Friday, December 17, 2010

Cardboard appreciation: 2005 Topps All-Time Fan Favorites Bob Feller

(The Christmas crunch is here. A perfect storm of deadline shopping, visitors, sickness, winter weather and, of course, blogging. I hope to still be standing in a week. Here's to plowing through. It's Cardboard Appreciation time. This is the 94th in a series):

I like this card even better than the original '52 Feller. The smile on this card exactly matches Chief Wahoo's grin. That is cool.

I don't have very many Feller cards. I'm not an Indians fan and vintage is too expensive to be chasing every star who ever lived. But, like many of you, I do have a Feller story.

When news of Feller's death arrived this week, I went upstairs, stepped into a spare room, and plucked a ball off a shelf. I've had the ball for a few years. It is autographed by Feller.

I don't collect memorabilia that is not connected to cards. But I have this ball for a particular reason. It was given to me by my father.

To the best of my father's recollection, his father -- my grandfather -- was in New York in the 1940s. While there, he got a ball signed by Feller. My dad doesn't know whether my grandfather was at a game, but I am assuming he was since he did like to go to games, and that was pretty much the only way you could get autographs back then.

When my grandfather came home from his trip, he gave the ball to my dad.

My dad kept it for more than 50 years before giving it me.

I would have taken a picture of the ball and showed it here, but there'd be no use in that.

You see, the autograph is faded. You have to look at the ball very closely to see Feller's familiar signature. His first name is almost washed out completely. So trying to view it in a photo would be impossible. Also, the ball is brown and scuffed, with a couple of small chunks taken out of it.

That's because after receiving the ball, my dad took it outside and played baseball with it. That's what you did with baseballs. It didn't matter if someone signed it. Baseballs weren't meant to be enclosed in a plastic case and placed on a mantel. They were meant to be batted and thrown around. And that's what my dad did.

I often hear that Feller "signed too much," that his autograph isn't worth as much as it should be for such a star from that period because he "signed everything that moved."

I don't care about that. I don't care about keeping the ball in pristine condition. It sits on that shelf entirely naked. For me, the ball has no monetary meaning. For me, it's meaning is in the connection to baseball history brought to me through my family history.

My dad says of the ball now: "I'm afraid the kid who it was given to handled it too much."

Nope, Dad, you did exactly what you were supposed to do.

RIP, Mr. Feller


  1. Bob Feller grew up about an hour away from me. (With 2010-speed interstate driving. It was probably much longer in his day.) There's a very nice Bob Feller Museum in his hometown of Van Meter, Iowa.

    An interesting factoid ... When Feller was pitching in American Legion ball when he was 15 or 16 (good gravy, he was in the MAJORS at age 17) his catcher was a guy named Nile Kinnick. Kinnick, as Big 10* fans know, is the namesake of the Iowa Hawkeyes' stadium in Iowa City. Kinnick won the Heisman in 1939 and was destined for greater things (including, some say, a run at the presidency) but his life was cut short during a training exercise during WWII.

    While cleaning out a closet a few months ago in the house I grew up in I found a Bob Feller autograph (as well as Stan the Man, Joltin' Joe and a few others that my dad had). But I also found a Nile Kinnick autograph that my dad's brother got for my dad when both of them were kids. Some say there are fewer than 20 Kinnick autographs floating around out there and he's the hardest "get" for Heisman autograph collectors because he died so soon after winning the award and he played well before the autograph sensation swelled to what it is today.

    I wasn't trying to highjack these comments. There's actually a display in the Bob Feller Museum about Nile Kinnick. I'm trying to find a rich benefactor who would be willing to buy the Kinnick autograph and donate it to Feller's museum.

    *Just an aside ... is anybody else ironified as to why the Big 10 will have 12 schools in it and the Big 12 will have 10 schools?

  2. i once heard the Feller signed everything because he thought that everyone that wanted his autograph should be able to have one...met him once at a minor league ball game in the late 90's...classy dude!

  3. Yes, Bob Feller was a classy guy. I remember he would make an almost-annual pilgrimage to the Albuquerque Sports Stadium in the 1980's and he would sign autographs for free for the fans. A fee wasn't required for his auto and it was only suggested but not forced that you buy a reasonably-priced 8x10 photo to be signed (fee probably just enough to cover the printing/licensing of the photo, certainly no premium price attached for the autograph).

    I am sure he loved being around baseball fans (and I bet his appearance fee was quite reasonable so both the Albuquerque Dukes and Feller benefited from his visits -- the Dukes drawing a few more fans than normal, Feller earning a little bit of income above his travel expenses to come to the park for a night).

    He was certainly a breath of fresh air when you consider today's athletes come to the park as part of a promotion where a pharmaceutical (usually the get 'er up drugs) or othopedic medical device company sponsors a night and brings out their athlete pitchman as part of the sponsorship/promotion of that night's game.

  4. Hi Eggrocket. I would be interested in your Kinnick autograph. Could you please email me at Thanks! Matt

  5. Great post. It's hard to be a story about an autographed baseball signed by a HOFer... being passed down generation to generation.