Where Are the 1982 Milwaukee Brewers?

Is the ex-hurler’s sig still
so swell? I hope to find out!

In this installment of “Tom’s 10 Most Wanted,” I thought of those near-miss Milwaukee Brewers of 2011.

Do they answer fan mail? I’m not hopeful…I struck out trying to get their bullpen catcher!

Instead, I decided to revisit the past. I thought of another mystical Milwaukee team: The Blue Crew of ’82.

Here’s the “10 From Then” getting letters from me:

Jerry Augustine
Dwight Bernard
Jamie Easterly
Pete Ladd
Don Money
Rob Picciolo
Chuck Porter
Ed Romero
Harry Warner
Ned Yost

Stay tuned…

Coming Thursday: Seeking other ways to correspond with baseball’s past.

Padres Pitcher Ed Wojna Compares Experiences In Little League, Major League Baseball

What to ask in letters?
Check cards for clues.
Here’s one I missed —
what’s that fashion
statement at Wojna’s
left sleeve?

Hurlers. Humility. The two don’t always mix.

Not here! Pitcher Ed Wojna bypassed the chance for some chest-thumping when I asked about what seems like the ultimate game of his career.

Thanks to http://www.retrosheet.org/, I found the details for his three-hit gem in front of a sparse San Diego crowd. On Sept. 11, 1986, Wojna (pronounced Wo-hee-na) limited the Braves to three singles. How did he remember his 9-1 complete-game win?

“One of those nights when everything was working.”

I wanted to know the catcher he most liked working with — and why.

“Mark Parent. Pitcher-catcher timing is everything. When you are thinking of a pitch and he calls it with his first sign, that gives you all the more confidence in throwing it.”

Wojna offered one more fascinating reflection:


I can appreciate your interest in baseball. No matter how long your career went, it’s all the same to the individual. I was just as nervous for my first Little League game as the first game in the majors. Nerves are nerves, whether you’re 10 or 24 years old.”

Wojna concluded his letter with thoughts about his faith as a Jehovah’s Witness, thanking me for my time.

I thank all the former players, those willing to look back as they look ahead. As Wojna wrote…

“There will always be more to learn. Isn’t that what keeps life exciting?”

Coming Wednesday: Tom’s “10 Most Wanted” — Milwaukee Brewers edition!

Don’t Be An Autograph ‘Grinch’

Collect carefully
at Christmas!

 Santa Claus may not have time to warn you, so I will.

Sending a Christmas card to a favorite retiree, especially with words of thanks to someone who’s signed an autograph for you is good. Chances are, you may get a card in return.

However, do not go fishing for autographs, using Christmas cards as bait.

I’ve talked with more than one former player about fan mail. They are pleased to mention the majority of kind, polite letters requesting signatures.

However, I’ve heard too many “but there was this one guy who…” beginnings to stories.

I can’t help but think that many non-signers closed the door on autographs with one objectionable request. Don’t be that “one guy.”

Your continued good behavior will preserve the hobby. You’re giving a gift to all of us.

Santa Claus thanks you. I do, too.

Coming Tuesday: Insights from Padres pitcher Ed Wojna.

The Pride of Swifton, Arkansas: Bobby Winkles Remembers George, ‘Skeeter’ Kell

Bobby Winkles is still proud of the
company he keeps!

(Photo courtesy of Guy Lancaster and
the Encyclopedia of Arkansas website.)

It’s nice to get a second chance.

I wrote about Bobby Winkles twice in this blog. He sent me an epic letter, describing what it was like to coach Reggie Jackson in college. Later, he recounted the work ethic and sincere charm of pitcher Nolan Ryan while skippering the California Angels.

I asked about everyone but Winkles. He mentioned growing up near Swifton.

Swifton is the hometown of Hall of Famer George Kell and his brother Everett “Skeeter” Kell.

Both Kells made an impact in Winkles’ rise to success. He remembered…

“I was born in Tuckerman, Ark. Moved to Swifton when I was 9 years old.

Skeeter Kell was one year ahead of me at Swifton High School. We didn’t have baseball. Small school, 19 in my graduation class. Skeeter and I played on the Town team. We played each Sunday when our cotton was plowed for the last time. We played Thursday and Sunday.

Skeeter and I were like brothers.

George Kell was my idol. he was my teacher in the 7th grade. There’s a 10 by 15-foot sign on the highway honoring the three of us. The only city in Arkansas to have three major league participants at the major league level.

Swifton had a population of 520. We also have a three-star general, Billy Paul Bowden.

I lived 3-1/2 miles from Swifton on a cotton farm. We lived in a 2-story house. The upstairs windows were boarded up and we had no electricity or plumbing.”

Winkles will be 82 on March 11. I’ve always thought his humble roots would make a good book. He agrees.

“I have a book coming out around the first of the year. Those who have read the manuscript says it’s good reading. Tell your friends. Ha ha.”

Coming Monday: a holiday warning for autograph collectors.

Baseball Sculptor Lou Cella Takes Few Bows

This striking Associated Press photo by Elaine Thompson
shows long-time broadcast partner Rick Rizzs congratulating
Marilyn Niehaus at the 2011 Safeco Field unveiling of the
statue of late husband Dave Niehaus. I like the picture for
what it DOES NOT show. The beard and patterned tie
in the photo’s upper right belong to sculptor Lou Cella.
The artist is a humble hero!

This Week in Baseball introduced me to sculptor Lou Cella.

Getting Cella and artistic co-creator Oscar Leon on camera was no easy feat. Seeing them both present for the Cellular Field installation of the Frank Thomas sculpture was a treat. Seeing the gratitude and admiration of “Big Hurt” made the feature even more meaningful.

The TWIB segment showed only a glimpse of Cella’s back. His White Sox jersey read Sculptor 35. Cella explained:

“The ’35 Sculptor’ jersey. Originally, the thought was that my sculpting partner Oscar Leon and I would both wear one of those to the unveiling of the Frank Thomas sculpture. I bought a game-used jersey at Sox Fest and had the lettering added later. But the idea lost steam when Oscar never had one made.

I felt like it would have been too self-serving and detract from both Frank Thomas and Oscar if I wore it by myself to the unveiling. So I wore it for the installation instead, and This Week in Baseball showed me in it. I was considering having a cubs version made for the Ron Santo piece, but I already have about 10 Cubs jerseys as it is. Maybe down the road.”

During the dedication of the Ron Santo statue, it seemed the Santo family posed for a picture holding a mini version of the statue. That made me wonder if Cella knows of collectible-sized baseball figurines.

Does he ever!

“I love both the Hartlands and the MacFarlane pieces. In my world, I make collectibles so much, that buying them is just not logistically feasible. In other words, I have no room. But I do admire them, and am always tempted to purchase them.”

Collectors may own a Cella creation without knowing. He adds…

“I have done numerous miniatures for Romito Inc. I do not know exactly how many off hand, but there are about a dozen large ones which have my name on them. You will see others on the site which I did not sign on, but likely helped a little or a lot with.

The full body of my monument level work is visible at http://www.rotblattamrany.com/.”

Here’s an impressive New York Times roundup feature, surveying the variety of baseball statues outside ballparks. Of course, Cella’s included in this all-star lineup.

Coming for Thanksgiving: Thankful Bobby Winkles remembers his Arkansas childhood, complete with memories of George and Skeeter Kell.


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