Stan Musial’s Inspiration

Amazing, how he endured 1959’s
disappointments. Anyone ever see
an “S” like that on a Stan autograph?

I’m still thinking about Stan Musial.

He was one of the first legendary autographs I ever landed by mail in the early 1970s. He was signing everything. My brother sent him the Tank McNamara comic strip salute. Cards or newspaper clippings? If you sent the SASE, he came through.

All the tributes savor Musial’s career highlights. I think he was at his best when things weren’t so great.

How many aging stars of today would wave the white flag after a year-long decline like 1959? Retire and save face.

Not “The Man.” He worked harder than ever.

I’m going to twice-weekly posts starting this week. I’m in a hobby slump. I’m working to pump up my TTM reply rate. Additionally, I have a long-overdue site redesign that I’d love launched when the season starts.

Meanwhile, I’m focusing on quality insights every Tuesday and Thursday. Instead of three “token” posts a week, I’ll give you my best writing twice a week.

My spring training is starting NOW. Please, stop by Tuesdays and Thursdays to cheer on my collecting comeback.

Readers: what have you done to battle TTM slumps?

Offering a Memorial Day Salute To ‘Baseball Player Passings’ Facebook Page

Back in 2010, I saluted Facebook’s “Baseball Player Passings” page. Dave Lambert shared the story of the site’s unique origin.

The site thrives. Before any obituary surfaced ANYWHERE online, one of the 500-plus members posted word that Kevin Hickey had died.

Small wonder. I see that 14 administrators collaborate to keep the news flowing.

Members seek out gravesites of deceased baseball names. Obituaries are posted.

Want to be part of an all-star team? members of BPP include former baseball players, the media — names that would produce double-takes from the most jaded collectors.

Two things inspire me most about Baseball Player Passings:

1. Baseball history isn’t limited to a few superstars. Recent obituaries posted included Lil (Mrs. Stan) Musial and John Kuenster, former editor of Baseball Digest. I’ve seen obits on many “girl’s leaguers,” the pioneering women of the AAGPBL. As I look to write to other baseball history makers, it helps me to dig deeper.

2. Each new entry on the page reinforces a simple message for me:

HURRY UP!

Retired players dying in their 50s? This isn’t a hobby for procrastinators.

Check out the Facebook page. Join. Enjoy the memorials. I hope you’ll be posting about how you received a nice letter from a recently-deceased retiree…while there was still time.
Coming Wednesday: An elusive autograph and MORE from Masanori Murakami.

Brave Taylor Phillips Tamed 1956 Redbirds

Does he look like a
‘T-Bone’ to you?

Lefty Taylor Phillips offered me a quick reply to questions. He ended his letter, “Thanks for thinking of me. God bless.” He even added a favorite Bible verse (Romans 12:13).

What surprised me most is that he used the F-word.

FUN

I keep asking players about career highlights. Retired players are used to “my biggest thrill” questions. I want to hear about the most fun they had that year. I haven’t had any takers on the question until Mr. Phillips.

Some biographers love the snarky comment about this pitcher’s lifetime batting average being only .053, just six-for-113 in six total seasons. I pointed out that his were six hits more than I ever had in the majors! I asked which singles were most memorable:

“All of them!”

And fun?

“The most fun one: I drag-bunted and the ball went to center field.”

Of course, I won’t pass up a chance to hear about someone’s best day ever (fun optional). For Phillips, I was sure that day would have been Aug. 9, 1956. He was pitching before a home crowd in Milwaukee’s County Stadium. At game’s end, he owned a three-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals. What were the high points for the young left-hander? Phillips answered:

“First Major League start. Complete game. The three hits I gave up, Don Blasingame, Wally Moon, Stan Musial, all left-handed hitters.”

(Thanks to http://www.retrosheet.org/ for preserving these moments of baseball history.)

Tomorrow: New York Met Bud Harrelson tells how Casey Stengel made a difference in his career.

Smile With Pitcher Al "Stretch" Grunwald

Still Looking Up!



 Al Grunwald led two baseball lives.

First, anyone spotting his nickname should be clued in that this was no ordinary pitcher. Grunwald was one of baseball’s good sports. Imagine being in an organization seven years, suddenly being told that you might be of more service at another position.

That’s how a first baseman gets relocated.

Upon reading that, I expected Marlon Brando’s “I Coulda Been a Contendah!” Nope. No moaning about finding work in Japan as a first baseman after the majors gave up on the converted hurler.

Instead, Al Grunwald’s still filled with wonder!

He debuted with the 1955 Pirates. Grunwald recalled one talented young teammate:

“What I recall about Roberto Clemente, he was the greatest ballplayer I ever saw! I never talked to Roberto, but watching him play was remarkable!!!”

A 1955 highlight had to be his 5.1 scoreless innings against St. Louis May 1. Grunwald shared:

“Tom, there is always tense moments in baseball. Pitching against Stan Musial was a great thrill! He hit a line drive single over my head.”

Grunwald’s only career save came as a Kansas City Athletic. He shut down the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park on Sept. 11, 1959. How did that feel?

“Looking at the left field wall, it felt like you could reach out and touch it. Ha! Ha!”

Grunwald opened and closed his letter thanking me. He wished my family ‘Happy New Year’ and prefaced his autograph with “As Ever.”

I hope more former players like Al Grunwald remain “as ever.” That would make a new year happier for all fans and collectors.

Smile With Pitcher Al “Stretch” Grunwald

Still Looking Up!



 Al Grunwald led two baseball lives.

First, anyone spotting his nickname should be clued in that this was no ordinary pitcher. Grunwald was one of baseball’s good sports. Imagine being in an organization seven years, suddenly being told that you might be of more service at another position.

That’s how a first baseman gets relocated.

Upon reading that, I expected Marlon Brando’s “I Coulda Been a Contendah!” Nope. No moaning about finding work in Japan as a first baseman after the majors gave up on the converted hurler.

Instead, Al Grunwald’s still filled with wonder!

He debuted with the 1955 Pirates. Grunwald recalled one talented young teammate:

“What I recall about Roberto Clemente, he was the greatest ballplayer I ever saw! I never talked to Roberto, but watching him play was remarkable!!!”

A 1955 highlight had to be his 5.1 scoreless innings against St. Louis May 1. Grunwald shared:

“Tom, there is always tense moments in baseball. Pitching against Stan Musial was a great thrill! He hit a line drive single over my head.”

Grunwald’s only career save came as a Kansas City Athletic. He shut down the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park on Sept. 11, 1959. How did that feel?

“Looking at the left field wall, it felt like you could reach out and touch it. Ha! Ha!”

Grunwald opened and closed his letter thanking me. He wished my family ‘Happy New Year’ and prefaced his autograph with “As Ever.”

I hope more former players like Al Grunwald remain “as ever.” That would make a new year happier for all fans and collectors.

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