Every Ballplayer is an All-Time Great

It has been a privilege over the last 16 months to curate an enormous sports autograph collection for the estate of a friend. It has been a labor-intensive project due primarily to the fact these signatures were from 1950-75 and had to be authenticated by a 3rd party company before being offered for sale.

The nice folks who purchased these items from my eBay store were thrilled with their acquisitions. Think how a baseball fan feels when adding Ty Cobb, Cy Young, Home Run Baker or Roberto Clemente to their collection. The project has now entered the home stretch as the remaining autographs will be sold in bulk to a company that specializes in memorabilia. It no longer makes sense for my client to pay $20 (or more) for authentication if the autograph won’t bring a decent return. Numbering over 1,000, these signatures are from players who aren’t famous or particularly popular.

By the time you read this, the deal may be completed but as I organized the collection one last time, it occurred to me that not being famous or popular shouldn’t define these ballplayers. After all, everyone who gets to the major leagues is a great player. They were probably the best player on their High School team and might even be legendary in their own home town. In addition, fans have a way of attaching themselves to certain players that you may not know. A golfing buddy of mine is a Tigers fan and his favorite ballplayer is Chico Fernandez, the Bengals SS of the early 60’s. Another friend is a Red Sox fan who loves Dalton Jones and his lifetime Batting Average of .235. In the 50’s, my best friend would trade his Mickey Mantle cards for ones of Ted Kluszewski.

So, as a small tribute to ballplayers great and not-so-great, here are a few signatures that were pulled at random…

  • Cecil Upshaw – The Braves Closer in the late 60’s, he had 27 Saves in ’69 and a lifetime ERA of 3.13.
  • “Sad” Sam Jones – An intimidating Pitcher who won over 100 games in his career. Has the unique stat of leading the NL in losses (14-20 for the Cubs in ’55) and wins (21-15 for the Giants in ’59).
  • Curt Motton – This OF played parts of eight seasons in the 60’s & 70’s, mostly with the Orioles…his lifetime BA was .213.
  • Don Nottebart – Pitched in the 60’s and was 11-8 with a 3.17 ERA for the Houston Colt 45’s in ’63.
  • Howie Schultz – A 1B for the Dodgers in the early 40’s, he had 83 RBI’s for the “Bums” in ’44…at 6’6’”, his nickname was “Stretch”.
  • Greg Minton – The Giants Closer of the early 80’s, he made the All-Star team in ’82 when he had 30 Saves.
  • Steve Swisher – A NL Catcher for nine seasons, he made the All-Star team in ’76 while with the Cubs…he’s Nick Swisher’s Dad.
  • Elliott Maddox – Roamed the OF for multiple teams in his 11-year career (1970-80)…had more lifetime BB’s than K’s.
  • Charlie Manuel – A beloved baseball “lifer”, he played in the 60’s & 70’s but was best known as the Manager of the Phillies from 2005-2013.
  • Willie Randolph – The slick 2B of the 60’s & 70’s Yankees, he accumulated over 2,200 hits and made six All-Star teams.
  • Pepe Mangual – Patrolled the outfield for the Expos in the 70’s and swiped 33 bases in 1975.
  • George Mitterwald – A big league Catcher for 11 years, he played for the Twins & Cubs in the 60’s & 70’s.
  • Dick Ruthven – Pitched for 14 years in the 70’s & 80’s winning 123 Games and making two All-Star squads.
  • Dennis Leonard – Spent 12 years on the mound exclusively for the Royals and posted a record of 144-106…won 20 games in 1977.
  • Mike Cubbage – Eight seasons as an AL infielder in the 70’s & 80’s, he also managed the Mets for seven games in 1991.
  • Ken Forsch – 16 seasons as a Pitcher in the 70’s & 80’s, he won 114 games and made two All-Star teams…his brother Bob had 168 victories.
  • Bob Boken – Played in 147 games during the 1933 & 1934 seasons and spent 17 years in the minor leagues…playing for AA St. Paul from 1935-38, he posted BA numbers of .298, .294, .300 & .297.
  • Gus Suhr – The Pirates starting 1B of the 1930’s, he was a member of the 1936 All-Star team.
  • Daryl Spencer – A regular in the line-up for the Giants and was part of the squad who left for San Francisco in 1958.
  • Jeff Torborg – A big league Catcher for 10 years in the 60’s & 70’s, he also managed for 11 seasons with multiple teams.
  • Don Money – A 16-year career that stretched from 1968-83, he made four all-Star teams.
  • Ken McBride – A member of the Los Angeles Angels rotation in their inaugural season (1961), he made three consecutive All-Star teams with the Halos.  

Gotta’ love those baseball memories.

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