Birthday Gift Ideas for Hobbyists?

Oct. 20 – his and mine!

I didn’t share much with Mickey Mantle.

Except a birthday.

Oct. 20 is a national holiday in my home. Before preparing my celebration, I wanted to share some suggestions.

Do you have a birthday coming up. Afraid someone will give you another necktie?

Ask for a one-year membership to It’s a great way (at just $14.99) to keep current on TTM happenings.

For friends and family thinking that they don’t know what autograph to buy for a present, make it easier. Collectors need envelopes, paper, pens or computer printer ink.

Simplest of all: make it stamps! If you have a hobby pal, send them birthday greetings with a pair of stamps (one for the self-addressed, stamped envelope, of course).

Tell them, “Celebrate by writing to the guy you’ve been putting off. Give yourself a present.”

Coming Monday: Making sense of FOREVER stamps.

Saluting ‘The Great American Baseball Card Flipping, Trading and Bubble Gum Book’

On Monday, I wrote about passing moments for TTM autograph collectors. Sometimes, death ends an opportunity. Or, those you admire might disappear completely.

I wish I had written as a giggling teen who absorbed every page of The Great American Baseball Card, Flipping, Trading and Bubble Gum Book by Brendan C. Boyd and Fred C. Harris. I wish I had thanked the authors for their wacky attention to detail.

I laughed. Then, I gave my own baseball cards a closer look.

Who took the picture? Where was it? How did the player like the pose? Who wrote the card back? Who did the godawful airbrushing jobs?

The questions never stopped. The questions led me to a greater appreciation (and amusement from) this hobby.

Today’s question burns brightest as I hold this 30-year-old book in my hands:

Did the authors know they’d be remembered and revered three decades later?

Note to publishers: where is the 30th anniversary edition of this classic?

Coming Friday: Birthday present ideas for the collector.

Champ Summers Gone At 66

I found a fun site called
Ed’s Autographs. The
focus was on Seattle-area
players. Mariners? Nope.
Born in Bremerton!

Who’s on your list to write to?

Even after all these years, I get zoned trying to contact retirees in their 70s and above. I pay too much attention to age.

John “Champ” Summers reminded of that. He lost a 2-1/2 year fight to cancer last week. He was only 66.

I didn’t move fast enough. He seemed a slow but steady signer, according to Of 82 recorded attempts, he responded 71 times. Because of his years as a minor league coach, replies sometimes took a year.

The autographs I’ve seen seem that he wanted collectors to remember him by his nickname. Good luck finding a “John.” Beyond his nickname, we’ll remember.

Coming Wednesday: Two early hobby inspirations, Brendan C. Boyd and Fred C. Harris.

‘Pinstripe Empire’ Author Marty Appel Shares His New York Yankee Heritage

All that’s missing from the great Pinstripe Empire book is more of author Marty Appel. Ever the historian, Marty left himself out of his team history. However, the story of how an eager college kid could become part of a fabled franchise is worth another book. In today’s blog, Marty shares that story:

Q: You got your first Yankees job with a letter to public relations director Bob Fishel. We love good baseball letters. What did you write — and did you write other teams?

A: As I recall, it was just a one-pager explaining that I was editor of my college newspaper, a great baseball fan, had won a Yankees Scorecard contest the year before, and I was seeking a summer doing pretty much doing anything. I didn’t use the word intern. It was the only team I wrote to.

Q: I’ve read that you started in the front office by handling Mickey Mantle’s fan mail?

A: That was true; technically it was fan mail for the team, but Mick’s was 95% of it. This was 1968 – people didn’t realize we had a second “future Hall of Famer” on the roster, so Bobby Cox, our third baseman, got very little. Most of the letters just asked for an autographed baseball, and few included SASEs. The Yankees paid the postage, and most people got printed material back – a signature on a picture of Mick, folded.

Q: Did you collect autographs as a kid? Did you ever send fan mail?

A: I was never an autograph collector, although that first summer I worked there, I did get a few of people I came to know well. Ruben Amaro, Rocky Colavito, Horace Clarke, Ralph Houk, Frank Crosetti…..but I’m still not much of a collector.

Q: During your PR stint, fans and collectors saw you recognize ALL the members of the organization in publications and otherwise. What other fan-friendly measures are you proudest of?

A: I think I did recognize that people like Bob Sheppard and Pete Sheehy were important figures – I put Pete in the team photo, I put Bob in the yearbook. I did some other little things that still exist in baseball over my time in the game. For instance, media guides that show players year-by-year records – I put All Star Games as showing where played, as opposed to saying, “American, American, American, American….” under team. And for post-season series, I put “opponent” rather than “New York, New York, New York, New York,” to make it easier to say, “oh, THAT series.” Some of it has reverted back to old ways, but it was a nice innovation when I did it. One thing I never managed to make standard was my attempt to list “Raised” where it says Place of Birth, and Residence. A lot of guys were born in a city, moved at age 3, and their real hometowns are never shown. If fans knew where guys grew up, went to high school, etc., it would add new interest geographically.

Q: Did you see fan mail and the hobby market change during your work with the Yankees?

A: Fan mail never waned until this current age of electronic mail, and of course, mail being forwarded to “services” offering items for sale. It was always high in the ’70s and ’80s. It would increase as star players came in. Bobby Murcer got a lot of mail when he arrived.

One thing that sort of faded during my time there was “fan clubs.” SPORT Magazine used to list some you could join. I was in the Bobby Richardson Fan Club when I was young. Membership cards, newsletters, exclusive photos. It probably cost $3 a year, although I don’t remember for sure. Those were fun.

Q: Were you ever on a card, even by accident? When collectors find you, do they ask for autographs on things besides your books?

A: Occasionally I would be in the background of a photo as a team spokesman. I’m in a few of the shots at Catfish Hunter’s signing. Recently someone sent me a photo from a Baseball Writers’ Dinner Journal which had a picture of Ron Blomberg, me, and our wives seated at a table. I was happy to sign, but I am always a little bemused by why anyone would want my signature. In a book, I do understand that; I’ve gotten authors to sign books. I’m always happy to sign those; proud, in fact.

Q: For your latest book, how did you work with current and former Yankees?

8. Pinstripe wasn’t meant as an oral history, so I didn’t set out to get long form interviews. If there was an event that I was writing about, and I could find a player involved in that event, call him and get a fresh quote, that would be a mission for the day. But at 620 pages, it was long enough without adding interviews. Finding long buried quotes was good too, like many from people who were on the field for Babe Ruth’s “called shot.” I snuck in a few gems though. Roy White gave me the name of the street gang he was a member of in Compton, California. I said, “street gang? You? What were you, the recording secretary?”

Q: I met Hank Bauer at a Portland card show in the late 1980s. I asked him questions about clubhouse dynamics at a reception. The next day, the show organizer said Bauer was worried I was writing a book! Did you have former Yankees worried about what you knew — and might share?

A: Because I had nice personal relationships with almost everyone I spoke to, and because they DID know I was writing a book, I didn’t have any problems such as you describe with Hank Bauer. But I think you wound up better than the guy in the men’s room at the Copa who encountered Bauer there in ’57.

Q: What’s the next baseball book by Marty Appel?

A: Not ready to announce the next book project yet, hopefully soon

Thank you, Marty. Baseball history is a better place with you in it!

Coming Monday: The Tigers lose a “Champ.”

Addicted to Sharpie Pens?

Here’s an increasingly-common collector comment:

“I asked for it to be signed in ballpoint. He signed it in Sharpie. Argh!!!”

You,  the hobbyist, are thinking about what looks good.

The autographer signer? What FEELS good!

On the surface, the act seems crazy. A retiree signing a vintage item with a pen not yet invented when the card was first issued.

Well, I’m guessing that all of us have at least three stories of when a ballpoint pen failed us. It dried up. It wouldn’t write on a certain surface. It froze! After paying a whole nickel for that blasted pen. Wait. It was free. Or, I borrowed it from the bank?


Sharpies have spoiled us. I think the most thoughtful old-timers are embarrased when they’ve carved their name on a card, only to see that the ink pen hasn’t cooperated.

One other difference: Sharpies they have a thick barrel that feels good to arthritic hands of an 80-something. They’re easier to grip.

That’s the biggest reason “sign in ink pen” requests get ignored.

Coming Friday: The Yankee adventures of “Pinstripe Empire” author Marty Appel!

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