Gates Brown Gone At Age 74

Our friends at
had a great specimen of
Brown’s autograph.
Check out their
Brown page!

Condolences to all Tigers fans.

William “Gates” Brown, one of the greatest pinch-hitters of his generation, has died.

Detroit fans often saw Brown at games. He signed at team functions, long after his retirement.

In person, he was a prince.

However, listed just 43 successes in 80 tries over the last decade for TTM attempts. No 2013 successes were recorded.

What lessons might remain from Brown’s duality?

As recently as five years ago, Brown was including extra photos with replies. My brother mentioned that his bonus looked like a candid someone snapped. Others said that Brown wrote the photo was from his own collection, even laminating each.

Health problems or even one greedy form letter could have slowed his TTM signing generosity.

Anyone who met Brown got more than an autograph. They got an experience. A handshake, a picture posed for, a story shared — the full effort.

Give that same effort when you write any retiree. I don’t think you have to send a page of flattering lies, or a $5 bribe for a better chance at a response.

Just add two WHYs.

1. Why do they matter?
2. Why are you the most deserving writer in the pile of envelopes?

If Mr. Brown can slide into second with a mustard-drenched hot dog in his pocket, you can write a letter that counts.

Billy Crystal’s New Book Is A Baseball Love Letter

Billy Crystal can’t fool me.

His new Still Foolin’ ‘Em: Where I’ve Been, Where I’m going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys? book purports to be about turning 65. Sure, he covers the bases on aging issues.

However, I think he might have wanted to call the book Baseball and Other Stuff. His words sparkle when discussing his favorite sport.

He writes adoringly but honestly. Crystal encountered Mickey Mantle at his best…and alcoholic worst.

Joe DiMaggio dissed Crystal’s wife when she tried to get a vintage jersey signed by the crankiest Yank. Joe D brushed her aside, saying that he had an exclusive signing deal with a card company. (We’ve heard that one before, right?)

At least, the Hall of Famer never punched YOU in the stomach. Crystal relives both moments in fan-friendly fashion.

I love the chapters about the movie *61, and Crystal’s one-day career as a New York Yankee. Somehow, he fudges on only one detail about his single at-bat in a spring training game against the Pirates.

“My wife made fun baseball cards of me as a present…” he recaps, telling of the gifts he left for each teammate.

These were no homemade knock-offs. Topps produced the 1952-style cards of Billy. A year later, he’d autograph a few for inserts, found in just one of an estimated 60,000 packs. (Did his Yankee brothers get the facsimile autograph version?)

Of course, there’s choice material about Crystal’s acting, too. He ties in Hollywood lore with his baseball passion. How could he have agreed to wear a Mets cap instead of a beloved Yankees topper in City Slickers? There was a $40,000 licensing issue! Again, in baseball terms, Crystal does both play-by-play and color commentary in his career recounting.

G-rated readers, take note: Crystal seems to launch at least one F-bomb per chapter. Aside from the frequent off-color color, readers can soak up chapters of gleeful gratitude from this senior funnyman.

The book can be summed up in Crystal’s recounting of a phone call from Ted Williams. Teddy Ballgame praised Crystal’s Oscar hosting in baseball terms.

“Ted, is everything hitting to you?”

“You bet,” he said. “It’s a great metaphor, isn’t it?”

Crystal’s book is a great metaphor for fans, collectors and viewers. He enjoys every day and every game. I enjoyed every word.

Why Won’t Teams Call Up Announcers In September?

Randy Wehofer,
underrated voice
of the AAA Iowa Cubs.
Pat and Keith,
share the mike!

There’s nothing worse than a good team announcer gone bad.

I’m not advocating for firing/replacing noted baseball voices.

I’m just saying that it gets difficult watching smart men delude themselves (and us) that also-ran teams are interesting in the final weeks of the season.

Watching Friday’s televised game of the Tigers mauling the White Sox got painful. Ken Harrelson and Steve Stone tried to remain disappointed parents. They had nothing new to say about a lackluster roster. Hopeful but honest? These guys needed some mikeside inspiration.

Here’s the simple fix, one we could help with.

Redirect your letter-writing talents for a moment. Switch from autograph-seeking mode to advocacy. Broadcasters ask for e-mail comments during the game. Here’s one to share…

I’ve written about AAA broadcasters Jason Benetti and Randy Wehofer before. The last week of the season, get them in a major league booth. Instead of tired voices rehashing the could-have-been nature of the season, talk about the hopes awaiting the Nationals or Cubs in the minors for 2014.

Give them an inning!

Of course, a team battling for a pennant the last week of the season is going to have lots to discuss. Viewers and listeners will be content with the still-enthused broadcasters telling the still-suspenseful tale of a contending club.

That’s not the majority of MLB teams, however. Get these deserving minor league announcers a “cup of coffee” now. The exposure could be career-changing.

Don’t “Dupe” Players With Duplicates

The new fall TV season isn’t in full swing yet. Therefore, if this seems like a rerun to some, I’m sorry.

I feel the need to recap an important message, however.

I still see notations on hobby forums, to the tune of: “Signed 9 of 9. Said he could keep extras…”

There’s an urge to hope that a vague offer will be missed in the letter. Then, the willing signer will autograph everything in sight. That gives the iffy giver trading stock.

That’s not fair, in my eyes.

Mark any extras with a post-it note. “Extra, for you.”

Then, add a SPECIFIC explanation. “Even if you don’t collect cards for your friends and family, here’s some extras marked. Please, keep them and share them with other fans who haven’t been as lucky.”

Or, as Christmas nears, ask the player to reward someone with the extras.

Retirees who go to the copy shop and make homemade cards for fan mail responses melt my heart. Help them help others.

A New Chase Utley Form Letter?

This 2001 Bowman
facsimile autograph
may have been a
foreshadowing that
Utley would never
embrace signing.

Chase Utley made the Huffington Post.

Without being charged with a crime or indulging in a scandal?

The second baseman’s interaction with It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia evokes special irony for collectors. Since 2006, Utley fan mail in care of the Phillies brings a form letter. Amazingly, the stock reply to fans reflects his TV version! He tells of how he’s too busy playing baseball to sign an autograph.

Although a postcard-sized photo gets included, collectors have sighed for years that the “autograph” is a likely preprint.

I guess the hobby can take small comfort in Utley having similar reactions to real-life collectors and fictional TV characters.