Pat Neshek is coming! Santa Claus joins the Houston Astros

Santa Junior?

It’s not just the beard.

If you want to see the spirit of Christmas during the 2015 season, tell Houston fans to check out this guy. 
Scratch that. Free agent acquisition Pat Neshek is Christmas every day of the year.
Guaranteed, the Astros will have a league leader in “most autographs given” and “best signature” categories. 

The Moral Of Denis Menke: Hometowns Matter

Let me shatter one myth about baseball retirees.

“But I never saw him play!” you might say. “What do I write to him about?”
The answer is in your return address.
Choose someone who is a native of your state. Or someone who found minor league glory on a team in your state.
I was in a Dodger Stadium locker room in 1988. After a LONG game, I stopped in theHouston  Astros locker room. I saw an exhausted coach, an Iowa native. Should I ask Denis Menke about the Big Red Machine days, playing beside Henry Aaron? What would he be interested in discussing.
“I know who your high school coach was,” I began. “The state high school tournament was held in my hometown. I saw your team just miss a state title.”
I watched the years melt off Menke. He perched on his locker stool. A multi-topic chat ensued.
“Wait!” a reader might grunt. “I don’t want to hear about high school baseball or the minors.”
Ah, don’t forget the bigger picture.
Make a connection. You may have something more in common with that name from baseball’s past than you think. 
Here’s a question for your next letter:
“How did you get from here to there, to the majors/All-Star Game/etc.?”
Sculpt the clay, putting it all in your own words. Watch the reactions. The question works!

Grady Hatton Dies at 90…Ending Mystery?

Cancer claimed Grady Hatton Thursday at age 90.


A crisp sig, until the end!

Hatton was a sure-thing signer. He added “1952 All-Star” on request.

Questions were questionable, however.

All I got was a crisp autograph when I wrote. The questions were ignored.

Reviewing the archives of www.sportscollectors.net, I saw that I wasn’t alone.

In 2004, Hatton wrote to one collector that he’d get in trouble with players if he answered questions.

I met Hank Bauer at a 1980s card show. A bubbly Boog Powell loved chatting with him at an after-hours reception for card dealers.

Powell would tell anyone anything. Bauer was more careful.

“We had a sign on the clubhouse wall,” Bauer said. ‘What happens here stays here.'”

Before the Las Vegas rules. You know, what happens in Vegas…

No more worries about keeping confidences, Grady. Thanks for the signature.

Pitcher Dooley Womack Helps Set Houston Team Mark; OTHER Teammates Rewarded

Still smiling, more
than 40 years later!

I knew Dooley Womack first from his 1969 Topps card. I knew him as an Astro.

In my letter, I confessed to Womack that I believed he was meant to play for a Texas team, having a cowboy-like name.

One of Womack’s best games in Houston was an eight-strikeout affair on April 24, 1969. Thanks to http://www.retrosheet.org/, here’s the details!

Even better, Womack supplied some color commentary of those Texas times, writing:

“The eight strikeouts against the Padres: my curveball was working great, [Padres struck out] mostly swinging. Managers do their thing about managing the game.


Also something not known: at Houston, Sunday afternoon game against the Giants. I went in for Denny LeMaster. Runners on, one run in.


I threw a double play, inning over. In the next innings, I threw 3 more double plays. Fred Gladding came in and 3 more double plays, for a total of seven double plays. A record.


Our manager Harry ‘The Hat’ Walker gave gold watches to all the infielders and catcher, with all 7’s on the face; Fred and I got nothing. But we have the memories.


Thanks,
Dooley Womack”

Coming Friday: Meet veteran ballhawk Zack Hample, author of The Baseball.

Recalling Astro Jerry DaVanon’s Battle Cry

That was his sig,
and his smile!

“Not in the face! Not in the face!”

— Arthur

Guilty confession. I’ve loved the animated series THE TICK. If I was a costumed crime fighter, I’d wind up being another Arthur, a Tick sidekick.

Where did the super-hero find inspiration? In this case, his battle cry of catch-phrase seemed may have originated with utilityman Jerry DaVanon.

I remember seeing the Houston Astros play an exhibition game in Des Moines, Iowa. DaVanon emerged from the clubhouse to the usual throng of gymnastic autograph seekers hanging from the railings, looking down on him.

DaVanon used the Arthur-like cry when scorecards buzzed too close to his head. Giddy kids (and greedy adults) often think that memorabilia shoved as close as possible to a signer’s nose will get autographed next.

So, DaVanon shouted those four words of warning. Fans recoiled. The Astro restored his personal space and exhaled. Signing continued.

Today’s signers may quit without a word. Be aware that not every player may be giving out second chances. Baseball may be running out of Jerry DaVanons

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