’10 Most Wanted,’ Baltimore Orioles Version

Garcia was the first-ever
IP signer I met who wanted
to autograph an index

Here’s two reasons to root for the Baltimore Orioles.

Start with Ryan. Talk about a man on a mission. His Great Orioles Autograph Project blog showcases what one focused collector can accomplish. Check him out often. More than 900 men have played for the O’s in their six decades. His want list has just five names left!

More than an account of autographs, he’s proving that Baltimore will retain at least one fan in its rebuilding.

I confess. I’m toasting those Birds yearly, too.

Why? They made me believe in Bull Durham. I know a real, live Crash Davis character.

His name is Jeff Lantz. For years, he shined as media relations director for the Iowa Cubs. I couldn’t help but wonder if he was a lifetime member of triple A ball. If he was a player, he’d have 24 chances of finding a job with a major league club. Fewer jobs and fewer opportunities await a front office warrior.

But, Baltimore saw Jeff’s potential. In 2009, the Baltimore Sun blog renamed Jeff “Orioles PR Wizard.”

When the team starts winning again, I know two patient guys who deserve the first slices of victory cake.

Meanwhile, I decided to chase some Orioles magic of my own toward my mailbox. Here’s the 10 former O’s I’ve contacted:

Kiko Garcia
Larry Harlow
Pitcher Dave Johnson
Scott McGregor
Joe Nolan
Bob Reynolds
Ken Singleton
Billy Smith
Don Stanhouse
Ed Watt

Coming Thursday: Meet collector Steve Darms, who’s discovered a new hobby formula!

Homer-Catching Sal Durante Salutes Roger Maris

Durante’s baseball fame continued into 1962.
Check out the Seattle PI website’s great vintage
feature about the movie 61*.  Durante was hired to
catch a baseball off the Space Needle. See how the
stunt ended, and the major leaguer
included in the World’s Fair doings!

Even if you never rooted for the New York Yankees, you’ve got to cheer for Sal Durante.

In the 50th anniversary celebration of the Roger Maris home run in 2011, Durante participated in the team festivities. The man who caught historic homer #61 could be bitter he never had a memorabilia auction house make him rich. Instead, Durante took every opportunity to salute the man he never stopped admiring.

Durante wrote:

“I met Roger three times when he broke Babe Ruth’s record. He told me to keep the ball and make some money.

We met in Sacramento, Calif., in Sam Gordon’s Restaurant. I received $5,000 for the ball. Sam gave the ball to Roger as a gift.

When everything was completed, we were leaving the restaurant. Roger reached down, put his hand to mine. He said, ‘This is for you.’ It was his New York Yankees lighter.

My wife asked the Yankees if it was OK to come to the stadium to take a picture with our 3 yr. old son and my wife. Roger was it would be fine with him. He was a real Gentleman.”

Anyone who saw the HBO movie 61* about the historic season may have wondered what Durante thought of being a real character.

“It was exciting being played in the movie 61*. They did a great job.”

Lastly, how did Durante feel about the other fan’s fame when a certain Yankee captain made more history?

“When Christian Lopez caught Derek Jeter’s H.R. for hit #3,000, he chose to give it to Derek. He felt Derek deserved it.

I believe he made the right choice.

Sal Durante”

Coming Wednesday: My ’10 Most Wanted List,’ Baltimore Orioles edition

Chuck Estrada’s Favorite Autograph Request?

A 12-year-old collector got a smile and an
autograph from this face!

 In February, I wrote about then-PCL pitching coach Chuck Estrada brushing off collectors, challenging them to explain why they wanted HIS autograph.

I was thrilled to hear from Theo Gideon in Tacoma, Washington. His experience asking for an autograph produced a much different, happier result. Theo wrote:

“Around the same time that you encountered Chuck Estrada, I attended the Tacoma Tigers Baseball Camp For Kids.  Chuck was a part of the camp staff.  My father had in his possession for many years a (Spalding?) Chuck Estrada [endorsed signature model] baseball glove.  Upon hearing of Chuck’s involvement in the camp, my father asked if I would take the glove to the camp the next day and have Chuck sign it. 

As a 12 or so year-old kid, I was embarrassed of my father’s request.  Grudgingly I pulled the glove out of my bat bag. I explained to Mr. Estrada that my crazy dad had his glove for many years and had even restrung it, and asked if he would sign the glove.  

I was amazed to see the Chuck Estrada’s face lit up like a Christmas tree.  He walked around with the glove showing it off to all of the young Tiger’s players and staff members.  I believe he said to a group, “You see, there was a time when I was a big deal.  Look, I even had my own glove…”  He was smiling from ear to ear and carrying that glove around. 

Many of the Tacoma players laughed and joked with him about the glove.  I wasn’t quite sure if he was going to give it back.  But he did, and signed it multiple times. I will never forget how happy he seemed, knowing that someone still had his glove.  I guess I gave him a good ‘why’ in my pursuit of his autograph.

My father still has that glove today.”

You are an all-star among collectors, Theo. Thanks for sharing!

Coming Tuesday: Golden (anniversary) memories from Sal Durante, the fan who caught the immortal 1961 homer hit by Roger Maris.

Why Giant Phil Nastu Signs Autographs

Why must we wait for a funeral to say something good about someone? Why not share that compliment when the do-gooder is there to take a bow?

That’s what I thought about as I wrote to Phil Nastu. Yesterday, I wrote about his kindness in tracking down a collector named Mike Micho, when the autograph reply never reached the intended party. USPS returned a shredded envelope, identified by Nastu’s return address label.

Nastu hunted down Mike on the Internet. He replaced the cards from his own collection, used his own postage and wrote the collector a second time, adding a note of explanation.

I told Nastu how stunned I was, and how I hope everyone will learn about his kindness. He shared these thoughts with me:

“In regard to the ripped card, I just thought if someone took the time to want to get my signature, the least I could do was try and return it.

When I got finished playing, I didn’t have many of my cards. But over the years, fans have asked me to sign one card and keep one for myself, which is pretty cool.”

Nastu’s autograph attiude is amplified by his explanation:

“I was always taught to be respectful to people and would hope to receive it back. It has always been an honor for someone to want my autograph and would never think of charging for it.”

Speaking of cards, Nastu relayed this 1979 Topps tale:

“The good and bad: wanted to have a baseball or basketball card since I was a kid. Good news when I was told by Sy Berger at Topps that I was going to be on a card I was thrilled. He then told me even though I had some time in the majors, he had to put me on a prospect card, because they needed to put more position players on. He actually paid me for a full card because he felt bad.”

By the way, “Thanks” preceeded Nastu’s autograph at the bottom of the page. When’s the last time you were thanked for being a collector?

Coming Monday: How a young autograph collector delighted Chuck Estrada.

San Francisco Giant Phil Nastu Wows A Hobbyist

Nastu has been a faithful
autograph signer for 30-plus years!

Remember Mike “Tiger Nut” Micho? He’s shining the spotlight on one of the greatest responses I’ve ever imagined recorded by a collector.

As first shared on http://www.sportscollectors.net/, Mike relayed this fascinating story:

“Earlier this month I sent 2 cards to former Giants pitcher Phil Nastu. After nearly a month, I wondered if I`d get them back again, as usually he signs and returns cards quickly.Well, what I received back in the mail yesterday just floored me.

It seems Mr. Nastu had signed the cards quickly and had sent them back out a few weeks ago. However, the Postal Service had totally destroyed the envelope (it was ripped in half) and the cards.This pile of waste was returned to Mr. Nastu as he had placed a return address sticker on the envelope.What he did for me was unbelievable!

I received this huge white envelope in the mail yesterday, addressed from him.When I opened it, he had wrote me a short note explaining what happened. It read:

‘Michael, I received these cards I signed for you back from the Post Office. They were destroyed, so I replaced them for you. I searched the web for your correct name and address from the letter you sent me. Hopefully, I`ve sent these to the right person, since I couldn`t read the full name. If not, I tried my best. Phil’

I was shocked that he cared enough to replace the cards, search the web for my name and addy, and send everything back to me (including the destroyed cards and envelope).

He is for sure going to receive a Thank You card from me for this one! Thanks so much Mr. Nastu.”

I wrote a note of thanks to Phil Nastu, too. Hey, everyone should. When one collector wins, the hobby wins. Amazingly, I found that Mike’s story had another side…

Coming Friday: Phil Nastu replies, explaining his amazing kindness.

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