Pitcher Bobby Shantz Talks Autographs

Bobby Shantz mentioned his brother
in the great reply he provided!

I’m one lucky hobbyist.

I hit two jackpots with my latest reply from pitcher Bobby Shantz. I shared my first letter from Bobby on the blog back in 2010.

I wanted to know how he felt about autographs today, nearly a half century after leaving the mound.

He replied:


I get around 50 or 60 autographs [request letters] weekly.

Career wise, I suppose I’ve received thousands.”

On why he never stopped signing?

“I like to sign autographs because I’m happy they still remember me.”

Bobby was more than kind pointing out that I hadn’t remembered his career exactly. Too quickly, I referenced his hitting record, believing that his first HR was off Harry Byrd in 1954.


“It was my brother Wilmer, who hit the home run off Harry Byrd, with the bases loaded, not me.

I did hit one home run off Allie Reynolds in Yankee Stadium. Allie later told me I was too damn little to him a home run. HA!

Thanks for the nice letter.

Bobby Shantz”

Thank you, Bobby. We will always remember you!

Coming Wednesday: Stay tuned Yankees fans for a book review of The Juju Rules!

‘The Autograph Card’ Guys Understand

I spotted this gem at
Sportswriters aren’t regulars on baseball cards.
This is one classy alternative for any collection!

“Never miss an autograph opportunity” tugs at a hobbyist’s heart.

Who hasn’t been there? A guy who MIGHT be somebody might sign.

If only I had a collectible. No, not a hot dog wrapper! He’s gone. Too late!

The slogan is the battle cry of “The Autograph Card,” one of the greatest hobby products I’ve ever seen.

Company partners Brian Flam and Russell Miles speak the language. They are collectors, too.

“Some autographs are not ball worthy,” Brian explained, noting the cost of league baseballs.
“Besides, my wife would kill me…all those baseballs!”

Brian hoped to get something besides the blank index card for signatures, wishing for something less expensive than Rawlings baseballs, something that wouldn’t fill up a house. He talked about adding the red lines of baseball stitching to simulate a ball’s sweet spot on an index card. Graphic designer Miles listened, telling (or needling?) his buddy: “I could design something that looks good!”

Some eight seasons ago, the pair were ‘graphing the Arizona Fall League. (Brian’s passion is minor league signatures, by the way…) They had created a small amount of “signature cards” for themselves.

When other collectors spotted what Brian was using, they wanted some, too.

“I don’t have extras,” Brian told them. “I need them for myself.”

People begged to buy his extras. Others got angry that Brian wouldn’t sell any.

“Those strong reactions convinced us we had to make more,” Brian said. “People wanted to buy what we made.”

Brian and Russell have branched off. They’ve printed custom cards for Bronson Arroyo, Mike Leake and the late Hall of Famer Gary Carter.

Brian’s still using what they make. Last week, he got two Signature Cards back by mail from Bobby Shantz. Brian fills out the reverse of each card, which has lines for the signer’s name and date. When Brian sent two to the former pitcher, he included the notation “AL MVP” and “8 Time Gold Glove Winner.” Sure enough, Shantz added the same words below his autograph on the front.

Check out The Autograph Card website. Along with the 3-by-5 baseball image, their other creations (including a bat barrel) are all on 16-point matte cover stock. The other designs are baseball CARD sized, 2-1/2 by 3-1/2 inches. They’re perfect for instant signing. No deglossing with baby powder or erasers needed.
Is that a new first-round draft pick at the ballpark, someone with a card? No idea who that scout or roving instructor might be? Brian and Russell have our backs!

Visit their Facebook page, too. They plan on running Facebook specials in the future.

Write the guys. They’ll listen if you have ideas for other products — things you’d like to have autographed in your collection. Most of all, cheer them on. This is affordable quality, something all collectors need. When it’s time for a hobby hall of fame, I’ve got two nominations.

Ernie Broglio, Beyond Lou Brock

Ernie Broglio is more than just a trivia question. Today’s fans often hear, “Who did the Cubs get in return for future Hall of Famer Lou Brock?”

Finger-pointers seek scapegoats. The teams staged a three-for-three swap. Bobby Shantz and Doug Clemens accompanied Broglio to Wrigley Field on June 15, 1964.

Broglio had been traded before. He was part of a five-player deal in October, 1958. He wrote:

“The Giants traded me to St. Louis. I was really surprised because I had two really good years in the Giants minor leagues.”

Broglio notched consecutive 17-win seasons in 1957-58, first in Double-A then graduating to AAA the next year. He unveiled his full potential in Class C ball in 1955, winning 20 games.

As a Cardinal, Broglio enjoyed two years of glory. His 21 wins led the National League in 1960. The righty followed that with 18 victories in 1963. Surprisingly, the triumphs offset a career-worst 13 wild pitches. Broglio noted:

“I don’t believe there was that much difference between the two years, except in 1960, I either won 7 or 9 games in relief. The wild pitches were caused from a shoulder problem. I eventually took 16 or 18 (cortisone) shots in the shoulder.”

Before he left St. Louis, Broglio enjoyed a ringside seat for the evolution of Cardinals hurler Bob Gibson. When did Broglio know Gibby might be Cooperstown bound?

“There was never a doubt about him getting to the Hall of Fame. He had the instinct of getting you out from the time he started pitching.”

Broglio earned the attention of Sports Illustrated twice, first with a 1961 cover and later with this bittersweet 2000 article in which he reveals the inscription of his autographed photo from Lou Brock.

Cheers for a Father-Son Hobby Team

One of my favorite hobby stops is the Autograph Addict.

This site is the collaboration of father-and-son collectors Kyle and Tyler Smego. You might spot them at Camden Yards as many as 30 games a year.

Through the mail, they’re collecting memories.

In January, the Smegos posted 40 questionnaire responses, saying they had a couple hundred more. What’s the current count?

“I try to get these online as quickly as I receive them, but it’s hard to keep up,” Kyle said. “I still have, at least, a couple hundred more that are waiting to be posted. It seems like we get around 10-15 back every month though. In the past we have tried to send the same questionnaire out to all the players (Tyler made up the questions. We try to keep it questions that the players can quickly jot down an answer.”

These “autograph addicts” are gleaning great insights from baseball history makers. Pitching coach Ray Rippelmeyer talked about teaching Steve Carlton the slider. We all know how that experiment turned out.

“Ray was one of the longest letters we have received, but not the longest,” Kyle said. “We have received many responses where the player filled out our questionnaire and wrote a letter. Some of the longer responses include: Rippelmeyer, Duane Pillette, Bobby Shantz, Jake Gibbs, Ernie Broglio, Don Ferrarese, etc….even Phil Niekro and Tony Kubek. All of those guys wrote a page or two or three.”

The Smegos’ best-ever response?

“Our longest correspondence however has been with Ken Retzer,” Kyle said. “I saw that you blogged about him this week. He really is a great guy. He likes to tell stories about his playing days with the Senators, catching JFK, his family, and his business ventures. Over the past year he has sent several letters and included some neat items each time. One time he sent a copy of an old menu from his diner that he used to own (Home Plate), a couple of pictures of his family, some additional pictures of him with JFK, copies of all his baseball cards, etc. He plans on coming out to the DC area sometime soon and I look forward to taking him out to dinner.”

Kyle and Tyler are making the hobby their own. They’ve asked for suggestions for other fun questions they can be asking. Ask someone about what they think of when they see the photo on a certain baseball card.

More than 30 years ago, Twins infielder rolled his eyes and grinned while signing his SSPC “Pure” card. I asked him if he liked that card.

“I think they took photos on the hottest day of spring training right after wind sprints,” I seem to remember Terrell saying. “Look at how sweaty we look. Look at the other Twins cards, and you’ll see what I mean.”

What fun questions do you ask when you write a former player?

Bobby Shantz: Gold Gloves and "Mister" Mack

Pitcher Bobby Shantz’s career spanned 1949-64. His credits are eye-popping:

8 Gold Gloves
3-time All-Star
1952 MVP Award

Shantz reinvented himself from starter to reliever. In addition to his 119 career wins, 78 complete games and 15 shutouts, Shantz threw in 48 saves.

Two books pay special tribute to Shantz, Athletics Album: A Photo History of the Philadelphia Athletics and The Story of Bobby Shantz..

The Pennsylvania-born moundsman’s career began under the care of Athletics owner-manager Connie Mack. Shantz described the grand old man of the game:

“I only played two years under Mr. Mack and enough to tell you he was a very special person. Very quiet most of the time and never wore a baseball uniform as far as I know, while managing.

A lot of players said he was tough getting money from when it came to contract time. Maybe so, because when I won 24 games in 1952, I was making $12,000 and I thought I was overpaid. He did double my salary for 1953, so that was pretty nice.”

Shantz hedged on describing his defensive artistry. Why did glove work come easy?

“I really can’t compare my fielding with other pitchers. Because I was only 5-foot-6 tall, I maybe was a little quicker getting to bunts down the line. there were quite a few good fielding pitchers when I played, namely Bob Gibson, Bob Lemon, Warren Spahn and Harvey Haddix.”

Shantz may believe he was “only” 5-foot-6. I believe he was, and is, a giant in the eyes of fans and collectors.

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