(April 23, 1924 – March 19, 2019)
For several years, my oldest son and I would attend the Redsfest event held in December. We met a lot of cool people, got tons of signatures, and always had a good time. I think the highlight of all the Redsfests we have attended occurred in 2010 when we met Chuck Harmon for the first time.
Chuck Harmon became the first African American to appear in a game for the Reds when he pinch hit for Corky Valentine on April 17, 1954. In the same game, Nino Escalera also debuted for the Reds; Esccalera was also black, but was Puerto Rican, not African American. Harmon was an excellent athlete, and also tried out for the Boston Celtics when the NBA was integrated for the 1950-51 season. After failing to make the Celtics, Harmon finished the season as a player-coach for Utica of the American Basketball League. According to Wikipedia, that made him one of the first (and possibly the first) African Americans to coach an integrated professional basketball team.
At the 2010 Redsfest, Harmon was one of the players in the backstage/lounge area reserved for those who purchased Hall of Fame Memberships. He was confined to a wheelchair, and he had someone there with him (I’m assuming it was his son) to carry his things and push the chair. He talked to Joshua and I for several minutes, talking about Jackie Robinson and how Jackie was “a pretty good ballplayer.” As we were getting ready to leave, he told his son to get some cards out of his bag, then asked for a pen to sign one that he had not yet autographed. His son said, “You’re not supposed to do that back here.” Harmon took the cards and pen, looked straight at one of the workers, and said, “Let them sue me!”
He then signed the cards and handed them to my son and I. A truly nice man, and an experience that neither of us will soon forget! On his now-defunct website, Harmon said, “Most importantly, I would most like to be remembered simply as a good person.” There is no doubt that he will be remembered as such by those who met him.
We saw him again the next year, and had him sign a special custom card that I had made from the photo taken in 2010. He was signing copies of his book, but you didn’t have to buy one to get his autograph. Amazingly, there was no one in line to meet him. I still regret not purchasing the book and getting it signed as well.
Harmon passed away on Tuesday, March 19, 2019. I will forever treasure the memory of meeting him.
A very long wait for this return. I sent three cards to former Reds outfielder Eddie Milner in October 2012, and 438 days later two of them were returned to me. Unfortunately I did not receive back his 1985 Donruss issue, so I will have to purchase another to fill that hole in my team set from the year.
The cards that Milner did return were a 1983 Topps…
I think this 1983 Topps may have been one of the first cards I ever received as a kid. And I mean this actual card. It has never left my collection, except for the 438 days it spent with Milner himself.
I also received back a 1984 Topps…
I had given up on these cards coming back, and had already replaced the 1984 card prior to Redsfest so I could get it signed for my 1984 Topps project. Which I did. And now I have two.
My son that didn’t attend Redsfest will add this to his collection.
I still have four outstanding autograph requests from 2011, three from 2012, and one from 2013. I recently sent out four more, and plan to do more soon.
In addition to eight standard baseball cards of Greg Maddux that I had autographed through the mail around 1990 are these two index cards featuring Mad Dog’s stickers from some late 80s sticker sets.
Same goes for Will Clark, though his sticker is bigger since he was a bigger star at the time.
I am pretty sure this is Chipper Jones, but there is no picture to go along with the signature. I Googled his autograph and this looks pretty close. I assume I sent this to the minor league club Jones was with at the time; however, I actually have no recollection of obtaining this autograph.
This one is the biggie, and one that I forgot I had until I was sorting my “too big for a binder” items a few nights ago: Bob Feller autographed index card, with a Fleer (?) sticker of the Indians mascot.
Seeing this card again really makes me want to visit the Bob Feller Museum in Van Meter, Iowa. It’s way out of the way of anything else, but I believe it might be worth the trip anyway.
I’m not sure how to store all of these things. At the moment, they are snug in a 500-count box, and I suppose that is where they will stay until I think of a better solution.
*Hall of Fame Rookie Cards Through The Mail
Acquired in 1990, shortly after his call-up to the big league club. And by shortly, I mean I mailed it to him within hours of reading it in the paper that he was called up. The card came back a few weeks later, so I sent another card (probably a 1990 Score?); it never came home.
In just ten days from his home address, Vern Rapp signed my 1984 Topps Traded card. This is the eighth Reds autograph from the 1984 Topps/Topps Traded sets that I have obtained; I have four others in the mail at the moment (and will probably have more out by the end of the month).
In 1984, Rapp managed the Reds to a 51-70 record in 141 games before Pete Rose took over for the remainder of the season. Rapp had previously managed the Cardinals in 1977-78, and announced his retirement from the Montreal Expos organization as a coach at the end of the 1983 season. A Boston radio station decided to broadcast a tribute to Rapp as a parody of the many Carl Yasztrzemski-themed tributes being paid on-air for his retirement (see the Sports Illustrated write-up here). The Reds brass caught wind of the broadcast, realized that Rapp could potentially be an asset to the team, and talked him out of retirement.
Rapp never played in the major leagues, but his minor league record stretches back to the 1940s. He started out at age 18 in 1946 playing for a Cardinals affiliate. His last at-bat in the minor leagues came in 1976 at the age of 48, almost like a minor league version of Minnie Minoso. He got a hit for AA Denver in his first plate appearance since 1966. His playing career ended with 792 hits, prompting Topps to change the number of cards in their annual set just a few years later.
If you believe that last part about Topps, I have a few thousand late 1980s baseball cards that would make a great investment…maybe even pay for your kids’ college educations!
It was a feat that may never be duplicated. In 1956, Don Larsen pitched a perfect game in the World Series.
Larsen was not a spectacular pitcher. During the regular season in 1956, he had an 11-5 record. Two seasons earlier, he finished with 3 wins and 21 losses. Yes, twenty-one losses. Over his 14-year career, Larsen won 81 games and lost 91.
But in 1956, he pitched a perfect game in the World Series.
Larsen started his career with the St. Louis Browns. He also played for the Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees, Kansas City Athletics, Chicago White Sox, San Francisco Giants, Houston Colt .45s/Astros, the Orioles again, and the Chicago Cubs. That’s eight different teams over a 14-year career. Not generally seen as a good thing.
But in 1956, he pitched a perfect game in the World Series.
The pressure put upon a pitcher in normal situations is tremendous. That pressure is multiplied exponentially in a playoff game, especially a World Series game. Some players thrive under pressure. Others fold.
In 1956, Don Larsen pitched a perfect game in the World Series.
I sent Mr. Larsen the above cards last week. July 7, to be exact. On July 13, they were back in my mailbox, autographed. Pretty good turnaround for a guy who, in 1956, pitched a perfect game in the World Series.