September 29, 2011

John Broggi's memories of early 1980s card shows with Mantle and DiMaggio

The blog readers write . . .

John Broggi, New Jersey:

Frank - you hit a chord with me when you mentioned on September 27 the 1980 or 1981 Connecticut show which featured Mickey Mantle. I believe it was held in Greenwich and featured one of the first appearances by the Mick.

I had recently been re-introduced to card collecting and devoured any information about the hobby, shows or anything connected with it. When I heard that Mickey was appearing at this show, I decided that I had to do the show. Being relatively new, my inventory wasn't great but we secured a table anyway

My son John (who like Randy grew up in the hobby) and I drove up to Greenwich. I remember when it was announced that Mickey was in the room, a murmur went through the crowd. I actually closed down my table (by covering it with a table cloth which was the standard in those days) and got into line to see the Mick and get an autograph I still recall the goose bumps I got when I saw him there.

Things were a lot different at shows back then. I remember a show in Kansas City run by Jim Cumpton and John Mehlin at which Joe DiMaggio appeared. DiMaggio was nattily attired as usual, and actually made a short speech to the crowd before beginning to sign autographs.

Thanks for reminding me of my first face-to-face meeting with my childhood idol.

Bob Brill (Los Angeles):

In my first pack was a Don Rudolph 1959 Topps card and I remember reading the cartoon on the back featuring his wife, burlesque queen Patti Waggin dancing on the table with Don looking up her skirt. The caption read "Don's wife was a professional dancer."

She wasn't a professional dancer, she was one of the highest paid strippers in the country at the time. I made it my life's goal to bring them back and I currently have my book on the market from Schiffer Publishing "Fan Letters to a Stripper" with two more books to come.

I also own their estate and all the Intellectual Properties regarding them. It has been a great run and currently the screen play based on the book is sitting with the producer I've been waiting for. If the film gets made there will be more attention to the hobby. It's a great story.

Here is how to order the book, etc: There are several ways. The cheapest is on You can order it from my website, or write me at PO Box 6405, Beverly Hills, CA 90212, or call me at 805-660-9166.

The only way to order the Special Edition version is on the website. It's $199 normally. The SE is individually numbered to 200, is signed by me and comes with a signed check of Patti Waggin's (1950's or 1960's). The check may be signed Patricia Rudolph and carries a mounted DVD of one of her performances (both the check and the DVD are mounted in sleeves inside the book). The retail price of the regular book is $49.99 but can be had on Amazon for around $30. I have to charge more.
• • •
Posted last week in Barnstorming:

We encourage reader participation, so here is something to ponder:

A new Lists category is "Players who last names spelled backwards are the same as someone else in baseball". Here are examples: Rob Deer and Ron Reed, along with Brian Giles and Bud Selig. We do not want other players with these names, just other pairs. The best answers will be used in an upcoming post.

One reader, Jim Ahl (Seaford, NY) provided this duo Paul Resop and Bob Poser. Resop is current and Poser pitched briefly in 1932 and 1935.

Ahl commented, "These are cheating as their names are palindromes: Fernando Salas/Mark Salas and Dick Nen/Rob Nen.

September 28, 2011

Ebbets Field, home of the Brooklyn Dodgers; my grandfather painted signs there nearly 100 years ago


My love of baseball started in 1952 as a 10-year old. My mother and I would watch Brooklyn Dodgers games on WOR, Channel 9 in New York. She hadn't been a fan but somehow we developed something we could share.

Her father, Walter Maunton, had died in the 1918 influenza pandemic. The same month, October of that year, his sister Lulu was taken by that ravaging illness. As many as 100 million people were killed world wide. Mother was two-years old at the time and my grandmother was left with three children.

Walter Maunton was a sign painter in Brooklyn. I remember being told that he knew the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Charles Hercules Ebbets, who built Ebbets Field. Construction began in 1912 and the first game was played in 1913.

My grandfather painted some of the signs at Ebbets Field. I know very little else about the man and only one photo of him, that I know of, remains. It was pasted in my baby book. When my mother was in ill health in her late 80s, she looked forward to dying "So I can be with daddy again."

It must have been the family connection to Charles Ebbets and his ballpark that made us Dodgers fans. At the time, there were three baseball teams in the New York metropolitan area, and if you followed the game, you had to choose a team.

I remember a game we attended at Ebbets Field in 1954. It was a hot, humid night and sitting next to my mother was a rather large African-American woman who vociferously loved her Dodgers and especially its Black players. When Jackie Robinson or Roy Campanella came to bat, she was in her glory. Junior Gilliam was one of her favorites and kept referring to the young player as "honey".

My mother had grown up in a practically all white world. She was out of her element and went out of her way to cheer for her very friendly neighbor's heroes. She did not feel threatened but was more than a bit intimidated. This was a new experience.

The new experience heightened late in the game on this humid evening. Her neighbor was wearing a short-sleeved dress and was perspiring profusely. Much to my prim-and-proper mother's discomfort, Junior Gilliam's fan whipped out a huge handkerchief and started mopping her armpits. The look on mom's face was priceless, somewhere between shock and horror.

After completing her underarm drying effort, the neighbor unfolded the damp handkerchief and spread it over her lap with more than a little to spare for mom's right leg. Well, I thought mother would pass out on the spot. Bravely she kept a stiff upper lip and did not complain. However, she gave me a furtive glance that expressed her true feelings.

My mother survived and pleasantly joked about the handkerchief incident as dad drove us home to Forest Hills in our 1949 Plymouth. And from then on, Junior Gilliam became one of her favorite players. "Come on Junior honey," she would yell at the black and white Admiral Television screen, when No. 19 strolled to home plate.

September 27, 2011

Randy Barning with Mickey Mantle at Connecticut card show, approximately 1980

Click on photo to enlarge

Our collection of photos taken at baseball card shows is extensive. Hundreds were used in Baseball Hobby News which we published from 1979-93. Many will be posted in our blog in the coming months, dozens from early National Sports Collectors Conventions.

Of all the photos in the collection, this is my favorite. Our son Randy was seven years old at the time and he treasures this picture. In fact, he included it on his "senior page" in his high school yearbook 20 years ago. It was taken by a teenage photographer, John Paul Ruplenas, who freelanced for Baseball Hobby News.

A friend of ours wants to use this picture in a book he is putting together, but needs permission from Ruplenas. I have not been in touch with John for decades and a Google search yields nothing. All I remember is that he lived in New England, probably in Connecticut where this was snapped.

Mantle was about 50 years old at the time and looked fit and healthy. Both of their expressions are priceless. You can see a Sharpie autograph pen in Mantle's left hand. When it was suggested by show promoter Dave Zimmerman that Randy sit on his lap for a picture, The Mick couldn't have been more cooperative.

It doesn't seem possible but Mantle died 16 years ago, August 13, 1995.

September 26, 2011

More about Baseball Lists and some catchy reader feedback

Click on images to enlarge

Often when Vivian and I are taking a long, boring drive and we tire of listening to oldies on the CD player, the conversation sometimes turns to creating what we refer to as "Baseball Lists". In our previous post (a story is known as a post in the blogging world), we included some of our favorite lists.

The trick is to create interesting categories and then interesting players within those categories. A category such as COLORS is too easy. More of a test is coming up with players who fit in RELIGION, STATES, AND CLOTHING ITEMS, for example.

A favorite of mine, not yet posted is, FOREIGN COUNTRIES OR NATIONALITIES. Our extensive list includes Turk Lown, the Mad Hungarian (Al Hrabosky), the Mad Russian (Lou Novikoff), Mark Portugal and Frenchy Bordagaray.

It's sort of cheating to use baseball card checklists and Googling to come up with names for a list. For someone with my baseball card experience with Bowman, tobacco cards, Goudeys, early Topps and many other issues, it is amazing what can pop into your mind.

For example, Vivian and I were working on a FOOD list one day and suddenly I said, Mayo Smith. We also like names that can be on more than one list. Vivian offered, "Turkey Mike" Donlin, who is appropriate for both our FOOD and FOREIGN COUNTRIES lists. We also offer for your consideration a trifecta, Frank "Home Run" Baker who shows up on the BASEBALL TERMS, FOOD and the OCCUPATIONS list.

Several readers responded to the baseball lists in our previous post. Thank you for your interest.

Barrie Sullivan, of the Colorado Sullivans, especially enjoyed our Alous list....Felipe, Jesus, Matty, Moises and Boog. The photo above does not include Moises and Boog.

Speaking of the Alous, here is a story from Barrie:

About 10 years ago in Lowell, Mass. which was a farm team of the BoSox, there was a billboard which read, "JESUS IS THE ANSWER".

Someone climbed up and wrote: "YES, BUT WHAT IS THE QUESTION?"

Two weeks later a fan climbed up and wrote: "WHO IS THE THIRD ALOU BROTHER?"

• • •
Mark Rotker, is a baseball junkie and former coach who attended my high school in Levittown, NY and Vivian's college (Cortland State). He had a few wonderful additions:

Mark gave us Bill "Spaceman" Lee for THINGS YOU SEE IN THE SKY. He also suggested Ty Cobb for our CLOTHING ITEMS list, and for STATES Ron Guidry (Louisiana Lightning) and two players named Cal, Ripken and Abrams.
• • •
We encourage reader participation, so here is something to ponder:

A new Lists category is "Players whose last names spelled backwards are the same as someone else in baseball". Here are examples: Rob Deer and Ron Reed, along with Brian Giles and Bud Selig. We do not want other players with these names, just other pairs. The best answers will be used in an upcoming post.

September 25, 2011

Vivian and Frank Barning's baseball player lists

Matt Batts
Frank "Home Run" Baker
Cecil Fielder
Homer "Dixie" Howell
Johnny Bench
Charlie Spikes

Mayo Smith
Cookie Rojas
Pie Traynor
Bill "Pickles" Dillhoefer
Luke "Hot Potato" Hamlin
Candy Cummings
Herman Franks
Beans Reardon - umpire
Bob Lemon
Carl Hubbell - The Meal Ticket

Tex Clevenger
Lonnie Warneke - The Arkansas Hummingbird
John Maine
Ty Cobb - The Georgia Peach
Ron Washington
Dixie Walker (taking some license)

Verm Law - The Deacon
Bubba Church
Yogi Berra
Russ Mormon
Wally Moses
Preacher Roe
Christy Mathewson - The Christian Gentleman

Wally Hood
Clarence "Pants" Rowland
"Shoeless" Joe Jackson
Cap Anson
Jim Coates

Floyd Baker
Chris Carpenter
Jim Brewer
Max Butcher
Doc Gooden


Wally Moon
Doug Bird
Tim Raines
Dick Starr

David Weathers
Larry Raines
Storm Davis
Bob Hale
Sonny Siebert
J.T. Snow

Billy Pierce
Taft Wright
Truman Clevenger
Jack Roosevelt Robinson
Calvin Coolidge McLish
Millard Fillmore "Dixie" Howell

Tommy John
Johnny Bench
Dennis Lamp
Phil Roof
Paul Householder

September 23, 2011

Remembering Baseball Hobby News columnist Max Silberman (1945-2009)

Max Silberman passed away on December 23, 2009. This is a tribute that I wrote at the time.
• • •
Max Silberman was a prince of a guy, loved our game, adored his collection and family and was a fine friend to many.

In 1979, Max was the very first subscriber to Baseball Hobby News and we still have his canceled check. Soon after, he became a columnist and he penned some of the greatest stories we ever had the privilege to publish.

There was a rule in the Baseball Hobby News office, and remember this was before email. The person opening our mail was directed to bring any envelope from Max directly to my office. No matter how busy I was, I shut my door and immediately read what he had written.

His tales were always beautifully written, requiring virtually no editing. Max was a brilliant story teller, the rare hobby writer who totally captured the essence of baseball and card collecting, and often with a well-developed sense of humor.

His BHN subscription label included his name, address and the notation, No. 1. To Vivian and Frank Barning Max Silberman will always be No. 1.
• • •
Max, who lived in Wynnewood, Pa., was a retired school teacher and a Navy veteran. He had served as an officer and was the driving force behind the Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society. For many years, he was a fixture as a table holder at Philly-area card shows.

September 22, 2011

Meeting sweet Ernie Banks in 1985 lived up to any expectations we might have had

Click on photo to enlarge


If you are a huge baseball fan who has followed the game for several decades, mentally you might have a list of the living players you would most like to meet and have the opportunity to spend some quality time with. My baseball bucket list would have included Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks.

Vivian and I were invited to the huge annual confection industry show by Donrusss, which at the time was a major baseball card producer and was owned by Leaf which also controlled candy brands such as Jolly Rancher. We were invited to some really great events while she and I were publishing Baseball Hobby News, 1979-1993.

The photo above tells the story, including the date "2-23-85." That was 26 years ago. Ernie Banks was representing Cracker Jack (see background) and the by invitation-only visitors could press the flesh with celebrity brand representatives. We also met Ray Fosse, of Pete Rose All-Star Game collision fame, and Mr. T, among others.

When we came upon Banks at the Cracker Jack booth, he wasn't particularly busy so we introduced ourselves and he knew about our publication, or at least so he said. Anyway, we got into an interesting conversation and then he was paged. This was before cell phones. He apologized that he had to leave for a few minutes but urged us to stay at his booth because he enjoyed speaking with us.

So we hung out for awhile, not expecting him to return. When he did, he came bearing gifts for us from the booth to which he had been called. We picked up on the conversation, and chatted for at least a half hour. It was an experience that Vivian and I would never forget. It was like talking to an old friend.

Cracker Jack had a photographer on hand and Ernie insisted we have a picture taken with him. The mounted Polaroid was quickly returned and you can see his inscription.

And another highlight was that there was what was reverently called "The Candy Room". Near the convention hall exit was a huge room with bin after bin of the products of the confectionary show exhibitors. We were each given a large bag which we could fill with anything we wished - candy, nuts, novelties and more. The rule was that you could only take with you that which would fit in the bag. Vivian doesn't admit to sneaking some "much-needed licorice" into her large purse, but I know what I saw.

It was a sweet day indeed, but Ernie Banks was the icing on the cake for the Barnings.

September 21, 2011

My first baseball card, a beautiful orange 1952 Topps Gil Hodges


St. Paul, Minnesota. I was in the second grade and my grade school was located right across the street from Larry's Milk Store. Larry's was a 100 sq ft mom & pop store that carried around 15,000 different items. How he ever managed that, is lost forever. Larry was a 350-pound whale of a man who never moved more than three feet in 10 minutes. Fortunately, the new Topps baseball cards had just arrived and he was behind the cash register with three beautiful new green and red boxes. I had never bought a baseball card before and soon found out that my nickel, would bring me six "giant" trading cards. Being a true card rookie, I had no idea that baseball cards were supposed to be much smaller.

I was standing in line behind Mickey Applebaum and watched as he carefully placed his nickel on top of the counter. A hand, somewhat larger than a Buick, swallowed up the nickel and Mickey was handed a pack of Topps 1952 baseball cards. Mickey disappeared out the front of the store. I put my nickel on the counter and repeated the act that would be the first in many thousands of similar purchases.

I walked out of the store in time to see the gum disappear in Mickey's mouth. In his hand was the stack of baseball cards with a beautiful orange card on top......Gil Hodges. St. Paul was the AAA minor league club of the Dodgers and I was a big fan. I proceeded to open my nickel pack and before I could get the wax off the top card, Mickey offered to trade the card for my entire pack.

To this day I cannot tell you what cards were in my first pack, but that's why I can remember that the 1952 horizontal Gil Hodges card, became my very first baseball card.

• • •
Mike Berkus is a founder of the National Sports Collectors Convention and a member of the National Sports Collector Convention Hall of Fame. He resides in Southern California.

September 20, 2011

My first baseball card: something touched me deep inside


It happened in the spring of 1951, just before my ninth birthday. Upon leaving my elementary school, P.S. 101 in Forest Hills, N.Y., I spied a colorful piece of paper on the ground which I promptly scooped up. It was a 1951 Bowman baseball card of Washington Senators' catcher Mickey Grasso. My life would never be the same.

I knew practically nothing about baseball and was totally unaware of baseball cards. My family would not own a television set until later in the year, so I had never seen a game. But there was something about that Mickey Grasso card that captivated me.

That baseball card changed my life, and is almost beyond words, like a religious experience or the birth of your first child. It was as though a light had been turned on.

Baseball has been a dominant force in my life every since. That's 60 years. Baseball cards and the game became my passion as a youngster. I just had to have all those 1951 Bowmans and I eventually owned all of them.

In the early 1970s, Vivian and I became baseball card collectors and eventually part-time dealers. In 1979, we created a publication devoted to baseball card collecting, Baseball Hobby News, which was published for nearly 15 years.

That 1951 Bowman Mickey Grasso still has a hold on me, as does the game as well as baseball cards.

September 19, 2011

Baseball players whose names or nicknames are body parts

Rollie Fingers
George "Twinkle Toes" Selkirk
Mike Palm
Barry Foote
Ed Head

Neal Ball
Peter LaCock
Bullet Joe Bush
Billy Cox
Woodie Held
Rusty Kuntz - - captain

Ted Beard
Footsie Blair
George Bone
Mordecai "Three-Finger" Brown
Jimmy Bloodworth

Heinie Manush
Eddie "Knuckles" Cicotte
Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown
Hub "Pianolegs" Pernall
Ernie "The Schnozz" Lombardi

Three Finger Brown
Leo "The Lip" Duroocher
Lenny "Nails" Dykstra
Rollie Fingers
Chin-Lung Hu (double body part)

George "Twinkletoes" Selkirk
Walt "No-Neck" Williams
Rollie Fingers
Chase Headley
Barry Foote

Bill Hands
Rollie Fingers
Barry Foote
Jim Ray Hart
Harry Cheek

Bill Hands
Barry Foote
Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown
Rich Hand
Rollie Fingers

Blogger's notes:
It was said of Walt "No-Neck" Williams that he really had a head on his shoulders.

My favorite submission is from Tom Filiberto: Chin-Lung Hu (double body part).

The only player whose name is four body parts, Tony Armas. Figure it out.

September 15, 2011

My son, Randy Barning, is all a dad could have wished for


American journalist and humorist Helen Rowland wrote, "A man's desire for a son is usually nothing but the wish to duplicate himself in order that such a remarkable pattern may not be lost to the world".

While Vivian was expecting, friends and family would ask if I wanted a boy or a girl. I lied, saying it didn't matter.

When our son Randy was born on May 7, 1973 at Mercy Hospital in Rockville Centre, I was overjoyed that Vivian and the baby were healthy, but the icing on the cake was that I had a son.

People knew that Vivian and I were big baseball fans, both rooting for the Brooklyn Dodgers until the team moved to Los Angeles after the 1957 season. Then starting in 1962 when they were created, the New York Mets were our team. So many baby gifts were shirts and other clothing items with baseball themes. Randy even received a couple of miniature baseball gloves.

His best sport turned out to be basketball. The photo of the two of us was taken in our backyard in 1991 when Randy was on the team at La Jolla Country Day School in San Diego. One of our most memorable days was when he made the varsity in junior year and was handed his uniform.

Randy and I played a lot of basketball on a court near our home. Maybe he was around 10 when we started. We'd have shooting contests, games such as H-O-R-S-E and one-on-one competition. Sometimes we would play together in pickup games. In the early years, he was totally overmatched by a dad who was in his early 40s. But as time passed, our skills evened out.

And then came the day, around the time Randy was a freshman in high school, that the torch was passed. The son exceeded the dad and he loved to rub it in my face, in a nice way. He was so pleased with himself, and I was proud of him. Hey, he loved a sport I had played since I was a pre-teen.

When it came time to apply to colleges, Randy already knew which school he wanted. Eventually, he had an impressive choice of universities that offered him admission. The University of California system has some great schools and Randy had his choice. He did not want to stay home, so the San Diego campus was rejected even though I tried to bribe him with a new car. The top schools were the University of California Berkeley and the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). Randy chose UCLA, about a three-hour drive or train ride from home. Vivian and I were thrilled.

I don't know if many young men who have options pick a college because of its basketball history and tradition, but our son did. He wanted to be a Bruin, the school of fabled coach John Wooden and such immortals as Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul Jabbar) and San Diegan Bill Walton, among others.

The first week of school, he talked to some of the assistant basketball coaches about becoming a team manager, but all the spots were taken. Instead, he played intramural basketball on the team of the fraternity he joined and attended just about all the Bruins' home games at fabled Pauley Pavilion, where all the national championship banners are hung.

In March of 1995, the team won its 11th national title and only one since coach Wooden retired in 1975. Randy was a senior and attended the Final Four games in Seattle. In June, his department's commencement was held in Pauley Pavilion, amid the banners. Three of the other grads in his department were starters on the basketball team. The master of ceremonies, as I recall, mentioned by name only three graduates. They received a standing ovation.

At age 38, Randy Barning continues to be all a dad could have wished for. An unknown author wrote, "Son, you outgrew my lap, but never my heart".

Originally published in Early Levittown and Beyond on August 18, 2011

September 13, 2011

WHERE I WOULD RATHER BE TODAY: Cruising the Panama Canal

Click on photos to enlarge

Vivian and I have taken approximately 24 cruises. Among my favorites was our October to November 2003 voyage on Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas. It sailed from San Diego through the Panama Canal to Miami.

Royal Caribbean had an expert onboard who gave lectures on the history of building the Canal and the engineering that created it. If you are looking to take a cruise, I highly recommend this journey.


Photos by Frank Barning