Understanding Ex-Pitcher Frank Castillo’s Passing

Visit Frank Castillo’s
page at www.baseball-almanac.com.
The site shows an impressive
collection of authentic autographs.

You can’t understand such a shock.

The former hurler was just 44. He wasn’t a sure thing by mail, although Castillo won the hearts of many fans and collectors by his enthusiastic in-person signing.

Only 44. That should have meant years of trying him by mail, getting him to sign IP as a coach.

But fate isn’t patient.

I can’t say it often enough. Don’t look at ages. If you want a guy’s autograph or want to send a note of thanks for a particular memory, do it now.

Orioles Pitching Prospect Eddie Gamboa Wows Collector

Collector Rich Hanson may baffle some of you.

I spotted this gem at
The Great Orioles
Autograph Project blog.
Check out Ryan’s cool,
never-ending chase to
collect every O in history!

Some might think he gives more than he gets. He stays busy summers by photographing minor leaguers, then sending 2 prints, one for them with the request for the other one to be autographed and returned in the SASE. Yes, some keep both and never reply.

What about making a double-sided 8-by-10 laminated collage of someone’s highlights, saving clippings, box scores and other details? Such hustle can bring awesome results. Look at what the effort brought this enterprising hobbyist. Rich recapped:

“Eddie Gamboa signed the double-sided 8×10 that I put together about him and the no-hitter that he pitched.  Not only that, but he wrote a note on a large piece of white cardboard thanking me for writing to him and saying that now I have the card from the no-hitter.  Not certain what he meant, I opened up the cardboard that he had folded and wrote on the back of, and discovered that he had sent me his team’s line-up card from the day of the no-hitter that he had pitched.  Wow!  If I had done something like that(pithcing a no-hitter in AA ball), I’d hang on to that for the rest of my life.

“For him to send it to a fan as a “thank you” for writing to him, is really quite a gesture. I have written him a thank you note, offering it back to him if he reconsiders and wants to save it for his family, but the gesture was really something.  Very generous and totally unsought.  If he does not reconsider, it will certainly have a hallowed place in my collection.  Remember when you read about cheats like A-Rod and Ryan Braun, that there are guys like Eddie Gamboa out there too, guys who care about more than just themselves.”

Thank you for the sterling example, Mr. Hanson! Sure, you can count the misses. Except, when you connect like Rich does, who cares about the occasional out?

A Final Tribute To Virgil “Fire” Trucks


Autograph collecting needs more heroes like Virgil Trucks.

The late pitcher remained grateful to the end. He appreciated fans and hobbyists as much as we adored him.

I wanted to share the thank-you note sent in response…

to MY thank-you note!

I had sent “Fire” a postcard picturing Ty Cobb’s glove. On the back, I thanked him for his years of signing autographs, knowing that he had to stop signing once a broken hip required hospitalization.

Here was his surprising unsolicited reply:

“Hi, Tom,

Thanks for your wonderful card. Also for all the nice things you do for Caroline and I. We both appreciate your help and thoughts.

I’m sorry about my short note and writing. I’m writing this in rehab and have several weeks to go. Yes, Caroline is one sweet person and I’m glad she is my precious daughter.

Enclosed is a card for you if you care for it.

Again, Tom, thanks for all you do, and my best to you forever.

Virgil Trucks

P.S. I met the famous Ty Cobb. Very nice person.”

My best to you, forever, too, Virgil Trucks!

Coming Thursday: Greatest minor league response ever?

Bob Boone & More! Catching Up With Catchers

Check out Nick Diunte’s
success, to see how
the back-up backstop’s
autograph still shines!

I’ve heard from all kinds of autograph collectors, including the position hobbyists. So, here’s some updates about four names linked by job, a quartet of guys making news the hobby right now…

Applause and thanks start with collector Dan Brunetti. After two Return to Sender (RTS) rejections from Bob Boone, in care of the Nationals and later his home address, Boonie signed. I’m thinking Dan scored c/o the team.

Time is dwindling on attempts to get members of the 1950s Yankees dynasty teams. Nick Diunte, one of my favorite baseball writers, had to wait more than a year to get backup catcher Charlie Silvera, now 88. Read how Nick kindness moved the Yankee. Meanwhile, let me cast my vote for an always-worthwhile read at Nick’s “Baseball Hapenings” website.

Also, I wanted to share Ron Martin’s great summary of the career of just-deceased catcher Matt Batts, who did sign for me once. Thanks to Ron, an inspiring Reds fan and collector, noted:

“I guess that you may have heard that the former Red Matt Batts passed away this week.  He was 91 years old.  He was better known for his baseball exploits as a member of the Red Sox and Tigers’ organization but he finished his career in 1955 and 1956 with the Reds.  He was  one of Satchel Paige’s first catchers and also caught the second of Virgil Trucks’ two no-hitters.  He was also the catcher when Jack Harshman set the all time White Sox record of striking out 16 batters on July 25, 1954 against Ted Williams and the Boston Red Sox.”

Lastly, I wanted to weigh in on what seemed like an upbeat story about a retiree deciding to charge for TTM autographs. Catcher Mike Fitzgerald (1983-92) is wanting $5 for signing each baseball card, $10 for balls and other larger items. The note from baseball address king Harvey Meiselman said that the money would be used to pay off a son’s student loans.

Well, upon closer inspection at www.sportscollectors.net shows that the one-time Met and Expo hadn’t returned any requests since 2011. Collectors who’ve waited more than two years for a reply have gotten a letter from the son, indicating that, upon payment, he’ll see that his father signs the cards promptly.

In a way, it’s like a ransom note. Will peeved collectors who’ve written off Fitzgerald as a lost cause bite? Years ago, the ex-catcher sent out autographed Christian testimony cards as bonuses. Now, it’s easy to wonder if even his son and money will keep him motivated to sign.

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