Autographed player postcard photos for free? How?

Bay Area photographer McWilliams
found many clients on the Oakland roster.


Once, teams like the St. Louis Cardinals provided all their players with postcard-sized photos to send.

I learned from baseball address pioneer Jack Smalling that he figured one out of seven requests of “if you have a photo of yourself you’d be willing to include for my collection, I’d be grateful” paid off.

And asking is free.

However, players were once so eager to please the public that they’d order their own postcard photos, footing the bill on their own.

Some of the last great independent postcards came in the 1970s from Doug McWilliams. He’d get hired by individual players who wanted to have photos to share with fans and collectors.
Where were these sold? Nowhere!
You had one place to get the postcards. From the depicted guy. You had to be given one.

A generation later, many retirees exhausted their postcard supply. You’ll see some thrifty former players photocopying their remaining postcard to send.

The postcards are great stories in themselves. Find a checklist online for postcards like J.D. McCarthy or McWilliams. Ask in your letter about the postcard’s history. If you can print out a black and white scan of the card (some will appear on eBay), do it. Even if you don’t get the postcard, you could get a great story.

Speaking of stories, Mr. McWilliams has one. You’d be surprised to know how many Topps cards came from his lens. His photo archive has been donated to the Hall of Fame. And he even did postcards once for ballplayer-turned-Country Western star Charley Pride. 

Baseball Fantography Book Dazzles

We are not alone!

Did you whip out your pocket camera (or cel phone) to try to capture a single image from your last trip to the ball game? It’s been happening for years.

Baseball Fantography: A Celebration in Snapshots and Stories from the Fans (Abrams Image, $19.95)  proves it. Author Andy Strasberg began, sharing informal pictures from his days as a baseball fan, then executive.

He’s shared what others have shared with him in book form. Pictures of long-gone ballparks. Snaps of superstars being human — signing autographs, relaxing at spring training — not posing from the professional photographers.

The fans have provided a sentence or three in context, captioning their fascinating flashes of baseball history. Of course, notable photo contributors can be found, such as Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith.

I was dazzled by the comments from baseball photographer Doug McWilliams. You’ll love the look of Strasberg photographing McWilliams photographing players for Topps in the 1970s. McWilliams traces his beginnings back to attending PCL games to make his own “photo cards.” He’d return with photographs of players, getting autographs on his creations. Sound familiar?

My only quibble about the book is its size. The book measures approximately 7-by-9. I wanted the typeface larger and the photos bigger. I’d love a coffee-table edition of this. Scrapbook sized!

Most of all, I want more photos. I’m sure I’m not alone. A second volume has to come soon. Andy Strasberg has a winning idea. Make some space on your bookshelves.

Coming Monday: a few words from Pirates legend Dick Groat.

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