Minnesota Twin Steve Brye Bats Away Ego

Brye has kept the
same signature. It looks like
his bat might whack the
autograph right off the card!

There’s still time to cheer for former Minnesota Twin Steve Brye.

I tried. His all-star humility can outhit any compliment. Retirees are entitled to a bit of chest-thumping remembrances. Especially a platoon player. “I was great when I got to play. Could’ve been greater!” is the common response.

Not Brye. This team player’s letter was a classy reminder of the 1970s players I admired most.

I asked about being a first-round draft pick in 1967. He remembered…

“In 1967, the draft was very low-keyed compared to the draft now. I had a good friend who covered the Oakland Raiders for the Oakland Tribune. I went to work with him on draft day and watched the picks come over the ‘tele-type.’ I found out afterwards that the Giants, with the next pick, were going to draft me as a catcher. So it all worked out.”

Wow! There’s one possibility for Twins and Giants fans to ponder. “Now batting for the Giants, catcher Steve Brye”?

I found on http://www.retrosheet.org/ (thanks, guys!) evidence of one of Brye’s biggest games ever: four hits, four RBI, three runs scored — a 1974 slugfest at Tiger Stadium. Brye noted:

“I was fortunate to have good games in Detroit. I loved playing there. For some reason, players have real success against some teams and not so good against others.”

Brye’s smart, patient work ethic paid off against Wilbur Wood, yielding 16 career hits off the knuckleballer. Brye explained:

“I was a contact, gap-to-gap, hitter, so that approach helped me against Wilbur Wood and his type of pitcher. I had to get my hits then, because after the 5th or 6th inning, they would bring in Terry Forster or Rich Gossage!”

Lastly, Brye added a note about the meaning of baseball. I had read comments from other collectors that Brye had mentioned that he had taken baseball trips to Cuba. I asked. I’m glad I did! He added:

“Yes, I went to Cuba to play ball, last Feb. and five years ago (Santiago and Havana). It was great. The people were great and I felt very safe there.

Baseball is a terrific common denominator, and has provided chances for me that I would have never had, and to develop relationships that last a lifetime.

Thanks for your interest. All the best —

Steve Brye”

Here’s a classic essay by Josh Wilker of “Cardboard Gods” about Brye.

Coming Friday: Toast the post-season with Mike “TigerNut” Micho and his comprehensive autograph collection!

Finding Josh Wilker’s Cardboard Gods

I just began reading a fascinating hobby-related book. What do baseball cards mean to you? Could they help get you through a difficult childhood?

Those are the questions at the forefront of Josh Wilker’s memoir, Cardboard Gods: An All-American Tale Told Through Baseball Cards
This isn’t the typical “aw, shucks” happy recollection of youth. Wilker writes with painful honesty and insightful humor of his parents and other challenges. He reminded me of the card shop owner I met years ago in Washington state.

“My cards helped me growing up,” he said, telling about coping with two constantly-ill parents. “I’d stare at the pictures until they started moving. Then I could sleep.”

JoshTheAuthor has been a noted blogger since 2006, with a blog by the same name. His essays are funny and insightful. “Me, too!” is a common reaction you’ll have when reading.

I e-mailed Josh, wondering if autographs or correspondence ever become part of his baseball cards-as-life musings. He replied:

“I actually haven’t gotten any emails from former players. A guy who seems to have been Don Stanhouse did once comment on my site. I wrote about that connection here:

In that post, I also mention my childhood desire to connect with Yaz. A couple days ago, someone who’d read an article about my appearance with Bill Lee at Fenway (an article that mentions my yearning as a kid for a Yaz autograph) offered to send me an autograph her husband got from Yaz at a grocery store when he was shilling for kielbasa. That kind of connection is about as close as I get to the gods, which is kind of how I like it, I guess, off in the cheap seats. I mean, it was very sweet to have someone think to share that autograph with me. That’s a big part of the fun of the site, connecting with people who have stories about close but brief or distant and lasting connections with the guys on the cards.”

Read this blog. Get this book. Prepare for a movie! Thanks to Josh, we’ll all be seeing old cards with new eyes.