Cincy’s Gene Freese, Autograph All-Star, Gone At Age 79

How much did Fleer pay
players for appearing in
their 1960s sets? In 1963,
the card came with a cookie.
Were players paid in
baked goods?!?

Thanks to Ron Martin for sharing some sad news:

“I guess that you have heard that a true friend to the hobby of TTM collecting has departed.  Gene Freese a member of the 1961 Ragamuffin Reds passed away last week evidently from complications due to back surgery.  I know that I had gotten several items signed by him through the years including the photo of Pete Rose coming out of the dugout for his first game in the major leagues.  Rose, Frank Robinson, Cardenas, and Tommy Harper who you cannot see in that photo are the only surviving members in that photo.  Where has time gone?”
Mr. Freese (yes, I watched Batman…) died at age 79.
Anyone who played more than a decade in the pre-expansion 1950s and 60s had my admiration.
Most of all, I admired Freese’s ironman ethic serving the hobby. The sterling website credited him for signing 183 of 185 requests.
Sadly, I missed out on him. Examples of his signature were superbly detailed. No G— F—–.
One collector shared on the SCN site that he tried to send Freese $5. The veteran returned the cash with the requested autograph, along with an note claiming that the fiver was half of the signing bonus he received in 1953!
The roster of available signers from the 1950s and 60s is shrinking. Get these hobby heroes like Gene Freese as fast as you can.

Catcher Bob Schmidt’s Final Autograph?

Years of service, to baseball
and the hobby. Thank you!

Thanks to Reds collector Ron Martin for sharing the news, via

Former catcher Bob Schmidt, part of Cincinnati’s 1961 team, suffered a stroke and is unable to sign autographs.

Schmidt’s greatest statistic?

According to SCN, he signed 97 of 99 TTM requests.

Before everyone crosses him off their baseball address lists, I have one question:

When a retiree has to stop signing because of health matters, do any of you (who own his autograph) ever send a thank-you note? I’d think a note saying, “I kept your autograph all these years” would be quite meaningful.

Just a thought.

Howie Nunn Has Left The Game

An elusive signer leaves us…

In January, I shared the story of Howie Nunn not signing. His wife was moved by the sincerity of Ron Martin. Mrs. Nunn called the hobbyist, telling him about her husband’s failing health.

Weeks later comes news of Howie Nunn’s death. Additional thanks go to Ron.

Two things stood out from this obituary. First, only one sentence mentioned the teams Nunn played for during his major league career. His second career as manager of a machinery and electronics company got the same space.

Secondly, the survivors included his two cherished poodles.

Former players are still people. They have other jobs, careers which they might have gleaned more pride and satisfaction from than their major league employment. They have pets and family.

Honor the whole person when you write.

Coming Tuesday: Learning from Mariner Dave Valle.

The Lessons of Howie Nunn

Mr. Nunn’s signing days may be over…

Today’s insight comes courtesy of Ron Martin, devoted Reds fan and selfless collector.

On the message board, a collector told of sending Howie Nunn a 1962 Topps card and $10 cash. Another collector’s letter was returned, autographed by Nunn, but no signed card was included.

Ron posted an update that Mr. Nunn had entered the hospital, facing uncertain prospects.

I contacted Ron, asking how he knew.

Being a student of Reds history who appreciated Jim Brosnan’s book The Pennant Race, Ron has been trying to collect the autographs of the remaining 1961 pennant-winning Reds.

Since Ron lived less than an hour from Mr. Nunn’s home, he wrote in hopes of an in-person meeting. He’s met many of the 1961 Reds. Being a studied collector, Ron knew that Nunn has been an iffy signer for years. Therefore, he offered to pay for an autograph, even inviting him to a meal out.

Ron’s two-page letter brought a phone call from Mrs. Nunn. She explained her husband’s situation.

Instead of moaning over the near-miss, Ron’s purchased a copy of Brosnan’s book for Mrs. Nunn. He noted that he’s mailing it to the author, in hopes that the personally-autographed book can be forwarded to her.

I wish the hobby had some type of special achievement award such collectors could receive. Ron is helping other hobbyists with the news (namely, that Mr. Nunn’s grave health looks like he’ll never be signing autographs again, and that any letters would be a wasted burden on his family).

Ron’s all-out effort got a phone call from Mrs. Nunn. Remember, he sent a two-page letter to Mr. Nunn. A brief, generic form letter would have been ignored, prolonging the mystery of the missing card.

I’m most impressed that Ron has reached out to the Nunn family, despite his inability to get an autograph.

If you ever get a chance to thank the spouse of a former player, do it! Thoughtful wives remind retirees not to forget their fans who collect. Let’s not forget these off-the-field stars. Without them, there might be lots fewer autographs.