Meet Patrick Carter, A BRAVE Braves Collector

Patrick Carter

Patrick Carter is one skilled autograph collector. You think it’s tough trying to convince a baseball celebrity why you’re worthy of an autograph? Imagine convincing a baseball history-maker, an anonymous hero, that he is a worthy autograph for anyone.

That’s right. This devoted Braves fan has gone after scouts, front office personnel, anyone who has played a part in team history. That’s why I wanted to know his own hobby history. Here’s our exchange:

Q: Why do you cheer for and collect the Braves?

A: Growing up in Indiana, my dad was a big Cincinnati Reds fan. (And I do fondly remember the Big Red Machine!) He often listened to their games on the radio when he was out working in the garage, or watched the games on tv on Sunday afternoons after church. As a lot of kids do, I used to cheer for the other team just to get a rise out of my dad. After a while, I started paying more attention, and it didn’t take me long to realize that a guy named Hank Aaron was a very special player, and I pretty much adopted the Braves as my own favorite team just because of how much I admired Hank. After Hank left for Milwaukee, and then later retired, it was tough being a Braves fan through the 80’s, but Dale Murphy and Bob Horner kept me interested in the Braves. Obviously, everyone knows what happened with the Braves from 1991 on, so it is now very easy to say I’m a Braves fan for life.

Q: How long have you collected Braves autographs? Who do you include (Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta)? And who, besides players, are in your collection? It seems from photobucket that you have scouts and GMs. Other team personnel? Are there types of team employees you would NOT collect (batboys, bullpen catchers, etc.)?

A: I got my first Braves autograph when I was 12 years old. I collected baseball cards religiously, trying to build complete sets from wax packs. (I remember chewing the gum from those packs, too.) I really hadn’t ever given much thought to getting autographs, because I didn’t really know anyone who collected them. But one day I was at a local card shop, and they had a Hank Aaron signed baseball in the showcase. Somehow I talked my dad into giving me the $20 I needed in exchange for some yardwork. That baseball and a signed
8-by-10 of Mickey Lolich (my Little League team was the Tigers) were the only signed items I owned before I left home and joined the military after high school, when my collecting pretty much stopped.

Patrick is a well-placed collector. This Georgia resident
has frequented Braves Caravan stops, finding the
likes of Brian McCann (arm up) and David Ross.

While I was stationed out in Utah, a buddy of mine left the Air Force and started his own hobby shop, and the next thing I know, I’m buying cards again. In 2001, I was stationed at Warner Robins, Georgia…less than a hundred miles from Turner Field. To put it lightly, my passion for Braves baseball has grown a lot now that I’m “in the neighborhood”. I started making a collection of Atlanta Braves players, but expanded to include the Milwaukee Braves because Warren Spahn never played in Atlanta…but what Braves collection could be complete without Spahn? I expanded the limits again to include the Boston Braves when I had the odd chance to add Tommy Holmes and Ralph McLeod a couple of years later. Only about 80% of my collection is shown in my Photobucket gallery, as much of it has been packed away for many years. From time to time, I’ll open a box that has things I had completely forgotten that I had! When I come accross them like that, I try to photograph them before packing them away again. I am holding out on my desire to display the collection until we build a new house, and I can dedicate a game room that is purpose built for displaying it.

My collection is open to anyone who is or ever was, a member of the Braves. Players, managers, and coaches are priority, but I never pass up the opportunity to add broadcasters, executives, or anyone else that is closely associated with the franchise. That is really the only limitation to my collection now…must be closely associated to the team. I have items signed by former owner’s Bill Bartholomay and Ted Turner, chief executive Terry McGuirk, president John Schuerholz, general manager Frank Wren, current assistant general manager Bruce Manno, and former assistant general manager Dayton Moore. I also have broadcasters Chip Caray, the late Skip Caray, Joe Simpson, Pete Van Wieren, Jim Powell, and Don Sutton. Sutton was a Hall of Fame pitcher during his playing days with the Dodgers, Angels, and others, but only found his way into my collection through the broadcast booth. LOL It certainly doesn’t hurt that he is an absolute gentleman when you meet him. Very personable and down to earth!

A couple of names I would really like to add which are missing right now, are longtime coach/consultant Bobby Dews, coach/bullpen catcher Alan Butts, head trainer Jeff Porter, strength and conditioning coach Phil Falco, Director of Scouting Tony DeMacio, and former director of player development Kurt Kemp. The more folks like this I can add, the stronger my collection is in regards to truly telling the story of the franchise.

Dream additions, (those I will get if I ever hit the lottery!) would be Rabbit Maranville, George Sisler, Rogers
Hornsby, Cy Young and Babe Ruth. For those who didn’t know, the Babe was a Brave in his final professional season, 1935.

Q: Are you near Atlanta? Have you had chances for in-person autographs, whether at the ballpark or area signings?

A: As mentioned above, I was stationed in middle Georgia during my days in the US Air Force. My wife and I decided to settle here after my retirement from the military, and we currently reside in Kathleen, Georgia, about an hour and a half drive to Atlanta. Most items that I get signed today are done in person at the stadium, or during the Braves Caravan in the winter months. I try to keep a close watch for any local signings, and attend them when they don’t conflict with my work schedule.

Daughter Kayla meets Dale
Murphy, signing at a Jacksonville
minor league game.

I recently had the opportunity to drive to Jacksonville, Florida to catch a Minor
League game between the Jacksonville Suns and Mississippi Braves, only because Dale Murphy was making an appearance, and I had an ’80’s powder blue jersey that needed his signature! The Braves “Alumni Sundays” events during Sunday home games have been invaluable to me in acquiring autographs from many retired Braves players. Only in the past couple of years have I started getting autographs through the mail.

My wife and daughter have been very helpful to me at times. When they go to events with me, we can split up and cover more ground. My daughter actually enjoys chasing the autographs with me, and occasionally my wife will play along.

Q: In general, what do you say in your letters, and what do you ask to have autographed?

A: My item of choice for autographs is always a Rawlings Official Major League baseball (I have about 300 of them now), but I have been adding a lot of 8-by-10 and 11-by-14 photos lately. Photos and cards are much easier to deal with in the mail, so I usually try to get the baseballs signed in person, and send flats in the mail. I always try to make sure when writing someone that I know the particulars of their days with the team.

I always try to share one of my favorite moments from their career, or a special moment in a particular season that I find interesting or impressive. I am always sure to ask for the autograph very politely, and always thank them for giving me a moment of their time. My approach is that these folks don’t owe me a thing, and any response I receive is very appreciated.

Q: What kind of response do you get from overlooked Braves, like scouts? That is, do you feel they haven’t been asked for autographs much? What kind of specific reasons do you cite for writing them (such as naming famous Braves they signed)?

A: I haven’t sent many of these requests through the mail since the information for those addresses is usually pretty tough to find, but when I approach them in chance encounters, many times they seem a little surprised that a fan actually (1) recognized them, and (2) wanted an autograph from them. I have found these to be some of the most humble and appreciative guys you could ever meet, and I always enjoy the experience. In a recent request to Bob Johnson, I was sure to praise his work in making the Braves farm system one of the deepest in the game in terms of talent. I also complimented the scouting and development group for the efforts they are making in Latin America and Europe. I feel the Braves have stepped out as frontrunners in these efforts to bring more foreign talent to the Major Leagues.

Q: Can you share any examples of notes or letters with autograph responses? Were the answers unsolicited, or did you ask questions?

A: I keep these letters boxed up, so I don’t have any good examples handy right now, but many responses I get are simple “thanks for being a fan”, “good luck with your collection”, but from time to time someone will really respond to a letter I have written to elaborate on something I have mentioned. I rarely ask a list of questions as I find they are rarely answered. Most are short and simple…wish you all the best…or something to that effect.

Q: You have some signed business cards. Were they requested? What do you think is special and unique about business cards?

A: The first business card I received was completely by chance. John Schuerholz had signed one by request for an older gentleman during FanFest a few years ago, and the two had a lengthy conversation. I was in line behind the guy, and while Mr. Schuerholz was talking to him, he signed another business card and then gave it to me when he signed my baseball moments later. I thought it was a pretty neat item, so I started trying to get business cards for the front office executives. A couple I had to get off E-bay, but the others I have requested in person. They are kind of like a baseball card for guys who don’t suit up in team uniforms, and wind up on baseball cards, so they fit most any collection very well.

Q: Do you have a favorite Brave or two that you’ve gotten by mail?

A: A couple of years ago, I sent a photo of Ralph Garr and Dusty Baker from the early ’70s, and both were nice enough to sign and return in just a matter of a few days. Ralph added his “Roadrunner” inscription for me. From the time I found this photo, it was less than two months that I had it framed. Not bad when you consider it made a trip to Texas, a trip to Ohio, and a trip to the framer’s. This is one of my favorite pieces, and was my first framed piece.

Q: Do you make customs, or have them made? What do you do when you can’t find a picture or card to get signed? (Have you found team-issued photos from the past?)

A: I have only recently started making custom index cards for some of the older players that I don’t have cards for, and for my ’57 World Series project. The recent passing of Wes Covington and Ernie Johnson motivated me to stop dragging my feet on this one! I immediately mailed out to all of the remaining living players from that team. Many of those requests are somewhere in their travels now, and I look forward to them showing up in the mailbox in the days ahead.

Q: Current projects to expand your collection? Future goals in the hobby?

A: I am currently working on acquiring autographs from all of the 1957 Milwaukee Braves World Series team as a project that I want to get framed. Also, each month I try to add 5 items to grow the collection. For the 5 items, I try to add (1) a player on the current roster that I don’t already have. (There are currently only five or six of those players remaining.), (2) One other player from any era that I don’t already have. (3) One deceased player. (4) One prospect that hasn’t been to “the show” yet. And (5) a replacement for an item already in my collection which is damaged, or of poor quality.

Q: Advice for new team collectors?

A:  Before you buy an autograph off of E-bay or any other website, be sure to research, and look at several known good examples, and educate yourself as much as possible before spending your money. Even experienced collectors can get burned from time to time. Also, try to decide on and set a limit to what you want to collect. You ultimately will find something you want that will stretch those boundaries, but if you go into it without limits, your collection will quickly get out of hand. Figure out what you are comfortable investing not only moneywise, but also in time and travel. You don’t wake up one day and decide that you want to build a collection, and then “POOF” two weeks later you have one. It is a lifetime hobby that will bring you lots of enjoyment, as long as you control it, and not let it control you!

With wife Tina and daughter
Kayla at a Braves game. That’s
one winning hobby team!
(All photos courtesy of
Patrick Carter!)

Thank you, Patrick. Just as Patrick offered a salute to his wife and daughter for their hobby encouragement, take a moment to thank friends and family for supporting our collecting.

Baseball’s Toughest Autograph Signers Salute U.S. Air Force Member Mike Malpedo

At the 2009 World Series. (Photo courtesy Mike Malpedo)

 There’s no doubt that America’s service members are fearless. How so? I found one who’s taking on some of the toughest signers in baseball. Meet Mike Malpedo of the U.S. Air Force. Here’s his impressive tale:

“First of all, I am no longer deployed but am currently serving a one year remote assignment in South Korea. I am an air traffic controller in the Air Force. My family is in New Jersey so needless to say, it isn’t the easiest thing in the world to handle but it does beat the desert. With that being said, I have quite a bit of free time on my hands which allows me to write letters.

When I arrived here 10 months ago, I brought 3 complete sets of unsigned cards with me. They are 1982 Donruss, 82 Fleer, and 81 Donruss. I decided to start working on sending out TTM requests and work on those sets. Although my main project is attempting to complete a set of signed 1963 Topps (currently have 400 or so signed).

In the ten months I have been here, I have received about 100 successes from players in each of the 81 Donruss, 82 Donruss and 82 Fleer sets. Including 2 Cal Ripken RCs, HOFers: Carew, Blyleven, Yount, Niekro, Berra, Perry, Dawson, Herzog, Gossage, Lasorda, Sutton, Dick Williams, Schoendienst and Joe Morgan.

I have added the following HOFers to my 1963 set: Musial, Ernie Banks, Bunning, Brooks Robinson, Koufax signed 3 63 Topps for me (never reported this one recently because I didn’t want to get bombarded with address request emails, PMs, etc), Mazeroski, Dick Williams. I have also added the following tough signers or guys who typically charge to my 63 set. Tony Kubek, Ralph Terry, Phil Ortega, Jim Coates (Sent me an autographed book and photo along with my card).

Thanks to Ebay, I began buying vintage cards and sending them off as well. I really enjoy vintage, the players from that era and the stories that go along with them.  Some of the tougher guys who have signed vintage cards and  rookies are: Vida Blue, Ryne Sandberg, Fred Lynn, Andre Dawson, Robin Yount, Gaylord Perry, Ralph Kiner, Don Newcombe, Johnny Pesky, Joe Garagiola, Tommy John. Just to name a few.

Since I am not at home and do not have access to picking up cards at shows or out of my collection for TTM requests, I occasionally print and send out 8x10s. I was lucky enough to receive Chuck Yeager, John Glenn, and Apollo 13 Commander, Jim Lovell. Peyton Manning signed a pack of cards for me and an 8×10 too.

I am sure I am leaving out some great autographs. There are some really great stories that go along with many of these great sigs but do not even know where to start. For example: Tom Lasorda sent me a package from the Dodgers with about 6 signed photos, HOF postcards, and a letter thanking me for my service. Most recently was Phil Niekro sending me a handwritten letter thanking me for my service along with a custom signed 5×7. I sent 3 cards to Rod Carew and he sent 12 signed back. Stan Musial’s company sent my check back along with my 2 63 cards signed. Both Robin Yount and Fred Lynn hand wrote letters thanking me for my service also. Phil Ortega wrote me and told me the only reason I received the card back signed was because I was in the military. He said he absolutely refuses to sign.

You are probably wondering what I write in my letters. I probably write what most people write such as I am a big fan of baseball, love collecting, etc. I do start all of my letters though saying my name and where I am from and where I am and what I do for a living(just in case they were wondering I am doing here and/or what country the return address is from.) I honestly think the reason many of these guys sign for me is because of my return address. An APO or FPO return address with my name and rank is the first thing they see and a sign to them that not only am I in the military but I am NOT a dealer. Many guys just simply support the military and appreciate what so many men and women are doing everyday all over the world. Some may feel this a way of giving back. I can tell you this much, it is the greatest morale builder for me personally. Some people enjoy seeing a USO concert or show but I truly enjoy receiving autographs and letters from some of the greatest names in baseball history.

By the way, I do not sell any of my cards.  I do trade the occasional double.

I type all of my letters and type all of my envelopes. I think it looks more neat and not to mention my handwriting is awful.

I have deployed to Afghanistan but it was just impossible where I was at to be able to send TTM requests. Not to mention, I would not have had anytime to do so. It was my last trip to the middle east (Bahrain) where I really began working on my 1963 Topps set. I was buying the 63 Topps offline and having them sent to me. I would then have the returns sent to my New Jersey home. When I returned home I had about 100 envelopes to open. Ever since then, I have been on a mission with that set.”

Also, I believe that every picture tells a story. That’s why I ask retired players for details of their baseball cards. With Mike, I was sure this shot was from more than just a chance meeting. He added…

“The picture you see of me, Buck, and McCarver was taken a few hours before game one of the 2009 World Series at Yankee Stadium. The opening ceremonies honored men and women of the armed services who had just returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. I had stepped off of the plane from Afghanistan just 3 days earlier. I found out I had been selected the night before the game. Words cannot explain what it felt like to not only be selected for such an honor but to be on the field during the National Anthem and unfurling the American flag while 50,000 people were standing and applauding. It gave me chills and it is a day I will never forget. Not to mention I am a die hard Phillies fan. To to top it off, we were given left field seats about 15 rows up from the field.

Prior to the game, I was lucky enough to hang out where the visiting players arrived. I saw all of my favorite Phillies and was lucky enough to get a picture with so many Phillies and baseball figures. Including, Pedro Martinez, Dave Winfield, John Kruk, Al Leiter, Mark Grace and Eric Karros to name a few.”

Mike has not taken any of these opportunities for granted. If any baseball celebrity questions why he wants an autograph, listen to Mike’s explanation:

“I always enjoy personal encounters with ball players because they create lasting memories and the signature that comes with meeting them is just icing on the cake. The signature always takes me right back to the moment when I met them. For instance, I attended the Philly sportswriters convention a few months before Harry Kalas passed away. He was the MC for the night and I had the honor of meeting him and talking to him for about 20 minutes. I have a picture with him and a signed 2008 World Series baseball and it will always take me right back to that moment.”

I’m grateful to Mike for sharing his inspiring story. I wish him a quick, safe return. We’re lucky to have him on our team!

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