An amazing letter from a Girls Leaguer

It’s time to tell the rest of the story.

I was thrilled to come along for the ride when my wife Diana Star Helmer readied a new edition of Belles of the Ballpark (Summer Game Books) for 2016 publication.

I was racing against time, trying to get surviving players to reply by mail. Diana believed untold stories remained in league history.

One overlooked detail by AAGPBL historians is the fascinating range of jobs these players found after baseball. Pitcher Erma Bergmann (who passed away in 2015) served decades on the St. Louis police force.

I congratulated her on her public service as a police officer. That might be why she concluded her letter this way:

“I never hit a prisoner during my career and I never stole from any drunks.

Love,

Erma”

Asking is free. You never know what details you’ll unearth!

 

One surprising sign from AAGPBL autograph signers

I’m hearing from so many who love the ladies of the AAGPBL. Even 60 years later, they’re still thrilled to sign autographs.


Nonetheless, TTM collectors need to remember only a couple of guidelines writing to “girls leaguers.” Here’s some much-appreciated insight from Carol Sheldon, an AAGPBL Players Association board member:

“They sign all the time.  The only thing they have been told to not sign is 3-by-5 index cards.  The ladies might not like it if the Logo is used, because that belongs to the league.  Most of the auto seekers may not realize that their mail was not returned because the player has passed away.  There are only about 140 or less left.”

Carol’s saying that custom-card makers may have a tough time convincing these retirees to autograph your creations if the league logo appears.

The retirees are concerned about their history and legacy.Years ago, Fritsch Cards swung a licensing deal with the association. (I’m unsure about any possible money involved.) I’ve known more than one collector who got a turndown over a custom sent, being told, “I can only sign official cards.” I’ve interpreted those worries as loyalty to Fritsch Cards, with those non-signers feeling that the company deserves special respect for keeping the AAGPBL history alive.

I’d welcome any other thoughts or insights on recent AAGPBL signers.

Meanwhile, mark your calendars for May 5. That’s the day for the re-issue of Belles of the Ballpark, the expanded history of the league written by my amazing co-author wife, Diana Star Helmer. Check out the book’s special page at Summer Game Books. You’ll have your choice of e-book or paperback. And, as Carol mentions, there’s still nearly 140 possible signers out there.




Affordable baseball photos great for autographing: meet Detroit’s best-kept secret (that Jim Thome knows…)

(From the artful eye of Carol Sheldon!)

Co-writing the new edition of the book Belles of the Ballpark with Diana Star Helmer brought us a new friend. My wife and I discovered Carol Sheldon, one of the most knowledgeable fans of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in existence. 

Well, Carol has many talents. She’s been a gifted photographer and avid Tigers fan for years. Lucky for us, she has combined the two passions. Best of all, Carol is making her shots available to fans and collectors.

Q: How many MLB baseball photos do you have in your archive, ones that you’ve taken? How far back do they date?
A: I take an average of 400 a game and I go to about 30-35 average games a year plus playoffs. Since about 2000 I‘ve used digital and before 2000 I used film back to around the mid 80’s.
Q: What percentage of the photos are of THAT team (you know, your Tigers?)?
A: I’d say 85-90 % but if we are playing some with stars then I shoot them too. For example, I got Thome’s 599 and 600 HR’s                                             
Q: What percentage taken at Comerica? Any from Tiger Stadium? Have you shot at other ballparks?
A: Well, Comerica opened in 2000 so 90% , Film shots at Tiger Stadium especially the last year and last weekend.  I’ve been to about 35 ML stadiums and my camera is always with me so I do have pictures from each stadium mostly of the Tigers and pics of each stadium. (But I’m not that organized. I do have shoe boxes filled with negatives that are organized sort of.) I’ve also visited about 35 minor league stadiums too.
Q: Readers would be sending these out for autographs by mail, or in person. How many of the depicted guys have seen their photos (and I know that players, current and former, are still thrilled to see new views of themselves)? Have you shared in person or by mail?
A: Over the years I’ve worked on getting some of my good shots signed at the stadium and in the 80’s I sent 3.5×5’s in the mail to get signed. I’ve given players copies of something special. They do like that. Thome signed a copy of #600 for me and I gave him one plus a disk with shots of his family meeting him at home plate.
Q: Last question: can you share even one short tale about a good reaction from a current or former player over your photos?
A: Thome was nice and ask my name so he could personalize it. I got a very nice note back from Doyle Alexander after I sent him a photo.
Q: How can readers get your photos?
A: 5×7 = $ 2.00 8x 10 = $7 11 x 14 = $10 plus shipping. Shipping would be $2.50 to $5.00 for single photos. Additional cost for multiple photos. If you don’t see the player you want ask! I also have stars from other teams!  I can be reached at csheldon25@hotmail.com.  

Forget The Movie: Girls Leaguers Knew The REAL Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx

A League Of Their Own was a movie. JUST a movie.

The 1992 movie introduced unknowing baseball fans to the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. 
But a fact-based retelling? Magazines were quick to look for real-life equivalents for all characters.
The Tom Hanks character? A down-and-out former player who hit more than 500 home runs, but drank too much, only to get one last chance as a manager?
Well, Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx managed the Fort Wayne Daisies in 1952. He hit 534 homers. Maybe…?
Try asking a real AAGPBL player about the real-life skipper. 
While working on the revised edition of Belles of the Ballpark, I received a kind letter from Dolly Ozburn, a young pitcher for the ’52 Daisies. She wrote:
“Jimmie was a very nice and caring person. He was okay as a manager, but since I was only 15, I had few managers to which I could compare him. I learned the most about baseball from his successor, Bill Allington.”
In other words, there’s history and Hollywood. Seldom, the two will meet.
Dolly was elected to the Milwaukee Brewers Hall of Fame in 2005. She’s been a star in keeping AAGPBL history alive. A tip of the cap to her!

Where Was Baseball By The Letters?

I could tell you.

Or, let me SHOW you.

I rode shotgun as my wife Diana Star Helmer put the finishing touches on a new edition of Belles of the Ballpark. If you liked the movie A League of Their Own, you’ll love the true story.
The AAGPBL player roster shrank each week as we worked. Nevertheless, there’s new correspondence with more than a dozen players. Many new chapters await!
We’ve submitted 70 possible photos to our editor, TRIPLE the amount of the first edition.
Lessons learned from a summer of girls league letters?
1. The league ended 60 years ago. Alums are age 80 and above. Health problems (or non-stop travelers) mean some responses won’t be fast.
2. Penmanship should be renamed penWOMANship. Many of these women became teachers. Their sparkling handwriting — sometimes, like calligraphy — astounds me.
3. These women still love the game. Answers to our letters proved it. One former player wrote a great explanation of why batting averages were lower than major league stats. To make sure I agreed, she added a last-minute detail. She TAPED her baseball card on the back of the envelope, back side up. 
No ego. She didn’t care about her picture. She just wanted me to see how her stats changed from season to season (just like the letter explained).
Summer Game Books looks like they’ll be a rising star in the world of baseball books for many seasons to come. We’re happy to play for their team. The book arrives in spring, 2015.

It’s good to be back!

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