The Lessons of Howie Nunn

Mr. Nunn’s signing days may be over…

Today’s insight comes courtesy of Ron Martin, devoted Reds fan and selfless collector.

On the message board, a collector told of sending Howie Nunn a 1962 Topps card and $10 cash. Another collector’s letter was returned, autographed by Nunn, but no signed card was included.

Ron posted an update that Mr. Nunn had entered the hospital, facing uncertain prospects.

I contacted Ron, asking how he knew.

Being a student of Reds history who appreciated Jim Brosnan’s book The Pennant Race, Ron has been trying to collect the autographs of the remaining 1961 pennant-winning Reds.

Since Ron lived less than an hour from Mr. Nunn’s home, he wrote in hopes of an in-person meeting. He’s met many of the 1961 Reds. Being a studied collector, Ron knew that Nunn has been an iffy signer for years. Therefore, he offered to pay for an autograph, even inviting him to a meal out.

Ron’s two-page letter brought a phone call from Mrs. Nunn. She explained her husband’s situation.

Instead of moaning over the near-miss, Ron’s purchased a copy of Brosnan’s book for Mrs. Nunn. He noted that he’s mailing it to the author, in hopes that the personally-autographed book can be forwarded to her.

I wish the hobby had some type of special achievement award such collectors could receive. Ron is helping other hobbyists with the news (namely, that Mr. Nunn’s grave health looks like he’ll never be signing autographs again, and that any letters would be a wasted burden on his family).

Ron’s all-out effort got a phone call from Mrs. Nunn. Remember, he sent a two-page letter to Mr. Nunn. A brief, generic form letter would have been ignored, prolonging the mystery of the missing card.

I’m most impressed that Ron has reached out to the Nunn family, despite his inability to get an autograph.

If you ever get a chance to thank the spouse of a former player, do it! Thoughtful wives remind retirees not to forget their fans who collect. Let’s not forget these off-the-field stars. Without them, there might be lots fewer autographs.

Say It Isn’t So, Joe! Did Tim McCarver Really Diss A Deployed Soldier in Afghanistan?

He always looked

I’ve always believed in Tim McCarver. He signed my autograph request back in the early 1970s.

I’ve sat patiently listening to him do games on FOX, ignoring his numerous naysayers.

However, I’m truly concerned about the former catcher. I wrote in 2011 about tough signers making the extra effort for Americans in our military.

Well, I guess McCarver missed that feature. An unsigned card returned in a serviceman’s SASE was the icy response a letter to McCarver brought.

Anyone knows a military APO address. The letter told who was asking for the autograph.

Thank the man for his service, TM. Hall of Famer Whitey Ford did that just last week, never requesting the charitable donation he seeks per signature.

Are you really getting that much mail, Mr. McCarver? Someone opened that envelope with your name on it. Someone took the time to use the postage on the SASE to NOT honor this man’s military sacrifice that he’s making for all of us.

I’ve been watching McCarver explain baseball’s inner workings for decades. I’d love to see him analyze this.

Dan Xeller’s Baseball Photos Revisited

True story.

I wrote a biography on Muhammad Ali for an educational publisher that came out in 2011. Translated: the book is in schools and libraries.

Well, I gave a copy to my sister-in-law. Her hubby’s an Ali fan, too.

“I really liked the photos,” she praised.

Uh, thanks, I think?

Fast forward. Someone just mentioned that they’d like to get BIGGER looks at Dan Xeller’s great portraits of Ransom Jackson, Ty Cline and Norman Lumpkin. Check out for great looks at many more of his images.

Enjoy! And, to my sis-in-law, I admit that I didn’t write any of these pictures, either!!!

(All photos courtesy of &
copyright Dan Xeller Photography)

‘Handsome Ransom’ Jackson, Ty Cline And More! Photographer Dan Xeller Honors Baseball History

Ransom Jackson

(Dan Xeller photo)

There’s nothing like the faces of former players. From day to day, they’ve been cast as heroes or villains. Their eyes tell all.

When I found out about photographer Dan Xeller, I had to know more. As a collector and fan, he’s found a way to convert his TTM skills into a unique way to preserve baseball history. He was kind to share his fascinating story by e-mail.

Q: Tell us about your baseball project.

A: I have been a baseball fan since I was in diapers and was fortunate to have a family who were fans. My grandparents on both sides knew major leaguers and even considered some of them friends! After doing a bunch of research on ball-players from the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, I realized that there were many
forgotten stories. I also started heavily researching the Negro leagues and wanted to meet some of the
players and hear their stories. Many of these former players had a career in baseball and then walked
away from it, many times getting a “normal” job and closing that chapter of their life.

What I’m trying to achieve with my photographs is capturing something from the players’ past and then marrying it with an interest, hobby, activity, etc… in the present. I started out thinking that I would self-publish a book of the portraits with some outtakes of the interviews but now it has grown into a potential documentary film down the road.

Q: When you met “Handsome Ransom” Jackson, what did you learn about his take on autograph collectors?

A:  I was fortunate enough to spend an afternoon with Ransom Jackson of the 1956 Brooklyn Dodgers at
his home and speak at length with him about his past and present. Out of the blue, he mentioned to me that he had some scrapbooks filled with “interesting” and “bizarre” letters he has received over the years in the form of praise and autograph requests. He says he only keeps the really “weird” ones and invited me to look through some of the albums. I asked him if he found the TTM request intrusive and he said he was quite honored by it and was just happy to be remembered.

Toward the end of meeting, Ransom asked myself and my assistant if we wanted to pick out some cards and photos from his collection. We went up to his bedroom where he opened a drawer filled with photos, cards, clipping, etc.. from his earliest playing days to recent photofiles. We didn’t want to be greedy so we each took an 8×10 in which my assistant exclaimed, “this means a lot as this is my first autograph!”

Q: What are your baseball autograph interests?

A: Allow me to get anecdotal here for a minute… I mentioned before that my family on both sides are
big fans of baseball. Well, my grandmother once chased Duke Snider down Flatbush Avenue for an
autograph after a Dodgers game. When I was 8 years old, my dad and I started to going to card shows
at the Polish Community Center in Albany, New York.

Duke Snider was scheduled to sign that day and we bought an autograph ticket. At my father’s urging, when it was my turn with Duke, I told him the story of my grandma. Now, I don’t know if he was just obliging and 8 year old or he actually remembered but Duke says “That was your grandma?????”. That autograph has been a centerpiece to my collection to this day. My grandma also worked with Frank Viola’s mom at the Nassau County Jail and she was able to get Frank to send me some autographs which I still have to this day.

I started collecting TTM in 2009 after an extremely long hiatus from card collecting. At first I would just send to whoever was signing but I have since pared down to trying to get every NY Yankee (and not expecting to complete), all Brooklyn Dodgers and as many Negro Leaguers as I can. From a photographer’s standpoint, one of my most highly prized autographs is the 1952 Gus Zernial Topps card with the baseballs “attached” to the bat.

When starting my education in photography over 10 years ago, this was a card I admired as Photoshop had not been invented yet and there were many questions as to how Gus’ photo was made. One card I would like to own one day (but it’s a bit out of my price range) is the 1953 Bowman Color Pee Wee Reese card where he is suspended in air. The composition of the shot, use of artificial lighting and the chrome film makes for an amazing photograph.

Ty Cline
(Dan Xeller photo)

TTM really helped get me interested in this project as, when researching names and addresses, the stories started to come out. Plus, with the acquisition of cards to send out, you would get some neat stories off the back of them. For instance, I photographed Ty Cline (of the 1970 Cincy Reds) and saw that on the back of his 1969 Topps cards that his favorite hobby was photography!! I asked him if that quote had anything to do with his participation in my project and he said “no, it was because you were a nice young man on the phone and I wanted to help!”

Q: Are there other former players you’d like to photograph?

A: I have been fortunate to have photographed Ty Cline, Ransom Jackson and Norman Lumpkin (of the Atlanta Black Crackers). I currently have 3 more people wanting to participate and hope to receive more in my mailbox.

Being based in Charleston, SC, I have been limiting my players to the Georgia/South Carolina/North Carolina areas. I have started to branch out a little bit but since this is funded on my own dime, long distance travel at this time is a hardship. I welcome any and all contacts, hints, notes, favors, inside information, etc… and will return a favor.

Norman Lumpkin
(Dan Xeller Photo)

Q: These are stunning photos of Cline, Jackson and Lumpkin. How could collectors get copies for autographs?

If people are interested in purchasing a photo from me to get signed, they can contact me directly at

Q: Future goals?

A: I would like to make it clear that this project is to shed some light on players of the past and their stories
and to get my name out as a photographer. I’m not in this to make any money and anything that I sell will have partial proceeds going directly to the player or to the Baseball Assistance Team. I hope this interview will get the word spread about my project and get people interested in the former players and their contributions.

Go, Dan, go! Anyone knowing a retired major leaguer or Negro Leaguer in North Carolina, South Carolina or Georgia? E-mail this fledgling historian. Help him out with a lead or introduction. I predict some great portraits and histories as a result.

Dan’s lesson for us? You don’t need Hall of Famers for great baseball stories. History remains in all who played our game. All we need to do is seek out the overlooked diamond storytellers NOW.

(All photos courtesy of and copyright Dan Xeller Photography,

One More Cent Makes Sense For Letters

While the price of everything is soaring, I’m not going to grumble over the one-cent stamp increase.

USPS employees always do their best for me.

In December, a substitute letter carrier apologized when I came to the door.

“I’m sorry I got your mail here later than usual,” he began.

I waved off his kindness. He was on a strange, new route, yet only minutes behind.

“I went back because Debbie (the postal carrier from THREE Christmases earlier at my OLD address) found this,” he continued.

The forwarding order was long expired. However, Debbie has never stopped looking out for us, seeing that every Christmas card found its target.

I recalled this happy episode as the possibility of moving again looms.

I’ve reviewed response times of many former players on Would I be so lucky again in getting misdirected mail?

To increase my chances, I’ve begun noting my parents’ address on the upper left-hand corner of my SASE. That way, if a retiree takes years to respond and I’m not in this current location, the “unable to forward” order can go to a stable address.

Coming Friday: The amazing baseball photography of Dan Xeller.

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