Goodbye To Pitcher John “Mitty” Gray

One of baseball history’s losses in May was the death of John Gray at age 87. Despite his short career, Gray is in a select group: men who played for two different Philadelphia franchises (Athletics and Phillies).

Back in 2010, Gray wrote me about his long-forgotten nickname.
Statistics tell only one story. Baseball is nothing without its character.
Or, characters!
If they played baseball, chances are they have stories to tell.
You’ll never know if you never ask.

A New Chase Utley Form Letter?

This 2001 Bowman
facsimile autograph
may have been a
foreshadowing that
Utley would never
embrace signing.

Chase Utley made the Huffington Post.

Without being charged with a crime or indulging in a scandal?

The second baseman’s interaction with It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia evokes special irony for collectors. Since 2006, Utley fan mail in care of the Phillies brings a form letter. Amazingly, the stock reply to fans reflects his TV version! He tells of how he’s too busy playing baseball to sign an autograph.

Although a postcard-sized photo gets included, collectors have sighed for years that the “autograph” is a likely preprint.

I guess the hobby can take small comfort in Utley having similar reactions to real-life collectors and fictional TV characters.

Fellow Phillies Voice Dan Baker Salutes Harry Kalas

I’ll never tire of
Kalas tales.

Everyone wants to know about the players.

I wanted to ask Phillies public address legend Dan Baker about the “team” members he rubbed elbows with in the press box.

Broadcaster Harry Kalas: what was he like to work with? Baker’s take…

“Harry Kalas was a wonderful play-by-play announcer. His anticipation was second to none! Harry was one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. He took time to say hello to everyone. I loved him!”

Stan may have been “The Man” in St. Louis. Dan, you’re the guy in Philly!

Hearing From Famed Philadelphia Phillies Voice Dan Baker

I loved hearing from baseball’s longest-tenured public address announcer. I’m grateful that Philadelphia legend Dan Baker provided some kind, insightful answers.

I began with asking about his first day on the job, and what’s changed since. He replied:

“The first Phillies game I announced was the ‘home opener’ in April, 1972. Promotional wizard Bill Giles had Kiteman deliver the first ball. My voice is deeper now than it was then and my timing is better.”

To learn more about Philly’s PA tradition, check out the superb blog geared especially for team voices.

Coming Monday: Discover two of Baker’s Phillie fans!

Former Philadelphia Phillies Pitcher Eric Junge Compliments My ‘Cool Letter’

Junge, in this 2003 photo,
toured the Johnson Space
Center with other Phillies.
Learn more at
http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/jscfeatures/articles/000000003.html

 Remember when I looked up some minor leaguer senior citizens from the 2011 season?

Anyone still active in the minors past age 30 has to be in it for the love of the game.

I told that to pitcher Eric Junge, who worked the 2011 campaign with the AAA Salt Lake Bees.

I asked about his 2002 wins against the Pirates and Braves.

“Tom,

Cool letter.

I wish you all the best.

Sincerely,
Eric Junge”

Who knows? Maybe this Crash Davis-like character will recall more after he pitches his last inning. For now, it seems like he’s zoned on one more spring training.

Meanwhile, don’t miss the great profile of Junge’s nomadic career in ESPN The Magazine.

Coming Thursday: First Lady Nancy Reagan helps me ponder non-signers.

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