One important lesson from Seth Swirsky’s ‘Baseball Letters’

I adore these three books. The world will be a better place next year when the trilogy is back in print, courtesy of Summer Game Books.

Before Seth Swirsky, player wives were forgotten. 
In these books, you’ll see great memories from the women in the stands.
Sure, autograph collectors might say, “They’re not in price guides. They aren’t featured on cards.”
I’m talking stories, not signatures.
Cubs fans would faint at the baseball knowledge of the wife of the late outfielder Bob Will. 
These women kept scrapbooks on their husbands. They compared notes with other wives. They were there, before, during and after.
If you want a perspective the rest of the baseball world has overlooked, put a “Mrs.” in front of the name of that guy you’re writing to.

Seth Swirsky’s ‘Baseball Letters’ Trilogy To Return?

An e-book coming soon?

A whole new generation is ready to savor the beauty of baseball correspondence.

Seth Swirsky shared his collection beginning in 1996 with Baseball Letters. The amazing out-of-print book and its two sequels might be returning soon.
Check out Summer Game Books. One imprint, “Bleacher Books,” states that an electronic edition containing all three volumes could be available soon.
E-mail SGB. Let them know you’re a ready customer. A well-read fan is a successful autograph collector.

Baseball Families Are Overlooked Autographs

This gem of Mrs. Babe Ruth
congratulating Roger Maris on
his record-tying 60th homer sold by
for $1,175 in 2007. The
autograph helped. Mrs. Ruth
was a happy by-mail signer, too.

 Shawn Green inspired me.

Sorry, not his book. (I will read it!) Just the book jacket set me thinking.

His bio blurb says that he retired to spend more time with his wife and family.

Why do collectors overlook baseball relatives? Why do they ignore someone, just because they never wore a uniform?

In his trio of great baseball books, Seth Swirsky proved what swell content awaits creative collectors. He gleaned some wondrous insights from widows of long-gone players.

It seems the Hall of Fame should forward mail to wives of living and deceased members.

Andrew Martin, at his ever-surprising Baseball Historian blog, has gotten great stories out of Mrs. Curt Schilling and the nephew of Joe Pepitone.

I asked Andrew how he’d approach a baseball relative. Here’s his kind reply:

“Off the top of my head I have interviewed 4 baseball relatives in the past few weeks… Mrs. Schilling, Billy Pepitone, Ben Gamel (brother of Mat), and George Case III, son of the outfielder. These subjects have not been intentional, but rather opportunity that beckoned.

I don’t have a preference of the relationship between that person and the player, but think in each case there is the potential for valuable insight. Typically, what we know of a player is what they allow us to know, or what the media portrays. Speaking with a relative gives us some insider knowledge. That being said, I am still working on developing the best questions to ask such interview subjects.

When I interview the relatives of players, I try to make the interview center on them, and not the player. First of all, I think it is the respectful thing to do. Secondly, I think that the relative has a unique story to tell on their own, and through that, we typically find out more about the player.

For the All-Star type players, I want to know more about them off the field. The media has typically given us more than enough material about on-the-field exploits, so I want to know what is happening for them in other areas.”

Please, visit Andrew’s blog, or find his selected writings at

Coming Tuesday: A look back with Yankee pitcher Rich Beck.

Catching Seven Catchers From My Childhood

On August 8, I reviewed three of the best baseball books I’ve ever read, the Seth Swirsky trilogy.

Seth pioneered the art of baseball correspondence. One of his classic titles is Every Pitcher Tells A Story.

In that book, Seth gleans some juicy tidbits from catchers. Amazingly, I counted just six letters from receivers in this 220-page jewel.

That’s why I selected seven catchers to contact in my latest crop of baseball letters. They include:

Dick Billings
Tom Egan
Jack Hiatt
J.C. Martin
George Mitterwald
Ken Rudolph
Ken Suarez

While I’ve been trying to turn back the clock, contacting the fast-fading names from the 1950s, these are players I can envision instantly (although I saw them only on TV). Seven squatting gladiators.

I wanted to do more than ask about pitchers they handled. Who were batters they heckled, umpires they gabbed with or baserunners they felt?

Stay tuned. Meanwhile, as my (and your) baseball letter replies flood mailboxes, don’t forget to collect all the Seth Swirsky volumes while you can! Nothing beats an autographed copy.

 Besides, I’m sure Seth would agree: every catcher can tell a story, too.

Seth Swirsky Baseball Correspondence Books Continue to Inspire Collectors, Fans

Never give up. Collectors rejoiced in the 1990s with the publication of the first of three books featuring correspondence from current and former players. Swirsky took fan mail to a whole new level, showing that former players might be eager to provide more than an autograph.
Although the books seemed to be out of print, Seth is selling autographed copies of his books by mail. These books are musts for fans and collectors. Don’t assume he has an umlimited supply. The last book was published in 2003.

While the author/songwriter/filmmaker has moved on to non-baseball projects, his website maintains a wealth of baseball material that the author has collected. He presents many of the vintage letters from players on his site.

When I look through Seth’s dazzling trilogy of books, I’m reminded how everyone has a story to tell and share. Then, as I see so many amazing letters from now-deceased correspondents,, I hear the clock ticking. How much baseball history disappears weekly, simply because we aren’t writing and asking in time?

%d bloggers like this: