Mets, Orioles General Manager Frank Cashen Dies At Age 88

This “Topps Archive”
blog shared this image
and a great headline
for the obit — one
that would have made
the well-read GM smile.
Check out the blog!

Frank Cashen earned five World Series rings as an executive. His death at age 88 raises a question for me as a hobbyist.

The Orioles and Mets are well-collected teams. I was stunned to check the always-amazing www.sportscollectors.net. The good news? Cashen was a 100 percent responder, signing for everyone who wrote.
However, only 16 collectors made attempts.
In fact,the general manager surprised a few collectors who wrote, sharing extras of the rare 1992 Topps card made of himself for a special ceremony. Miss the one-day event, and you wouldn’t have gotten the card.
The Hall of Fame will be selecting more owners and GMs in the future. Often, the men don’t get honors until they’re deceased.
The future is now.

Pitcher Herm Starrette’s Signing Fee Matters

Some think of Herm Starrette as a 1960s Orioles pitcher. Others recall him as the pitching coach for the 1980 World Champion Philadelphia Phillies.

I think of him as a fighter.
Starrette, now 75, recounted his prostate cancer battle to me in a 2010 letter
Now, he’s asking for a donation per autograph: $5 minimum for cards and $10 to sign a baseball.
Yes, the money will help offset his mounting medical bills.
According to address list specialist Harvey Meiselman, Starrette has a 97 percent response rate. This is NOT a case of a never-signing-before name saying he’d reconsider autographs if money was added.
If you’ve gotten Starrette to sign before, drop him a note of encouragement. And, while he hasn’t issued a plea for extras, I know that he’s passed out autographed cards to medical staff during his many doctor visits.
Starrette has been giving for years. He seems entitled to ask for support versus his biggest foe yet. Let’s keep him in the game.

HOFer Earl Weaver’s Unanswered Mail

He looked too dignified
to be a professional
wrestling manager…
but he would’ve been
GREAT!

I’m glad I wrote to Earl Weaver when I had a chance.

I never asked for an autograph. I had something to give him.

The last game I ever saw at Minnesota’s Metropolitan Stadium was an Orioles-Twins affair. I don’t have the date or the final score right now.

No stat could compare to the image. I sat on the 3rd base side. I loved going to a game before the game. I loved watching players be boys. That’s when they have the most fun.

Well, manager Weaver was walking across the field, chatting up an attentive Lee May. The skipper threw back his head and laughed. May smiled and nodded, hanging on every word.

“Weaver…you son of a bitch!”

Ever hear all the wind sucked out of a place with one collective gasp? It wasn’t me shouting. Some rabid Twins fan wanted to be heard.

Weaver heard. He scanned the stands. May spread his huge arms, ready for battle. He took one purposeful stride toward my section.

I never spotted the screamer. But I swear I can hear the SQUEAK followed by the sound of running.

“The Duke of Earl” grabbed May’s elbow. He looked at his manager, who burst out laughing. They continued to the dugout, unphased by the muttering buzz from the stands.

Did the O’s like Weaver? I sent him proof. I saw one who would have committed a crime for him!

Was Steve Dalkowski the Inspiration for Pitcher Nuke LaLoosh in Bull Durham Movie?

John-William gave Steve the Hollywood treatment
with these custom cards!

Is Steve Dalkowski Hollywood famous? Did he inspire the young pitcher Nuke, portrayed so unforgettably by Tim Robbins, in the movie Bull Durham?
Collector and historian John-William Greenbaum pondered the question, saying:

“It’s like a lot of things regarding Steve: it’s partially true. The thing is, most of the stories you hear about Steve have some basis in reality, but were either “almost true”, like when he clipped the top of a batter’s ear in his third professional baseball game (although the real concern was not the batter’s ear…he wasn’t even moving and Steve thought he killed him for a few minutes…it did end his career and gave him post-concussion syndrome), or “almost false”. There’s one part where they reference Nuke striking out 262 batters and walking 262 batters…that is something Steve did in 1960 with the Stockton Ports in 170 IP.
But the more Orioles guys I spoke with, since I was under the impression it was all Steve, I found out that Nuke’s off-the-field antics seem to be much closer to a pitcher by the name of Greg Arnold, who threw quite hard and had no idea where the ball was going. Think Ryne Duren wild instead of Steve Dalkowski wild, though. Ron Shelton, who wrote Bull Durham, has sometimes said it was Steve Dalkowski, sometimes he’s said the character was completely fictional, and other times he’s said part Steve Dalkowski, part fiction. Sometimes you get the feeling that he changes his mind. I’m not alone in that sentiment and some ballplayers noted it. Obviously, I can’t get into his head and figure out how much is Steve, how much is Greg Arnold, etc., but I corresponded with one of the very few men to have played with Steve, Ron Shelton (himself a former pro ballplayer), and Greg Arnold, and that was the late George Farson, who by the way caught Steve’s last game in the Orioles organization.

Mr. Farson was friendly with Mr. Shelton at the very least, and what he did was write me with a bunch of facts about Steve, a bunch of facts about Greg, a bunch of facts about the fictional Nuke LaLoosh, and told me to draw my own conclusion. To anyone who reads that letter, Nuke LaLoosh was Greg Arnold with Steve Dalkowski’s arm and wildness. Again, I can’t claim to be Ron Shelton–he knows himself better than I do–but I can claim to have a guy’s opinion with a unique perspective (only pitcher Rick Delgado, whom I’ve not been able to locate but I believe lives in Puerto Rico, also was a teammate of Steve’s, Mr. Shelton’s, and Greg’s).”

One thoughtful, sincere letter can open new doors in baseball history. I can’t wait for the publication of the Steve Dalkowski book, John-William. Well done!

Coming Friday: Meet Laura Brookman, autograph barrier breaker!

Above is a recent Dalkowski autograph from
John-William’s collection.
Of the signed index card, John-William says:
Attached is one of the rarest variations of Steve Dalkowski’s signature in existence; his “playing days” signature.  They’re a bit more common on team-signed balls than index cards and most of the ones I know of were primarily obtained c/o Baltimore Orioles Spring Training in either 1961 or 1963.  However, I would hazard a guess that this one’s either 1962 Rochester Red Wings ST or 1963 Rochester Red Wings regular season judging by the other signed 3×5’s the collector had.  The rarest are signatures like this found on single-signed baseballs; of the (very) few I’ve seen, I believe most to be side-paneled.  A signature of this type found on the sweet spot, I believe, would be the rarest Steve Dalkowski single-signed ball.

Understanding Pitcher Steve Dalkowski

Meeting Steve Dalkowski, circa 2008
(photo courtesy John-William Greenbaum)

John-William Greenbaum is a fan/collector/historian. It began with one card and one question.

In the process of discovering minor league legend Steve Dalkowski, Greenbaum found inspiration for a book. Meanwhile, he’s been finding a world of talented players who fell just one opportunity short of the majors.

I thank this all-star researcher and likely future professor for an enlightening e-interview about one of baseball’s hardest throwers ever — and one of the sport’s most mythic, misunderstood personalities.
Q: How did you first encounter Mister Dalkowski? How did you build that relationship?

How I encountered Steve is probably one of the most remarkable things that’s ever happened to me. It was either late 2003 or early 2004, and at that time, I was living with my parents in Ossining, NY, which isn’t too terribly far from the CT state line. Well, one of my Dad and I’s favorite things to do then was go to the flea markets, because they were real treasure troves. You didn’t go there and find a bunch of junk…you could and did actually find valuable stuff. Anyway, there were two really good flea markets: an outdoor one called the Elephant’s Trunk Bazaar, and an indoor one that had much less. So as I said, it’s late 2003 or early 2004. December of one year or January of another. Dad and I go out to Elephant’s Trunk because we think there are going to be dealers there…no snow on the ground after all. Really sunny. But you know what? It was 29 or 30 degrees outside! Nobody showed up! So we went to the indoor flea market.
You could count on the indoor flea market to be pretty much the same every week. The booths never changed hands that I know of. So we went there as a fall-back and Dad went to his favorite booth, where the vendor sold old tools, and I went to my favorite booth, where the dealer sold baseball cards.

My favorite era of card collecting is pretty much everything pre-1980. It always has been. The cards this guy kept were in shoebox type arrangements, kept in two rows with a cardboard divider. He would only organize them by decade…you could find a 1950 Bowman in a bunch of 1959 Topps cards, for example…but I digress. I’m going through his 1960’s box and well well, what do we have here? A 1963 Topps #496, which at that time, was Steve Dalkowski’s only baseball card.
I’d heard of Steve because I’d always read all the trivia books and basically wondered about those eye-popping strikeout and walk totals. But I never got a straight story. There was always something different from one story to another. But right then and there, I just wanted that baseball card. So it’s got a green price sticker on the toploader that says “8-“. I go into my wallet and voila! I’ve got six bucks. Two short, and I had no bargaining skill whatsoever then. So I walk on over to Dad, who’s going through a chest of tools with another gentleman.

“Dad, can I have two bucks?” I ask him.

“What for, son?” he asks, pretty doubtfully. See, I’d probably borrowed that $6 I had to begin with since I didn’t have any concept of fiscal responsibility either at that time, so I had to justify getting $2.
“A Steve Dalkowski rookie card,” I told Dad. 
The other gentleman going through the chest of tools dropped whatever he had back in, whirled to his feet, eyes wide as saucers, and he had a very serious expression on his face.
“Did you say a Steve Dalkowski rookie card?” he asks me. I told him yes, I did.

“Well, my name’s Bill Huber,” he said, extending his hand for me to shake it. “I was Steve Dalkowski’s high school baseball coach.” And indeed he was!
 We must have spoken for 45 minutes, and that’s a minimum, before he told me “you should go on over there and talk baseball with Steve. He’d like that.”

Dad and I got Pat Cain’s contact info, although I misplaced it and had to get it again from a CT newspaper man named Steve Frank. That was a bit embarassing, but on July 13, 2008, I met with Steve Dalkowski in-person with Pat Cain there for the first of five times. Three of those were for interviewing purposes, and the other two were more or less shoot the breeze. One thing that surprised me, when I was doing the actual research, is that Steve is portrayed these days as someone who can’t remember anything. I’d fallen for that hook line and sinker until I met Steve. If you brought up a name of a ballplayer, he’d remember.

Q: How has Steve D been through the years regarding autographs and fan mail?”

A: Terrific until the TriStar Obak cards came out. You see, when you’re sending to Steve, you’re really sending to his sister, Pat Cain. Oh, she doesn’t sign anything…it’s all Steve…but she likes to be there when Steve signs and spend time with him. Pat’s a wonderful woman and without her, my book would not have been possible to even start, but she’s really busy. It used to be that there would be 3×5’s and photos and stuff like that…she could handle that. But when the Obaks came out, it was like everyone who had one of the cards decided to send it to her. Right now, I’d rate Steve a very good TTM signer, but you have to wait, and the wait is pretty long.
IP, it’s totally different. Steve signs for anybody. When I was there the first few times, Steve was signing everything I had. I gave a lot of it away, actually. Just to friends who were curious about what Steve had done. Early on, I even gave some away to teammates of Steve’s. Ballplayers collect autographs, too, although I’m sure you knew that, Tom, haha!

Q: Possible publication date for the book?

A: I’m guessing you’ll see the whole thing done a year from now. It’s going faster than I’d anticipated, which is good, but I still need to get some of the box scores. I have a great deal of them and have found some remarkable games that seem, for some reason, not to have entered into Steve Dalkowski lore, yet are truly amazing. For example, against the Greensboro Yankees in 1958, Steve pitched against Bob Riesener, who is another legendary Minor League pitcher. The previous year, he’d gone 20-0, something which no other professional pitcher has done. But he hurt his arm in ’58. I’d never heard that one.

Coming Monday: Reconnecting with Steve Dalkowski’s teammates and foes.

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