Spring training: the perfect question for any retiree

Freddie Freeman was a generous autograph signer in 2016’s spring training. Every spring training creates great memories and “what if?” possibilities for players who may never see a day in the bigs. Seek the untold stories! (Photo credit: Arturo Paravila III/Wikimedia Commons)

“He didn’t have much of a career. What can I write to him about?”

These types of questions come yearly from through the mail collectors, or from fledgling journalists and historians wanting to write some kind of a profile of a little-known “cup of coffee” player.

Always, I give the same two-word answer: SPRING TRAINING!

In Florida or Arizona, in every pre-season, countless players yearn for a shot at the majors. Some mount big debuts, only to find a career saddled in the minors. Nevertheless, others cultivate friendships with well-known stars.

Most of all, spring training is the first time a player’s dream seems real.

What does the player remember from his first spring training? WHO does he remember?

Those stories never show up in stats. However, those stories can give baseball history a whole new meaning.

An amazing letter from a Girls Leaguer

It’s time to tell the rest of the story.

I was thrilled to come along for the ride when my wife Diana Star Helmer readied a new edition of Belles of the Ballpark (Summer Game Books) for 2016 publication.

I was racing against time, trying to get surviving players to reply by mail. Diana believed untold stories remained in league history.

One overlooked detail by AAGPBL historians is the fascinating range of jobs these players found after baseball. Pitcher Erma Bergmann (who passed away in 2015) served decades on the St. Louis police force.

I congratulated her on her public service as a police officer. That might be why she concluded her letter this way:

“I never hit a prisoner during my career and I never stole from any drunks.

Love,

Erma”

Asking is free. You never know what details you’ll unearth!

 

Pitcher Bob Allen rewriting baseball autograph hobby history?

Do you think the stone-faced 1960s hurler would crack a smile at the thought of someone paying his new signing fee?

Time for an update…

Pitcher Bob Allen, back in 2013, was shocking through-the-mail collectors by demanding $100 per autograph.

What about today?

One hobbyist on the always-cool www.sportscollectors.net reported that Allen wants $500 per autograph.

If anyone gets a response from Allen that includes WHY anyone should pay $500 for his autograph, I’d love to know. 

 

Remembering slugger (and autograph all-star) Daryl Spencer

In the early years of this blog, I received a wondrous reply from Daryl Spencer (the man who slugged the first San Francisco Giant homer ever).

For some awesome, seldom-seen images of Daryl Spencer and others from his era, stop by The Trading Card Database. Wow!I remember the wonderful reply from Daryl Spencer, the man who hit more than 100 homers in a decade-long career (including the first-ever dinger by a San Francisco Giant).

How to remember such a gracious, accomplished man? I thought a tribute to a little-known teammate, his widow, was in order. Here’s the letter I mailed today:

Dear Mrs. Spencer,

I am sorry to learn of the death of your husband. I admired him not just for his Major League and Japanese League achievements, but for his kindness and devotion to through-the-mail autograph collectors and fans of baseball history.

I looked him up on an autograph collector website. Of recorded letters sent to him by hobbyists, 236 of 240 received a reply. That’s a stunning 98 percent  success rate.

He responded to a letter I sent several years ago. He answered my questions in fine fashion. His tales turned back the clock, making a recipient of a letter feel like they were a Polo Grounds hero or a star in Japan, too

Every collector who has shown me the autograph they received from Mr. Spencer is a testament to glorious penmanship. Every letter stands out, easily read. I think a current player today, if answering at all, would be content to return an “autograph” of D—- S—–. Nothing but initials and slashmarks.

Most of all, I think those collectors and baseball researchers should be thanking YOU. I’m sure he couldn’t have given all correspondents such attention to detail without your patience and support. While other baseball retirees insist on a cash payment being sent along with a letter, Mr. Spencer was sending cherished gifts to strangers with every autograph – all for free.

He will not be forgotten, on or off the field. Thank you for helping to make all that possible.

Sincerely,

Tom Owens

Standing ovation for noted Browns pitcher AND autograph signer Ned Garver

Since December, TTM attempts to reach Ned Garver have been met by bad news.

The famed 91-year old history maker of the St. Louis Browns has been hospitalized. His classy sons have been sending back personal notes telling that their dad is too ill to sign autographs.

Please, take Mr. Garver off your “to do” list. He may have signed his last autograph.

If you do want to write, simply send a note of thanks. For decades, Ned and his family have been devoted to collectors, fans and students of baseball history. Now is the time to show that their efforts have mattered.

%d bloggers like this: