How Far Would You Go For An Autograph? The Hobby’s Future Is At Stake

Conning Carlton for a
free autograph?

I’ve never been good at footnotes.

My aging memory seems to recall a tale (or urban legend?) in which non-signing Steve Carlton was asked for an autograph by a young man in a wheelchair. Carlton’s teammates urged him to sign.

He agreed, only to watch the fan leap from the wheelchair, laughing at the deception.

If true, I’d claim such duplicity wouldn’t be as bad as deceiving someone with a written autograph request. (Unless someone produces incriminating Youtube footage…)

Think about it. Whether by e-mail or by U.S. Mail, there’s a trail of evidence. One shady letter could be the smoking gun that a reluctant autograph giver would need to shut down the giving (or set up a stiff fee schedule for signatures).

This scam from 2011 wasn’t limited to baseball autographs. However, the ramifications of future fiascos could cause an organized pushback against collectors. Don’t bend the truth about subscribing to a Tigers newsletter, being an admiring little kid or any other tale you can’t back up. With the Internet, former players could Google our behinds as fast as we research them.

‘When Baseball Was Fun’ Newsletter: Subscribing Shows Your True Detroit Tiger Stripes!

Bobby’s newsletter
book are worthwhile!

I just got the spring issue of the newsletter When Baseball Was Fun in the U.S. Mail today.

First-person stories by J.W. Porter and Virgil Trucks, regular contributors, highlight this fun issue. Trucks tells of being interviewed by two FBI agents. You won’t find these gems anywhere else.

I wrote about newsletter founder/editor/publisher Bobby Hoeft last fall.

If you didn’t believe me then, get Bobby’s latest issue as proof. I’ve yet to meet somebody who loves the Tigers more.

In fact, you’d faint to get the published list of former Tigers who are lifetime subscribers. I think all ex-Tigers know of this publication! Bobby’s offering the same deal to us mortal fans. A LIFETIME subscription (4 issues yearly) for $20.

This subscription is a badge of honor. When you’d write to someone like Porter and Trucks, telling them you subscribe, they’d know you speak their language. You speak Tiger.

To subscribe or get more information, write Bobby at

Coming Wednesday: The shady alternative to collecting…kids, don’t try this at home!

Billy Sample Collects Fan Mail!

As the card photo suggests,
Billy has a good eye
(for sincerity)

Fans cheer for players, right?

What if the roles were reversed? What if the player offered a standing ovation for YOU?

I’m grateful to share this fascinating note from Gregg Kersey. I first wrote about Gregg and his Phillies collection back in October.

Gregg, the first to share the story about former player Billy Sample writing, producing and directing a baseball movie entitled Reunion 108, included this update:

“The reason I was writing to you was that as I have been talking to Billy over the pasts few weeks, something ironic occured and I think somehow you need to pass the message on to all your TTM readers.

Billy said he has kept letters from fans in a box that he found were nice sincere letters from fans.  Long story short: in this box was a handful of letters was one I had written him in 1998. 

So everyone in this hobby should remember you never know where your hobby is taking
you so be sure you are honest and sincere with the players because, according to Billy, they can smell the fake BS letters. In the end, if not sincere, it may bite you in the ass.


Take Care,

Thank you, Gregg.

Coming Tuesday: Can you prove you’re a REAL fan in your letters?

What Did Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire Have In Common In 1984? Coach Bruce Robinson!

Bruce Robinson, in action at Yankee Stadium, 1979.
(Copyright & Courtesy

“A Dream Deferred” might be the title of Bruce Robinson’s 1984 season. What could lure him into taking a voluntary demotion from the AAA Pacific Coast League to class A Modesto?

He wasn’t being offered just any player-coach role. Bruce was being assigned two special projects.

Bruce continues…

“Yes, I was midway through 1984. Oakland management asked me, while playing in AAA Tacoma, if I would be interested in working with two young players in Modesto. One was having severe mechanical issues with his swing and the other would be arriving after his stay with the U.S. Olympic team. The first was a 6’3” 190 pound Jose Canseco and the other, Mark McGwire, then 6-foot-5, about 210 lbs. We won the California League in 1984 in mid-September. By March, both players had ‘blossomed’ into 250 lb. hulks…amazing milk shakes and weight lifting programs!

 [Bruce added a smiley face emoticon.]

Q: How did you assess their potential before you arrived and after you assisted?

A: Canseco could run, throw and had power, but his swing was a mess, along with the timing of the swing stages and where his bat was at each stage. He had promise, but nobody could foresee what steroids and weight lifting would do for him. McGwire was much more polished, but his swing was tired from playing so much since January with USC and then the Olympic team that summer after the draft. Again, good looking, short swing and a nice young man, but 70 HR potential at that time? No chance. Steroids, steroids, steroids, combined with ability and weight training.

At an Idaho gig, Bruce in action, 2010
(Copyright & Courtesy

Q: Sorry, gotta ask: people remember Terry Cashman’s baseball songs. Some people will ask…have you thought about writing and performing songs about your baseball career?

A: No, but I have worked a few lines into a couple songs about playing catch or playing ball.

Q: I’ve sampled your music. I’m impressed! Will you autograph CDs and posters
purchases through the website?

A: Absolutely. I have started returning all of my autograph requests with a Bruce Robinson Music business card and a note pointing them to my music website. There are links to The Robby Pad, other baseball sites, photos of baseball and music, a store, song sampling and song lyrics, etc.

Thank you for your kind words.

All my best,
Bruce Robinson”

If you haven’t yet, check out Who knows? All good baseball movies need soundtracks. Bet on hearing more from this dream-following diamond alum in the future.

Coming Monday: Billy Sample gives an A+ to a collector!

Catching Up With Yankee Bruce Robinson

A grateful, talented Yankees fan wished Bruce a
happy birthday (April 16) in a
2011 post on forum.
Check out Bruce’s website below for
more rare Yankees photos!

Because he wore The Pinstripes, right?

That wasn’t the main reason I was interested in Bruce Robinson. Once I went to, I saw a man who was living his dream A SECOND TIME!

Sure, he was Oakland’s first-round draft pick, He made the majors. However, he didn’t let his dreams die in the 1980s.

Bruce has hit the road with his guitar (and a ukulele?!?), singing his own songs. He has a debut CD available on his website. I hope you’ll check it out. He’ll autograph any copy you order!

I’m grateful that the catcher-turned-singer/songwriter took time to share some impressive memories. Here’s our conversation:

Q: I’ll start not with a question, but with thanks. You’ve signed autographs for years. We appreciate your kindness to fans.

A: Your are most welcome. It is always an honor and a privilege to sign my name as a former major leaguer!

Q: You were a first-round draft pick?

A: Yes, 21st pick in the 1975 June free agent draft, the 11th edition of the draft. I was the 1st position player from San Diego drafted in the first round since the inception of the draft. Two others, both pitchers, Steve Dunning (like me a high schooler who was a first round pick out of Stanford University) and Brien Bickerton.

Q: We see ESPN coverage of the NFL draft, which MLB has tried to match. Your thoughts?

A: Hard to do that in baseball because of the typical development time that is required to prepare a college or especially a high school player to  be able to play in the major leagues. With basketball and football, it is very different as college players make immediate impacts in their sports. Also basketball and football severely restrict the number of rounds of the draft. Following a half dozen or so rounds, the remaining players are free agents. In baseball, often there are over 50 rounds of selections.

Q: How much excitement and ceremony was in your selection and actual signing as a first-rounder?

A: Not much, mostly just within the circle of friends family and teammates. That being said, being a first round selection is something that is a lifetime feather in one’s cap, much like a degree from Stanford, or playing in the major leagues. You are aware that only 5 percent of players that sign a professional contract actually end up in the major leagues, even if for only one day. I believe the statistic for 1st round choices is about 50 percent. 

Q: During your playing career, who were some other players you found with real musical ability?

A: When I was playing, I didn’t know of any on my teams. Tim Flannery and Eric Show played guitar in the Padres organization. Show was an exceptional jazz musician. Flannery has nowhere near that kind of ability but he has done exceptionally well with his Jimmy Buffett style cover band and a few originals.

Q: And who knew about your aspirations in those years?

A: Guys I still communicate with remember me toting a guitar everywhere, but my aspirations were more geared toward pure enjoyment of playing other people’s music. Bernie Williams is a very nice jazz guitar player and I would imagine there are hundreds of others.

Q: The Robby Pad, your invention, is genius!

A: Thank you.

Q: When did the idea first come, and how long did it take to get from paper to finished product?

A: I came up with the idea in 1980 while playing with Columbus, AAA affiliate for the New York Yankees. Wilson Sporting Goods expressed considerable interest in the product and I have letters to back that up. They took photos and wanted to work with me, until they found out my patent search proved The Robby Pad was not patentable. (Sees there was some hinged product in the late 1800s, not even related to baseball, and that precluded my being awarded a patent).

When Wilson learned of that, they discontinued communication and stole the idea, saying (when I sued them), they had developed the idea first and were under no obligation to tell me that when they were wooing me and my Robby Pad.

Q: Was it hard to get listened to by companies, being “just” a player? 

A: A good idea, just like a good player, will be found and developed.

Q:  I’ve seen you on two Topps cards. Cool! What did you think of the cards then — and how do you feel today?

 A: It was exciting to have my photo take for a Topps bubble gum card. They gave you a $5.00 check and still do today, I believe. I also signed with Louisville Slugger (I got a set of gold clubs with a pro style golf bag with my name emblazoned upon it) and with Wilson for gloves (three gloves per season).

Q: Your website is amazing, showing both of your careers. You’ve posted some great baseball pictures, too. The shot of you beside Mantle is awesome, two Yankees in uniform. What was a conversation like with The Mick?

A: That day we were talking about bunting, both sacrifice and drag. He never bunted from the right side, only left-handed and always drag bunted, taking the ball with him to the right of the pitcher (1st base side of the diamond).

He was very approachable, but was only around for a couple weeks during spring training.

(Thanks again to talented collector and steadfast blog supporter Kohei Nirengi for his suggestion for this feature!)

Coming Friday:Bruce Robinson, part 2… Coaching minor leaguers Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire in 1984!

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