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.

Phillies Fan Debbie Ubele Brings Hobby Hope

Debbie Ubele and Nelson Figueroa

What a big world we collect in. I’m hoping it gets even bigger!

Since my start contacting players in the early 1970s, I’ve seen this hobby undergo several transformations. One reason I began this blog in 2010 was my urge to reconnect with other fans and collectors.

During a recent stop at http://www.sportscollectors.net/, I did a double-take over one avatar photo. I squinted. “Debbie” had some good things to say about Brad Lidge’s signing habits.

I confess. I was more interested in Debbie than in Brad Lidge’s lengthy delays in answering fan mail.

Why? I’ve seen the blank looks of befuddlement from females at hobby shows. I’ve thought most of the faces belonged to wives and moms. (I’ve hoped more sisters playing Little League would dive into the autograph pool on their own.)

There’s no law that says only males can collect baseball autographs. Here’s a hobby success story, one worth showing all the female baseball fans you know. Meet Debbie Ubele!

Q:  You began collecting autographs about age 10? Who was that first autograph (in person, I’m guessing)?

A: I started off collecting young, yes.  I liked sending fan mail to athletes and celebs as a kid.  It was always exciting- the prospect of coming home to a mailbox with a reply from someone famous.  It became a summer hobby of sorts for me, writing lots of letters and waiting for the postman to come. 

The first autograph I can remember receiving is a small 4×6 from my favorite Phillie growing up (and that of many girls in Philadelphia) Darren Daulton.  At the time, this picture meant the world to me, and I still have the photo today. I’ve gotten the chance to meet Darren in more recent years, and it still brings me back to the 10 year old girl who couldn’t miss a game in 1993.  He’s been incredibly nice, which makes the experiences that much better.

Q: When did you first collect TTM? How did you learn?

A: Funny- I can remember getting those teeny magazines (ala Tiger Beat) and they always had a section that listed addresses for celebs where you could send fan mail.  I think that’s where I first caught on to the hobby, although I really don’t have any replies from back then.  I never sent S.A.S.E.s at the time with my requests (they didn’t tell me that!), but the sports teams were usually good about sending replies back with their own envelopes.  My parents also bought me a book, The Address Book by Michael Levine, which helped me reach a lot of people back before the internet was readily accessible.  You can still pick up copies of that book at Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Address-Book-9th-ed/dp/B000H2N9Z4/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_9)- although I’m sure the addresses are quite outdated!

Q: How did your Dad help with your collecting? What did he collect?

My Dad, who is still collecting with me, collected autographed baseballs. He really worked at getting Hall of Famers, while I cared mostly about players I was actually able to watch.  It worked out well, since I got to meet players like Richie Ashburn and Steve Carlton, while I was pushing him to buy baseballs by guys like Ken Griffey Jr and Frank Thomas before the prices got too out of hand.  His prized possession is having baseballs signed by all but 2 of the members of the 500 Home Run Club (minus Babe Ruth and Mel Ott). 

I’m always working to get baseballs for him of guys who should and could make it a few years beforehand, so not to deal with the crazy prices after.  We also wind up with baseballs signed by guys who made it oh so close, but not quite there (ala Fred McGriff, Carlos Delgado).

Q: Have you asked questions in your letters? What’s a typical letter like for you?

A: I used to ask questions quite often, although I must say I got tired of not getting answers to them.  Sometimes I’ll included questions, especially if I know that the person is more reliable with their fan mail.
A typical letter- I really try to be 100% honest in my letters.  I think it’s important to not stretch the truth all that much.  For example, if I write to a player of a team other than the Phillies, I usually say outright that I’m a Phillies fan but also a fan of them personally.  I usually talk about what brought me to write to them, why I’m a fan of theirs, etc.  If I’ve seen them play in person, I’ll usually mention whatever game I was at, etc.  One thing I will say- I always handwrite!  It makes everything more personal, and though email is great, there’s still nothing better than getting a handwritten letter. 

Q: Best reply ever (or example of something more than just an autograph)?

A: Tough Question.  I’ve gotten some baseballs signed through the mail that are just superb (Mariano Rivera, Tony LaRussa, Johnny Damon, Brad Lidge).  I will mention two requests that are rather personally special. 
The first from Luke Montz, former Washington Nationals prospect who is now in the Marlins organization.  I attended a Trenton Thunder game where he was playing with the Harrisburg Senators and came over to hand me a baseball by the bullpen (he was trying to annoy the kids nearby who were begging him for baseballs).  We had a good laugh over it, and I mailed the ball to him to thank him and hope he would sign it.  He got back to me via email (first time a player had done that for me !) to let me know he had received my letter and that the ball was on its way back to me.  I wish I could say we kept in touch, but I’ve always followed his career since.

The other, a signed inscribed book from Chris Coste of the 2008 World Champion Phillies.  I sent along his book, The 33 Year Old Rookie, for him to sign, as I had been missing all of his local book signings thanks to school.  The inscription will always be a favorite of mine- “To Debbie, Take 2 aspirin and call me in the morning! Also, your penmanship is way too good to be a future doctor. – Chris Coste #27”  I was so happy to know that he took the time to read my letter personally, and it gave everyone in my life a good laugh. 

Q: Tell me about your avatar photo on SCN, please.

A: Surely- the picture is of me and Nelson Figueroa, during his stint with the Phillies in 2009.  He has always been one of the nicest guys in baseball.  When he was a Phillie, he always came out before games to sign autographs for the fans (ala Jamie Moyer style).  I was at a game with a friend of mine, who offered to take the picture.  I later mailed him a copy of the picture, which he signed for me with the inscription, “Keep on Smiling 🙂 Nelson Figueroa”.  With that package he included a Phillies Phiten bracelet, which I still wear and had the opportunity to thank him at a later game.  Just a great guy all around. 

Q: When did you realize that autographs are a male-dominated hobby? How has it helped,  or hindered, your collecting?

A: Oh I think it helps.  It definitely helps.  I think players like to see a few women in a crowd of men clamoring for their autograph. I will say, I’ve had so many men over the years do a double take when they see me at an autograph show or buying baseball cards.  While I think the ratio of male to female fans in sports improves each and every year (particularly for MLB & the NFL), some people are still really surprised when a girl knows so much about sports.  I think I’ve probably intimidated some guys with my knowledge and interest in sports.  I’ve never been turned away from it though, either.   Philadelphia is a pretty great town for female sports fans.  We come in great numbers, and we tend to know a lot about our teams. 

Q: How are the current Phillies as signers, in person or by mail?

Hahaha- this is the tricky question.  I constantly read on SCN fans upset when they receive the “dreaded preprint” from a current Phillie because “they are too busy to sign.”  I honestly have had great luck with the Phils, although, I rarely send requests to players that I know are sending back preprint autographs.  I’m really not against the preprint anyway.  I think it’s kinda nice that someone is handling the mail and returning items to fans with some form of reply, rather than having the items lost forever.  Would it be nice if Roy Halladay signed some mail- sure!  Does it make me like him less? No. Then again, Jayson Werth sent back a photo I mailed to him signed after the 2008 WS season- something I didn’t expect.  Brad Lidge autographed a baseball for me.  Sometimes it’s worth taking a shot.  You just never know.

As for in-person, I can honestly say that Ryan Howard has always been really great to me in person.  I’ve got a number of photos and cards signed by him.   They are a tough team because they are a popular team, especially at home, but again I’ve had a lot of success (Utley, Hamels, Rollins, Madson, Ibanez, Victorino have all signed for me at one point before games/ during BP at Citizens Bank Park).  They are tough, but well worth the effort in my opinion. 

Q: Future goals for your collection?

I really want to purchase signed baseballs of Babe Ruth and Mel Ott to complete my Dad’s 500 Home Run Club collection for him.  That’s a huge goal for me.  I’m hoping that happens sooner than later, but we shall see.

Other goals- saving up for a Pujols ball as we speak!  I’d love to get a chance to meet Josh Hamilton in person as well when he’s in town or in Baltimore.  I continue to work on my ever-growing Chase Utley collection as well 🙂 1 Jersey, 1 Bat, 6 autographed baseballs, numerous photos and signed cards so far!

Q: Advice to females who might want to start collecting autographs?

Do what you enjoy- no matter what!  Don’t let anyone, guy or gal, tell you otherwise.  I think it can be an expensive hobby for anyone to get involved with, but a fun and rewarding one as well.  I hope that one day I can share this hobby with my children, sons or daughters.

Thank you for a wonderful e-interview, Debbie. In the medical field and in the hobby, you’re changing lives!

Phillies Voice Andy Musser Signs Off

(Photo courtesy
Gregg Kersey)

For 26 seasons, Andy Musser spoke to — and for — Phillies fans. The former team announcer died Sunday at age 74.

I gasped when I looked up Musser on http://www.sportscollectors.net/. How many collectors had contacted Musser since his departure after the 2001 season?

Zero.

I wrote about Phillies super-fan Gregg Kersey in 2011, when I learned about his mega-signed Veterans Stadium ballpark seat. Sure enough, I’m grateful that Gregg had some great insights into this overlooked commentator:

“Andy was always in his quote ‘Second Hot Dog’ (role) to Harry Kalas, and I heard a clip of him on the radio today where he compared himself to a middle reliever that never had much as far as stats but always came through when you needed him.  He was one of those distinct voices that are part of my childhood much like Harry and Richie Ashburn, but he never was much of a fan favorite but was never sure of as to why.  He had very distinct voice that was hard to forget. 

I wrote to him in care of his home, just went nosing around on the internet until I found what I thought could be the right address and mailed off the Phillies announcers card I had from when I was growing up. He signed and sent it back with the letter. It actually was mailed out on a Monday and was back on Wednesday so he holds my personal record with fastest reply LOL. 

The reason I wrote to him was I didnt have any autographs of him and wanted him as part of my collection.

Also have another Phillies announcer story from this summer if you would like to hear it: I mailed to current announcer Tom McCarthy and it was picture of the 2008 announcers.  It was signed only by Harry Kalas and I figured I would try to get it completed by all of them. So I mailed to Tom and that also came back with a great letter about Harry and signed by everybody. 

The announcers are always forgotten but when they are gone you realize they are the voices of your
childhood, and you hit that point in life you wish you could have them back even for a brief moment.”

I found this additional tribute to Musser worth sharing!

Coming Friday: Do you think baseball autograph collecting is an all-male domain? Think again!

My ’10 Most Wanted,’ Phillies Edition

What happened to the 2011 Phillies?

I was sure this team would win it all this year. That’s what prompted me to launch a mailing to nine past Phils. Although none of these men grabbed the headlines that the current crop of players garner, they’re starring as TTM signers, according to the http://www.sportscollectors.net/ response board.

Former Phillies who’re hearing from me include:

Ramon Aviles
Wes Chamberlain
Larry Christenson
Keith Hughes
Randy Lerch
Len Matuszek
Mike Rogodzinski
Eric Valent
George Vukovich

Instead of choosing a 10th Phillie alum, I wanted Dan Baker. The PA voice of the team since 1972, he’s seen the team’s highest highs and lowest lows.

Check out the excellent interview with Baker by Joe Vallee at http://www.philly2philly.com/.

Coming Friday: Don’t miss this one. Tell your friends. Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr talks autographs!!!

Phillies Ricky Jordan Confirms His Debut Homer

Same sweeping “R” and “J.”
Don’t expect to see the “y”
in current autographs…

I didn’t get a lot from Ricky Jordan. However, the former Phillie did one notable thing:

He autographed the letter ‘Rick Jordan.’

Imagine being told in middle school, “The name you choose right now will follow you the rest of your life.”

It’s that way in the majors.

I asked Jordan about his debut for the Phils, July 17, 1988. Thanks to http://www.retrosheet.org/, I discovered that the premiere featured his first home run in his first game.

Q: Did any friends or family attend the game?

A: YES, father and mother.

Q: Did you get the ball as a souvenir?

A: Yes.

Did I miss one burning question that baseball historians haven’t attempted? How does someone born Paul Scott Jordan get the nickname of “Ricky?”

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