Twins Pitcher Dave Boswell Remembered

Check out the awesome custom cards shared by
Jim the “auto guy” at Who
wouldn’t autograph such a beauty?

I was blessed to get a surprising reply from underrated Twins hurler Dave Boswell in 2011. He died June 11 at age 67.

I hoped to find a tribute to him that didn’t dwell on the fight with manager Billy Martin. Here’s the best one I spotted, complete with great memories from roommate Frank Quilici.

A tip? Ask about roommates in future letters to retirees. They’re a fading part of major league lore.

And be grateful for any autographs you received from Boswell in the last two years. He battled illness, but did his best with fan mail. He didn’t forget us. We won’t forget him.

Coming Wednesday: Ripped from the headlines…an Atlanta Braves autograph faker!

A Meaningful NY Yankee Autograph Collection? ‘The Lost Collector’ Found a Way!

Check out this 2005 TTM success from Phil Rizzuto. Says A.J. — “I sent him a nice note and a few memories I had of him, including the way my Italian grandmother and I used to enjoy the way he talked about food on air. I also included a check for a few dollars in hopes that he would sign my card. Not only did he sign my card, but sent a small signed photo (It read: “Tell Nonna I sure would love to have some of those ravioli”) and sent my check back and wrote on it “No Charge, AJ. Scooter #10″. It just goes to show that a sincere letter can go a long way.”

Reader feedback is the best. I love writing about collectors, because it inspires more stories. We can learn so much from each other.

Take A.J., for example. A humble guy, he asked me to withhold his last name. All names aside, you should know him as “The Lost Collector.” This talented fellow blogger shared his personalized plan for collecting what he cares about — along with the tale of how he returned to the hobby after getting overwhelmed with card choices and other challenges. I’m grateful that he tells his story in the following e-interview.

Q: I love the Yankees project. What was the inspiration? You acquired all the signed cards yourself TTM? What was the time span?

A: I’ve been interested in signed Yankees cards via TTM for as long as I can remember. Back in high school (early 2000s), I had TTM success from Gil McDougald (on 1959 Topps) and Mel Stottlemyre (on a 1972 Topps).  I loved having vintage cards signed, and three years ago I had the idea to try and get a signed Topps card of a different Yankees player for as long as Topps has been in the business. I could never send out requests with any consistency, but having this project as my goal kept me interested in the hobby and sending out requests on a regular basis. I had to acquire the cards, research who to send to from which years, and then take the chance of sending. I did in fact acquire all of the cards myself via TTM requests (and many other cards too that didn’t make it into the project). I also managed to complete the project without sending to any players who require fees, which just goes to show how many generous signers there are still out there.

 Q: Steve Kraly is Mr. Binghamton. What kind of response did he supply?

A: I’m glad you asked. I did in fact mention to Mr. Kraly where I grew up, and he wrote me a very nice note back, about two pages in length. He told me a lot about his time playing in Binghamton, such as his stats before being called up. He shared other fond memories, including the fact that he met his wife there. He still lives there and stays involved in the game by being the official scorer of the Binghamton Mets (Double A). I sent him two 1955 Topps cards, asking him to keep one, but he signed both and returned them to me.

Q: THE LOST COLLECTOR is a great title. What’s been different — and better — in your second time around as a hobbyist?

A: The second time around, I feel like I’m a lot more mature and focused (despite my blog title). Back in my early days of collecting, I’d pull a card and immediately look at what it was “worth” in Beckett. That has changed now. I can’t tell you the last time I’ve looked in a price guide. It’s more fun now because the cards have a lot more personal worth to me. I still feel “lost” at times based on all the card issues I missed while I was out of collecting (the certified auto craze and game-used cards really happened while I was gone), but it gives me something to look forward to in trades – knowing that there are so many Yankees cards out there I haven’t seen and don’t own.

Q: I love how you quiz minor leaguers about a future goal. Who’ve been some of the best answers?

I often ask a player who they admired growing up, and what pitcher/batter they most look forward to facing. I get a lot of the usual suspects – Jeter, Pujols, Griffey.

 Q: What’s been the most fun, satisfying parts of having a blog?

A: Having a blog has kept me interested in collecting. Not only does it give me a place to trade and acquire new cards, but it’s a daily activity in the hobby that doesn’t have to revolve around buying new cards or visiting a shop. Every day, I scroll through my blogroll and check out what everyone is talking about. In this sense, it keeps me interested day in and day out.

Sometimes, your
all-time favorite
player still signs
TTM, A.J. found!

Q: Current autograph project/focus/goal?

A: My focus lately has been minor leaguers/prospects. I follow the Yankees minor league system closely, so when I am able to get a TTM success from guys I’m a fan of – whether or not they actually make it to the majors – is an awesome feeling. I would like to start a new project soon, but for now I’m enjoying sending to minor leaguers. I have a five-month-old son, and have gotten a few players to personalize cards to him (Pat Neshek and Virgil Trucks have done it), so perhaps I’ll shift the focus away from my collection and start getting cards signed for him. It could be cool for him to have when he’s older.

 Q: Advice for almost-lost autograph collectors, those who may be getting disillusioned with
lowTTM response rates, scribbly signatures, guys who charge, etc.? Do you see any silver
linings to the dark clouds in the autograph hobby?

A” It’s definitely getting tougher and tougher. I’d advise anyone struggling with the hobby to think of your own project – one that’s both attainable and challenging (i.e. trying to collect a signed team set of 1987 Topps). I’ve never been so inspired to send out requests than I was when I only need a few more cards to complete my own project. It kept me interested and focused, and I’m not sure I’d be TTMing today if it wasn’t for my project’s completion driving me. Lastly, don’t send anything you can’t afford to lose. There’s always the risk, no matter who you send to.

Coming Monday: Remembering Twins pitcher Dave Boswell

Autograph U Yearbook Inspires

I took the day off to celebrate my wonderful wife’s birthday Monday.

When it comes to gifts, one of the best I’ve gotten lately came from Matt Ray.

I first told you about his amazing “Autograph U” blog back in 2010. Well, he’s still rocking the hobby. As many autograph collectors are stuck on all they’re getting, here’s a guy intent on GIVING.

He published FREE for everyone “The Autograph University 2012 Yearbook.” I’m proud to be one of the featured collectors.

Check out his yearbook now. He’s sharing this quality e-publication. The stories are about all kinds of autograph collectors, not just baseball. As you read, imagine where you’d fit in. Then, ask yourself two questions:

1. What kind of collector are you?
2. What kind of a collector would you like to be?

Jim Abbott’s ‘Imperfect’? Just The Opposite

“I didn’t want to turn on a tape recorder and simply tell my story.”

— Jim Abbott

That’s from the Acknowledgements section of Imperfect: An Improbable Life. It’s easy to see why a pitcher who retired in 1999 has waited this long to recreate his life story.

This book offers a inning-by-inning and chapter-by-chapter account of the fabled 1993 no-hitter at Yankee Stadium. However, Abbott gives us a whole lot more.

For instance:

Player-turned-Rawlings executive Ted Sizemore gets applause for finding the perfect glove to aid in Abbott’s fielding.

Blue Jays scout Don Welke touted Abbott as a first-round draft choice worth a $200,000 signing bonus. Toronto didn’t listen in 1985, making him a 36th rounder with a $50,000 signing offer. Abbott declined, heading for college.

The contract stand-off with the Angels that led to his trade to the Yankees? Abbott offers a wistful, insightful recount of what went wrong — and how he might have reacted differently today.

My favorite passage in the book tells about a New York City bartender asking Abbott to autograph a baseball. When Abbott sees that Pete Gray, the one-armed outfielder for the 1945 St. Louis Browns, is the other autograph on the ball, Abbott declines. As he writes:

“I had had endeavored to uphold a life above brands that began ‘one-armed’ or ‘one-handed,’ and detested the notion of someone displaying or hawking the Jim Abbott/Pete Gray Two Good Arms Between ‘Em ball. How awful. With Ventura and McCaskill watching stiffly, I told the bartender I’d be happy to sign anything else, which he refused in a huff. I wondered if Pete Gray would have gone along.”
Abbott hasn’t been the best TTM signer through the years. This tale, and others like it, dot the narrative. The hurler tired of all the focus being on his disability. Relatedly, Abbott’s devotion to corresponding with children and parents coping with physical adversity was one of baseball’s best-kept secrets during his career. With autographs, letters and meetings (all far from the media spotlight), he inspired so many in need. For the casual collector, did Abbott tire of the standard stereotyped praise about being a handicapped athlete? Did he assume all letters would be the same? The book hints at the possibility.

I’m delighted at Abbott’s all-star storytelling skills. His humble sincerity and blunt honesty make for a rare combination in current baseball books. Imperfect is anything but. Read it and get a new reason to cheer for one of Michigan’s greatest diamond success stories.

The Envelope, Please: Roger ‘Super RC’ Chen Shares The Autograph Joy On Youtube

Look for
this RC
on Youtube!

Don’t be afraid to wish.

After viewing another empty mailbox by my front door, I grumbled, “I hope other collectors are getting some responses today.” No, I didn’t run down the street, peeking in other mailboxes.

With Youtube, I didn’t have to!

I’m so happy to see collector videos on Youtube. When I saw a great story about pitcher Ryan Tatusko, posted by “Super RC,” I had to know how “Super” this collector was.

He didn’t disappoint. The “RC” wasn’t a Rookie Card abbreviation. This truly super collector is Roger Chen. I thank him for the e-interview, which I share with you:
“Thanks for giving me the opportunity to share some thoughts about my ‘graphing experience: it’s always been a passion of mine and though my ultimate goal is to have a good collection, I want to be able to show others how to do it; to help them build the confidence that they TOO can have their favorite player’s autograph through the mail (or in person).

The love affair for TTM autos was Will Clark signing my 87 Topps rookie card about 20 years ago. It came full circle last week when I met Will at AT&T park and he signed my ball and I had a 45 second conversation with my boyhood hero.”

Q: How did Ryan Tatusko respond to your tribute, showing all the cards he signed?

A: He was VERY appreciative of the video. I did the video because I wanted to honor him the right way for making the time to sign. I hope I did just that.

Q: Do you have any of the cards left to give out? If so, please offer detailed instructions of how you’d like requests/contacts to be made?

A: I have a few left. Just reach out to me on youtube or this email address and provide a U.S. mail address (limit 1 per person).

Q: What kind of in-person ‘graphing do you do?

A: Primarily at the minor league ball parks: I enjoy the closer quarters and more personal interaction with the athletes because I can spend more time talking with them often times one on one. Most of the guys are generous to sign my entire stack of cards but I try to keep it to 2-3 cards per person per encounter.

I’ve also had success waiting outside the player’s parking lot. It provides a great opportunity for chatter and eye contact without the separation of a dugout, fence or a beam.

Q: You mentioned the response from JW Porter on another great video. Have you gotten by-mail answers to questions from other former players?

A: Though I haven’t gotten responses from former players, I did a personalized response from Leilani Munter: race car driver and environmental activist. As you can see in the video, her care package was really awesome.

Q: I’ve never tried Twitter. What type of responses have you gotten tweeting current and former players?

A: I’ve reached out to prospects during spring training and got more responses then as opposed to the regular season: simple ask to send stuff & get signed, wait for a response.

Q: I’m sure other collectors jumped at asking for a Ryan T card. You made a very generous offer. But what other kind of feedback have you gotten from other Youtube videos of yours? How has it helped connecting with other collectors?

A: Fellow ‘tubers have given me a lot of support and encouragement for the gesture, and my main goal was to share in Ryan’s generosity. A lot of people I’ve sent to are also TTM and IP auto collectors as well.

Q: What’s your current focus or specialty for baseball autograph collecting?

A: Right now I focus on the in-person autograph: I enjoy that instant gratification and personal interaction. I have also dabbled in the TTM auto of former players as well turning old baseball cards into signed beauties.

Q: Future goals?

A: I see myself doing more TTM’s and trading fellow graphers for their IP or TTM autos 50/50.

Q: Advice for other collectors thinking about posting their own Youtube hobby video?

A: Absolutely DO IT: you are on a platform to let the original signers know that the package was recieved, and you appreciate their time for signing your stuff… also, people who see how generous a signer is may follow suit and send stuff to that person as well.

Roger is an “old school” hobbyist. I’m grateful that he’s sharing all he knows. You’ll see in his Tatusko video a helpful aside about using Staedtler pens. Anyone with other questions, write him at His twitter handle is @roger_chen.

Coming Friday: A Review of Jim Abbott’s “Imperfect: An Improbable Life.”

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