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:

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 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!


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.

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.

It’s all in the envelope: here’s one easy but overlooked step TTM autograph collectors should start doing NOW

The key to getting more responses revolves around writing better letters, right?


However, the world’s best letter may never be seen. What makes your envelope special?

Imagine that you are a retired baseball player. Your wife helps you sort your fan mail. Will you be seeing all the envelopes in chronological order?

Not necessarily.

Bugs Bunny stamps“Have you ever seen a stamp like this before?” she asks you. She passes you THAT envelope. You take turns studying the new commemorative. Then, that envelope gets opened first.

Stranger things have happened. Here’s a recent commemorative that even gives a nod to baseball.

These 10 classic Bugs Bunny scenes reimagined by current Warner Bros. artists includes a shot from the 1946 short Baseball Bugs. In this cartoon, Bugs plays all nine positions in hopes of beating the Gashouse Gorillas.

Try something new. Try WHAT’S new. Or, what’s up? Good luck TTM.

Pitcher Al Worthington’s autograph comes with an honest, caring letter

Collector Tom Rydel shared some useful information with fellow autograph collectors recently.

Reported first on, Tom shared a letter from former pitcher Al Worthington. In the note, Worthington apologizes for misplacing Tom’s cards. (In reality, all were returned in one week!)

Tom made the great suggestion that other collectors mark the backs of their cards with their name and address. That way, a misplaced card could rejoin its SASE faster. He suggested a post-it note.

Worthington Al autograph
Look at the penmanship, even at age 91. Best of all, Worthington resists the temptation to call “W——-” a real autograph. Collectors get every letter from him!

The idea inspired me. I think those small return address stickers would fit on a post-it note. Avoid writing and rewriting your address by hand. Plus, those stickers will be easier to read than bad handwriting (such as mine!).

I asked Tom about his autograph collecting roots. He replied:

“While living in the Detroit area the Tigers won the world series in 1984 and my love for the game grew. The following season my dad taught me how to write letters (TTMs) to players on the Tigers. My favorite players were Alan Trammell and Cal Ripken Jr. I still have all those autographs today and have grown my collection 36 years later. I still send out TTMs today and enjoy the hobby very much. There is nothing like getting an autograph in the mail.

I mostly collect baseball, basketball and football. I’m living in Minnesota now where hockey is very big and in-person autographs from hockey players is always fun when visiting teams play the Wild. If I have an item of someone (sports, politician, Olympian or actor) I will try to get it signed if at all possible.”

Tom’s a thoughtful collector who employs a main belief of mine: collect anybody and anything you want.

Tom’s thoughtfulness is catching. I wanted to ask all the readers if they could expand on Tom’s idea. Worthington and his wife, in their letter, noted that they were trying to develop a system to better keep track of which cards go in what envelope.

At age 91, Al Worthington deserves supportive teammates on Team TTM. I’ll mail on any other suggestions, Tom’s and otherwise, to the couple.

Lastly, there’s another message here. If someone in their 90s gets confused about keeping cards sorted, couldn’t a retiree in his 40s get mixed up, too? Try the return address post-it note for anyone you contact. Thanks again, Tom Rydel.