Giving Photos to Players? Collector Rich Hanson Devises A Winning Game Plan

If it’s baseball-related, Chris Creamer
would be the first to spot the “symbolism.”
Check out his awesome collection

Why, or why not?

Which group of autograph collectors has more fun?
You mean, which collectors get more?
Rich Hanson is a throwback hobbyist. I wrote about him back in 2010, and have counted on him for classic hobby insights since.

I asked him about one practice that might shock some collectors. He takes pictures of minor leaguers who agree to pose. Then, he sends two copies and a SASE, in hopes that he’ll get one photo back autographed.

He doesn’t sell the photos to players or trade? Nope. I asked if he’s still sticking to his hobby plan for 2014. I’m grateful for the following reply:

“I’ll bet I’ve taken a few thousand pictures over the years.  I don’t have a fancy camera.  It’s mostly just close-ups (head shots).  I can’t carry a big camera and the cards that I want to get signed as well, so I’m content with my pocket camera.  Rarely do the players turn down my offer of an extra picture for themselves.  A lot of these kids are a long way from home and it’s nice to have something to enclose in a letter to mom and Dad.

“Mike Trout, Byron Buxton, Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, even A-Rod I’ve gotten pics of.  I used to be the only one doing it.  Now there are two to four people doing it at every ballpark that I go to, and yeah, the dealers and EBayers have infiltrated this end of the hobby as well.  Just look at how many pictures you’ll find for sale on the site, both signed and unsigned.

“I donated a stack of about 60 [Burlington] Bees pictures to the Bees winter auction/fundraiser this year.  About half of them were signed.  I figured they’d bring in a decent price and was surprised when I didn’t see them on the auction table.  The Bees GM told me when I asked that they wanted to keep them for the team archives.  I felt good about it, that they appreciated them that much.

“It’s been fun to be able to give pics like an extra signed Miguel Cabrera to a friend.  At one time I made copies of the pictures that I’d take for two other autograph friends in Burlington, but one has since passed on and one has pretty much lost interest in the hobby.

“I’ve gotten some real appreciative notes back over the years when I mail the pictures to players.  I always save the notes too.  Over 24 years I’ve amassed a history of the Midwest League in signed cards, pictures and laminated magazine and newspaper photos.  It’s been a lot of fun.  That’s what the hobby should be.  FUN.  Not a money-making enterprise.”

Thanks, Rich. It’s nice to see a baseball fan who thinks of what he’s giving, not just what he’s getting. 

Ned Garver’s Son Talks Autographs

A good pitcher and great storyteller.
Get this book!
Typical childhood? Imagine watching your dad mobbed by pen-wielding strangers. Consider seeing your dad shuffling more letters and envelopes than 10 secretaries.
Such was life for young Don Garver and his much-adored pitching dad Ned. I’m grateful for Don, who was willing to give the hobby a look back at life with a high-profile parent.
Q: How old were you when your Dad played?  
A: I was born in 1944 so I was on the scene for most of his playing days.  I remember very little about his time at St. Louis.  I was 8 years old when he was traded to Detroit and I have a lot of memories of the years in Detroit.  The players and families did a lot of things together on off days during the season and during spring training.  Lots of days at the beach and a lot of good eating.  His years with Kansas City were my favorites.  I was old enough to be batboy each year during spring training.  What an experience!  I never got out to Los Angeles.

Q: It’s obvious that your Dad carefully reads all his letters from fans and collectors. What was his method for handling the mail so well over the years? (After all, he had coaching in baseball, not in being his own secretary! And, on, I saw that collectors who recorded their attempts tracked Ned Garver at a perfect 415-for-415 in replies!).    

A: He read and answered all of his fan mail just as he does today.  He looked at fan mail as his duty to the fans.  He never asked for help and nobody read his fan mail but him. I never heard him complain about having to deal with fan mail.

Q: You knew him as a dad. How did it feel seeing fans clamor for an autograph from Ned, from people who saw him in a very different way?  

A: When eating out it was normal to have our table visited by autograph seekers.  We didn’t think anything of it. And I never saw him turn them away.  After the games it was normal to be approached by a large group of autograph seekers as we stepped out of the clubhouse door.  I was always with him in the clubhouse after the games.  I had a uniform in Kansas City and spent most games watching from the bullpen.  When we walked out of the clubhouse I would walk over to the exit gate where my Mother would be waiting.  She never missed a ballgame unless one of us was sick.  There were a few players that walked right through the crowd and never signed anything, but most of them were like Dad.  They signed until they were all gone.  I knew that was the way it was going to be every night.  And I was smart enough not to complain about it.

Q: Your dad’s letter was very humble, replying about his continuing devotion to signing autographs being “It’s always been my policy.” I pointed out that the majority of people writing him today may not have been born when he pitched. Why do you think he’s still so devoted to pleasing fans and collectors, when others from his era might hang up their pens and say ‘I’ve done enough.’?

A:  I believe he will continue to try to please fans and collectors as long as the majority of them are respectful and sincere in their request for autographs.  There are quite a few people who try to take advantage of him by asking for things that are just unreasonable.  Some examples:  Sign a dozen baseballs with stats – no postage, no tip, no thank-you, no please.  Some people want him to write a few pages telling his most memorable events in the big leagues.  That is why he wrote the books.  To tell them about his baseball life.

Players of today don’t sign autographs.  Maybe they don’t get paid enough!  So, fans of today can’t get anything from the players of today but they still like to collect autographs, baseball cards, signed baseballs, etc.  In an attempt to get some autographs they started contacting players of my Dad’s era and found that a lot of them not only gave them what they wanted but provided them with addresses of other old-time players that were glad to help them out.  

Q: Based on the recent letters you’ve seen your dad receive for autograph requests, would you have any tips for writing former players in their 80s (besides sending the SASE)?  

A: Be respectful, always make the return mail process as easy as possible.  Everything is worth more if it is signed.  So if they sign something for you send them a few bucks to show your appreciation.  Don’t overdo it on the signing.  Asking them to sign 5 baseball cards is enough.  Use your head!  Be kind!

You want to thank Don and Ned for their devotion to the hobby? Order Ned’s new book (autographed, of course) for only $25 postpaid from:

Don Garver (Ned’s son)
113 Avalon Drive
Bryan, Ohio 43506

Pat Neshek Spreads The Autograph Joy

Even before the season started, Pat Neshek is making a difference for the St. Louis Cardinals.

I’d think that guys scrapping to make the 25-man roster would be so wrapped up in their own challenges they wouldn’t make a peep in Florida.
Not Pat Neshek. He’s encouraging other Cardinals to answer fan mail.
Imagine. A current major leaguer as a fellow collector, telling teammates that not every adult who sends fan mail is an evil dealer plotting to sell autographs for millions on the black market?
I loved seeing a picture on his Facebook page. Pat’s wife was surprised to see the pitcher in uniform without his trademark high socks for the first time in 10 years. 
They both appreciate every moment. Every fan and collector.
Who couldn’t cheer for someone like that?

Signing Updates For Joe Garagiola, Ned Garver

Thanks to Daniel Solzman for an important update:

“In my request that was finally returned signed in today‚Äôs mail, the following note was enclosed with my check returned:
Dec. 28, 2013
‘Mr. Garagiola is very sorry to be returning your request.  Due to his recent stay in the hospital he will be discontinuing his autographing program for St. Peter Indian Mission Schools.  Thank you for your interest.'”
This seems to be a polite way of saying that Joe may not be well enough, after all, to keep signing autographs. I wouldn’t be surprised if his family goes the “Return to Sender” route for future mail.
Ned Garver, meanwhile, is still doing his best to satisfy TTM requests. His son says that Ned will add a “To ____” personalization for any purchased books on request. However, the 88-year-old Ned isn’t up to detailed inscriptions.
And this is not the place to ask. Why? Ned’s included it all in the masterful retelling of 1951 and the rest of his surprising career.
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