Reflecting on 2014 baseball deaths

Going. Going. Gone.

Credit to research wizard Sean Holtz and his ever-impressive website, www.baseball-almanac.com.
Here’s a list of all the baseball alums we lost in 2014.
The last one of the year to say goodbye was Bob Usher. A great signer, he sent some impressive memories back in 2010. 

TTM Signers Charging $100 Fees

Fee-charging autograph signers haven’t hijacked this hobby…yet.

I counted five pages of prices in Harvey Meiselman’s 2013 Baseball Address List.

Bargains remain. Sid Bream, Dana Kiecker and Reggie Cleveland ask just one dollar per card autograph.

The top fees are $100 per autograph from two Hall of Famers, Yogi Berra and Bob Allen.

Oops. Wait a second. Hmmm…

Bob Allen. I looked him up.

Debut 1961 Cleveland Indians. Reliever for five seasons. Career 7-12, 4.11 ERA.

Wait! The page has a Bob Allen autographed card. Was that a $100 acquisition, too?

I contacted Sean Holtz, the talented founder, researcher and webmaster for the site. He replied:

As for Allen his signature is about 25 years old. Can’t remember exactly the year. I live in Florida, have my whole life, even went to middle school right next door to where the Expos did their Spring Training. Braves too. I would get countless signatures with all my friends. We would then trade. So I’d use a clipboard, put 3 cards across the clip, get them signed. My two other best friends did the same. We’d then trade! What I didn’t know was what a great idea that was decades later. Anyway, Bob had retired for a while. I didn’t have any cards for him, but there was a card shop there and we picked up a couple cards for him.

Crazy fee, $100! Wow! Maybe it’s a typo?”


That is no typo, baseball fans. The figure is confirmed
.
I asked Harvey for his take on lavish Bob Allen. He responded:

Tom – regarding Bob Allen, basically what he’s saying by charging a $100 signing fee is “Leave me alone. I don’t want to sign autographs.”
No secret with verifying the signing fees every year. I send out an autograph request to each player I have in my database as charging a fee and then confirm or update the signing fee information he sends back. You’d be surprised at the small percentage of players who donate their money to charity. There probably is a lot of the players who don’t specify a charity that do donate to charity but I don’t think it’s a high percentage.
 
Lefty Bob has my sympathy. Being a 1960s Indian was far from glamorous. Also, he pitched in 204 more major league games than I ever did.
 
Nevertheless, there’s no reason to take your frustration out on collectors who’re trying to complete a signed Topps set. Former players who want to leave their baseball life behind should ask Harvey to be removed from his 2014 edition, instead of punishing well-meaning hobbyists.
 
Coming Monday: a P.S. on Pete Rose.
 
 

Baseball Almanac Website Continues As Premiere Online Autograph Museum



The website has great examples
of autographs: Check out
the page of the recently-deceased
hurler here:

 It’s no secret that I feel one of the best websites around is Baseball Almanac.

I first wrote about this treasure trove of baseball info riches in 2010. Founder and webmaster Sean Holtz kindly provided a fun update on his 2011 discoveries. Sean writes:

“My collection has been doing great. In the past year I’ve grown from just below 7,000 different signed cards to my current total of 7,701. Most are new players, rookies from the past few years, but there are probably 50-75 deceased players.


My way of collecting has changed a lot over the years. Now I use eBay to buy as many certified signature cards as possible. Especially the cheap cards for less than popular players that I can get for $1 to $3 – I love them. Even if they are not in a uniform, or in a minor league uniform, or one with no markings. I also deal with two hard core collectors that share their duplicates with me. One lives in New York, the other in Chicago, both are season ticket holders so they get a lot of current players for me as well. One is like me and trying to get one card from every player possible, he lets me know when a PSA or JSA card from a deceased player appears on eBay that I don’t need (which he doesn’t buy first himself). I’m good with that.


Former players have sent about 8 or 9 different signatures. Family members (wives, children) probably another 5 or 6. So they are nice about helping and it still feels really nice and unexpected to receive them directly from the player or family. No others were personalized though, at least not via cards.”

Autographs as free gifts? Unsolicited? Sean’s good fortune comes down to one huge difference.

Some collectors write letters that say they’d appreciate that guy’s signature.

Meanwhile, by Sean’s ACTIONS, he shows that he appreciates said GUY.

As I suggested in an earlier post, Baseball Almanac is a great venue for getting a free, first look at an authentic autograph. Such comparisons are a great, fast help.

Another fascinating element on Baseball Almanac is Sean’s growing database of salaries. Talking with strangers about sex, politics or religion is tricky. The fourth taboo subject is money. Sean feels otherwise. He says:

“The details for the salaries is courtesy of Google. Once they opened Google Books and added Baseball Digest, Ebony, countless newspapers, books, and made them all searchable it has been a huge help. I’ll go there to source a quote and dig for salaries every time I upgrade a player. Many times I’ve found nothing. Many times I’ve found estimates (which I don’t use) and many times I’ve found a lot more data than I had hoped for which I think is a great addition.


If people writing players wanted to ask they should be specific. If they simply wrote can you tell me about your contracts or something general I doubt they would get much of a response. If they asked, please tell me about your first major league contract – how did you feel, where did you sign it, do you remember how much it was for, did it include a signing bonus, were you nervous – and things like that I can almost guarantee they’d get some good responses.”

I’m taking Sean’s suggestions to heart. History is escaping us as retirees pass away. The irony at looking at those bargain prices from past contracts is that so many of these baseball-loving men thought ANY money was a jackpot. To be paid ANYTHING to play the game they loved? For them, a dream come true.

Baseball Almanac Website Has Famous Fans: Just Ask Pitcher Daniel Hudson

I confess. I’m a fan of Sean Holtz.

What team does he play for? OUR team?

Sean is the mastermind behind Baseball Almanac. I link to Baseball Almanac player pages whenever possible. He collects more than stats. Sean includes college attended, uniform numbers, salaries and other tidbits that connect the dots in a player’s career. I use his pages to research a former player before I send a fan letter of questions.

Most often, as noted in “Online Baseball Autograph Museum!”, my March 20 post about his extensive autograph collection, Sean includes a signed card to illustrate every possible player page.

Forget the stuff all players spout about never reading their own press. There are guys checking themselves out on the Baseball Almanac website. Imagine getting an autographed card or note out of the blue, without sending a letter or SASE, from a baseball name who knows YOU. Sean has countless fans from Major League Baseball’s past and present.

Sean wrote me:

“As for players themselves helping, it isn’t as uncommon as you would think. Last week I received a card from Daniel Hudson signed and inscribed to Baseball Almanac for his page. It’s probably the 10th or so I’ve received, unsolicited, from players just adding cards. Others update their college data, uniform numbers, salaries, and a TON more are families (wives and children) doing the same thing for the player.”

It’s small wonder Hudson sent a personalized autograph. Check out the page Sean has made for him.

Give Sean an e-mail cheer. Let him know he has other fans. Help him fill in the blanks on your favorite player pages. Baseball Almanac is a website worth bookmarking. You’ll become a wiser fan. Your collection will thank you, too.

Online Baseball Autograph Museum!


Is there a hobby hall of fame for autograph collectors?
I think Sean Holtz deserves membership.

Living close to two spring training camps in Florida in the early 1970s, Sean began a collection of front-signed baseball cards that’s topped 6,000 specimens.

Imagine looking at a collection so huge, knowing that the authenticity
of every signature is guaranteed.

Yes, Holtz offers three-plus decades of autograph knowledge on his
Baseball Almanac website. Afraid that an autograph of a deceased player might not be
the real thing? Start with a peek at what Sean collected.

My rubber-stamped through-the-mail “return” via the Cubs in 1972 from Ron Santo is
NOTHING like the real signature Sean displays. I was delighted to see the lengthy bio page that followed the autograph pictured.

As you’re writing for autographs, please write Sean. Send him an e-mail. Thank him for the research he’s sharing. Our hobby needs stars like Sean.

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