Pitcher Bobby Shantz, age 95, is sidelined temporarily as an autograph signer

Recently,  I enjoyed a chat with Bob’s wife Shirley Shantz.

1955 Bowman card of the Shantz brothers
Younger brother Bill, a catcher, got his own 1955 Bowman card. That card front read “W. Shantz,” referring to his full name of Wilmer.

The left-handed pitcher/husband fell in October, breaking his left elbow and hip.

Mrs. Shantz said the 1952 MVP is looking forward to returning home, but didn’t know when that date might be.

“His mail has been piling up since his injury,” she said. “It may take three weeks to a month until he can catch up and sign all that.” Mrs. Shantz mentioned that he keeps ahead of his mail, “…not wanting to let it sit around.”

I consulted www.sportscollectors.net, to see some Bobby Shantz autograph stats. More than 1,700 collectors had recorded TTM successes. The number of special requests he’s agreed to, such as including special inscriptions with his autograph, astounded me.

Of course, the most telling number was the average time of reply. For years, it seems that the norm for getting a Bobby Shantz reply is one week. At his age!

I asked which elbow was broken. She thought his left elbow and hip were the ones injured.

Then, his autograph-signing arm will need longer to mend?

“He’s always signed with his right hand,” Mrs. Shantz said.

Not sending autograph requests now should go without saying. However, I wanted to know if we could send get-well cards or even cards of thanks for the past autograph replies he’s sent to us.

“I’d rather that everyone hold off,” she said. “He has a mountain of mail to go through as it is. I don’t want him to have more waiting.”

I blogged about Shantz for the first time in 2010. I await good news on his recovery, which will be shared in this blog. He’s an autograph icon, the likes of which the hobby may not see again.



Will

Cincinnati Reds pitcher George Culver recalls making no-hit history in 1968


Pitcher George Culver’s major league career spanned from 1966-74. His moment of glory as a Reds hurler came on July 29, 1968. The right-hander twirled a no-hitter against Philadelphia, the team he concluded his career with.

The inning-by-inning results only hint at the drama, which included a pitcher who started the DAY with an upset stomach.

George showed his gratitude after the no-hitter, writing the home plate umpire Harry Wendlestedt a thank-you note!

Ironically, that same 1968 season, he led the league with 14 hit batsmen.

What did he remember about his no-hit batterymate? And, did batters start crowding the plate after his no-hit success?

Culver’s reply:

“Tom,

Thanks so much for your interest in my career.

1. The catcher is crucial to any pitcher in any game, good or bad. The reason Pat Corrales caught the no-hitter is because it was the second game of a doubleheader and Johnny Bench had caught the first game and needed a rest. They were both great defensive catchers and I enjoyed throwing to either of them. But because Bench was obviously the regular catcher, I ended up throwing more to him.

2. I wasn’t really wild, but the main reason I led the league in hit batters was because I was known for having a pretty good slider. So right-handed hitters would get caught leaning out over the plate looking for a slider and would get hit with a fastball inside.”

Culver’s enduring fame is found at his grateful alma mater. He’s raised funds and awareness for the baseball program at Bakersfield College. He may be 66, but Culver never will be a guy to lean over the plate against.

This blog post appeared back in 2010. In the past decade, Culver has been a TTM autograph collector’s best friend. He never gets tired of affixing “7/20/66” on request when signing. (But, hey, if you were a no-hit pitcher, wouldn’t you want to tell the world?)


 

Baseball Almanac site serves as online baseball autograph museum!


Is there a hobby hall of fame for autograph collectors?

I think Sean Holtz deserves membership.

Living close to two spring training camps in Florida in the early 1970s, Sean began a collection of front-signed baseball cards that’s topped 6,000 specimens.

Imagine looking at a collection so huge, knowing that the authenticity
of every signature is guaranteed.

Yes, Holtz offers three-plus decades of autograph knowledge on his
Baseball Almanac website. Afraid that an autograph of a deceased player might not be the real thing? Start with a peek at what Sean collected.

My rubber-stamped through-the-mail “return” via the Cubs in 1972 from Ron Santo is NOTHING like the real signature Sean displays. I was delighted to see the lengthy bio page that followed the autograph pictured.

As you’re writing for autographs, please write Sean. Send him an e-mail. Thank him for the research he’s sharing. Our hobby needs stars like Sean.

****

It’s been a decade since I discovered the hobby goldmine located at www.Baseball-Almanac.com. This 2010 post was the first of many spotlights shone on webmaster Sean. Coming soon: “Baseball Almanac, 10 years later.”

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.

 

 

 

 

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