this autographed magazine
page on ebay, offered for $1,234.05.
Would “Rajah” sign more in the
off-season? Hmmm….

“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”

— Rogers Hornsby

The more I read about “The Rajah,” the more he sounds like Billy Martin supersized. Nope, Hornsby would not have been “Miss Congeniality” on most teams. Sample the awesome collection of quotes from the Baseball Almanac website for a great taste (or distaste) of the man.

Many of you have gotten Al Worthington’s autograph. When this Christian pitcher protested teammates stealing signs, Hornsby was the first to go to challenge Worthington’s manhood in print.

I think many collectors may feel like Hornsby, the first week after the World Series ends.

Hornsby wasn’t the easiest autograph to get. However, I’m thinking he may have signed more in the off-season? After all, baseball fans can make any season baseball season (on paper, at least).

Questions I’ll be asking retirees in coming letters:

1. Did you play winter ball? Players with minimal MLB stats often sparkled on foreign diamonds. Who did they play with, and against? What was life like living outside the USA?

2. If you didn’t play winter ball, where did you work in the off-season? Imagine Joe Garagiola and Yogi Berra working together in Sears in St. Louis. Sound like a TV sitcom, or reality show? It happened! Imagine considering your status as a major leaguer a “part-time job,” needing a winter paycheck to provide for your family. Imagine being waited on by a St. Louis Cardinal or New York Yankee!

Make your by-mail plans now. This is the season for signers.

Coming Tuesday: How Red Sox pitcher Boo Ferriss gives back to baseball — and collectors.

My ’10 Most Wanted,’ Phillies Edition

What happened to the 2011 Phillies?

I was sure this team would win it all this year. That’s what prompted me to launch a mailing to nine past Phils. Although none of these men grabbed the headlines that the current crop of players garner, they’re starring as TTM signers, according to the http://www.sportscollectors.net/ response board.

Former Phillies who’re hearing from me include:

Ramon Aviles
Wes Chamberlain
Larry Christenson
Keith Hughes
Randy Lerch
Len Matuszek
Mike Rogodzinski
Eric Valent
George Vukovich

Instead of choosing a 10th Phillie alum, I wanted Dan Baker. The PA voice of the team since 1972, he’s seen the team’s highest highs and lowest lows.

Check out the excellent interview with Baker by Joe Vallee at http://www.philly2philly.com/.

Coming Friday: Don’t miss this one. Tell your friends. Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr talks autographs!!!

Twins Pitcher Dave Boswell A Yankee?!?

Today’s Boswell’s
autograph is tighter.

Minnesota Twins pitcher Dave Boswell could have been neither.

I asked him about joining the Twins, as well as his success at bat. He added a couple of startling tidbits concerning what might have been.

First, I asked how owner Calvin Griffith was upon signing his first contract.

“Tom, tell you what — I got $15,000 and a new car. It wasn’t that hard getting it from Mr. Griffith.

Had the same offer from the Yankees.”

I pointed out that the designated hitter rule wasn’t suited for pitchers like Boswell. He had 74 career hits, four of them home runs! He replied:

“I signed as a pitcher and outfielder. Loved to play every day.”

One explanation for Boswell’s mound success, four straight years of double-digit wins (culminating in a 20-win season in 1969) could be Minnesota pitching coach Johnny Sain. How did Sain help?

“John was great at explaining situations to you. All of a sudden, you would find yourself in that position and you knew what to do.”

Twins fans, send your thanks to this might-have-been Yankees outfielder now. My reply ended with…

“Been very ill lately. Sorry it took so long.

Dave Boswell”

Coming Thursday: My “10 Most Wanted List” — Phillies Edition.


How Would Simon Cowell Judge You? Discover The ‘X Factor’ In Your Baseball Letters

Imagine a show in which collectors
go before a panel of non-signers.
They bring their cards and
memorabilia, pleading for signatures.
The winner gets the autographs!

Occasionally, I refuse to help a fellow collector. I’m declining what seems like an innocent request.

“What kind of letter do you write?”

I’ve never furnished a complete text, in fear that a hobby newbie might use the entire letter.

I don’t think I own any collecting trade secrets. My worry is that any former player who saved my letter would turn cynical quickly, after seeing my exact words reappear day after day in their mailbox.

There are too many half-hearted signers out there, men who’d like to find an excuse not to give an autograph to you — or anyone else like you.

Imagine going before Simon Cowell with your letter. Don’t hold back. Do your best to make him like your writing.


1. Be personal. Every former player is different. Every letter should be, too.

2. Say WHY. Not why you want AN autograph. Make the case for why you want THEIR signature.

3. Be YOU. Learn from others, but don’t copy them. As one crusty high school English teacher warned us, “A whiff of the Cliff (Notes) and you’re dead.” He wanted a reason to flunk students — a lack of honesty and originality was a favorite accusation. Some baseball notables want a reason to flunk your letter, too.

Coming Wednesday: Twins pitcher Dave Boswell considers some baseball “what-if’s.”

Oakland Athletics Broadcaster Lon Simmons Dispels Heart-warming Wikipedia Tale From 1989 World Series

Bill King

Ken Levine offers
a fine tribute on
his blog!

In college, a journalism professor once said, “If your Mama says she loves you, check it out!”
Meaning? Never stop seeking accuracy.

I peeked at the Lon Simmons Wikipedia entry to start a letter to the broadcaster.

I found a story that seemed too good to be true. To quote:

“At the start of the ninth inning of Game 4 of the 1989 World Series, Athletics’ lead announcer Bill King, scheduled to announce the final inning’s play-by-play, instead deferred to Simmons, who was thus able to announce to his radio audience three batters later that the A’s had won the World Series over Simmons’ former team, the Giants.”

I wanted to see if Simmons could detail the emotions behind such a gift.

Oops! Shades of journalism class! It seems the tale just might be too good to be true.

Simmons replied:

“I hate to ruin a touching story, but Bill did not turn the mike over to me. It was during the final two games after the earthquake and Bill had throat condition that left him almost speechless so I had to broadcast all of the games.”

The moral? Be careful in quoting baseball history to history-makers. Hope that you’ll always be writing to a Lon Simmons, someone happy to set the record straight.

My professor would be proud. Or, he’d want you all to pay tuition. Class dismissed!