Jack Damaska’s Cardinals Cameo Gets Finale

I was delighted to receive a letter back from Jack Damaska. His month with the 1963 St. Louis Cardinals only hints at his many adventures during 17 years of pro baseball.

Check out
Fans would write in to get
free photos of their favorite
players. However, when a
player like Damaska returned
to the minors, the photos were
pulled. Therefore, his “postcard”
is rarer than stars like
Gibson or Brock.

I thought any Redbirds newcomer back then would know they had arrived when they were featured on a radio broadcast. Who talked with him?

“I was introduced to Harry Caray, but I was interviewed by Jack Buck on the radio. Two years ago, I was fortunate enough to be invited into the broadcasting booth to talk with my ex-teammate Tim McCarver. I talked with Joe Buck at Yankee Stadium.”

Thanks to author George Rose, who suggested that I contact Damaska (one of the great profiles in the One Hit Wonders book).

Coming Monday: Beating a Hall of Fame pitcher.

Holy Cow! Baseball Stories Are Everywhere, Free For the Asking

Who should I collect?

That’s one question I get a lot from beginning collectors. Or, advanced collectors get in slumps.

Even team collectors complain sometimes.

Here’s an idea:

If you want to collect one team (such as the St. Louis Cardinals), don’t limit yourself to men who wore the uniform.

There are great fans everywhere. Fans who’ll share their stories.

Living in Iowa, I found this out prior to the 2004 presidential election.

Missouri Congressman Richard Gephardt appeared. Often, crowds ignore candidate spouses.

Jane Gephardt appeared.

“You’re from Missouri,” I said. “Of course, you’ve seen lots of Cardinals baseball.”

She asked if I was a fan, too.

I countered, “How big of a fan are you?”

She grinned. “When the team fired Harry Caray in the 1960s, I protested in front of the ballpark carrying a picket sign!”

If you’re not having any luck getting responses from baseball players by mail right now, consider adding a few baseball fans to your collection. You’d be surprised who shares your passion. Best of all, these famous fans could have swell stories to share.

Jack Buck Versus Harry Caray? Cardinals Pitcher Dick Hughes Sorts Out the Pair In Two Words!

Hughes maintained that tight signature!

He finished second to Tom Seaver in 1967 National League Rookie of the Year balloting. A rotator cuff injury snuffed out his rising stardom in just three seasons.

Nevertheless, pitcher Dick Hughes remains a control master. He says so much in so few words.

Hughes debuted in St. Louis in September, 1966. I asked if he recalled interviews with broadcasters Jack Buck and Harry Caray, and the resulting impressions of each.

“Jack Buck was REAL; Harry not so! EGO.”

Before Tim McCarver logged decades as a broadcaster, he served as a batterymate. As a catcher, did Hughes find him either wise or witty during conferences on the mound?

“A trip to the mound in a ticklish situation in Philly. What he said to do I did and we won the game.”

Hughes served as part of the inaugural class of Redbirds breaking in “new” Busch Stadium. Having pitched nine minor league seasons, did Hughes consider the new ballpark a luxury?

“Dimensions were fine, but playing got extremely hot. Grass is best.”

The what-if career of Dick Hughes is fully described in this fine profile by Bob Netherton, found on the http://www.i70baseball.com/ website.

Hearing A Different Harry Caray

Signature off Topps contract,
an indicated by “Jr.”

Joe Cunningham raised an interesting point about broadcaster Harry Caray.

I asked about the former Cardinals mikeman. I assumed Joe and all the Redbirds owned a funny story about the boisterous broadcaster.

Cunningham replied:

“Harry Caray was a good announcer. Just don’t go into a slump –“

Sounding like a fellow fan remained Caray’s famed style. Until Joe, I had never thought how it would have felt (or sounded) having the “fan” with the microphone disappointed in you.

Speaking of disappointments…

I risked a question asking about 1959. Cunningham received all-star honors for his career year at the plate. His .453 on-base percentage astounds me. How close was the Cardinal to a batting title at .345? He answered:

“I was batting against Aaron in 1959 and we went down to the last game. Then, he went into a playoff and got a few hits and beat me out.”

Mike Bielecki Remembers Harry Caray

When I heard former pitcher Mike Bielecki singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at a 2010 Cubs game, I wondered what he thought of broadcaster Harry Caray. I asked him about Harry, a great day against the Pirates and the benefits of appearing on baseball cards. He wrote:

“Harry was a great man, Cub fan and baseball fan. he many times would come to the back of the plane and have a drink and B.S. with the players. Loved to talk Cubs and baseball!”

Remembering April 13, 1991 — in front of the Wrigley Field faithful, former Pirate Bielecki beat his old team. He helped his own cause with four RBI. (Thanks, http://www.retrosheet.org/.) Bielecki noted:

“I remember the 4 RBI game because it was my first start of the season that year. I was a terrible hitter in my career.”

I’ve counted 48 different Bielecki cards. I’m sure there’s more. He explained that appearing on cards pays in a different way.

“We didn’t get paid per card. Companies that print cards, shirts, games, etc., have to pay Major League Baseball a licensing fee for using their trademarks and it gets divided evenly among the active Major League players for that year. Money is also saved for strike funds and fees for every time the owners and union need to negotiate a new Basic Agreement contract!”

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