2013 In Autographs: Collector Rich Hanson’s Review

This autograph is
on display at
www.Baseball-Almanac.com.
It’s a great site to find
tons of  choice signatures.
Happy spring training, everybody!
Before looking ahead to the 2014 season, I wanted one last look at 2013 through the eyes of a hobbyist.
One of the smartest, most talented autograph collectors I know is Rich Hanson. Here’s his take on the hobby year that was.
“Regarding baseball, my first love:  Autographing through the mail is getting tougher and tougher with more and more players charging fees for what used to be a fan-friendly courtesy.  TriStar was one of the early culprits, charging hefty fees for top prospects signatures, and now Chris Potter has lined up an impressive stable of retired players.  
Don’t get me wrong;.I’ve done business with Potter and find him professional and accommodating, and I’ve used him to fill in some of the fan unfriendly players who would never sign before and now only do so for a fee.  The trouble is, the formerly good signers see these guys getting paid and say “why shouldn’t I?”  Overall, it’s been bad for the ‘through the mail’ autograph hobby.
I’m having a great deal of fun writing to authors and poets, putting together double-sided 8x10s about them and their work.  I get a lot of real nice, personal responses.  The one that blew me away was a lady (whom I won’t mention to spare her mailings in hope of receiving the gift that I did) who was one of the finalists for the National Book Award in poetry.  Not only did she sign my sheet, but she sent me an inscribed hardcover copy of her newest book.
My favorite baseball response was Eddie Gamboa’s. I put together a double-sided 8×10 about him and his feat of hurling a no hitter.  Not only did he sign the sheet I sent him, but he sent me back the lineup card from the day of the no-hitter.
My favorite baseball autograph of the year.  The Christmas present of the paper signed by Gabby Hartnett and 5 other 1930 Cubs that Nancy got me for XMAS.”
Thanks, Rich! 
Rich didn’t mention the poetic irony of Hartnett’s 1930 signature. The next year, photographers caught Hartnett signing an autograph for Al Capone. The commissioner warned the catcher about having his picture taken with shady characters. Today’s players may have sworn off signing all autographs (at least freebies).
Speaking of spring training, now is the time to fine-tune your letters. While it’s unlikely you’ll get a bonus hardcover book of poetry from any players, your letters make a difference. First, they convince someone from baseball’s family that a response matters. Secondly, your quality letters keeps the readers reading. They’ll keep opening more envelopes, wanting to keep the good feelings flowing

Gates Brown Gone At Age 74

Our friends at
www.baseball-almanac.com
had a great specimen of
Brown’s autograph.
Check out their
Brown page!

Condolences to all Tigers fans.

William “Gates” Brown, one of the greatest pinch-hitters of his generation, has died.

Detroit fans often saw Brown at games. He signed at team functions, long after his retirement.

In person, he was a prince.

However, www.sportscollectors.net listed just 43 successes in 80 tries over the last decade for TTM attempts. No 2013 successes were recorded.

What lessons might remain from Brown’s duality?

As recently as five years ago, Brown was including extra photos with replies. My brother mentioned that his bonus looked like a candid someone snapped. Others said that Brown wrote the photo was from his own collection, even laminating each.

Health problems or even one greedy form letter could have slowed his TTM signing generosity.

Anyone who met Brown got more than an autograph. They got an experience. A handshake, a picture posed for, a story shared — the full effort.

Give that same effort when you write any retiree. I don’t think you have to send a page of flattering lies, or a $5 bribe for a better chance at a response.

Just add two WHYs.

1. Why do they matter?
2. Why are you the most deserving writer in the pile of envelopes?

If Mr. Brown can slide into second with a mustard-drenched hot dog in his pocket, you can write a letter that counts.

Understanding Ex-Pitcher Frank Castillo’s Passing

Visit Frank Castillo’s
page at www.baseball-almanac.com.
The site shows an impressive
collection of authentic autographs.

You can’t understand such a shock.

The former hurler was just 44. He wasn’t a sure thing by mail, although Castillo won the hearts of many fans and collectors by his enthusiastic in-person signing.

Only 44. That should have meant years of trying him by mail, getting him to sign IP as a coach.

But fate isn’t patient.

I can’t say it often enough. Don’t look at ages. If you want a guy’s autograph or want to send a note of thanks for a particular memory, do it now.

Pitchers Brad Lesley, Rick Camp: Gone Too Soon

I found this superb specimen on
www.Baseball-Almanac.com.
Check out Lesley’s page and others
for some fine tributes and
great signed artifacts.

These are the infrequent wake-up calls all TTMers must heed.

Brad Lesley and Rick Camp have died. Respective ages: 54 and 60.

Lesley, a first-round draft pick for the Reds once upon a time, made it into only three card sets I know. Plus, he lived in Japan for 10 years. Two reasons to be overlooked by many collectors.

The esteemed www.sportscollectors.net had just 17 recorded TTM requests for Lesley, with 10 succeeding. The SCN count for Camp was 62 of 93.

Note that Camp had a two-year stretch of never responding, due to time in federal prison.

This message can never be repeated enough. Write to the guys you want to contact NOW. Age won’t help you determine how long you have to seek a signature, or how long they will (or won’t have) to respond.

Which ‘Joe Morgan’ Autograph Is Yours?

Courtesy of http://www.baseball-almanac.com/.
This is a GREAT resource to
see AUTHENTIC autographs!

Joseph Michael Morgan

Joe Leonard Morgan

The first one was the manager. The second became a Hall of Famer in 1990. Different skin colors, too.

Just seeing the name “Joe Morgan” isn’t enough.

Boston’s former pilot has been branded “The Other” Joe Morgan by some collectors. Some beginners haven’t been as lucky in knowing the difference, it seems.

Ready for a shock? From the former Red Sox skipper —

“I get a ton of his cards to sign. He told me to sign them, but I never signed any after he made the Hall of Fame.

We’ve been mixed up many times — mail, hotel rooms, etc.

Joe Morgan,
Boston Red Sox Mgr. 1988-91″

The HOFer has a thinner. taller “J,” then leaves off the “an” on occasion. However, Walpole Joe’s letter begs the question:

How many cards of “Little Joe,” obtained before 1990, were signed by the wrong man?

Tomorrow: More thoughts on handwritten versus typed letters.

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