Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Brush with greatness, online edition


Last week, while navigating in the haze brought on by my work shift change, I happened to check my email and came across a note from the son of a major league baseball player.

It took me awhile to figure out exactly what it was or who it was. I barely know the time most days of the week, but the man sending the email said he had worked the night shift, too, and, oh by the way, what a great write-up you did on my dad!

The son of former Red Sox and Giants catcher Russ Gibson had dropped a line to let me know how much he appreciated my 1971 Topps post on his father. "Funny and factual," he said, which I'm happy to say are two key goals of my writing. He said he loved it, in capital letters. Then he told a story.

The email was sent shortly after the Yankees-Red Sox brawl. A friend of Gibson's son on Facebook had asked why the Red Sox catcher had not tried to stop Tyler Austin from charging the mound (I often wonder this as I watch the catcher just stand there). The friend then reminded Gibson's son that Gibson had done exactly that.

It was 1971, when Gibson was with the Giants. They were playing the Dodgers. A young Bill Buckner was plunked with a pitch. It hit Buckner so hard that he was injured by it. But that didn't stop Buckner from trying to charge the mound while still carrying his bat. Yet, Gibson grabbed Buckner to stop the "festivities." Gibson's son added it wasn't much of a threat because Buckner was hurt.

I was thrilled by this email. What a cool connection to make!

As a sportswriter, my job is to unearth stories like this in my interview subjects. I've interviewed several professional athletes and reviewed my encounters in a series on this blog called "Brush With Greatness". But as an editor, I don't do a lot of interviewing anymore and I haven't connected with any pro athletes in a long time.

So it's kind of terrific to still make that connection online, even if it's from a player's relative and not the actual player. It may not be as meaningful as my face-to-face interviews, but it's still exciting when it happens. It doesn't happen much.

Here are the other online connections I've made that I can recall:


DAVE BALDWIN

Since we're operating in an online world, you can never be absolutely positive that the person commenting is actually that person. But I'm relatively sure in this case.

Baldwin, who was a submarine pitcher for the Senators, Brewers and White Sox, was known for his intelligence and later became a systems engineer, genetics researcher and author. His '71 card is quite distinctive thanks to Baldwin's "hairstyle" and after several comments made on the 1971 Topps post about him, someone named Dave Baldwin commented five years after I made the post:


Typo aside, I'm pretty sure that's Mr. Baldwin.



PEDRO BORBON

One of my favorite interactions, this came on my 1975 Topps blog post.

I went through the trouble of establishing that Pedro Borbon never smiled on his cards by going through all of the cards on which he appeared. I wasn't a fan of Borbon as a kid, since he played for the Big Red Machine back when the Reds and Dodgers shared the same division.

That struck a chord with Borbon's daughter, who wrote:


This was in the blissful days before Borbon passed away. But it remains a treasured comment and I enjoy Borbon's cards so much more now.



STEVE BRYE

I can't find the email that was sent to me from one of Brye's relatives. She was married to Brye's cousin and was amused by the story that I told about how when my brother and I were little we made Brye the favorite player of my brother's stuffed lion (as kids we had characters and voices for all our stuffed animals).

She found that a hoot (and probably thought me a bit bizarre) and wondered how we landed on Brye as the subject of the stuffed animal's devotion.

I told her I had no idea. We were kids.

It was the first time that anyone related to a major leaguer had reached out to me, although I had seen it on other blogs (the interaction between Madison Bumgarner's father and Mario from Wax Heaven is burned into my brain). And it really underlined that we do not operate in a vacuum when we write our blog posts.



TOM BUSKEY

Another 1975 Topps blog-related communication.

Buskey's daughter emailed me to make a correction to my post about her dad. I had received some misinformation on how Buskey had died and she wanted the information correct for the record.

I can always appreciate wanting to ensure that facts are accurate for the public record and immediately updated my post.



MIKE HEDLUND

Hedlund commented on my 1971 Topps blog in response to another comment. I was kind of surprised that it received a reaction from a player as it was nothing controversial or provocative. It was simply an observation about his pose.

Mike wrote to confirm that, yes, he and Royals teammate Dick Drago featured similar poses.


And here are the two cards side-by-side:


It's fun when you receive confirmation of what you see straight from the source!

I mentioned this particular interaction last year on this post. So I'm kind of repeating myself here, and except for the Gibson story all of this just one great big repeat! But I've got to get all these interactions all in one place!


JERRY REUSS

During the Wild West era of card blogging (2007-10, I'd say), you never knew what was going to happen. Blogging was the online medium and it captured a varied and diverse crowd of people, probably more varied than the current crew, I'd say.

One of those varied characters was The Collective Troll (remember him?) and he had a few connections down in spring training land. One of those was Jerry Reuss, who has always been well-connected with fans. Reuss told the Troll that he did indeed read card blogs (he was a collector who once had a site with all of his own cards) and he read mine, too!

And then he commented on it.


I had to sit back and take a moment to process what had just happened. Needless to say, our little community went berserk over the comment for a couple of days.

It's just about the most excited as I've been writing this blog. And there have been a lot of exciting moments.

The email from Russ Gibson's son brought it all back.

These kind of interactions don't happen very often. I'd say maybe once a year on average.

It's also one of the perks of running a set blog. Although writing set blogs can get monotonous and there are fewer readers, it's a better way to attract major leaguers and their families than a more general blog, like Night Owl Cards.

I find it interesting, though, that I'm almost 780 cards into my 1985 Topps blog and I've never received a player or relative interaction on that blog. I have a couple of theories about that: the players are more recent, there's much more about them on the internet, the players are much more well-off than those who came before and I believe there is more of a separation between players and fans from this era as well as the eras that came after it because of that.

That's why I appreciate these interactions so much. It confirms that these players are just people, with families, just like us.

It's the same feeling that I'd get when interviewing one of those players face-to-face.

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Programming note:

If you missed out on the post from two days ago, I'm holding a milestone contest for reaching 4,000 posts.

This is post 4,002 but if you want to enter, go to this post and follow the instructions.

The contest will close at 2 a.m. EST tonight.

14 comments:

  1. That’s cool about all of the player comments. I’m still hoping for one on one of my custom card blogs. I guess you never know who is reading them.

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  2. It's so cool to see players and their families interact with collectors.

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  3. I don't know if you're considering doing another set blog after 1985 Topps is done but if you do I feel like 1990 Target Dodgers would be fun. It would also be the perfect set blog with regards to getting comments from former Dodgers and their family members. Just a thought.

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  4. I had a sister of a SIU baskeball player comment on my blog, but that's about it for this site. When I regularly did film reviews online in college, I had a couple directors of really independent films email me (usually in anger). That was fun.

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  5. I do a fair amount of mailing to players for autographs. Recently I have sent to a number of guys who had brief careers in the 50's and 60's and the letters I've gotten back are great. They're all retired, have time on their hands, and like to be remembered. Guys from the 80's may be working still and don't have as much, or as you suggest, they're sitting well from their playing days and there is more of a separation between them and the fans. My experience is that very few of them would write a note back and fewer even answer. That downward trend continues the closer to the modern day a player played. in my experience. Today's guys, forget it.

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  6. This is cool. over the years I've received emails from reuss and a few others, plus relatives of former dodgers. Most recently I received a nice email from Ed Goodson!

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  7. Thats awesome that so many of the former players (and their families) read your blog. Congrats on post 4K!

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  8. That's awesome. I would be over the moon if an athlete or their family found and commented on Cardboard History.

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  9. That's really cool that players and their family members have stumbled across your blog... and then actually commented on your posts. Maybe one day Kurt Suzuki's father or daughter will stumble across one of my posts.

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  10. Awesome that you got so many players to comment. The daughter one was cool.

    The best reaction I got out of someone was from the guy who sued Upper Deck over the redemptions and their way of not being able to fullfil them after they lost the licenses.

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  11. I saw that you had mentioned the Russ Gibson one on Twitter. I didn't realize you had so many interactions overall. Cool stuff!

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  12. This is such a cool post. I hadn't heard about half of these interactions before.

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  13. Love stories like these! I've had encounters with people close to relatively obscure guys I collect/post-about who went to my high school: a former sister-in-law.. a coach.. and just recently an old classmate of Chris Jones left an amusing comment.

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  14. Russ Gibson passed away about ten years ago now. I imagine he liked interacting with fans, as he signed a couple cards for me through the mail. He put "1967 Red Sox" on one of them, which I thought was very cool.

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