Dear Fergie Jenkins: Dust Him Off!

Dear Fergie,

I’ve written you twice before, the last being my blog post on Sept. 26.

I just received word from Doug Gladstone, author of A Bitter Cup of Coffee. He’s gone to bat for the 874 “gap” players, those playing between 1947-79, shunned for pensions and health insurance simply because they played less than four seasons. All who came later hit the jackpot with just a day on a major league roster.

Doug has posted an update on your willingness to help your baseball brethren. He blew the whistle on Dan Foster, the big cheese of the MLB Players Association. Supposedly, the director called you to ask for your silence?

What did you do with such guys during your career, Fergie? Those who hung over the plate, crowding you?

You never backed down. You answered with chin music, dusting the dudes off.

Reclaim the inside part of the plate. Flex your Hall of Fame muscle. Please, make baseball history AGAIN. Speak out, for those who have no voice.

Still your fan,

An Open Letter to HOFer Fergie Jenkins

Dear Fergie Jenkins:

I forgave you twice. In 1972, I sent you a Topps card and a SASE c/o the Cubs. No go. When P. K. Wrigley banished you to Texas, I sent a letter of support, along with one more card and a SASE. I wound up with a postcard of you as a Ranger, complete with a preprint facsimile signature.

I know you’ve had an autograph pricelist for more than a decade. Sorry, but $25 is a bit much for me these days.

Please, don’t disappoint me a third time. I cheered when I read news of your possible pitch for justice from author Doug Gladstone. Gladstone is the author of the courageous A Bitter Cup of Coffee, the book that tells how MLB and the Players Association froze 874 former players out of pension eligibility.

You top my list of heroic Hall of Famers. Your dedication to charity has been inspiring. The first African-Canadian member of the Hall, you are an eternal league leader. Your voice can turn heads and open hearts. Better than that “when E.F. Hutton talks, everybody listens” commercial. You are not a mop-up reliever. You are a STARTER. Start a new chapter in baseball history.

I’ve been writing a letter a day for seven months. I’m collecting stories from baseball retirees. Those responses have taught me that men who were benched, overlooked and mistreated still love this game. Good letters make a difference. I feel like I’m saving endangered stories from baseball’s past. Your letter will matter to the 874 who would feel a pension acknowledges their existence.

Make you a deal. I’ve read your fine biography. I believed every page. I’m telling everyone to buy Fergie: My Life from the Cubs to Cooperstown.

 More royalties for you. But that means more fans are buying your reputation for fearlessness.

Please, don’t back down now. Reverse one of baseball’s saddest hours of the last 30 years. All it takes is one letter. One more autograph. No one will take away your Cooperstown enshrinement. In fact, I think the 874 might go in on a second plaque for you.

Still your fan,
Tom Owens

Is Former Manager Frank Lucchesi One Of the Bizarro Supermen?

Frank Lucchesi answered my letter. Sort of?

Imagine giving a press conference. Questions? The trick is, no answers will match anything asked.
I read my share of DC Comics. This is straight Bizarro Superman stuff.
Lucchesi used the special piece of paper I enclosed for his reply.

Here is what I asked:

1. You started as a playing manager in 1951. Under what conditions might a player-manager get a chance in the majors today?

2. In your years in the Phillies farm system, who are some of your prize pupils, and how did you help them on the field?

3. From the 1970 Phillies helm to leadership of the 1987 Cubs: how did the pressures or demands of big league managing change in those years?

His answers?

1. My best hitter was Rich Allen.
2. My best two pitchers, Fergie Jenkins and Steve Carlton
3. Best city I like was Philadelphia.
4. My best infielder was Larry Bowa.

Those were nice. Totally baffling, but nice. If you write to Lucchesi, expect an answer. What kind of an answer? That’s the question!

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