One important lesson from Seth Swirsky’s ‘Baseball Letters’

I adore these three books. The world will be a better place next year when the trilogy is back in print, courtesy of Summer Game Books.

Before Seth Swirsky, player wives were forgotten. 
In these books, you’ll see great memories from the women in the stands.
Sure, autograph collectors might say, “They’re not in price guides. They aren’t featured on cards.”
I’m talking stories, not signatures.
Cubs fans would faint at the baseball knowledge of the wife of the late outfielder Bob Will. 
These women kept scrapbooks on their husbands. They compared notes with other wives. They were there, before, during and after.
If you want a perspective the rest of the baseball world has overlooked, put a “Mrs.” in front of the name of that guy you’re writing to.

Why I Don’t Pay For Autographs

The late Bob Will wanted a donation to
a children’s hospital for an autograph TTM.
However, he’d turn his reply into a Christmas
present, adding a photo, multi-page letter
or other surprises!

Please, stick with me. I need to do some thinking out loud.

I understand there are complete set autograph collectors. I understand some are team collectors. No matter what, the goal is to get one of everyone.

Whether that person wants to sign autographs or not.

I don’t view autographs as products. I know about eBay. I know about dealers and shows. And I know about fan mail handlers who convince once-free signers into charging, only to split the profits.

Sorry, I’m still idealistic. When I was in elementary school, I believed that the players who liked my letter replied, because of who I was and what I shared.

They, in return, shared their signature.

I still see autographs as gifts. We give a gift because of that connection, no matter how temporary or fleeting.

That’s why I don’t buy autographs or pay to coax the unwilling to sign.

I will share news of those sign-for-pay guys, especially those who are trying to benefit charity.

Meanwhile, I can’t shake the beliefs of the kid I was. I’ll keep sharing my stories in letters, hoping former players will do the same. Not because of the check enclosed or the autograph show ticket I bought.

Handwritten Versus Typed Letters

I was ready to switch.

Wanting to break my TTM slump, I thought about going to ALL handwritten letters.

I haven’t yet.

Why? I think it depends on who’s getting your letter. Is it someone with bad eyesight who’ll wince at my penmanship? The late Bob Will, a Cub who became a bank executive, said that typed letters were easier to read.

However, reluctant signers might suspect that you know the magic powers of a computer. To them, the lack of handwriting signifies that you’re running a 24/7 operation, mass-producing autograph requests. In fact, whether it’s a current or former player, someone who’s never typed might think you’re being lazy and impersonal by bypassing handwritten correspondence.

The only fact I’m convinced of is this: write the envelope by hand. I seem to remember from years ago that Jack Smalling tried offering pre-addressed labels from his baseball address list for a fee. I liked the temptation of speed, but knew the impression wouldn’t be favorable.

A hand-addressed envelope is a good first impression. Once the envelope is opened, you’ve got a real chance, even if you used crayon.

Readers: do you use handwritten or typed? Why?

Cub Bob Will Has Left The Field

(Courtesy of

The 1963 Topps set marks Bob’s
last card, not his last appearance.

Former Chicago Cubs outfielder Bob Will (1957-63) died Thursday at age 80.

I had the honor of speaking with Bob more than once. I wrote about Bob back in February. Bob wrote multi-page letters to collectors. He spoke of his illness. He told of his plans to write about his career, envisioning a book.


This isn’t football or basketball. There’s no time clock here.

Currently, the score is:

Cancer 1, Bob Will 0.

The game isn’t over. Bob left behind a completed manuscript. I’ve seen the chapter describing highlights from his 1961 season. He tells tales I’ve never read anywhere. Tipped pitches. Stolen signals. Cubs fans, prepare yourselves. This man was an all-star storyteller.

Bob didn’t live to see a finished book. However, he retained that famed Cub optimism. This book has to happen. He knew it would. I’ve encountered a whole team of kind, talented supporters, people who’ve offered their wisdom and enthusiasm. The roster who wants this book to become a reality keeps growing.

You can join the team, too. Your voice of support will be heard at

The Will family is in mourning. There won’t be any immediate responses about publication. Nevertheless, Bob’s legacy will be preserved. No “if.” It’s just a question of “when.” For now, just remember the title Bob selected:

#28 On Your Scorecard, #1 In My Heart

He said, “That’s you, the fans. I’ve always felt that way.”

I believe in Bob Will and Nancy Will, his best friend and best teammate of a wife. I believe in baseball.

Help Cub Bob Will Preserve Baseball History

Honest lefty Will. He knew of
other players switching
sides to fool Topps photographers!

Former Chicago Cubs outfielder Bob Will isn’t leaving the bat on his shoulder. He’s getting his swings.

I wrote about Will back in February. I’m grateful to Kyle Smego of The Autograph Addict for telling me what a friend Will has been to collectors and children’s cancer charities.

When the phone rang Wednesday night, I heard from Will the Gamer. Conventional thinking says that Will is trailing late in the game. I say otherwise.

Will has a plan that kicks cancer’s ass. The Cubs veteran is intent on leaving a legacy. He’s completing his life story. This biography/memoir is something any Cubs fan would treasure. Will is preserving team history, not just his own life story. He endured the College of Coaches. Will has memories of newcomers Ken Hubbs, Lou Brock, Ron Santo and Billy Williams. (He remained friends with the man who took over his outfield job, by the way!) If it happened from 1957-63, this talented storyteller knows about it.

Will plans on sharing his personal collection of photos in the book, too. I’m thinking many of these are unpublished, maybe never been seen by any fans.

Bob asked, “We’d like to know how many would like such a book, and how much they might pay.” The Wills are looking at a self-publishing effort.

Let the Will family know your thoughts, please. Cheer them on. Would you buy a book when it’s completed? How much would you pay for such a collectible? Your indication of interest will help them prepare a book budget and decide on the size of the print run. Share your contact info, and you could be among the first to own these untold stories.

Write to them at

Meanwhile, enjoy this fine article by Jason Learman about Will’s career.

Coming Monday: Pitcher Dennis Bennett ponders his potential.

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