Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale led by example, says Dodgers teammate Claude Osteen

In 2010, long-time Dodgers pitcher Claude Osteen sent me a stunning response to my letter. In honor of the team’s 2020 World Series title, I wanted to share Osteen’s insights one more time.

Dodgers pitcher Claude Osteen
(Photo courtesy Mark Langill, Dodgers team historian)

Pitcher Claude Osteen overwhelmed me with his reply. His was a letter filled with the insights of a winner.

I related to him the amazing conversation I overheard before a 1980s AAA game in Tacoma. Coach Osteen chatted with young pitchers in the bullpen, telling how getting your elbow “scooped” (bone chips removed) was great.

I realized his passion for pitching. The minor leaguers hung on his every word. He could relate to their journey to the bigs. They knew was a devoted member of the Dodgers family, focused on the organization’s future.

Where did that passion and devotion come from? Did he find role models in Los Angeles? Osteen wrote:

“I learned from Koufax and Drysdale what it meant to be a Dodger and how the name was synonymous with pitching. I was embarrassed not to pitch well.”

Claude Osteen with Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale
Claude Osteen (center) clowns around with fellow pitchers Sandy Koufax (with cap) and Don Drysdale. Behind Osteen, it seems, hangs a pair of boxer shorts with either polka dots or tiny hearts.

Osteen’s name will always be synonymous with autograph collectors. My favorite resource,, reported that the 81-year-old has responded to more than 800 autograph requests. The collector success rate, says the website, is 97 percent!




Pitcher Bobby Shantz, age 95, is sidelined temporarily as an autograph signer

Recently,  I enjoyed a chat with Bob’s wife Shirley Shantz.

1955 Bowman card of the Shantz brothers
Younger brother Bill, a catcher, got his own 1955 Bowman card. That card front read “W. Shantz,” referring to his full name of Wilmer.

The left-handed pitcher/husband fell in October, breaking his left elbow and hip.

Mrs. Shantz said the 1952 MVP is looking forward to returning home, but didn’t know when that date might be.

“His mail has been piling up since his injury,” she said. “It may take three weeks to a month until he can catch up and sign all that.” Mrs. Shantz mentioned that he keeps ahead of his mail, “…not wanting to let it sit around.”

I consulted, to see some Bobby Shantz autograph stats. More than 1,700 collectors had recorded TTM successes. The number of special requests he’s agreed to, such as including special inscriptions with his autograph, astounded me.

Of course, the most telling number was the average time of reply. For years, it seems that the norm for getting a Bobby Shantz reply is one week. At his age!

I asked which elbow was broken. She thought his left elbow and hip were the ones injured.

Then, his autograph-signing arm will need longer to mend?

“He’s always signed with his right hand,” Mrs. Shantz said.

Not sending autograph requests now should go without saying. However, I wanted to know if we could send get-well cards or even cards of thanks for the past autograph replies he’s sent to us.

“I’d rather that everyone hold off,” she said. “He has a mountain of mail to go through as it is. I don’t want him to have more waiting.”

I blogged about Shantz for the first time in 2010. I await good news on his recovery, which will be shared in this blog. He’s an autograph icon, the likes of which the hobby may not see again.