November 27, 2013

Billy Williams -- Hall of Fame 1987

Acquired: TTM
Sent: 10/11/13
Received: 11/20/13
Turnaround: 40 days
Submittal: $20, ROMLB, LOR, SASE
My request: Blue pen, sweet spot, HOF inscription
Commentary: Landing an autographed ball from Billy Williams through the mail has been my favorite success to date. When this ball came back to me, I was thrilled. There are two key reasons for this. First, I've been a Cubs fan all my life. Second, Billy Williams has a reputation as an erratic signer through the mail. Overall, I love it when the low-percentage shots pan out from your favorite players. I worded my LOR thoughtfully, which probably helped a great deal with this outcome. 

November 25, 2013

Tommy Lasorda -- Hall of Fame 1997

Acquired: TTM
Sent: 10/29/13
Received: 11/8/13
Turnaround: 10 days
Submittal: $20, ROMLB, LOR, SASE
My request: Blue pen, sweet spot, HOF inscription
Commentary: Overall, this was a successful submission with a fast turnaround. Having lived in Orange County as recently as July, I have seen Lasorda charge $80 to sign at local appearances. From that standpoint, landing an autograph through the mail for $20 is a win. As for the downside, this submission marks the first time I did not receive exactly what I specified. Intentionally -- or not -- Tommy overlooked my request for a HOF inscription. Generally speaking, I do not get too excited about pursuing HOF balls from former managers, but I pursued Tommy in part for sentimental reasons. I spent a lot of time in Dodger Stadium from 2008 to 2013. When I had good seats, I always saw Tommy Lasorda there. I think he attends every game. 

November 18, 2013

Book Review -- Fifty-nine in '84

Fifty-nine in ‘84 reminded me of a favorite George Costanza quote from Seinfeld: “If you took everything I’ve accomplished in my entire life -- and condensed it into a day -- it looks decent.”

In this case, if you took everything “Old Hoss” Radbourn accomplished during the 1884 season -- and condensed it into a magazine article -- it would look decent. But inflating Radbourn’s 1884 season into a 300-page book, as author Edward Achorn did, stretches the one-dimensional storyline too thin.

This conclusion is not meant to diminish Radbourn’s tenacity that season: 59 wins, 678 innings pitched, 73 complete games, and so on. The statics are jaw-dropping. Problem is, these numbers did not translate into a page-turner. Fifty-nine in ‘84 has some nice moments, but I never found myself absorbed in it.

Perhaps this is because Radbourn’s feats are the byproduct of the baseball environment at the time. Two key factors were at work:

First, a larger macho culture existed among players in 1884 than today. Second, owners and managers in baseball’s early days rode players like a ten-cent horse.

In 1884, starting pitchers were expected to finish games. Pitchers expected it of themselves, and owners expected it of their players. Both groups were co-conspirators at setting this high, even dangerous, level of expectations. Complete games were a barometer of manhood and success.

I wish Radbourn’s journey throughout the 1884 season was more complex. Reading about his grueling workload details game after game throughout 300 pages, at times, felt equally gruelling. Even the author concedes that the mercurial Radbourn likely had no idea how many games he was winning. Wins, as a statistic attributed to pitchers, were not closely tracked at the time.

The book’s largest tangent is a tenuous storyline about a love interest named Carrie Stanhope who may or may not have been in attendance at some of Radbourn’s games. As suggested by the previous sentence, there is little concrete information about this relationship. In addition, the storyline felt forced. For both reasons, it’s tough as a reader to invest in it.

I feel satisfaction for having read all 300 pages, but cannot recommend doing so enthusiastically. Nevertheless, I look forward to reading Achorn’s next book which is available now. I enjoy reading about baseball’s early days and I see some promise from the author for next time. 

Favorite Line

“While I may not live to see it, I predict that it will not be many years before the world’s championship will be between the two champions of America, Cuba and Japan and other foreign countries, where baseball is getting a firm hold.” 
-- Frank Bancroft, Manager, Providence Grays

November 13, 2013

Pete Rose -- #4256

Acquired: In Person

Date: 7/20/13
Location: Art of Music in Mandalay Place. Las Vegas, Nevada.
Comment: Of course, Pete Rose is not technically admittedly to Cooperstown but he would have been. Setting that debate aside, which is a huge debate to set aside, it is not uncommon to see Pete Rose in Las Vegas. I focus on sports and food while I'm there, and apparently so does Pete Rose. Over time, our paths have crossed many times, mostly in the sports book at Mandalay. I have even seen him at my favorite restaurant in town, CUT. I never approach anyone famous, so I have always left Pete Rose alone. But when I was in Las Vegas for a bachelor party recently, I learned that Pete Rose had an autograph table set up. Long story short, I couldn't pass up an opportunity to meet the Hit King. 

November 11, 2013

Bobby Doerr -- Hall of Fame 1986

Acquired: TTM
Sent: 10/24/13
Received: 11/2/13
Turnaround: 9 days
Submittal: $0, ROMLB, LOR, SASE
Commentary: True to his reputation, Mr. Doerr signed quickly and for free. Pretty cool, given that he is 95 years-old! Because of Mr. Doerr's history of signing with alacrity, I sent no money with my request. It would appear that the former Red Sox second baseman genuinely loves interacting with fans and keeping pace with the seemingly unending demand for his Hall of Fame signature.

November 10, 2013

Jim Bunning -- Hall of Fame 1996

Acquired: TTM
Sent: 10/11/13
Received: 10/25/13
Turnaround: 14 days
Submittal: $0, ROMLB, LOR, SASE
Commentary: Perhaps due to Bunning's background as a former U.S. Senator, I sent no money with my request. Something just feels weird about mailing cash in an envelope to a U.S. Senator, so I did not include money with my submission. Overall, I still feel guilt-free about that decision but I cannot entirely rationalize it. Anyway, in my LOR, I wrote that I genuinely admired his ability to succeed in two vastly different fields -- baseball and politics. I meant what I wrote. Setting anyone's personal politics aside, his accomplishments are impressive. 

November 9, 2013

Andre Dawson -- Hall of Fame 2010

Acquired: TTM
Sent: 9/25/13
Received: 10/19/13
Turnaround: 24 days
Submittal: $20 check to the Andre Dawson Foundation, ROMLB, LOR, SASE.
My Request: Blue pen, sweet spot, HOF inscription
Charity: The Andre Dawson Foundation
Commentary: Andre Dawson has a classic autograph. Like Pete Rose, Dawson doesn't rush his signature. Considering the way Dawson carried himself on the field, it's not a surprise that he has terrific penmanship. Proceeds go to Dawson's charity.

November 7, 2013

Johnny Bench -- Hall of Fame 1989

Acquired: TTM via Foundation
Sent: 9/24/13
Received: 10/12/13
Turnaround: 18 days
Submittal: There is a detailed submission process outlined on Johnny Bench's official web site. I submitted a ROMLB, SASE and money order. 
Commentary: Unlike most Hall of Famers, Johnny Bench has a true process in place for submissions including a web site and a printable form to complete for send-ins. There are pros and cons to the formality. The benefit is that there's no need to cross your fingers with your submission because a real process exists. The downside, however, is that following Johnny Bench's process is more work and more expensive. Overall, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. I definitely would rather have this kind of access to Johnny Bench than no access at all. 

November 6, 2013

Wade Boggs -- Hall of Fame 2005

Acquired: TTM
Sent: 9/25/13
Received: 10/7/13
Turnaround: 12 Days
Submittal: $10 cash, ROMLB, LOR, SASE.
CommentaryRumor has it that Boggs will sign for free, which is unprecedented for a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Including $10 felt like the right thing to do. Better to be safe than sorry.