Old Timers

While I was autograph hunting in Philadelphia, I was unaware of the Equitable Old Timers Game that weekend until I “missed” Hank Aaron while pursuing Kevin Mitchell. And if I missed Hank Aaron I had no chance of knowing who the other old timers were. Thankfully I think Hank Aaron was the only star there.

During the downtime while I was waiting in the lobby, this old guy just started talking to me and my mom (my mom was a saint for putting up with my autograph hunting). It turned out to be Bob Veale who, while enjoying his anonymity, also missed some of the attention. There was some good-natured ribbing about not knowing who any of those guys were but I think they recognized that most players end up being unrecognized after retirement. The names and faces fade but the game remains and they just liked seeing kids who were ardent enthusiastic fans.

As we were talking he introduced me to a bunch of other no-longer-famous old timers. I was wholly unprepared and didn’t even have index cards or anything.* So my mom grabbed some hotel stationery and that’s what I ended up getting all their autographs on.

*Autograph Card was a product that didn’t exist at all yet. I would have loved to have that available to me back then.

Which makes Bob Veale the single nicest player I met during all my autograph hunting years. And the autographed hotel stationery is now a memento which, while I treasure it, is now something I’m not fully sure what to do with. It definitely shows a lot of the signs of my past efforts to do something with it. When I was 11 I only had 8×10 sleeves so I hacked off two edges of the letterhead so it would fit. I also couldn’t read the signatures and had to repeatedly edit my transcriptions as I researched who these guys were and how to spell their names. But I have a decent plan now.

Since the Old Timers game was intended to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the 1964 Phillies team which choked the National League pennant away* I’ve decided that at the very least I should collect the 1964 Topps baseball cards for the players whose autographs I had.

*Yes this is possibly the most Phillies™ thing imaginable.

So far I’m doing pretty good. I only have three cards which I’m missing. And I’ve got a couple complications.

The first sheet is pretty straightforward. I’m missing Veale—a semi-star who despite being somewhat forgotten still commands card prices which, while not expensive, are higher than the standard common card price. Looking through his bio and the number of league leader cards he appeared on I’m a bit surprised that he faded away. But then the 1960s was indeed a pitcher’s decade.

And I’m missing Danny Cater who was a rookie in 1964 and whose 1964 Topps card carries the rookie card surcharge. I’ve got the other six players though.

I actually had a Donn Clendenon card from 1966. I appreciate that he and Veale listed their teams on the paper. My mind’s eye has them hanging out together when Veale started talking to my mom and me and I see this extra information as them graciously giving me more information about themselves.

Where Veale and Clendenon were establishing themselves as semi stars of the 1960s and their participation ion the Old Timers game as a “Best of the National League” squad makes perfect sense. Bobby Shantz’s presence was commemorating the last season of his career. It’s funny though. Shantz doesn’t seem to be a star either and his card was priced as a common. But as the 1952 AL MVP he’s the only player on here who’s won a major award.

This Frank Thomas autograph was quickly very amusing to me with the emergence of a very different Frank Thomas in 1990. Of all the players on this sheet, I only knew Thomas because of the infamous “Yo la tengo” story.

Reading Art Mahaffey’s bio and I’m surprised he was at this Old Timers game at all. Phillies fans don’t have the nicest reputation but I guess by 1989 people were ready to remember the good about leading the league for 150 games rather than dwelling on the end result.

Having Mahaffey and Clay Dalyrmple next to each other on this sheet suggests that they were also hanging out together in the lobby. I makes me smile thinking that they were.

Bob Lillis meanwhile wasn’t part of the Old Timers but was instead a Giants coach. Since he played in 1964, I’ve decided to get his card too. That I got his autograph on these sheets instead of the Giants ball suggests that I hadn’t quite figured out what I was doing with the ball yet and was instead using the stationery for any non-current players.

The Bob Lillis autograph also explains the more disjointed nature of the second sheet of signatures. Only two of them are old timers. The other two are like the Lillis signature.

Jim Pagliaroni is the only 1964 card I have from this sheet because Joe Christopher’s is a high number. As with Frank Thomas, I’m most tickled to have Joe Christopher’s signature because of his part in suggesting that Richie Ashburn say “Yo la tengo.”

Bill Fahey meanwhile is a Giants coach like Bob Lillis. Only Fahey played in the 1970s so his cards don’t quite fit this project. But I might have to track down a few anyway.

And Charlie Wagner is a longtime Red Sox scout who I’m assuming was there because of his longtime affiliation with the Reading Phillies. He has no 1964 card either but he does have a few TCMA cards so maybe once I get the 1964s finished I’ll look into those.

I’m also still considering whether Hank Aaron should be part of this set. That’s obviously not an autograph I have but he is a significant part of this story.

Author: Nick Vossbrink

Blogging about Photography, Museums, Printing, and Baseball Cards from both Princeton New Jersey and the San Francisco Bay Area. On Twitter as @vossbrink, WordPress at njwv.wordpress.com, and the web at vossbrink.net

12 thoughts on “Old Timers”

  1. Great story and beautiful sigs. I was at County Stadium when I was about 10, waiting for autographs by the dugout. There was an older guy standing next to me and said something along the lines of “Oh, you want an autograph? You can have mine.” Then he signed his name on my glove. I was probably too scared to say anything, but when I took the glove back to my dad and showed him, he told me that it was Johnny Logan, a 4-time All Star for the Milwaukee Braves. I still have the glove, but the signature is completely faded away.

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