Mrs. Ripken Kidnapping Questions

From 1987. Today’s question:
will the brothers ever sign
autographs again?

My sadness turned to alarm when reading last week’s headline about Cal Ripken Jr.’s mother being kidnapped at gunpoint from her home.

After fearing for Mrs. Ripken’s safety, I faced another looming worry.

Will this crime give unwilling autograph signers the iron-clad excuse they’ve sought to shun all fan mail? Will autograph collectors be seen as a future danger, the crazed fanatics who ferret out supposedly-secret home addresses?

Be on your best by-mail behavior, collectors. The world is watching us.

Coming Wednesday: A prayer for Virgil Trucks.

Talking Autographed Baseball Books With Veteran Dealer Bobby Plapinger

Want a unique copy of
this Hall of Famer’s book?
To quote from Bobby’s
sale catalog:
SIGNED by Gaylord Perry & INSCRIBED
 to the catcher Alan Ashby
as follows: “It’s great to have you with us.
You will have many great years to come.
 The best to you and your family.”
Ashby came up with the Indians
 in 1973 & played parts of 4 seasons
 with them – all as Perry’s teammate. – 85.00

Baseball books have a best friend. His name is Bobby Plapinger.

Many know about good baseball titles. Bobby knows what makes a memorable autographed baseball book. I’m grateful that he shares his knowledge and experience with us in this e-interview.

Q: Any tips for getting baseball books autographed (pen to use? Get title page signed?) Who knows? Readers may be contacting you with their recently-signed books to buy?

A: This is really a matter of personal preference. Mine is to have the signer use an ink pen – black or blue – & sign the front flyleaf – the 1st blank page, or the title page.

If it’s someone I know – or have met – I just tell them to do it however they want to.

I like ink better than sharpie because it just seems clearer to me – also, the pen tends to make very fine indentations into the paper, which can help for future identification purposes.

Some people like “personalizations” others don’t. I tend to prefer a “straight signature” unless the signer is an aquaintance of some kind – but I don’t make a big stink about this either. If someone wants to write “To Bobby…” or the like, I don’t protest.

And… of course a personalized signature is less likely to be forged & thus can be good proof of authenticity if & when that’s required.

The one thing I think you should AVOID at all costs, is having the dust jacket or cover, of the book signed. While it can be easy to display, they’re subject to damage from moisture, light or worse & can easily smear, smudge and/or fade. And “protecting” a dj with a signature on it – something you should do, as described above, can actually damage the signature on a signed dj. I’ve seen the ink from a sharpie or marker signature, transfer from the dj to the mylar cover – that fades & smears the original signature.

I’m always open making offers on books. Just remember, just like the guys on “Pawn Stars” (& it’s brethren & spawn…) I’m buying for resale – so chances of my paying a premium on a recently signed book are pretty small.

It’s kind of ironic – but you can buy signed books from most of the Hall of Famers who are doing shows these days for far less than an autograph ticket to have the guy sign the book at a show.

You’d like to think you could sell your signed Hank Aaron autobiography for more than the $200 – $300 you just paid to have him sign it…

You’d be hard pressed to do so.

And that means MY offer will be even less…. ALOT less….

Look at the prices in the signed book list. Figure I’d pay you approx 10%-30% of my asking price for your books, IF, I want them.

Q: Collectors get phobic about collectibles, wanting everything under glass or in plastic. DO YOU TOUCH THE ACTUAL SIGNED BOOK, one gasps?!?

Tips about displaying/preserving/enjoying an autographed book?
A: Again – this is a matter of preference. Books are remarkably hardy if you keep them dry, away from direct sunlight & relatively clean.

You want to store them on shelves. “Standing up”. You want to avoid long term storage of “stacks” of books lying on their “backs” – can lead to dj wear & tear, bumps & bruises & the like.

If you have large oversize books you can “stack” them – as long as they’re protected – on a shelf – NOT the ground.

If the shelves provide cover from dirt/dust – all the better. Use a feather or “swiffer” for dusting, cleaning.

I like to use mylar dust jacket covers – often called “Brodarts” (for the primary manufacturer – although there are a number of different brands) to protect jackets. They help defend against dust, moisture & for older jackets, prevent further deterioration of jackets that already have some age wear.

You can get “acid free museum quality” dj covers if you’re really anal – but the “standard” issue should suffice for all but the most particular.

I think the whole point of books is that they should be read. So – yes – I touch my books. But… carefully – you don’t need to wear white gloves – but you might want to make sure your hands aren’t dirty and/or sticky. Teach kids to treat books carefully, and/or keep yours away from those who are still learning.

You can, if you like, put all/some of your books in mylar bags & for some that are old and/or rare and/or fragile, this might be a good idea. But in general I think books “breathe” the environment around them & enjoy doing so – and an occasional dusting/cleaning – is more than sufficient for preserving most books in most environments.

I like to think that I treat my books – both the ones in my “personal collection” and the ones I sell – carefully and respectfully. But I once got into a big argument with a collector at a show – I write my book prices – in pencil, lightly – in the upper right corner of the front flyleaf (or 1st white page) – & this guy was outraged that I would even consider writing in such a valuable artifact. Even when I explained – demonstrated in fact – that the “writing” was easily removable & then indetectable – he insisted I was wrong to mar the books in that way.

So… as I say… It’s a matter of personal preference.

I like the look of books on a bookshelf. A whole array of “spines out” – really appeals to me. To break up the monotony I use “tchackes” – little figures, pennants, puppets, pictures etc.etc. etc. I also like to display a few favorite books “face out” – with the cover facing the room.

This takes up a little more space, but looks really nice. I think. Then again – I’m used to a bookstore where you use “face out” to entice customers to buy stuff. But I think the principle is the same.

Plus, you can, if you like, change the books you “face out” – which can really change the “look” of your room.. well…. your shelf at least.

Q: What’s your feeling about autographed bookplates?
A: I think part of the appeal of signed books is the notion that the signer actually touched – however briefly & minimally – the book.

You lose that with a bookplate. Also – bookplates lend themselves to fraud – as it’s alot easier to “practice” signatures on cheap inexpensive bookplates that take up no space, than on a pile of books.

That said – many publishers of “signed limited editions” have the signers autograph blank sheets of paper which are later bound into the books. So in those cases, the signer never touches the book & the buyer never knows the wiser..

Well… you do now.

Jerome Holtzman once told me he had “stacks” of sheets of paper signed by Bill Veeck sitting in his basement waiting for a future printing of the “Holtzman Press” “signed, leatherbound edition” of “Veeck As In Wreck” which never materialized.

In spite of my general dislike for signed bookplates, I guess there could be exceptions – if you have custom bookplates & every “signed book” has one in them, that could be kind of cool. I always thought it would be neat to mount signed baseball cards of a player inside his biography/autobiography. In the days of common “by mail” signings, it was a lot easier and cheaper to send cards through the mail than books – not to mention the risk of potential damage in shipping to the book.

I never followed through on this plan – but I still think a library full of “signed” books w. the signatures on attractive bb cards – would be a pretty neat one.

Q: Tell the readers how to get your autographed baseball book sales list by e-mail.
Send me an e-mail at

and I’ll send you the list. I generally just “paste” it in to the e-mail. If you’re mailing from work, make sure to add that address to your “address book” or else it will just get bounced back to me because corporations hate little, local ISP like “” .

I can also attach a PDF of the Spring/Summer Baseball Catalog which lists the majority of my current inventory.

I welcome questions and/or comments about signed books – or anything else you think I can help with. I don’t “social network” but I always answer e-mails & occasionally speak on the phone.

Coming Monday: A troubling headline for autograph collectors

New Baseball Stamps Worth The Hunt

I love the work of artist Kadir Nelson. Check out
his Negro Leagues Art Exhibit as it travels America.

(image copyright, courtesy of USPS)

Collectors are getting heard.

The U.S. Postal Service chose to issue limited numbers of sheets of ONE each of the four new commemorative stamps of Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Larry Doby and Willie Stargell.

The only problem? Only post offices in Cooperstown and the team cities got the special sheets.

Therefore, only some Yankee fans can delight in having no one but The Yankee Clipper on their envelopes. Why not let ALL collectors have the one stamp they want most?

I’m bored with Liberty Bell FOREVER stamps. I feel baseball stamps get your envelope noticed when you’re writing for an autograph. Most of all, using the commemoratives tells the USPS to keep autograph collectors in mind for future issues. Agree?

Coming Friday: Talking autographed baseball books with expert Bobby Plapinger!

Sid Bream Shares Autograph Details

Only 20,000 were given away in Atlanta to honor
Sid’s historic score.

When in doubt, ask.

Sid Bream has invoked a $1 per autograph policy this year. I wanted to find out how he felt about the hobby, in light of such changes. Additional I wanted to ask a couple of other questions to someone on his 20-year “anniversary.”

Q: Are the fees going to certain charities? If so, I think lots more collectors will be eager to help even more.

A: The Outdoor Dream Foundation and Liberty University Baseball.

Q: Some collectors may have worried that the $1 charge was due to you getting tired of fan mail, signing and collectors?

A: No, that is not true. I wish I would have thought of this years ago and would have been able to raise a lot of funds for different charities.

Q: Congratulations on being a bobblehead and your 20-year anniversary of sending the Braves to the World Series. When was the first time you heard those immortal words: WHEN SID SLID?

A: ‘Sid Slid’ was given right after the event took place.

Q: You’ve pursued excellence all your life. Did being a Christian help you be a better player, or did being a player help you be a better Christian?

A: I think both. Being a christian certainly gave me the peace to understand the significance of me being on this earth, but the struggles and victories of baseball gave me the chance to use the faith to trust Him more.

Coming Wednesday: What every fan letter and autograph request should include!

Yankees Author Hart ‘Juju Rules’ Seely Tallks Phil Rizzuto, Autographs & Best T-shirts Ever!


Hart Seely is one unique Yankees fan.

Lots of us may think or feel that way about our favorite team (or the OTHER guys). We may have said it aloud over a beer. Or, we may have said it louder at a game. However, he’s the one who put it all in writing and added his name to it.

As evidenced by last week’s blog, I loved his book The Juju Rules* Or, How to Win Ballgames From Your Couch: A Memoir of a Fan Obsessed. I’m grateful to this pinstriped wit for sharing an update on his Yankees lifestyle in this feisty, fun e-interview:

Q: Loved Juju Rules! It’s a fun confessional. However, I was surprised that you didn’t ‘fess up to having a Yankees COLLECTION. What kind of memorabilia has tempted you? I can’t imagine any “fan obsessed” not being some level of collector!

A: I don’t consider myself a true collector, in the Aristotelian sense of the word. A collector collects. I amass.

I have about a ton of Yankee stuff – I mean debris, detritus, crapola! But I cannot bring myself to catalogue it or bring order unto its chaos. We’re talking piles, haystacks, mounds. Someday, after I’m dust, some reality TV picker show will have a field day going through my office. They’ll need a backhoe.

I have one autographed ball from Rizzuto and one from Joe Torre, which Alphonso – a main character in the book, as you know – somehow wrangled; he gave it to me last Christmas. I have manila envelopes stuffed with autographed pictures and postcards from the Scooter, who always included signed glossies when we exchanged letters (a couple of which are framed.) I’ve got old Yankee programs, picked up at garage sales. In fact, they hover over my desk right now, threatening to topple onto the keyboard where I am typing. Yankee things come my way, and even though I consider myself a misery bastard when it comes to keeping memorabilia, I don’t throw out Yankee stuff.

Also, I have about 15 Yankee t-shirts, including one that promotes “Typhoon Irabu” and another that says, “I BRAKE FOR YOUKILIS BEANINGS.” (By the way, he recently attained his 15th HBP at the hands of Yankee hurlers; if he stays healthy, I think he could reach 20.)

I believe that our generation’s greatest contributions to history will be the Internet, domed sports stadiums and our t-shirt collections.

Q: In the book, we don’t know if you actually got autographs from Rod Scurry or Clete Boyer. Please, can you share an example of getting any Yankee signatures in person or through the mail?

A: I didn’t get either. Scurry was, realistically, out of pen range. But I’ll forever kick myself for not hanging in there and getting Clete’s. Here’s a post-script to the story in my book about meeting Clete Boyer with my two sons on a hot midway kiosk at the New York State Fair:

He was selling autographs, and I was ready to buy one. There was nobody standing behind us. Clete seemed to be really grateful that I was there, and we were having a great little chat. But this young guy hovering over him – punker hair, looking bored and cynical – barked at me, “If you’re not going to buy an autograph, please move on.” I was so stung that – well – I just moved on. Clete looked sad, too. He was going to just sit there and watch people pass. I left him sitting there. I’ve regretted it ever since.

As for getting autographs, here’s my secret: Write a book about a guy, and he showers you with autographs. How Alphonso managed to get Torre’s name on a ball is between him and God.

Q: Speaking of fan mail, have you details of any current or former Yankees who read Juju Rules?
A: No. As far as I know, it hasn’t sunken in yet. I feel like the guy running that radio signal tower in Peru – or maybe it’s Arizona – shooting messages off into deep space. I still haven’t heard a response from Alpha Centari.

Actually, I’m not sure if today’s ballplayers will understand or appreciate my book. It takes somebody special, like Tony LaRussa. He’s not your average athlete – or your average manager.

Q: I’m glad to know Scooter enjoyed the poetry collection. I loved knowing how he inscribed your copy. Did he ever do a book signing?

A: No. In the beginning, ECCO Press was trying desperately to arrange something, but it was a tiny publishing house, and I think Phil was uncertain about kind of reception the book would receive, and everything fell through. After that, I don’t think anybody tried.

I would tell friends to send Rizzuto a book and a self-addressed return envelope, and I gave them his home address – he allowed that; that’s how he was. He would autograph the book and include a pile of autographed glossies and usually a nice note. People would call me to say they were overwhelmed by his reply. They’d say, “Wow, you and he must be really close!” even though we’d only met once. That’s the kind of person he was.

Q: For other readers of Juju Rules wondering how they’d get their copy autographed…any suggestions? (Signed bookplates?)

A: Best thing to do, if anybody wants a signed book or anything, is write me at the Syracuse Post-Standard, Clinton Square, Syracuse, NY 13221, where I work. I’ll do my best to overwhelm them – but I have no glossies. I’ll figure something out, if only to honor the memory of The Scooter.

Coming Monday: An autographed update from Sid “Sid Slid” Bream.