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

Posted December 1st, 2014 by Tom Owens and filed in Baseball Letters, Bob Will, Seth Swirsky, Summer Game Books

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

Posted March 28th, 2013 by Tom Owens and filed in Bob Will

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

Posted March 5th, 2013 by Tom Owens and filed in Bob Will, Jack Smalling

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?