Are Baseball Wife Autographs Collectible?

So many baseball legends are gone.

Patricia Maris autograph, anyone?

Their stories aren’t.

Their wives remain. The movie 42 will remind the world that many a star player might have been far less without a supportive spouse.

Rachel Robinson knows. For a $10 donation to the Jackie Robinson Foundation, she’ll sign.

Other wives could be moved to sign, too. I’ve seen some interviews from Patricia Maris, wishing aloud that Roger could get Hall of Fame consideration.

As a generation of stars disappear, I’m looking to write to their wives. Baseball history is still there. We just have to look harder.

Readers: would you collect autographs of baseball wives? Why, or why not?

Collecting And KNOWING Roger Maris!

Andy served as a
technical advisor
for the movie.
From fan to friend.
That’s the amazing tale of Andy Strasberg and Roger Maris. Yes, this is evidence of what a sincere fan letter can accomplish.
The one question I wanted to ask Andy was about Roger Maris, autograph signer. He replied…
We never discussed his fan mail or his philosophy regarding autograph requests.
In the early 1980s, while I was working for the Padres my boss, Elten Schiller asked me if I could get Roger to autograph a few first day covers for his collection. I asked Rog and he said absolutely which made me look like a hero to Elten.
Here’s a few other Maris autograph stories:
Soon after Roger passed away, I received in the mail a baseball that an artist had painted Roger’s image on and it had Roger’s autograph. The ball was sent as a friendly gesture from long time collector Barry Halper who knew of my admiration for Maris.
And a couple of years after Roger passed away, I received a surprise package from Roger’s wife, Pat who had enclosed a few autographed items for my collection and thought that I would enjoy them.
And finally, while I was working as a consultant on the HBO movie 61*, Barry Pepper, who played Maris in the movie, remarked that he was trying to get an autograph photo of Roger and one day while we were taking a break in between shots on the set of the Yankee Clubhouse I surprised him and gave him an autograph photo of Maris hitting #61. Barry was speechless and tears welled up in his eyes as he thanked and hugged me.
I can’t say enough about Andy’s new book Baseball Fantography. Get two: one to savor, and one to share. It’s a perfect present for a fellow fan.
Coming Wednesday: Kiss blank index cards goodbye!

A Mantle & Maris Message For TTM?

Ebay is swimming with
memorabilia from the movie.
I’d love to correspond with
surviving actors, to see
how surprised they are
about this film’s revival.

Each baseball season begins and ends with cable channels having endless showings of Safe At Home.

No, this isn’t another snarky review of the movie. (Even though I thought Fred Mertz would have made a better coach than actor William Frawley was…)

Instead, I took to heart the message of stars Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.

While they told the boy that lying is wrong, I’d add, in the case of letter-writing collectors:

You don’t have to.

I’m thinking of collectors who’ve been tempted to concoct a tale that would melt the heart of the toughest non-signer.

(I remember the tale of a reporter (no, not me) who wanted to test how celebrities responded to letters from kids. He considered publishing a book. The problem was that Senator Edward Kennedy was so moved by this “kid” correspondent that his staff invited the non-existent child to Washington, D.C.

Instead, I see a better, more honest way.

Look at the list of guys you’re writing to. How do they relate to your own locale?

1. Do they (or did they) play near where you live? What about their minor league time?

2. Did they grow up (or retire) near you? Did they attend a nearby college?

I get frequent questions in replies from retirees about my Iowa town. Don’t leave money (or opportunity) on the table. It’s not just a business saying. Take full advantage of every chance you see. Your collection will thank you.

Coming Wednesday: Tune in for a tale of Bobby Thomson, CSI style.

Homer-Catching Sal Durante Salutes Roger Maris

Durante’s baseball fame continued into 1962.
Check out the Seattle PI website’s great vintage
feature about the movie 61*.  Durante was hired to
catch a baseball off the Space Needle. See how the
stunt ended, and the major leaguer
included in the World’s Fair doings!

Even if you never rooted for the New York Yankees, you’ve got to cheer for Sal Durante.

In the 50th anniversary celebration of the Roger Maris home run in 2011, Durante participated in the team festivities. The man who caught historic homer #61 could be bitter he never had a memorabilia auction house make him rich. Instead, Durante took every opportunity to salute the man he never stopped admiring.

Durante wrote:

“I met Roger three times when he broke Babe Ruth’s record. He told me to keep the ball and make some money.

We met in Sacramento, Calif., in Sam Gordon’s Restaurant. I received $5,000 for the ball. Sam gave the ball to Roger as a gift.

When everything was completed, we were leaving the restaurant. Roger reached down, put his hand to mine. He said, ‘This is for you.’ It was his New York Yankees lighter.

My wife asked the Yankees if it was OK to come to the stadium to take a picture with our 3 yr. old son and my wife. Roger was it would be fine with him. He was a real Gentleman.”

Anyone who saw the HBO movie 61* about the historic season may have wondered what Durante thought of being a real character.

“It was exciting being played in the movie 61*. They did a great job.”

Lastly, how did Durante feel about the other fan’s fame when a certain Yankee captain made more history?

“When Christian Lopez caught Derek Jeter’s H.R. for hit #3,000, he chose to give it to Derek. He felt Derek deserved it.

I believe he made the right choice.

Sal Durante”

Coming Wednesday: My ’10 Most Wanted List,’ Baltimore Orioles edition

New York Yankees Pitcher Roland Sheldon Remembers Roger Maris, 1961 Pressure

An 11-game winner
who didn’t get in
the World Series? I
wouldn’t smile, either!

Pitcher Roland “Rollie” Sheldon debuted as a footnote to history. His rookie season with the 1961 Yankees featured an impressive 11-5 mark. He would have needed to be a league leader to rival the headlines grabbed by his history-making teammates.

Having the best seat in the house for a record-breaking home run battle between Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, Sheldon also witnessed the wrath of reporters unleashed upon Maris.

Sheldon remembered…

“Roger experienced pressure every day. We tried to help him through each and every day by joking with him. Tried to divert the press.”

That year, did the New York media machine put extra pressure on Sheldon in his premiere season?

“They treated me great!”

Sheldon didn’t let the Yankees forget him, even after the team swapped him to the Kansas City Athletics for the 1965 season. I imagined the joy he felt on Aug. 28, 1965, three-hitting his former employers. (Thanks to for the juicy details!) Sheldon added:

“Nervous before the game, confident during the game and proud after. I just pitched my game.”

Coming Wednesday: Helping fabled pitching coach Herm Starrette.

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