2015 Cincinnati All-Star auction features fascinating baseball correspondence

Letters from umpire turned folk artist George Sosnak. (Courtesy Hunt Auctions)
Letters from umpire turned folk artist George Sosnak. (Courtesy Hunt Auctions and Invaluable.com)

The 2015 All-Star Game proves it. The “official” auction proclaims baseball letters as true collectibles.

Once, something like a cancelled check was seen only as a substitute way of getting a real signature.

Now, the world sees letters as proof that baseball personalities are people, too. Two people connecting over a team, a moment…a chapter of baseball history.

The first two lots come from the family of Herb Carneal. A Ford Frick-winning broadcaster, Carneal announced Minnesota Twins games from 1962-2006. 

Johnny Pesky’s military service, and his value to the Red Sox, are documented in a batch of signed correspondence.

The most fascinating lot surrounds minor league umpire and folk artist George Sosnak. Sosnak’s painted baseball’s are legendary. Here, collectors can see him big-name support for his art. A wonderful Facebook group of collectors of Sosnak art offers a great introduction to his creations.

Online pre-bidding ends tonight (Monday, July 13) at 10 p.m. EST. Check the site for prices realized.

And, realize that those baseball letters you’re getting will have lasting value, too!

 

Recalling Two Talks With Twins Second Baseman Bobby Randall

Check out Randall’s
stats and philosophy at
www.baseball-almanac.com!
That piercing stare. Those eyebrows. That dramatic grin.
There was nothing minor league about Bobby Randall.
 I encountered him as a 1976 Minnesota Twin. I was in a Kansas City hotel lobby. I had my Twins collection in a small shoebox, alphabetized.
Guess what infielder stood nearby, poking a teammate, pointing at me?
“What are you going to do with all that?” he challenged. 
“Take it home and put it with the rest of my collection,” I answered as sincerely as possible. 
I produced his Topps card and asked for his autograph (please).
Pause. Smile. Signature.
Flash forward. I’m a journalism student at Iowa State University. I pitch a feature idea on the baseball team’s coach, former major leaguer Bobby Randall.
He’s polite during the interview, listening intently and acting like I’m The Sporting News editor. Every answer is sincere and detailed. His sole home run (off Chris Knapp) wasn’t a tape measure blast, so he made it sound like anyone could have cleared the fence. He became embarrassed when I asked about signing autographs and getting fan mail. 
At the end of our talk, I confide that I got his autograph those years ago in Kansas City. I tell him the story, thanking him again for signing. “You should have told me!” 
I was surprised, covering Cyclone baseball games for the Des Moines Register, that fans weren’t getting his autograph. Didn’t they know who he really was?
He volunteered to speak to my wife’s day camp group. A devout Christian, the coach taught by action and example. 
I like to think that I might have encouraged a Twins rookie to keep an open mind about autograph collectors. He expressed other thoughts that day at Iowa State — a great warning to in-person collectors. Nevertheless, I never saw him turn his back on a fan. Plus, I know that Bobby Randall remains a TTM all-star signer today. He’s a prize in my collection of stories behind the signatures.

Twin George Mitterwald Recalls Owner Calvin Griffith

I’m agog over the “Ghosts of D.C.” blog. I
found this classic 1959 image there of owner Griffith
hovering between President Eisenhower and
star Harmon Killebrew. Please, read their
great “what if?” essay speculating
on how the Twins could have
become the L.A. Dodgers! How would
Mr. Mitterwald have felt about that?
 

The ex-Twins catcher sounded so pleased to recall manager Billy Martin.

Then, I spoiled it all for George Mitterwald.

Did he have a memory of owner Calvin Griffith?

“Calvin was a one-owner owner and he liked to let everyone know it. We used to say he threw nickels around like they were manhole covers.

He tried to cut my salary my third year after raising my average 30 points and breaking the fielding record for catchers with a .997 average.

I ended up getting a $4,000 raise, but had to hold out for eight days to get it. He held it against me all the season and curbed my playing time.

I never had real problems with the Cubs.”

Coming Thursday: George’s best day ever?

Twins Catcher George Mitterwald Salutes Manager Billy Martin

I miss the old “Baseball Bible.”
The cover paintings were part of
that reverence. I never tried to
get a TSN autographed. I couldn’t
bear seeing those covers bent in
the mail!
 

George Mitterwald hasn’t forgotten manager Billy Martin. I asked for any memories of their brief time together in Minnesota. Mitterwald replied:

“Billy Martin was a great manager, whom I learned a lot of baseball from. His strategy and willingness to always push the envelope when it came to making the opposition try to stop us from taking extra bases, stopping us from stealing home, double stealing and taking the extra base almost all the time.

Off the field he was brash at times, generous all the time and just plain fun to be around all the time because of his comedic nature.”

Coming Monday: Contrasting memories of owner Calvin Griffith.

Catcher George Mitterwald Makes My Day



Mitterwald maintained
that great tight cursive.
Glad to hear from him!

Don’t give up.

I wrote to the Twins/Cubs catcher back in 2010.

In one of many phases of doubting my letter-writing skill, my timing and the eternal “handwritten or typed?” debate, I chalked up Mr. Mitterwald as one of my many misses.

Maybe not…

Saturday, a superb two-page handwritten reply to my questions came, along with the apology of not responding sooner. He’s faced health problems plus a family loss.

I’ll share the great insights from “The Baron” beginning Thursday. Meanwhile, don’t assume that one non-response is the beginning of the end. Devote the time to sending out more letters, not staring at a barren mailbox.

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