Spring training: the perfect question for any retiree

Posted February 20th, 2017 by Tom Owens and filed in Atlanta Braves

Freddie Freeman was a generous autograph signer in 2016’s spring training. Every spring training creates great memories and “what if?” possibilities for players who may never see a day in the bigs. Seek the untold stories! (Photo credit: Arturo Paravila III/Wikimedia Commons)

“He didn’t have much of a career. What can I write to him about?”

These types of questions come yearly from through the mail collectors, or from fledgling journalists and historians wanting to write some kind of a profile of a little-known “cup of coffee” player.

Always, I give the same two-word answer: SPRING TRAINING!

In Florida or Arizona, in every pre-season, countless players yearn for a shot at the majors. Some mount big debuts, only to find a career saddled in the minors. Nevertheless, others cultivate friendships with well-known stars.

Most of all, spring training is the first time a player’s dream seems real.

What does the player remember from his first spring training? WHO does he remember?

Those stories never show up in stats. However, those stories can give baseball history a whole new meaning.

Wrigley Field frowns on autograph collectors

Posted April 20th, 2015 by Tom Owens and filed in Atlanta Braves, Ron Santo, Wrigley Field
The new sign should read: "Don't Go Where Cubs Fans Have Gone Before." Michael Barera [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0), CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

The new sign should read: “Don’t Go Where Cubs Fans Have Gone Before.” Michael Barera [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0), CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Everything is connected.

Wrigley Field’s remodel includes an anti-autograph shield keeping players segregated from signature-seeking fans outside the ballpark.

Re-read the Ron Santo biography A Perfect 10. His sons discussed how he’d sign everywhere, stopping the car along the route home.

The Atlanta Braves spring training address confounds collectors. Mail gets rejected, RTS, without rhyme nor reason.

Teams are redefining us. Not in a good way. Speak up for yourself, and your hobby, every chance you get. 



How Does A Rookie Catcher Handle Knuckleballers Phil Niekro & Hoyt Wilhelm? Very Carefully, Says Bob Didier!

Didier: “He was out.”

As a Little Leaguer, I couldn’t have caught a knuckleball with a butterfly net.

That’s why I marvel at Bob Didier. He was named to the Topps All-Rookie team in 1969. That year, the Braves catcher broke in catcher two future Hall of Famers, knuckleballers Phil Niekro and Hoyt Wilhelm.

I wrote, asking Didier to describe those fluttering deliveries. He responded with a gem of a letter:

“Niekro was the starter and he threw his knuckelballs harder and it broker sharper. Wilhelm threw his knuckleball softer but would have 2 or 3 different breaks at different times.

I waited until the ball stopped roll and I picked them up.”

Didier’s 1973 Topps card is classic. The action shot is supreme. The 1972 Mets roster says #21 was Cleon Jones. Any details about the card?

“He was out.”

I asked about Didier’s father, super scout Mel Didier.

“He signed Ralph Garr, Cecil Upshaw, George Stone, Andre Dawson and Gary Carter, among others.

He taught me to respect the game.

My dad has (written) a book about his life in baseball, Podnuh, Let Me Tell You A Story — A Baseball Life.”

Didier shared a few tales with a Cape Cod League reporter in 2008. Read (and listen) here!