Pitcher Ron Locke remembers Mets manager Casey Stengel

Locke65Ron Locke knows he pitched for a Hall of Famer in 1964. However, did he think Mets skipper Casey Stengel was anything like the zany character reporters claimed?

Locke replied:

“I thought Casey was a great man. He liked young kids coming up from the minors. he liked talking to young ballplayers to see what they knew about the game.

“But as far as a manager, he thought he had the Yankees. He liked to drink booze and staying up late at night. He really didn’t tell you much about the game.

“He liked talking to sports writers. I think the reporters hit the nail on the head when talking about Casey.”


Mets pitcher Ron Locke was a real card: twice!

Locke Ron 64I was delighted to hear from Ron Locke, a pitcher for the 1964 Mets.

Locke appeared on Topps cards in 1964 and ’65. I asked him about the experience. Did he remember details of the photos? Was cardboard immortality fun?

He replied:

“It’s what they tell you what poses they were going to take and what position they wanted you to do. It was a great feeling to even make the majors. But, when you have baseball cards, it was a great feeling to show your friends.”

Mets, Orioles General Manager Frank Cashen Dies At Age 88

This “Topps Archive”
blog shared this image
and a great headline
for the obit — one
that would have made
the well-read GM smile.
Check out the blog!

Frank Cashen earned five World Series rings as an executive. His death at age 88 raises a question for me as a hobbyist.

The Orioles and Mets are well-collected teams. I was stunned to check the always-amazing www.sportscollectors.net. The good news? Cashen was a 100 percent responder, signing for everyone who wrote.
However, only 16 collectors made attempts.
In fact,the general manager surprised a few collectors who wrote, sharing extras of the rare 1992 Topps card made of himself for a special ceremony. Miss the one-day event, and you wouldn’t have gotten the card.
The Hall of Fame will be selecting more owners and GMs in the future. Often, the men don’t get honors until they’re deceased.
The future is now.

Tim Virgilio Collects UNC Alums

One sweet custom card, created by
Tim Virgilio!

“Who do you know?”

It’s not a question I ask of collectors to see who has rubbed elbows with greatness. I want to find like-minded hobbyists who’ll bring their brands of inspiration to this blog.

I offered this question to collector Bill Kearns. He nominated fellow fan Tim Virgilio. Here is Tim’s story:

“I grew up a baseball fan and my father was born and raised in The Bronx. He grew up watching and rooting for all of the great Yankees (Mantle, Berra, Ford, etc.). Baseball was what really brought my father and I closer when I was younger. One day, while watching a game, my father tells me about when he was about my age (14 at the time) and how he would cut out photos of the Yankee players and send a letter to them at the Stadium requesting an autograph. This led to my first request for an autograph through the mail. Ever since that time, I’ve been hooked on the hobby.
With over 20 years of collecting autographs, both in person and through the mail, I have acquired quite a number of memorable autographs. When I first started collecting, my focus was to obtain all of the “big names”. Over the years, my focus has changed. Since I am a fan of the New York Mets, I have been focusing on an all-time collection of Mets. This has been a great project since there are players who played briefly with the Mets and those that spent their entire career with the Mets. For this project, I try to get the players to sign a card or photo of the player in a Mets’ uniform. Sometimes it is difficult to find, so I have gotten custom 4×6 photos signed. 
Many times, I will receive nice notes back from the player or a family member telling me about their time with the Mets and asking for additional copies of the photos for themselves, their children, their grandchildren, or others. One very touching note that I received was from a wife of a former player. She had written about how her husband was very bitter about how his baseball career had ended that he had gotten rid of most of his baseball related items. It was only recently that he has regretted that and has started to try to rebuild his personal collection. She stated that he was touched by the custom photos that I had done and was wondering if I would be willing to send more for him. It was a great honor to be asked for such a thing that I did several custom photos of him in the uniforms of the teams that he played for and sent them to him.
Another collection that I have started is my all-time UNC baseball/football/basketball collection. This has been a fun project as it allows me to learn more about the history of UNC sports and many of the great players that have played for UNC. Those players that respond back with memories of their time at UNC often talk very fondly about their time in Chapel Hill, as if it were some very magical place for them.
However, I think that the greatest thing about this hobby is the friendships that I have made. I have several collectors around the country that I do not trade with but send gifts to. Basically, we help each other with our collections by sharing the extras that we have without the expectation of receiving anything in return except a thank you. This has been great because it allows each of us to add to our collections some players that we would otherwise have a very difficult time obtaining. I continue to have a great deal of fun with this hobby and plan to continue it for as long as I can.Another thing about my early beginnings of TTM requests: When I would get returns from players, especially older players that I didn’t see play but my father did, we would open the return mail together and then spend hours talking about the players and what my father remembered about them. Even now, when he comes to visit, he will ask what players I heard back from and we will talk baseball for hours. It is really a great experience for both of us and really continues to bring us closer.”
Thanks, Tim. Meanwhile, find someone to share some baseball with! 

R.A. Dickey Book: Surprising As Any Knuckleball

“Butterflies aren’t bullets. You can’t aim ‘em. You just let ‘em go.”

— Charlie Hough

The knuckleballer-turned-tutor may have done more than tutor R.A. Dickey’s pitching. Hough may have given a nugget of wisdom employed in the writing of Dickey’s Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest For Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball.

In writing his life story, Dickey uses the same approach. This is anything but a conventional baseball tale. Dickey lets it all go, telling about the abuse he suffered as a boy, his sometimes-shaky marriage and other challenges to what many might assume has been a storybook career.

Definitely, this book is a LIFE story, not just a baseball retrospective. Dickey writes chronologically (and in present tense, giving his writing freshness and urgency). Page 91 begins his pro career with the Rangers. He relives the heartbreak of losing the $810,000 signing bonus, when a Baseball America cover photo reveals that Dickey may have elbow problems.

Dickey’s evolution as a knuckleballer gets center stage in the book. He tells of seeking out Hough, Phil Niekro and Tim Wakefield for advice. Funniest moment in the book comes when Dickey breaks a nail. In full Mets uniform, he’s sneaked out to a manicure salon for some emergency grooming.

The press release from publisher Blue Rider Press included a revealing comment from Dickey, seen nowhere in the book. Here it is:

“Q: How did your interest in literature shape Wherever I Wind Up?

A: Well, I can tell you this: I did not have much interest in writing a straightforward sports book. This is my first book. It might be my only book. I didn’t want to just stuff it with a bunch of statistics and writes about ERAs and holding runners on and bore people with page after page of baseball platitudes. I wanted to write a narrative that was meaningful to me, that was completely honest and that would hopefully stand up as a quality piece of writing.”

This thoughtful book might lead fans to guess that Dickey has the insight to become a coach or broadcaster. Read closely, and you’ll discover that Dickey harbors the hope that he could be a high school English teacher someday.

Ultimately, readers will find the life and career of New York’s elder statesman evolving like his knuckleball. While his butterfly pitch deceives, Dickey delivers his whole life story with right-down-the-middle candor and truth.

Coming Friday: Memories of Jewish baseball players.