When he died on Thanksgiving at age 94, collectors lost a friend. The former Red Sox pitcher signed 227 out of 228 recorded requests, says www.sportscollectors.net. I’m astounded at how many hobbyists received notes, photos or other bonuses with their requests.
Thanks to a tip from talented author and historian Nick Diunte, I’ve discovered some unsung heroes. Guys who are still enjoying the baseball stories behind the headlines.
One such gem is Paul Nichols. His baseball artwork defies my anemic adjectives. See for yourself at his website. Go on, I’ll wait.
Welcome back. I asked Paul a few questions about his artful adventures. Here’s his reply:
Q. You mentioned on your website about being able to share a print of your J.J. Hardy creation, and how he liked it. Other examples of baseball feedback you’ve received from individual players, past or present — via Twitter, email, phone, or in-person?
A: Bryce Harper saw a caricature I was working on and tweeted that it was the coolest thing he’d ever seen.
Jake Arrieta saw my painted baseball of his no-hitters and retweeted it with thumbs up & fire emoji’s (I guess that’s what the young people relate to).
I met Drew Storen and showed him a baseball I’d painted of him. He pulled his phone out and showed me a Batman painting he’d done – he’s a good artist, but definitely keeps it pretty low-key.
The ‘Marlins Man‘ is a big fan. I’ve done a total of 17 baseballs for him, including 14 of last year’s KC Royals champs.
Q: Any places collectors and fans would see your baseball work (such as team commissions, baseball card companies, etc.)?
A: Not yet; haven’t been able to crack through on an official level. Strictly private commission work up to now.
Q: Tell us about one of your favorite creations to date.
A: One of my favorites is this Stan Musial baseball. His son-in-law contacted me after seeing the first one I’d done, and asked me to do one that he gave to his wife (Stan’s daughter) as a gift. It’s on display on their fireplace mantle – I’m pretty proud of that!
How can a fan get through a baseball-less winter? Talents like Paul’s will keep hot stove leaguers warm until 2017.
Alex Rodriguez apologized to fans. And the world, it seemed!
Seeing him on FOX doing World Series commentary, I thought the world had forgotten his letter, as well as all baseball letters.
My Google hunt seemed to reinforce that belief.
Here’s a couple of hints for any collector/fan/researcher wanting to find news update on baseball letters:
Try searching under “baseball correspondence.” You’ll get college letters of acceptance news, but you may find examples of major league history.
Try searching “baseball letter auction.” Occasionally, correspondence, even hand-written, will appear for sale. Although you may not afford the actual piece, remember that looking is free.
Cut through the false leads and dead ends. Narrow your search to “images.” Seeing is believing.
Until you start receiving your own replies, there are inspirational reminders hidden throughout the Internet. It’s possible to get first-person insights from baseball history makers. If others have, you can, too!
There’s one more name missing from that roster of departed Cub characters.
I’ll never forget Bob Will, the outfielder whose 1960 starting job was won by future Hall of Famer Billy Williams. Nonetheless, Will never stopped loving the Cubs.
I’m flattered he read this blog before his death from cancer in 2011. I enjoyed a couple of conversations with Bob. Near his final days, I was able to convince several former Cubs to call their teammate for one last stroll down memory lane. Even announcer Pat Hughes was among those who shared a telephone chat with him.
Bob never stopped loving the Cubs. He would have loved the 2016 World Series outcome, too.
That’s one fascinating possibility lurking within the correspondence collection kept by the National Baseball Hall of Fame research library. The 25-page list produces many surprises, none of which may be on public display.
Everyone knows that Hall of Famer Don Sutton has been a reluctant by-mail signer for years. Well, the HOF owns a hand-written letter from the pitcher, offering advice to a young player in 1966. An article from the period documents the exchange.
Players like Jackie Robinson saved letters of support from fans. Browsing the list, I found one fan wrote Robinson six times from 1952-55.
Sure, the archive includes lots of business letters: owners, commissioners, journalists.
However, none of those official missives would match a single hand-written bit of correspondence between players and fans.