Author (and Mets Fan!) Phil Bildner Brings Baseball’s Past Alive For Youngest Fans

I’m a Phil Bildner fan. The attorney-turned-teacher-turned-author is today’s Matt Christopher, and then some!

Bildner is a literary time traveler. His Sluggers book series, about turn-of-the-century barnstormers, is like chocolate-coated vegetables. It’s so much fun that young readers will never know that they’re being introduced to baseball lore. As an historian, Bildner makes the past matter a current topic for young fans.

Via his all-star website,, the author took time to answer some questions.

Q: You’ve written about many famous baseball names. Have you ever collected autographs, in person or by mail?

A: As a kid, I used to ask for players’ autographs all the time. I was (and still am) a huge New York Mets fan growing up. I remember getting Bud Harrelson’s autograph when I started little league. I don’t think I ever sent a letter seeking an autograph.
These days, I don’t collect autographs, but I do have a signed Hank Aaron baseball, which is pretty special. I also have a signed copy of Marvin Miller’s book.
Q: Have you interacted with current or former players while writing your books?
A. While writing Shoeless Joe & Black Betsy, I reached out to Bob Feller, and I actually got a voice-mail response from him. He wanted no part of writing a blurb for the book! I also met Tommy Lasorda at a Shoeless Joe Jackson statue dedication ceremony in Greenville, South Carolina. I know both Bobby Thomson and Ralph Branca were given copies of The Shot Heard ‘Round the World.

Q:.Your great new book is about Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, and their great 1941 season. If you could reach Teddy Ballgame in baseball heaven by mail, what would you ask him?

A: I would love the opportunity to ask Ted Williams about the home run in his last at bat. I’d also like to ask him about his return to Fenway for the All-Star Game before he passed.

Q: What’s in your baseball writing future?

A:  I’m working on a couple of new baseball history titles, but like baseball players, we baseball authors are a superstitious bunch. Don’t want to jinx them! I also penned a chapter book series with Loren Long called Sluggers. It’s about a barnstorming band of baseball players touring the country in 1899. Each book is set in a different city with many winks and nods to the baseball mystique of those settings.

Coming Thursday: Does Pat Neshek pitch for Santa Claus?

Bob Feller Put Fans, Autographs First

The autograph compacted over time,
but stayed amazingly legible!

One of Bob Feller’s greatest moments in history shouldn’t be forgotten.

I didn’t retain all the details. The co-stars might like to be forgotten for their questionable roles in the incident. But I know that Feller put his legacy on the line one day for fans in Iowa.

A new museum honoring Iowa high school sports figures was beginning. A museum official traveled to Feller’s Van Meter Museum to tape an interview.

The video crew waited. And waited. Feller wasn’t ready to tape the segment.

He wasn’t done taking care of everyone lined up for an autograph.

According to media reports, the interview producer became upset that Feller wasn’t giving priority to the crew. Feller insisted that the fans should come first, refusing to cut the autograph session short. Obviously, the interviewer hadn’t realized that Feller offered an interaction with each fan, not just a quick scribble.

That angered the interviewer, who stormed out of Van Meter. He reported back to the museum administrator, who told reporters that he’d make Feller “a footnote” in Iowa sports history.

Feller, sometimes gruff and always honest, never backed down. The high school sports staff later made up with Feller, who found a new time to tape the segment. Feller wasn’t concerned about furthering his future reputation. He cared most about being hospitable to his own museum visitors, giving that day’s fans their money’s worth. Beyond statistics, Feller was a man worth meeting, an autograph worth cherishing.

HOFer Bob Feller Gets Last Laugh?

Worth finding and reading!

Fellow Iowan Bob Feller made headlines last week when he was moved from hospital to hospice care. Soon, the story snowballed into Feller’s reported obituary. Not so fast, news vultures!

Back in the 1980s, I wrote to Feller, asking him if he’d provide me with an in-person interview at an upcoming hobby show.

I included a phone number.

He called me. Collect.

“This is Feller!” he boomed. He quizzed me about my letter, sounding wary.

I told him that if I’d be bothering him, he didn’t need to schedule any time for me at the hobby show.

“If it was a bother, I wouldn’t have called you!” In his conversation, it was all fastballs.

When his obit made print prematurely, I wondered what the straightforward Feller would have said about reporters trying to do him in.

I e-mailed John Sickels, author of a fantastic 2004 biography of Feller. What does he think the HOFer would have said over the misguided media?

“LOL…oh, that’s a good question. He’d probably say something like “I’m not going down without a fight, the Japanese didn’t get me and this won’t either.

Bob Feller endures!

%d bloggers like this: