Team USA: Baseball autographs you should be seeking

So cool that Team USA tuned up for this international competition at Cooperstown!
So cool that Team USA tuned up for the world-famous Pan Am Games via this international competition at Cooperstown!

Change is coming.

Baseball won’t remain an all-male sport forever.

Change is happening fast. America’s women’s baseball team is stunning world competition in the Pan Am Games. One of the mainstays on the team, Tamara Holmes, played previously for the Colorado Silver Bullets, managed by Phil and Joe Niekro.

Another (Sarah, the daughter of former pitcher John Hudek) has earned an NCAA baseball scholarship. Yes, MEN’S baseball.

I predict women’s baseball will become an Olympic sport. There will be baseball cards to get autographed. These are not mere players. They are pioneers.

Don’t be surprised when you learn of an American women’s professional baseball league, either.

It happened before

Gerald Carpenter knows the ‘art’ of TTM baseball autographs

CarpenterGeraldGiving, or getting?

I write about using maximum effort when contacting former players. Gerald Carpenter is a master collector, making everyone he writes to feel like a star.

How? By creating a gift for each player. A fun caricature. He’s sharing all that he creates on a art gallery blog, including all the autographs he’s receiving.

I asked Gerald to reveal more of his hobby game plan. He kindly replied:

“I use Crayola colored pencils, and heavy drawing/ watercolor paper. I used to use paper that was 12″x18″ but I switched to a smaller 8 1/2″ x 11” because it is less than a third of the price for paper, envelopes, and postage, and takes less time and pencils.

I used to send just one drawing in the mail, but in the last year or so I have always been sending two: one for them to keep and one to hopefully sign and return. I think I’ll keep with the practice of always sending two.
I think I have a fairly good success rate, especially with former baseball players, so there can’t be too many keeping them for themselves.

(Images courtesy of Gerald Carpenter)
(Images courtesy of Gerald Carpenter)

I like the personal written responses I get from the players, almost as much as getting the autographed drawing returned. It’s like a nice little bonus.”

Gerald shared some of the notes. Hall of Famer Goose Gossage wrote back that he got a kick out of the drawing. “Job well done!” None other than John Rocker added, “I never looked so good!” Phil Niekro praised Gerald’s artwork, also. 

Bravely, Gerald noted that Mrs. Bob Bailey had a tip for the artist. She felt her husband had “ice blue” eyes. 

“Eye color is really tough to see on a baseball card or old photo, but it shows up prominently in my drawings,” Gerald noted. “I appreciate any criticism, and my style has gradually changed over the years to accommodate repeat criticism. I also had one player, and only one, respond that he wasn’t signing the drawing because it didn’t look like him.”

(Of course, former players don’t have the smallest egos in the world. I’m guessing there may be more than one out there ready to object to a light-hearted, fanciful perspective.)

In my request letters to the players,” Gerald explained, “I express that I am a fan of baseball and the many interesting stars and personalities involved with the game. I ask him to please keep a drawing for himself, and to please sign and return the other. I include a self-addressed stamped envelope. I think it’s implied that I made the drawings myself. But maybe I should stress that more.

I get contacted from time to time from people wanting custom drawings. I will happily do any and all drawings people want me to do, whether it’s a favorite player or a family member. There’s a gentleman in Oklahoma who has me draw a lot of pro wrestlers, and he takes those to conventions to get signed. A nice lady in California has used my drawings in her book, Garlic Fries and Baseball, and website
There’s contact information on my website.”

Anyone wanting more information, or wanting to offer the artist some well-deserved applause, write to

Meanwhile, think of what makes your letter stand out. We’re not all artists. However, we can paint pictures with words.

Knuckleball Movie Perfect Pre-World Series Warmup

Better late than never.

I kept putting off the DVD viewing of Knuckleball. I was like the kid determined to make my Halloween candy stash last until Christmas goodies were available.

Sure enough, this baseball feast waited for me, helping to stave off the hunger I felt as the regular season ended.

First of all, I’m calling this a movie. Nope, it’s not fiction. Doesn’t matter. “Documentary” makes some viewers squirm. As in, “that sounds good for me, like a platter of turnips. Can’t we watch a movie.”

That’s code for “movie = fun.”

Knuckleball is fun. We see the characteristics of the pitchers brave enough to throw a maligned pitch. Hall of Famer Phil Niekro is a Hall of Fame storyteller, a skill never showcased before this movie.

Credit directors Annie Sundberg (no relation to Jim) and Ricki Stern with coaxing great answers from R.A. Dickey, Tim Wakefield and Charlie Hough, too. I was amazed at the golf-weekend conversations captured as the four knuckleballers interviewed each other.

There’s more than an hour of bonus materials. Sundberg and Stern did their homework with these extended interviews.

My favorite moment in the movie? Dickey asks Hough to review one of his past games by video. They watch, only to giggle delightedly when a struck-out Pirates batsman goes nuts in the dugout, smashing his lumber.

“Sure. Blame the bat,” Hough chides.

I’ve written before about asking good questions. Red Sox catcher Doug Mirabelli speaks at length about “Wakey.” It’s easy to imagine the pitch, harder to appreciate the men who’ve depended on the alternative. Such moments stress how to get at the “how does it feel?” aspect of baseball.

The World Series doesn’t last forever. If you fret about being able to survive until spring training, here’s the solution. This Knuckleball is the perfect pitch for this off-season.

Jack Damaska Shined Versus Hall of Famers Phil Niekro, Satchel Paige

Although this pose
of Paige as a Brave
seems halfway
common on eBay,
his history in Atlanta
is more obscure.
Here’s a great account
by Larry Tye.

Jack Damaska personified the AAAA player of the 1960s.

He remained a notch above most AAA talent. Still, Damaska wasn’t getting another chance at the majors.

Nonetheless, his skills may have shined brightest in the 1965 International League All-Star Game.

Years ago, minor league all-stars would get an exhibition against a major league team.

The minor leaguers topped the Milwaukee Braves, thanks to three hits, two RBI and a home run by Damaska.

He earned each hit, battling future Hall of Famer Phil Niekro.

Damaska recalled:

“Thanks for remembering my game in the International League All-Star game against Milwaukee. I just wanted to prove that I could play with them. (But never got the chance.)

Hitting the knuckleball, I just tried to hit up the middle and keep from striking out.”

That wouldn’t be the last HOFer Damaska faced. He concluded his letter with this historical footnote:

“Last player to get hit off Satchel Paige in his career. 1969 Spring Training against Atlanta Braves, Savannah, Georgia.”

Publishers Clearing House Helps Hobbyists? Welcome to Creative Envelopes 101

Learn from these masterful marketers!

Sorry, I don’t have any balloons or giant cardboard checks to share.

I do have a bit of wisdom that might help your collection.

PCH does a masterful job of sending two mailings for one stamp.

In other words, look carefully at the envelope. Your address is easy to see.
(That’s important as we try to hobby-ize their secrets.)

The front of the envelope has a teaser, blurb or headline. Same for the back.

I’ve noted before in this blog that I think that address label icons alone might compel a potential signer to open your envelope. You might appeal to their patriotism, school spirit or love of the outdoors.

I read on that, before Phil Niekro became a cottage industry signer-for-pay, he’d RTS (Return to Sender) most envelopes. If a collector noted that they were including a fish story or a picture of their catch, their fan letter would get through.

Doodle a portrait of the player (or yourself) on the envelope. Add their nickname or a subtitle after their name (like Mr. Tom Owens, The Little Blogger That Could!). The envelope back is your empty canvas. If the postal carrier, clubhouse attendant or spouse comments to the signer-to-be, you’re halfway there.

Sure, make sure the address and ZIP code is visible. After that, it’s time to stand out from the pile. I’ve speculated before that old greeting card envelopes get you in the short stack of fan mail.

Years ago, I worked in an office. A co-worker was in the hospital. My get-well card envelope was spotted. “Hey, I’d sign that, too.” Sad faces greeted the news that it was too late, the envelope was licked.

Suddenly, inspiration came. I sliced open the envelope, passed the card around and grabbed the tape. I wrote on the outside: “I had to re-seal the envelope. Someone put in money, then wanted it back!”

My co-worker returned a new man. He didn’t say anything about the card. “Gawd! The nurses passed that envelope around. The doctors wanted to see it. They laughed themselves sick — in a hospital!”

I’m sure he would have signed all the autographs I wanted.

Coming Wednesday: Would funny letters bring more autographs?

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