The autograph challenge Reggie Jackson issues

Reggie greets his public in 2008. By Rubenstein (Reggie Jackson) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Reggie greets his public in 2008. By Rubenstein (Reggie Jackson) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Guilt by association?

Some collectors have despaired after the headlines of Reggie Jackson confronting a supposed autograph hound/possible dealer.

The odds are stacking against real fans, honest collectors and sincere researchers.

Our only hope?

Stand out.

Don’t look or sound like them, whether it’s in-person or in the letter you send.

There may be more at stake than your own success.

Wax Pack Book author goes down swinging versus Carlton Fisk

Brad gave his all in seeking a moment with Fisk for his book, even presenting the Hall of Famer with HIS autograph!

No called third strike. Brad Balukjian went down swinging.

However, was it really strike three?

The author gave a Hall of Fame effort trying to get a conversation from Carlton Fisk. That’s an effort any collector or letter-writing researcher can find inspiration from.

Mr. Fisk, give Mr. Wax Pack a chance!

This adventure keeps getting epic-er and epic-er.

Team USA: Baseball autographs you should be seeking

So cool that Team USA tuned up for this international competition at Cooperstown!
So cool that Team USA tuned up for the world-famous Pan Am Games via this international competition at Cooperstown!

Change is coming.

Baseball won’t remain an all-male sport forever.

Change is happening fast. America’s women’s baseball team is stunning world competition in the Pan Am Games. One of the mainstays on the team, Tamara Holmes, played previously for the Colorado Silver Bullets, managed by Phil and Joe Niekro.

Another (Sarah, the daughter of former pitcher John Hudek) has earned an NCAA baseball scholarship. Yes, MEN’S baseball.

I predict women’s baseball will become an Olympic sport. There will be baseball cards to get autographed. These are not mere players. They are pioneers.

Don’t be surprised when you learn of an American women’s professional baseball league, either.

It happened before

Talking autographs, detective work with baseball author Brad Wax Pack Book Balukjian

1986ToppsPackImagine the hurler on the mound unafraid of telling you what pitch is coming.

That’s Brad Balukjian. As he criss-crosses America seeking 13 men who appeared in his 1986 Topps wax pack, the author still made time to share his game plan.

I mentioned Brad’s epic project in an earlier blog post. Since then, I see many others are seeking him out on Twitter, Instagram and his website

Brad used online databases, collector sites and the Harvey Meiselman Baseball Address List to locate his 13 wax pack acquaintances. His two-page letter detailed the whole project, offering a link to the website that noted his many articles (including the sports features for the Los Angeles Times). 

One former player didn’t respond. Brad got crafty, and grabbed some old media guides from the 1980s. This man’s wife was noted as a teacher. One e-mail to the woman brought a response from her ball-playing husband.

Brad’s TTM pursuits gave him insights about collecting. “The men I’ve met honor by-mail autograph requests,” he surmised. “Some will save up letters for a couple of months, then answer everyone on a Saturday.” 

On an early Tweet, Brad photographed some envelopes from Jaime Cocanower. One had “Donation Enclosed” inscribed, with $2 in cash inside.

“He just laughed,” Brad said. “I don’t think he signed because of that.”

After several meetings with retirees, Brad added, “They seem suspcious when a letter has 5 or 6 cards. They think you’re going to sell the autographs.” For a persuasive letter, Brad advised keeping it simple, no more than a page. “Don’t be too cute. Be yourself.”

Brad said he discovered a “bit of a disconnect” in his first meetings. “How these men view their careers isn’t as romantic as we might think,” he said. “They are not that guy any more.” Brad’s meetings are detailing some of the struggles and life changes each man faced after retirement.

“In some ways,” Brad added, “I don’t even consider this a baseball book.”

I found Brad by phone in Naples, Florida. He was fresh from a meeting with Don Carman, his childhood hero. The pair played catch before Brad hit the road again.

“When I was nine years old, I went to the pharmacy and bought Don a birthday card,” Brad remembered. “I never got a response, but I didn’t know about a self-addressed, stamped envelope back then.” 

The pair joked about Carman’s admission that he found a shoebox of fan mail some 20 years later. “I wanted him to find a shoebox with my birthday card, too.” Brad said.

Carman confided to Brad that he found a new appreciation for baseball cards after retiring. “He said he could never master a change-up in his career,” Brad said. “After retiring and coaching, Don said he learned the grip by studying baseball card photos.”

Don’t fear Brad going silent when his road trip ends. To keep his readers-to-be ready for the book’s 2017 release, he says he’s considering podcasts. Conversations with other former players.

Yes, others depicted in the 1986 Topps set.

Once the book is out, I hope Topps will reward Brad with his own card. He’ll be one autograph worth waiting for.


Gerald Carpenter knows the ‘art’ of TTM baseball autographs

CarpenterGeraldGiving, or getting?

I write about using maximum effort when contacting former players. Gerald Carpenter is a master collector, making everyone he writes to feel like a star.

How? By creating a gift for each player. A fun caricature. He’s sharing all that he creates on a art gallery blog, including all the autographs he’s receiving.

I asked Gerald to reveal more of his hobby game plan. He kindly replied:

“I use Crayola colored pencils, and heavy drawing/ watercolor paper. I used to use paper that was 12″x18″ but I switched to a smaller 8 1/2″ x 11” because it is less than a third of the price for paper, envelopes, and postage, and takes less time and pencils.

I used to send just one drawing in the mail, but in the last year or so I have always been sending two: one for them to keep and one to hopefully sign and return. I think I’ll keep with the practice of always sending two.
I think I have a fairly good success rate, especially with former baseball players, so there can’t be too many keeping them for themselves.

(Images courtesy of Gerald Carpenter)
(Images courtesy of Gerald Carpenter)

I like the personal written responses I get from the players, almost as much as getting the autographed drawing returned. It’s like a nice little bonus.”

Gerald shared some of the notes. Hall of Famer Goose Gossage wrote back that he got a kick out of the drawing. “Job well done!” None other than John Rocker added, “I never looked so good!” Phil Niekro praised Gerald’s artwork, also. 

Bravely, Gerald noted that Mrs. Bob Bailey had a tip for the artist. She felt her husband had “ice blue” eyes. 

“Eye color is really tough to see on a baseball card or old photo, but it shows up prominently in my drawings,” Gerald noted. “I appreciate any criticism, and my style has gradually changed over the years to accommodate repeat criticism. I also had one player, and only one, respond that he wasn’t signing the drawing because it didn’t look like him.”

(Of course, former players don’t have the smallest egos in the world. I’m guessing there may be more than one out there ready to object to a light-hearted, fanciful perspective.)

In my request letters to the players,” Gerald explained, “I express that I am a fan of baseball and the many interesting stars and personalities involved with the game. I ask him to please keep a drawing for himself, and to please sign and return the other. I include a self-addressed stamped envelope. I think it’s implied that I made the drawings myself. But maybe I should stress that more.

I get contacted from time to time from people wanting custom drawings. I will happily do any and all drawings people want me to do, whether it’s a favorite player or a family member. There’s a gentleman in Oklahoma who has me draw a lot of pro wrestlers, and he takes those to conventions to get signed. A nice lady in California has used my drawings in her book, Garlic Fries and Baseball, and website
There’s contact information on my website.”

Anyone wanting more information, or wanting to offer the artist some well-deserved applause, write to

Meanwhile, think of what makes your letter stand out. We’re not all artists. However, we can paint pictures with words.