Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale led by example, says Dodgers teammate Claude Osteen

In 2010, long-time Dodgers pitcher Claude Osteen sent me a stunning response to my letter. In honor of the team’s 2020 World Series title, I wanted to share Osteen’s insights one more time.
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Dodgers pitcher Claude Osteen
(Photo courtesy Mark Langill, Dodgers team historian)

Pitcher Claude Osteen overwhelmed me with his reply. His was a letter filled with the insights of a winner.

I related to him the amazing conversation I overheard before a 1980s AAA game in Tacoma. Coach Osteen chatted with young pitchers in the bullpen, telling how getting your elbow “scooped” (bone chips removed) was great.

I realized his passion for pitching. The minor leaguers hung on his every word. He could relate to their journey to the bigs. They knew was a devoted member of the Dodgers family, focused on the organization’s future.

Where did that passion and devotion come from? Did he find role models in Los Angeles? Osteen wrote:

“I learned from Koufax and Drysdale what it meant to be a Dodger and how the name was synonymous with pitching. I was embarrassed not to pitch well.”

Claude Osteen with Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale
Claude Osteen (center) clowns around with fellow pitchers Sandy Koufax (with cap) and Don Drysdale. Behind Osteen, it seems, hangs a pair of boxer shorts with either polka dots or tiny hearts.

Osteen’s name will always be synonymous with autograph collectors. My favorite resource, www.sportscollectors.net, reported that the 81-year-old has responded to more than 800 autograph requests. The collector success rate, says the website, is 97 percent!

 

 

 

Phillies pitcher Thornton Kipper never forgot how he humbled Leo Durocher’s New York Giants


Before he died in 2006 at age 77, Thornton Kipper gave me a clue of life in 1950s Philadelphia as a post “Whiz Kid.”

The 6-foot-3 righty became an All-American pitcher at the University of Wisconsin. I asked Kipper about being a Wisconsin native in the majors, debuting in 1953. Did anyone he know see him pitch in person? As a Phillies veteran, could he recall the look and feel of Philadelphia’s Shibe Park and its neighborhood? Most of all, did one of his three career victories from 1953 seem ESPN worthy — a moment he was proudest of?

“Kip” replied:

“1. Many times — results were usually good, although I did walk the winning run home in the ninth inning once with 50 relatives and friends in the stands. Also, pitched my first game in the majors (in Milwaukee) – a loss to Warren Spahn.

2. (Regarding Shibe Park) Terrible neighborhood, very dark, dreary atmosphere, and no parking facilities to speak of except one lot and on-street.

3. (His favorite win?) First one — in relief against New York Giants and Leo Durocher.”

Baseball is a game of irony. This career Philadelphia pitcher treasured memories not of Shibe Park, but his real “home” ballpark, County Stadium.

Marvin Freeman, former Phillies/Braves/Rockies pitcher, deserves a ‘do-over’ from collectors

 

Pitcher Marvin Freeman threw me a curve. A totally unexpected curve. (As in ‘called strike.’)

I contacted him via Twitter, asking two questions.

  1. Why are you a PastPros client?
  2. Why do you choose not to autograph your 1989 Donruss card?

I did get a response, I suppose.

“My business.”

He returned just two words. Sure, it could have been a bad day for him. However, Freeman missed a golden opportunity.

All he had to share was one URL:

https://www.marvinfreemanyouthfoundation.org

The former player is running a great program, started in 2018. His website describes the foundation as “…committed to making a positive impact in our community by raising funds to bridge the financial gap for low-income families.” Baseball is just one part of the foundation’s mission.

Marvin Freeman 1989 Donruss
Why is THIS CARD the one that Freeman chooses not to autograph?

Furthermore, if TTM collectors knew that Freeman used every dollar in autograph revenue for his foundation, who could complain that “Free” doesn’t sign for free?

PastPros, by the way, is one of a growing number of businesses that help former players deal with their fan mail. These middle-men vow to help you get your desired autographs on your items (as long as you pay their price.)

Regarding the second question, I’m unsure about Freeman’s non-signing policy on that Donruss card. In the past, I have found that retired players seem to favor one of the following answers about their autograph restrictions:

  1. (Pictured team) did not treat me well.
  2. I hate the picture on that card.
  3. That’s not me in the picture.

If your choice is none of the above, here’s your chance to set the record straight, sir. The floor is yours.

 

 

 

 

Here’s great TTM autograph advice from an all-star collector

This autograph hobby needs more Rich Hansons.

I included Rich in Baseball By the Letters for the first time in 2010. In the years since, I’ve sought his impressions of the hobby. He’s like the canary in the coal mine. When Rich is pleased with his hobby successes, we can all benefit from his experiences.

I asked him if COVID fears may be limiting his successes TTM autograph signers. Rich replied:

“I’ve been doing very well on autograph responses, but that’s because I have more time to do my homework to determine who is and is not signing. “TTM Autographs Galore” is a good resource site as is “Baseball autographs through the Mail. ” Current players, we’re pretty much out of luck with.  I’m hearing that most of the teams are just throwing away requests, using COVID as an excuse to jettison something they don’t want to be bothered with anyway.”

Again, I’m thankful for Rich’s comments. His answers should prompt two questions in everyone:

  1. When collecting TTM autographs, what am I doing well on? (Such as response rate, special requests, getting inscriptions, etc.)
  2. In what area could I improve? (Invalid addresses, getting non-responses, etc.)

Andy Messersmith autograph
www.baseballalmanac has an incredible variety of authentic autographs as illustrations.  Messersmith stopped signing in retirement, making his autograph a major rarity.

By non-responses, I mean the “I don’t sign autographs any more,” handwritten turndown from Andy Messersmith, or an unopened envelope that reads ‘Now with PastPros.’

Rich knows that TIME is the secret sauce collectors need. Check a site like www.sportscollectors.net to see if a retiree has been an invisible non-signer, or signing for free, of late. If Mister X hasn’t responded to a request in the last five years, don’t assume he’ll never sign again. Just know that your odds of a reply could be shrinking.

Join a Facebook group for collectors, just like Rich did. Keep track of your hits and misses, so you can give another collector a specific answer to “what kind of a response did you get from this guy?”

A journalism professor told me once, “If your mama says she loves you, check it out.” Or, in other words, trust but verify. Some of the victims of hobby burnout, those who’ve given up on TTM, may have survived by fine-tuning their methods. 

Save yourself. Save your collection.

 

 

Before ‘The Shot Heard Round the World,’ Bobby Thomson owned another fun nickname


Here’s a post from 2010. I felt blessed to receive a TTM reply from Bobby Thomson, only months before his death that same year. It’s my pleasure to share it again!

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Bobby “The Shot Heard Round the World” Thomson owned a nickname even before his pennant-winning home run against the Dodgers in 1951.

An ethnic nickname!

In today’s politically-correct society, speaking of one’s heritage might seem controversial. Some might say offensive. But Thomson, born in Glasgow, Scotland, began sporting the moniker “The Flying Scot” soon after his 1946 debut. In today’s baseball landscape, where colorful nicknames are an endangered species, I had to get Thomson’s take on the title.

He wrote:

“Thank you for writing.

The ‘Flying Scot’ was fine with me. It explained what I was all about — birthplace and moments when I had a chance to use my speed. A sportswriter obviously came up with the name.

Regards,
Bobby Thomson”

I loved reading about the Scotsman who swatted 264 career home runs in The Echoing Green: The Untold Story of Bobby Thomson, Ralph Branca and the Shot Heard Round the World (Vintage) and Miracle Ball: My Hunt for the Shot Heard ‘Round the World

One of baseball’s best ambassadors, Thomson savored every game.

And every nickname.

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