October 31, 2011

Pee Wee Reese's 1953 Bowman baseball card: who is the guy sliding into second base?


One of my favorite baseball cards is the 1953 Bowman Color Pee Wee Reese. The card is from my favorite set and I was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan, with our shortstop Reese being among the players I most admired.

The Barnings bought and sold cards in the New York Metropolitan area from 1973 until moving from Long Island to San Diego in 1982. Aside from card show and mail-order inventory, Vivian and I kept the best example of each card for our collection.

Conservatively, we owned 50 of this card along the way and they could always be sold, no matter what the condition. The Dodgers left Brooklyn after the 1957 season, so the card was a memory of a glorious time for fans of the team. And the future Hall of Famer was the captain of our team, a boy of summer.

Take a good look at the image of his 1953 Bowman shown above. Like most copies of this card, it is a tad out of focus. But that is not what I am getting at. At a show in New York I asked Reese where it was taken. "Probably in spring training in Vero Beach."

But the big question was who was sliding into second base? No one had ever before asked him for that information. Looking at the card he reported that it was Frenchy Bordagaray, who was a coach in the Dodgers organization.

I knew little of Bordagaray, who died at age 90 in 2000, except that he was a character. His obituary in The New York Times verified his being different:

"Bordagaray debuted in the major leagues with the Chicago White Sox in 1934 and joined the Dodgers the following season. When he arrived at spring training in Daytona Beach, Fla., in 1936, he stunned the baseball world by wearing a mustache and goatee. The mustache was grown the previous winter for a bit part in the Hollywood movie The Prisoner of Shark Island, an account of the jailing of Dr. Samuel Mudd for complicity in the assassination of Lincoln."

According to a website, Los Angeles Dodgers Online. Com, "Bordagaray sported a mustache--common among 19th century ballplayers and also in later decades of the 20th century, but almost unheard of during his era."

We met Pee Wee at a few card shows, but best of all, the Barnings sat next to him at the first two games of the 1984 World Series, played in San Diego. The Wave was very popular then and Pee Wee stood up and raised his arms the first time it passed by our seats. "My first wave and last wave," he commented. The Dodgers' beloved captain died in 1999 at age 81.

October 29, 2011

Those Plymouth shows: As a Tigers fan, nothing could be better for me than a national show with a Detroit flavor


The first Plymouth (Mich.) baseball card show I attended may very well have been that 1979 edition. I may in fact have entered only minutes after that photo of George Kell (see Oct. 25 story) was snapped. In the parking lot as I was entering, Kell was leaving. I stopped to get his autograph, fumbling for something he might write on. I found an envelope, which he was happy to sign, and which I still have.

“They tell me my card is worth a dollar, “ he said. It is always a bit of a shock to hear a voice coming from a human being that one has heard for decades on radio and television. He was just as cordial in the parking lot as he was in the broadcast booth.

That show was my first exposure to shows with a national focus: dealers from all over the country. I had only recently returned to collecting, and my previous experience was limited to a half-dozen local shows around Boston.

I returned every year for most of the 1980s, scheduling my annual summer visit to my parents in Toledo to coincide with the show. It was here that I purchased cards that enabled me to complete a number of sets, including the green variations in 1962 Topps. I had been curious about these variations since I first discovered them in eighth grade.

As a Tigers fan, nothing could be better for me than a national show with a Detroit flavor. I was able gradually to acquire a complete run of Tigers yearbooks, and a number of pin backs including my favorite, a little pin with a cartoon Tiger that said “Iffy Club.” Iffy the Dopester was the pen name of a Detroit Free Press writer who became so popular he developed a fan club in 1935. The name was derived from “If the Tigers could win the pennant again.”

Just as Kell was the guest that day, in other years I acquired the autographs (and a bit of conversation) from Hal Newhouser, Billy Rogell, Al Kaline and Lance Parrish, all included for the price of the entry ticket.

Lions and Pistons collectibles were plentiful, too. I bought a game used Eric Money Pistons jersey and eventually acquired at least one card of all my favorite Lions, which began with the Alex Karras’ years and ended with Lem Barney’s.

It was a time when one actually could comparison shop, and condition was in the eyes of the beholder. I loved getting fair-good 1953 Bowman commons for a buck or less. Of course, I could go on and on about the prices compared to today, but as I’m sure almost anyone reading this would agree, we would trade the high prices on the cards we have since sold to return to the days when trading was easy, kids and adults enjoyed shows together, and grading was something you did to your driveway.
• • •
Darrell Berger has written "Then Roy said to Mickey" with former Yankees outfielder Roy White and "Straight Talk from Wild Thing" with former Phillies pitcher and MLB Network commentator Mitch Williams, both published by Triumph Books.

He is a native of Toledo, Ohio and a graduate of Vanderbilt University. He is a Unitarian Universalist minister in Orange, NJ and a tour guide at the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center in Little Falls, NJ. He has been a featured speaker at the New York City Chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), speaking on "Baseball Players as Human Beings."

He was the book reviewer with "Baseball Hobby News" for over 10 years, where he also contributed a monthly column, "The Diamond Mind." His three favorite baseball personalities are Ernie Harwell, Bill Veeck and Casey Stengel.

He may be reached at

October 27, 2011

A big thrill was having lunch with baseball immortal Charlie Gehringer


In the nearly 15 years we published Baseball Hobby News, Vivian and I had the opportunity to meet hundreds of players, including dozens of Hall of Famers.

One of my absolute biggest thrills was created by Carol and Lloyd Toerpe who promoted shows for many years in Plymouth, Mich. A year or so after George Kell's 1979 appearance mentioned in our previous story, Charley Gehringer was hired to sign autographs at their show. They arranged a luncheon for Gehringer and a small group of friends. I was invited and the memories still give me chills.

Considered by many as the greatest second baseman of all time, he had a .320 lifetime batting average with 2,839 hits. The Detroit Tigers' immortal told stories of having been scouted by Ty Cobb and playing with and for the Georgia Peach. Cobb was the player/manager of the team for six seasons, 1921-26.

To this baseball junkie, having lunch with Gehringer, who passed away in 1993 at age 89, was a magical experience. A mild mannered gentleman, he was in his late 70s at the time of the luncheon and still sharp as a tack. One of the questions I asked was "How do you pronounce your last name?" I had heard it pronounced two ways, Geh-rin-jurr (rhymes with purr) and Geh-ringer (as in bell ringer), which is the correct way.

His is one of the most distinctive of all baseball Hall of Famer autographs. He always signed an easy-to-read "Chas. Gehringer". An example can be seen at the top of this page. He had been elected to the Hall in 1949.

According to Cobb, "He'd say hello at the start of spring training and goodbye at the end of the season and the rest of the time he let his bat and glove do all the talking for him."

• • •
If you would like to learn more about Charlie Gehringer, who was born in 1903, do a Google search. There is a wealth of information about this baseball legend.

October 25, 2011

The Plymouth, Mich. shows were a highlight for this baseball junkie


"You have to sign up for a table at the Plymouth, Michigan show," was a suggestion made by hobby friends when Baseball Hobby News started to become established in early 1979. That advice was heeded and it soon became an annual stop for Vivian and me.

Carol and Lloyd Toerpe ran the show and they would soon win their bid to host the second annual National Sports Collectors Convention the following summer. The 1979 three-day Plymouth show attracted approximately 7,000 people and other major shows were seeing a markedly larger interest from collectors.

Our little hobby was starting to take off. The growth spurt was helped by the interest of media, with TV crews appearing at the big shows. If a show made the evening news on Friday, large crowds for the weekend were virtually assured. It was an exciting time.

I have written in the blog about the first baseball card that I had ever seen, a 1951 Bowman Mickey Grasso in the spring of that year when I was 10-years of age. The first baseball autograph that I had ever witnessed was around the same time. It was on a scrap of paper signed by the Detroit Tigers' classy third baseman George Kell who retired in 1957. In 1979, Kell was in the midst of a nearly 35-year run as a Tigers broadcaster.

Kell signed autographs at our first Plymouth show and Carol Toerpe arranged for us to have the photo shown above taken with the future Hall of Famer who died at age 86 in 2009. It wasn't cool, but I just had to tell Kell that his was the first baseball autograph I ever saw. It belonged to Alan Hevesi, the older brother of my childhood friend Dennis Hevesi. Dennis has won a Pulitzer Prize while writing for The New York Times and Alan was a well known New York political figure.

Kell was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1983. A memorable quote from his induction speech goes as follows: "I have always said that George Kell has taken more from this great game of baseball than he can ever give back. And now I know, I am deeper in debt than ever before."

• • •
Our next blog story will be about meeting another Detroit Tigers Hall of Famer, Charlie Gehringer, at another Plymouth show.

October 24, 2011

Memories of the 1979 Cincinnati show; buying Mickey Mantle cards before the prices exploded

December 1979 issue: "Jack Urban (left) and George Husby (right) show their fine array of collectibles to Baseball Hobby News editor Frank Barning at the Cincinnati show. Note the many Hartland Statues near the bottom of the photo."
Click on photo to enlarge


Among the finest shows in the old days was the Cincinnati event run by Bob Rathgeber, Phil Lachmeier and Ray Carson. They always had a fantastic auction and a well-stocked hospitality room.

At the 1979 show, I bought virtually every Mickey Mantle card in the building. Dealers thought I was crazy, because if I couldn't bargain for a discounted bulk price, I paid what they were asking. I remember coming home with a hundred or more Mantles.

At that point, the hobby and card prices were beginning to explode. The Mantles were among the best investments I ever made. The prices doubled within less than a year. Just imagine having dozens of mostly 1957-1969 Mantles. Sure, I wish I had never sold them, but a fine profit was turned.

We lived in New York at the time, and visiting shows in the midwest was always a treat. I went out of my way to spend time with dealers I had not met before but knew about from the hobby publications, including some of our Baseball Hobby News advertisers.

Among those I sought out are the duo pictured here, Jack Urban (not the former pitcher, 1957-59) and George Husby. They had been in the hobby for many years and like most of the dealers back then, were big baseball fans. I could not find Urban via a recent Google search but Husby was easy to locate. He still lives in Sturgeon Bay, Wis., continues to be a card dealer, and is active in youth baseball. He is a member of the Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame.

Milwaukee Brewers diehard Tom Mortenson, formerly with Krause Publications for 19 years, did some digging and found a telephone listing in Algoma, Wis. for Urban. So, the good news is that it appears they are both still with us.

October 22, 2011

Moneyball: Within the framework of a baseball story, a real depiction of human emotions


Hi Frank – I don’t share your enthusiasm for Bull Durham (story posted on October 18), but I completely agree on Money Ball.

I saw the movie last week in a theater with about five other people ---they were enjoying the senior citizen discount while I had finally lost faith that Bonita was going to have the time on the same day that I was able to go to the movie.

Naturally, the movie had a different approach than the book; less emphasis on the team building aspects. Still, I thought it was a great performance by Brad Pitt that captured the pathos of a high draft pick from whom so much was expected – not everyone fulfills the goals others set for them. But the key was the relationship with his daughter. Just fantastic. I told Bonita it was the best movie I had seen in at least 10 years.

This is what you want in a movie -- within the framework of a baseball story, a real depiction of human emotions.

As an aside, I have always thought that the people who choose to deride Billy Beane as a “Money Ball” guy missed the entire point of the book and the underlying approach taken by the A’s. The critics (and baseball’s establishment – at least those who piled on the concept) thought Money Ball was about using computers (i.e. Sabrmetrics) to the exclusion of traditional scouting methods.

What the book and the concept was really about was the survival of an underfinanced baseball franchise finding a way to compete with high budget teams that are in a position, under the present system, to sign all the key free agents and that can afford to make mistakes in their budget.

The key for Oakland was the brilliance of “Building a Giambi” out of three players with an emphasis on on-base percentage when those skills were undervalued (or not valued) by the overall marketplace. In a nutshell, it was captured by the idea of signing Scott Hatteberg for almost nothing. When the rest of the baseball world saw a sorearmed catcher with below average power, the A’s saw an on-base machine who they thought they could teach to be a first baseman.

Also, the A’s were able to see through the star persona of a player like Johnny Damon who will probably last long enough to get 3,000 hits, but really does little (compared to the salary he has drawn for the last 10 years) to help his teams win. Fans see him as a winner because wherever he has been his teams make the playoffs. A more realistic view would be that he has always signed as a free agent with teams with such overwhelming offensive skills that they have been able to overcome the weakness of his defensive game, the non-necessity of his declining running game and his overrated bat.
• • •
Bruce Paynter is an attorney and a long-time hobbyist from Chicago. He and his wife Bonita promoted the highly regarded 1983 and 1989 National Sports Collectors Conventions.

October 20, 2011

Part 2 - Hobby history: Card show promoters paid Mickey Mantle a shockingly high $1,000 per hour in New York in 1978.


Our October 1 story is continued here. "Mantle signs for $1,000 per hour in New York" was the front-page banner headline on the April 1979 issue of Baseball Hobby News. It shocked collectors and dealers because few of us imagined that the hobby could support a baseball card show with such a high-priced autograph signer.

In early 1978, Long Islander Tom Catal and his friends Bob Ragonese and Vinnie Trocino had gotten together to trade baseball cards. All of a sudden, they decided to promote a show, something they had not done previously.

Catal's opinion was that to have a successful show on Long Island," we had to have a superstar as an attraction." Back then, show promoters and collectors were happy to have former or current players from the local major league team as autographers. The concept usually worked, but Catal had a vision of the future that just about no one else had.

Catal called Pete Rose and also considered Willie Mays, his boyhood idol. The final decision was that The Mick would be the best drawing card considering the location he and his friends (and soon to be partners) had in mind. The venue would be Hofstra University on Long Island, where the New York Jets had trained for many years.

Through the New York Yankees, Catal obtained the phone number of Mantle's agent in Dallas. They discussed Mantle's fee and Catal brought back the $1,000 per hour figure to Ragonese and Trocino.

"We talked it over, decided that we would try it, and we did it," reported Catal. Mantle signed a contract for three hours and a total of $3,000. Those numbers was shockingly way beyond anything our hobby had ever experienced.

Mantle appeared on Saturday, September 9, 1978. A total of 1,800 people attended and another 700 on the Mantle-less Sunday. A newspaper strike in New York City hurt attendance. Catal lamented, "It might have cost us 1,000 admissions. It wasn't a financial bonanza for us. We broke about even." But they established themselves in the hobby as people who could run a big-time quality show.

In this day and age, more than 30 years later, it is difficult to imagine that a Mantle autograph was only $3 per person. At the time, it was reportedly the highest in hobby history. Twenty five or so people complained about the price and the partners graciously cut the figure for large families. One man came with 18 children, but they weren't all his. "He borrowed most of them and got 18 things signed," Catal reported.

"Mickey seemed to have a good time at the show. In fact, he signed for an extra 45 minutes and didn't charge us for the time." It was the beginning of a business relationship and friendship between Mantle and Catal that would survive for many years.

There was some fear on the part of the promoters that Mantle would not show up at Hofstra. Obviously he did, but we will tell you about their apprehension in part 3 of "Mantle signs for $1,000 per house in New York". Stay tuned.

Coincidentally, today would have been Mickey Mantle's 80 birthday. He passed away in Dallas on August 13, 1995 at age 63.

October 18, 2011

My favorite movie speech: "The only church that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out, is the Church of Baseball."

Susan Sarandon as Annie Savoy in Bull Durham

My favorite sports motion picture is Bull Durham, the 1988 comedy starring Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins. This film is a double dip for me, not only a great motion picture, but also with a baseball theme. There are precious few great baseball movies, although Money Ball is outstanding.

My favorite speech from any movie, including the various great monologs in Casablanca, is this one from Annie Savoy, who was played by Sarandon. The mix of metaphysics (which I have explored in depth) and baseball to which I have devoted nearly 60 years, just blows me away.


I believe in the Church of Baseball. I've tried all the major religions, and most of the minor ones. I've worshipped Buddha, Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, trees, mushrooms, and Isadora Duncan. I know things. For instance, there are 108 beads in a Catholic rosary and there are 108 stitches in a baseball. When I heard that, I gave Jesus a chance. But it just didn't work out between us. The Lord laid too much guilt on me.

I prefer metaphysics to theology. You see, there's no guilt in baseball, and it's never boring... which makes it like sex. There's never been a ballplayer slept with me who didn't have the best year of his career. Making love is like hitting a baseball: you just gotta relax and concentrate. Besides, I'd never sleep with a player hitting under .250... not unless he had a lot of RBIs and was a great glove man up the middle.

You see, there's a certain amount of life wisdom I give these boys. I can expand their minds. Sometimes when I've got a ballplayer alone, I'll just read Emily Dickinson or Walt Whitman to him, and the guys are so sweet, they always stay and listen. 'Course, a guy'll listen to anything if he thinks it's foreplay. I make them feel confident, and they make me feel safe, and pretty.

'Course, what I give them lasts a lifetime; what they give me lasts 142 games. Sometimes it seems like a bad trade. But bad trades are part of baseball - now who can forget Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas, for God's sake? It's a long season and you gotta trust.

I've tried 'em all, I really have, and the only church that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out, is the Church of Baseball.

October 16, 2011

Part 3 - How do you know you are hooked on collecting?

Matthew Adamic grew up collecting. He is shown here in the early 1980s
with his parents, hobby pioneers Jerry and Lynn. The family has
attended nearly every National Sports Collectors Convention together.

Click on photo to enlarge

Bob Tryon wrote hobby humor stories for Baseball Hobby News in its early days. Most of his September 1979 "Hooked on baseball cards" story ran here on October 12 and 13. We asked a few blog readers to come up with examples that go along with Tryon's theme. The major contributor was Matthew Adamic, an ecstatic Texas Rangers fan, who can't wait for the World Series to begin.


You know you are hooked when . . .

you spend more time on eBay searching for "treasure" than you do
keeping up with the news and weather.

you're thinking about having kids and wonder where the children will
sleep, since the second bedroom is your personal museum and storage

you see a great home run hit, and instantly think "I wish I'd caught
that ball," followed by "I wonder if I could obtain that bat. Or that
uniform. Or both."

you've had business cards made that highlight your collecting
interests, which lead to negative cash flows.

you drive long distances to meet strangers in the hope that you can
leave their house with a trunk full of dusty objects that you spent
your entertainment budget on.

you become overjoyed at someone writing his name on a baseball.

acquiring pieces of cardboard with pictures on them gives you an
endorphin rush akin to shooting heroin.

you save baseballs from games you played in.

you have every baseball glove you ever used, except for one that was
lost in a move and another that was stolen.

Other contributions:

Rich Klein, Plano, Texas:

you have to explain to your wife and mother-in-law that the Nora Roberts novels take up too much space but your baseball cards need to keep growing

you try to explain to your wife why old pieces of cardboard with pictures of men in baseball uniforms talk to you.

Frank Barning, Las Vegas, Nevada:

you think that Mantle, Mays and Aaron are the Holy Trinity.

visiting the Topps factory is at the top of your Bucket List.

Bob Tryon, Elizabeth, New Jersey (from September 1979 issue of Baseball Hobby News):

you tell your father, "Please don't take away my cards, hit me with the belt instead."

you remove the Playboy centerfold from your bedroom wall and replace it with a picture of Don Mossi.

you have never known that MINT is something you eat after dinner, or something you freshen your breath with.

you tell your wife that either the cards go or she does, and you tell her to be sure to leave her new address.

October 15, 2011

Gordon B. Taylor's early hobby publication, Card Comments

Click on pages to enlarge

In trying to find information about old-time dealers George Husby and Jack Urban for a future story in this blog, I asked some long-time hobby friends if they had any recent data on the duo from chilly northern Wisconsin.

My Pittsburgh connection, Bill Zimpleman, sent me scans of the November 1960 edition of Card Comments, a very early hobby publication which appears to have first appeared around 1957. A couple of those scans can be seen above, including a biography of Urban.

A Google search let me to "Collecting in the 50's", an informative blog produced by George Vrechek. He wrote this about Card Comments:

"Card Comments was published by Gordon B. Taylor of New York City. The biggest issue I have is 24 pages and dates from 1960. Each issue was filled with information on card issues, scarcities, errors, new findings. It covered all types of cards, not just baseball. The names mentioned included: Dan Even, Jack Smalling, Larry Fritsch, George Husby, Steve Vanco, Jim Zak, Gavin Riley, Barry Newman, Richard West and even George Vrechek."

Now we have the internet to connect us with other collectors, plus we can find some wonderful, informative websites and blogs. I started in the hobby in about 1972, still long before the internet. Most communication was by letter, with collectors exchanging checklists and wantlists.

In 1972, the two major publications were Dan Dischley's The Trader Speaks and the first incarnation of Sports Collectors Digest out of Milan, Mich. The publisher, John Stommen, sold out to Krause publications in the very early 1980s. Originally, Krause had tried to purchase Baseball Hobby News from Vivian and me. That is a story for another day, however.

October 14, 2011

It was a thrill to meet Duke Snider, a childhood hero

Click on photo to enlarge


One of the joys of attending numerous major card shows in the 1970s and 1980s was the opportunity to meet many of our baseball heroes.

In early October of 1979, we didn't have to journey very far from our Long Island home to meet one of our childhood favorites, Duke Snider. Vivian and I were Brooklyn Dodgers fans, but following the 1957 season they escaped to Los Angeles.

Relocating with them was their centerfielder and future Hall of Famer, known in New York as the Duke of Flatbush. Flatbush is a section of Brooklyn. Snider was a Southern Californian, but like many of his Brooklyn fans and teammates, he was crushed by the move. Brooklyn had become home to him.

Here is a photo caption from the November 1979 issue of Baseball Hobby News:

Vivian Barning, publisher of Baseball Hobby News, got closer to Duke Snider than just about anyone else at the New York City Superstar Show. When introduced to the Duke by show promoter Harmon Cooper, Snider said, "I'm pleased to meet you." Vivian's response was, "You've got to be kidding. I'm thrilled to meet you."

Duke lived in Fallbrook, California, a half hour or so north of San Diego. Coincidentally, she is wearing a San Diego Padres shirt. In 1982, the Barnings moved to San Diego, became Padres fans, and lived there until 2005.

Snider passed away at age 84 in February. The Los Angeles Dodgers honored him by wearing his No. 4 on their uniform sleeves this past season.

October 13, 2011

Part 2 - How do you know you are hooked on baseball cards?

This is the second installment of our Bob Tryon series. He was a part-time card dealer from Elizabeth, New Jersey, who wrote hobby humor stories for Baseball Hobby News in our early days. Here are some more highlights from his September 1979 article:


You know you're a collector when . . .

you acquire a 1963 Topps Hank Aaron in exchange for exclusive rights to your sister.

you decide to make a living selling baseball cards and suddenly realize that you've running a non-profit organization.

you buy your son a set of cards each year from the time of his birth, and later decide that they are actually your cards, since you paid for them.

you take your girl friend out for New Year's Eve - to a flea market.

you've successfully taught your dog to roll over, play dead, fetch a stick and sort cards.

your boss gives you a raise and your first thought is that you can now buy seven 1952 Topps high numbers each Friday instead of just six.

you have only enough money to buy cards or food, and you buy the cards without thinking twice. (Those who know me will realize that obviously I have never been confronted with this decision.)

you tell your wife that she'll have to remove all her jewelry from the family safe-deposit box, because you have more important things to put in it.

you travel to Pennsylvania twice a week in order to go through the garbage outside the Topps factory before the garbage men get there.

you ask the grocer if he can give you a better price if you buy two quarts of milk.

October 12, 2011

Part 1 - How do you know you are hooked on cards?

Click on card to enlarge

Bob Tryon, a part-time card dealer from Elizabeth, New Jersey, wrote hobby humor stories for Baseball Hobby News in our early days. No one in our almost 15-year run did humor better. Here are some highlights from his September 1979 article:


You know you're a collector when . . .

you have become a close personal friend of your mailman, because you've met him at the front door every day for the past eight years.

you have to eat Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant because your dining room table is completely covered with cards.

you honestly cannot understand why your wife is angry at you for spending the mortgage and food money because a really good card deal came up.

you can remember that Amado Samuel appeared on a 1962 Topps rookie card, but you cannot remember the name of the girl that you've been engaged to for two years.

you get paid Thursday and are broke Friday after a visit to the nearest baseball card shop.

your brother is getting married on the same day as a card show, and you tell him he'll have to find another best man.

you tell your mother dinner was VG-Ex.

you become violent every time you see a rubber band.

you actually call the Post Cereal Company to find out if it still has any boxes of cereal or Jell-o in its warehouse from 1962.

you find yourself sorting cards that are already sorted because there is nothing else to do.


This is part one of several excerpts that we will post from Bob Tryon's story.

October 10, 2011

Memories of the great Mel Allen for whom Mel Solomon was named

Click on pictures to enlarge


Frank, great post (October 8) about Mel Allen. I have some interesting memories of "The Voice of the Yankees".

First of all in a way I am named after Mel Allen. I was actually named after my grandfather Moses Solomon, but in the Jewish-American tradition I needed an anglicized name. When I was born my father did not like the name Michael so he choose Melvin after Mel Allen. You would be shocked to know the number of Jewish men between the ages of 60 and 75 with the name "Mel." At my synagogue we had about 40 male members and four were named "Melvin."

I met Mel Allen twice. Once when I was about 10 or eleven and was going to a Yankees game with my camp. We got there early and I saw him walking into Yankee Stadium. He was wearing one of those mesh summer hats. I was delighted to shake his hand.

The second time was in the early 1980s when I attended the Baseball Writers Dinner in New York City. Sports writer Bill Madden, who lived in the town next to me and was an avid baseball card collector at that time, managed to get me tickets. I was sitting at a table with Larry Doby.

Mel Allen came in and was introduced. The writers at our table said that Mel always got one of the biggest hands when he was introduced. He was at the table next to me and I went over and told him that I was named after him. He got a big kick out of that and gave me a big hug. He told all of the people at the surrounding tables that I was named after him. I have a picture of the two of us in tuxedos.

I had actually planned to attend his funeral in Connecticut but on the same day there was a funeral for a friend's wife who died at a very young age and I rightfully felt that my presence there would be more significant.

My favorite Mel Allen story involves Dave Righetti's no-hitter on July 4, 1983. At that time a good number of the Yankees games were on MSG which was a relatively new cable network. They actually brought Mel back to do the games. Richard Nixon was at the game sitting in George Steinbrenner's box. After the final out they showed Nixon standing and clapping. Mel said "There is former Vice President Richard Nixon." Clearly the 1950s were the best years of Mel's life and I guess that he just put that sad period from 1968 to 1974 out of his mind.
There are two recent biographies of Mel and I have them both. He was one of the greatest announcers of all time. He did the Rose Bowl every year and a lot of college football. I believe that the MLB Network prime-nine series has him ranked as the second best baseball announcer after Vin Scully. Even being a lifelong Yankees fan with a close attachment to Mel, I cannot argue with that.

As you know, I like to make lists of players in various categories. Here is a list of my favorite baseball Mels:

1. Mel Ott
2. Mel Queen
3. Melvin Mora
4. Mel Harder
5. Mel Stottlemyre

Announcer -- Mel Allen
Manager -- Bob Melvin

October 8, 2011

My "How About That" moment with Hall of Fame broadcaster Mel Allen


The late Mel Allen (1913-96) was known as "The Voice of the Yankees". Although an avid Brooklyn Dodgers fan, I would tune into Yankees games on radio or television whenever my beloved bums were not playing.

One of the advantages of growing up in the New York metropolitan area when I was a young baseball fan back in the 1950s was that we had three teams. The Dodgers and Giants departed for the west coast after the 1957 season.

Mel Allen was great story teller and I learned so much about baseball, and especially about Yankees players from the 1930s and 1940s, listening to him. Among his many catchphrases were "Hello there, everybody!" to start a game, "How about that?" or "Going, going, gone!" on home runs and "Three and two. What'll he do?"

He was a familiar voice nationally because of the numerous Bronx Bombers' World Series games he telecast. After a long career with the Yankees, he was fired. Eventually, he surfaced nationally as the first host of "This Week in Baseball".

The photo above was taken in around 1981 at a baseball card show in New York. That's Mel on the left and me on the right. But it was not the first time that I had been in contact with the famous "The Voice of the Yankees".

When I was the sports information director at Hofstra University in the late 1960s, I attended the weekly college baseball writers luncheons held during the spring in Manhattan. Prior to the start of one of the gatherings, I stepped into the men's room at the legendary Mamma Leone's restaurant.

As I was experiencing the pause that refreshes at a urinal, I looked to my right and standing in the next stall was Mel Allen. It took all the will power I could muster to not utter one of his famous catchphrases, "How about that?"

The Yankees dedicated a plaque in his memory for Monument Park at Yankee Stadium in 1998. The plaque calls him "A Yankee institution, a national treasure" and includes his much-spoken line, "How about that?"

October 5, 2011

Memories of one of my early heroes: Johnny Podres (Sept. 30, 1932 — Jan. 13, 2008)

If, like me, you were a BROOKLYN Dodgers fan, Johnny Podres is one of your heroes. He led the team to its only Brookyn World Series title. In 1955 in the seventh game, played at Yankee Stadium, he shut out the Bronx Bombers, 2-0. He also won game three, on his 23rd birthday.

The photo was taken during spring training in 1980 while Podres was the Minnesota Twins' pitching coach. A few years later, when he was pitching coach for the Philadelphia Phillies, I saw him in the bullpen working with his starting pitcher prior to a game in San Diego. I was taking a pre-game stroll around the ballpark when I spied the old left hander. When I got close enough for him to hear me, "I yelled, Johnny, thank you for 1955."

He heard me and looked into the stands. Johnny Podres, caught my eye, smiled and replied, "Two-zip." And then he went back to work.

The baseball card is a 1955 Topps.

October 3, 2011

How Tom Catal came up with a safe full of Mickey Mantle cards at a bargain price


Frank’s recent story posted here regarding the Mickey Mantle New York City card shows evokes a different Tom Catal memory for me. Catal (see photo above) promoted those shows.

Tom was a prolific buyer of baseball card collections. He was masterful at buying them at a very low price. Several times in the mid to late 1970s he bought a collection and almost immediately flipped it to us.

Flipped or flipping, as you may recall, was a term that meant buying something and then reselling it almost immediately at a quick profit.

He knew we were more philosophically attuned to being long-time holders of cards. The best ones went into our collection and the remainder were set aside and eventually made available for sale individually.

After a couple purchases we came to an agreement with Catal. He’d buy collections and remove the Mantle cards. He’d then sell the remainder of cards to us at the price he’d pay for the entire collection. Of course we’d check to make sure we were okay with card condition and to see what else was there, but I don’t remember it ever being a problem.

I remember one specific buy. We had just returned from a card show in New York City and Catal phoned to say he had a large collection for us. He drove to our home in Glen Cove, Long Island. He lived somewhere south of us, also in Nassau County.

I remember this buy for two reasons. One, Randy was there in his pajamas (age was probably five or six) and he and Tom retreated to the backyard for a catch while we looked over the cards. Second, we had eaten in Chinatown that day and the MSG was really effecting me. I was sitting on the floor somewhat dizzy and numb and trying to check out the cards he’d brought.

So that’s how the Barnings came into much of their collection of 1950s cards and also their significantly large inventory of cards from that wonderful era. And Tom ended up with a safe full of Mantle cards. Sure, he came out ahead, but there was plenty of profit and fun to be had for all of us and isn’t that what it was really all about?

October 1, 2011

Hobby history: Card show promoters paid Mickey Mantle a shockingly high $1,000 per hour in New York in 1978 and 1979.

Click on newspaper to enlarge


"Mantle signs for $1,000 per hour in New York" was the front-page banner headline on the April 1979 issue of Baseball Hobby News.

Readers were, to put it mildly, shocked that the promoters would pay anyone that much. Some thought them to be "crazy" because Mickey Mantle was signed to appear for three hours. Including the Hall of Famer's fee plus other overhead, the promoters had approximately $10,000 at risk.

The BHN story referred to the great Mantle's first two baseball card appearances. The first was at Hofstra University on Long Island, my alma mater by the way, on September 9, 1978.

His second show was on April 1, 1979 at the Prince George Hotel in New York City. We were fortunate to have attended both of these events which were significant in the history of the hobby. Probably encouraged by the success of the Mantle shows, Jim Cumpton and John Mehlin soon hired Joe DiMaggio to appear in Kansas City. They contracted with Mantle for their August 1980 Kansas City convention.

Over the years that followed, Mantle and DiMag went on to make more money signing autographs than they had earned playing baseball. Mantle appeared at numerous shows over the following years and was usually a gracious guest, especially with kids. His adult sons sometimes came with him, often having a dealer table and selling photos of their illustrious father.

DiMaggio, always immaculately dressed, was as cold as an iceberg, hardly ever making eye contact with fans. He made money for promoters but tried to squeeze every dollar he could out of them and always demanded first-class airplane tickets. "I had him several times," a Pennsylvania promoter complained. "He never once asked about me or my family. Other superstars, such as Tom Seaver, were very personal and seemed interested in who I was, not just how much money I could pay them."

Despite different people skills, collectors who paid for autograph tickets and then stood on line at Mantle and DiMaggio shows, were thrilled to have the opportunity. If you were interested in investment value, those early show autographs were a bargain.

The "Mantle Shows" as they became known back then, were the creation of Long Islanders Tom Catal, Bob Ragonese and Vinnie Trocino. Tony Spaneo and Harmon Cooper soon became part of the group. Catal, who had been a minor league pitcher, was the lead guy and at the time a close friend of mine because of our collecting interests.

I remember standing with him at his first Mantle show, at Hofstra, prior to Mantle's arrival. He was as nervous as a bridegroom a few minutes before his wedding. Catal was scared to death that the great Yankee would be a no show and that refunds to the long line of collectors would have to be made, plus his table holders would have screamed. The Mick did arrive on schedule and for the hobby the rest is history.

Our next blog post, or maybe the one after that, will be the highlights of the BHN "Mantle signs for $1,000 per hour in New York" story. You will not believe how inexpensive autograph tickets and dealer table prices were.