Meeting A Pair of Legends

Bobby Shantz and Curt Simmons

Bobby Shantz and Curt Simmons

Last weekend I had the opportunity to meet a pair of Philadelphia pitching legends - Curt Simmons and Bobby Shantz - at Carl's Cards in Havertown.  Amazingly, though both are in advanced age and have been active participants on the autograph circuit, it was my first time meeting either Golden Age hurler.

Upon arriving at Carl's, I found the pair busy signing 8"x 10" photos.  With the signing session winding down, most collectors had already passed through the small card shop - which meant I would have a little time to personalize my visit.  I brought an old official National League baseball that my dad found at a flea market years ago and was anxious to discuss it with the men.  

The ball is neatly inscribed, "June 12, 1949 - Phillies vs. Cards.  This ball pitched by Curt Simmons and fouled by Harry Brecheen." Approaching the signer's table I started the conversation with, 'My dad found this ball at a flea market - and, it says it was pitched by you in 1949...' Mr. Simmons cut me off, "Don't believe it!"  Followed by a laugh.  Carl read him the inscription (Mr. Simmons had forgotten his glasses), and Simmons' face softened with a smile as he admitted - "Well, I guess I could've..."  The four of us continued to examine the ball for a minute or two, covering topics ranging from how it was period-appropriate and the fact that Harry Brecheen was a "heck of a good pitcher."  Finally, the old Whiz Kid took the ball in hand and signed the side panel.

I moved down the table and presented Mr. Shantz with a Second Edition 1964 Phillies Yearbook.  Originally bought on eBay with a few signatures already on it, I have diligently added to it with new ones over the past four or five years.  With Bobby Shantz in blue Sharpie on the cover, I now have 13 autographs!   

Manny Trillo Visits Carl's Cards

The only controversy connected with former Phillies second baseman, Manny Trillo is his inclusion as one of the five traded for Von Hayes in 1982.  During his tenure in Philly, Trillo was awarded an NLCS MVP (1980), three gold gloves (1979, 1981, 1982) two Silver Slugger Awards (1980, 1981) and appeared in two All-Star Games (1981, 1982) and one World Championship (winning in 1980).  That would be enough for most careers – but, for the former-Phillie, it was just a small part of a 16-year career that spanned 1973-1989.

Mr. Trillo was back in the Delaware Valley last weekend, checking in at Carl’s Cards and Collectibles in Havertown.  It has been a few years since he was here.  In fact, it’s been so long that in the time since I last met him I have started and almost completed two full 1980 team projects – a team photo and the Reunion poster.  And from the sounds of it, I must not have been the only one looking for him.   “So many people have asked for him that we knew we needed to make it happen,” Lauren Henderson of Carl’s Cards told me. 

For those who have not had the pleasure, Trillo is a welcoming autograph guest – posing for pictures, starting conversations and shaking hands.  A small shop with an old-time feel, Carl’s Cards provides the perfect setting for such interactions.  With autograph guests wedged in opposite the main showcase and surrounded by team-specific memorabilia – signings are an intimate affair.  And, unlike the convention hall signings, customer-guest interactions are encouraged.  It was nice to stop and chat for a minute.

Not knowing when I would catch him next, I brought three different 1980 projects for Mr. Trillo to sign: the 1980 Reunion poster, and team picture and a new project started during last summer’s Alumni Weekend.  The team photo has been a labor of love, with all but one other autograph coming via TTM (including Steve Carlton).  I am now down to four living players.  I’ve made similar progress on the Reunion poster – needing a different combination of four players.  Since I have never mailed the Reunion poster, it has been much more expensive to assemble. 

R.I.P - Alex Johnson, 1964 Phillies

Alex Johnson signed photo

The passing of former Major Leaguer, Alex Johnson on February 28th is just the latest reminder that players from Baseball's "Golden Age" will not be around forever.  Johnson, who spent 13 seasons in the Majors - breaking in with the Phillies during the star-crossed 1964 season and winning the A.L. Batting Crown in 1970, is the latest player from the era to pass.

As a member of the 1964 team, Johnson was brought up to provide right-handed power to the lineup.  In 43 games during the season he batted .303 with 4 HRs and 18 RBIs while platooning in Left Field with Wes Covington.  He was traded to the Cardinals in 1965 with Art Mahaffey for Dick Groat and Bill White.  

Though talented, he never spent more than two seasons with the same team.  Stories from his past include self-induced alienation from teammates and lack of focus on the field.  Unfortunately I missed him at a local appearance for the Poppel's a few years ago - but, when I asked Mr. Poppel (Eric and Adam's dad) about how it went he only spoke of about how polite and pleasant Mr. Johnson was at the show. 

While in conflict with the tales of his playing days, the story reflected his interactions with collectors in retirement.  With a 79% success rate (including many non-responses over the past few months while he was presumably ill), Johnson was regularly listed in recent TTM success listings.  I personally had two requests fulfilled in recent years - each time my cash donation was returned.  Phillies collectors, and the hobby will miss him.

Recent TTM Successes

I've been keeping active with the TTM requests recently.  Despite the fact that February is a prime time for mailing requests to Phillies Spring Training camp I have more or less decided to forgo the opportunity this year.  It's not that I've "grown out" the experience, but am not excited about many of the potential targets.  Instead, I am keeping focus on a few different older-era, team projects.

1960 Eagles Program Cover

1960 Eagles - Championship Program Autograph

A long dormant effort that I'd like to spend more time on this year, the photo is of the 1960 Championship Game program cover.  I started the project with Chuck Bednarik a few years ago.  This most recent success came from a key member of the 1960 team, running-back Billy Ray Barnes. 

What I love most about collecting teams I missed is getting to learn more about the season and the players who were involved.  I have seen Barnes autographed photos over the years, but never knew he was the first ACC player to rush for 1,000 yards (as an All-American with Wake Forest in 1956), or that he was a three-time Pro Bowl selection for the Eagles (1957-59).

Phillies Wall of Fame

Phillies Wall of Fame photo

I got this new favorite project out to Larry Bowa right before pitchers and catchers reported to Clearwater early last month.  I recommend Bowa to anyone who is new to TTM.  He is as guaranteed as it gets - both at home and the stadium.  The photo is now out to Hall of Famer, Jim Bunning...

Phillies TTM Successes

I came across a few abandoned, team-autograph projects while recently cleaning up my Phillies Room: The 1950s-era Phillies photo and a Phillies Wall of Fame photo.  It has been a few months since I added any new signatures to either - but the passing of several former Phils late last year brought about the cruel reality that the players from the "old days" will not be around forever...

Chuck Essegian - 1950s-era Phillies

Essegian broke into the Majors with the Phillies in 1958 - collecting 114 at-bats across 39 gamesIt turned out to be his only season with the team as he was traded to the Cardinals before 1959 for Ruben Amaro, Sr.  (Note: This may actually be one of those history altering moves - if RAS isn't a Phillie, does his son become one - or, ultimately their GM?)  The highlight of Essegian's career may be his two pinch-hit home runs for the Dodgers in the 1959 World Series.

Curt Simmons - Phillies Wall of Fame

I started this project during last summer's Alumni Weekend - though, it was way too crowded to get very far.  I was lucky enough to add Charlie Manuel and Bob Boone.  Surprisingly, many of the living WoFers are also good TTM signers and I think I can significantly alter the look of this photo with some effort. 

As far as TTM signers go, Whiz Kid Curt Simmons is a Hall of Famer.  According to recorded results in Sports Collector Net's database, collectors have been successful on 99% of their requests - with an amazing 482 reported successes over the years!

2014 Phillies Holiday Sale Recap

Another year in the books... 2014 marks the 10th Phillies Holiday Sale I've attended - some good, some not so good.  This year's sale fell somewhere in the lower-middle.

The best way to describe the Holiday Sale is to use these three words/phrases: Game-Used, Autographs and Dead Stock.  With so much variety, I have established an approach for the sale: Find one "nice" addition to my collection.  This methodology has kept me from buying second-tier player jerseys or stretching for autographs several times.  Here are a few highlights...

Game Used

Last year I finally found a alternate home batting helmet, and this year I was lucky to come across a small group of 2009 game-used hats.  Most were no-names, but one home-alternate hat was inscribed "46" - linking it to Ryan Madson.  For $20, this was a no-brainer...

Like a lot of what I saw, the game-used base I bought base was likely pulled from deep in storage - dating to the mid-2000s before the Phillies starting using the MLB Authentication Program.  There are four script logo jewels (one on each side) on it, and writing on the bottom to instruct groundskeepers how to position it in relation to the other bases.  It's the first base in my collection...


As usual, the team rolled out an assortment of autographed balls, hats, bats and cards for sale.  I picked up a "starter-ball" with Roy Halladay, Ryan Madson and Joe Blanton for $40... Just need to go back and start filling in the rest.  I also bought a red hat autographed by Charlie Manuel and a couple packs of signed team photo cards for my son.  The photo cards are a great deal - $2 for five autographed cards, one of which is a "name" player.  The top-guys in my packs included Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth and Billy Wagner.

Dead Stock

There are also a lot of things that they just want to get rid of - turning into deals for fans.  $5 t-shirts and hats; $1 Media Publications (yearbooks, programs, media guides; photo card sets); and $10 bobble heads were just some of the good buys available this year.

For $10 collectors could get either the 2013 or 2014 Group Leader bobble head.  They also had the 2014 Stitch N' Pitch bobble head available for $10.  I only bought enough to cover my personal needs, but got a laugh seeing dealers wheel out cases of each for sale on eBay.  However, I got my glutton on with a pile of old programs, DVDs and photo cards...

R.I.P - Hobby Heroes, Alvin Dark and Jackie Mayo

I was saddened to hear about the recent passing of two friends to the hobby: Former Phillies, Alvin Dark (11/13) and Jack Mayo (8/19).  While neither had overly distinguished careers in Philadelphia, both were notable to Phillies collectors due to their kindness in regards to fulfilling autograph requests through the mail.

Dark, the 1948 Rookie of the Year, had a solid career, as both player and manager - and measures up as one of the best shortstops of his era.  Known as "The Swamp Fox", Dark played 55 games for the terrible 1960 Phillies.  After retiring from baseball, he became a successful manager, winning a pennant with the 1962 Giants and the World Series in 1974 (Oakland).  I wrote to Mr. Dark several times over the years, requesting autographs for various Phillies-themed projects.  Though his writing seemed labored, he always responded promptly, including a small testimonial brochure.  His 90% success rate on SCN proves I was not alone.

Jack Mayo was one of the few surviving members of the legendary 1950 Whiz Kids.  Playing in 139 games across six seasons with the Phillies (1948-1953), he appeared in three World Series games against the Yankees in 1950, reaching base on a walk his only plate appearance.  As with Dark, I corresponded with him over the years, too - collecting autographs on various Whiz Kids projects.  In one letter I mentioned that World Series walk to Mr. Mayo, which prompted a hand-written response in the margin: "It was a thrill!"  He recorded an impressive 88% TTM success rate, "thrilling" many collectors in the process.

Alumni Weekend - Day One Recap

For years I've wondered what benefit there is to attending the Friday game of Alumni Weekend.  Well, after going to last night's game, I now know...  In general, there were fewer Alumni than you see later in the weekend - counting Charlie Manuel and Roy Halladay, there were probably 10-12 that I saw in the stadium.

With no public signings scheduled for Friday, I was relegated to trying my luck in the Hall of Fame club.  It was surprising to see that the crowd was about as large as those I usually find on Saturday (was expecting it to be a little thinner).  I think the prospect of landing a Halladay autograph lured other autograph hunters, too.  But unfortunately, except for a pre-game, private signing in the Press Room, Roy did not sign for any fans - which was a little disappointing.

  • In general, the Alumni seemed overwhelmed by the crowd and were hesitant to stop.  There were a few exceptions - Bob Boone and Mike Lieberthal signed for anyone and everyone.  Even Jim Thome eventually stopped for a minute or two and pumped out a few autographs.
  • Unless it happened out of my sight (which is entirely possible), Charlie Manuel only signed for a few minutes after getting trapped between the dining room and the suite.  The mob crushed him - probably the biggest fear for any of these guys.  
  • The best Alumni interaction came early in the night as John Kruk made his way into the Alumni Suite.  Krukker had his head down the entire length of the walk, muttering "Sorry", "No" - until a fan reached out with a gift for him.  He stopped (though, still never lifting his head to make eye-contact), thanked the guy and signed a print for him.  Then (still not lifting his head) asked, "How many people are here?"  At that point there were only five or six of us which must have been the magic number - he satisfied all of our signature requests.  (Note: I had him sign my 1993 team photo project)

Overall, it was a little disappointing: few alumni on hand, even fewer signing autographs.  But, I guess now I can say I know what happens on Friday night during Alumni Weekend...

Tips for CBP Saturdays

Another weekend, home series brings another "CBP Saturday."  The promotion honoring the stadium's first 10 years of existence has already brought notable alumnus such as Roy Oswalt, Pedro Feliz and Aaron Rowand back to town this season.  This weekend's guest will be reliever Scott Eyre - an important part of the 2008 and 2009 bullpens.

For the first couple Saturdays I wondered if the guests were signing - finally finding the right person to help supply the answer.   Thankfully he was right on the mark, helping to secure a few autographs from Oswalt.  Keeping with the spirit of this page, I am passing on the knowledge:

  • Guest names are usually made available on Wednesday or Thursday before the game.  You can either call the Phillies, or check my Facebook page to find out who to prep for.
  • Tickets are limited and handed out on a first-come-first-serve basis, so plan to get to the stadium early.
  • Ticket distribution is managed by the Phunster's (or, is it Phansters?).  They are typically by the gates (1st and 3rd base gates for Oswalt).  Just ask them for one.
  • Signings occur at the Authentics stand.  Get in line at least 15 minutes before the scheduled signing time.  

Hope this helps score a few new autographs!

Many thanks to super-collector, Mark Benedetto for the help guiding me to success on my first CBP Saturday!

Phillies TTM: Longest Wait Ever

I received a surprise earlier this week when a TTM success from Manny Trillo showed up in my mailbox.  Sent July 26, 2010, the request was assumed a lost cause long ago, and forgotten. - it is now my "longest wait ever"...

I sent the request c/o The White Sox while Trillo was still working for the team.  The return was postmarked from Orlando, but I have not heard what (if any) team he is currently affiliated with.  In between sending the card and today, I had a chance to meet Trillo at a Poppel show.  I told him I had been waiting a long time to meet him, and that he should come back more often.  He answered, "I've been around.  You just need to know where to look!"  


Ghosts of Phestivals Past - Part III

With a third edition, I guess "Ghosts of Phestivals Past" is now officially a pre-Phestival tradition!  Of course, if you regularly visit this page, you have to know the 30th Annual Phillies Phestival will be held at Citizens Bank Park tomorrow afternoon.  So here we are again, planning and plotting a path - at least as best we can without knowing who is signing at which booth yet.  What better time than now to look back at some past experiences...

Carlos Ruiz (2007)

It was Ruiz's first season as a starter and though still largely unproven, I was excited to have pulled a ticket to his autograph booth.  On my brother's recommendation I had purchased one of Chooch's 2006 blue warm-up jerseys at the annual Winter Sale a few months earlier and had him sign it

Von Hayes (1980-something)

Growing up watching the Phillies in the late 1980s meant thinking Von Hayes was a star.  I was a big fan of his - collecting his cards and mimicking his wide-legged batting stance in wiffle ball games.  This must have been 1985 or 1986 - other signatures from that day included Jeff Stone and John Felske.  Ah good times...

Jimmy Rollins (2012)

The 2009 World Series, Dick Perez lithograph is one of the projects I am hoping to build on at this year's event.  Cliff Lee (in 2011) was the first autograph I got on it, and since then have been adding one here and there including Rollins a few years ago.  I've never had a bad experience with Rollins - and this one is especially memorable because of the attention he gave my son.  Chatting him up and hitting him with a high-five request.  

Check out parts 1 and 2, published the past two years:

Through the Mail Update

Mack Burk

I have been sending around this picture of Connie Mack Stadium to guys who played for the Phillies during the 1950s for a few years now.  I started with the living "Whiz Kids" and continued from there.  The success with Burk (1956-58) makes signature number 17 from "the 1950s-era" on the piece.  There are still a few more guys I want to mail to - but, this one is almost ready for the wall...

Herm Starrette 

Hearing news that this former Phillies pitching coach was signing again (for a $5 donation) encouraged me to pick up the 1980 team photo project again.  Starrette was one of the few missing pieces.  Unfortunately, he has been ill - but, from the hand-written note he included in the reply, it seemed like he appreciated the letter.  

Through the Mail: Getting Back on the Horse

Much of the reason for starting this blog was rooted in my desire to share TTM successes - and over the years, I've shared a lot!  If you have been reading since those early years you may wonder why I haven't shared many of my returns recently - honest answer: there hasn't been much to share.  

Like many collectors, my engagement in TTM comes in waves.  There have been months when I've sent 20-30 requests, and then there have been those (like the past 4-5) when I might send two or three.  I would probably be more consistent throughout the year if I stayed away from those extreme peaks!  Either way, I'm back on the upswing and have a few new successes to share:

Justin DeFratus

I'm officially on the board with Spring Training successes after receiving this one back.  Interestingly, a few days after getting this card back, I also received the card I send LAST year back (signed).  Wonder where it was stored all this time...

Danny Cater

I am still working on getting these 1964 Bulletin inserts signed.  With this success from Cater I am now up to 19/27!  Please let me know if you know anyone who has a Callison or Mauch they want to sell...

Ron Hextall

Don't be surprised... I send out to Phillies, Eagles and Flyers!  Of late I've been working on getting this team set ('90-'91 Topps) signed.  This was a quick turnaround via The Flyers, with a "Best Wishes" inscription! 

My Collecting Story: Collecting Jimmy Rollins (UPDATE)

I have been collecting memorabilia related to Jimmy Rollins since he broke onto the scene in September 2000.  I don't have a lot of disposable income, so I have to pick and choose my spots for buying things related to the shortstop.  The first part of my Rollins collection was documented in a post back in 2011 - but, there have been a few updates to share since then:

Game Used Hats

I like collecting game used hats because they are a relatively inexpensive and don't take up a lot of room.  I've been buying them here and there over the past 10 years, but just got my first Jimmy Rollins gamer, his 2012 red, last year.  I jumped at the chance to buy his 2013 hat a few weeks ago, and would like to add one from earlier in his career - at some point.


Game Used Jerseys

My collection of game used jerseys is nice.  No more, no less.  I don't have a lot of them, but decided to make a small investment and buy two Rollins.  My thought: I would rather have a few that mean something than a bunch of no-names that don't.  Like the hats I mentioned ealier, the jerseys date from the past two seasons - one away gray and one home alternate.  The away jersey must have been taken right off his back after the game, it is completely soiled from a head first slide.



Not the most expensive item in my collection, this oil painting by Philly artist Lou Baker may be my favorite.  I have a few of Baker's works, including two of Mike Schmidt.  Guess I'm an amateur art collector, too... 


Phillies TTM: Who's Signing

I don't generally do themes for these TTM posts, but based on recent successes, one jumped out at me: Guys With Short Phillies Careers, and Long TTM Response Times.  OK, maybe it needs a little work, but you get the idea.  Here are some recent responses from guys who have great success track records...

Doug Jones


Jones stepped in to close for the Phils after Mitch Williams was run out of town... er, moved to Houston following the 1993 season. His short career in red pinstripes was successful, as he saved 27 games and earned a spot on the NL All-Star team.  He is a good signer through the mail, but does tend to build up a stack before responding, so be prepared to wait if you write...

129 East Navilla Place  Covina, CA 91723

Bruce Chen

After coming to the Phillies in the Andy Ashby trade, Chen pitched in parts of the 2000 and 2001 seasons.  Throughout his career he has been a reliable signer in care of his home club.  The rash of returns he recently registered were sent during the season.  Keep an eye on where he lands this off-season, and try him in camp again next Spring.

Photo via

Photo via

Larry McWilliams

I can vividly remember seeing McWilliams pitch for the Phils during the 1989 season - and continued mimicking the odd delivery in our driveway games the rest of the summer.  (Sounds like the makings of a nice little request letter...) Similar to Jones and Chen, he seems to wait until he has a nice pile, but generally comes through with a successful request...

4102 Beckley Court  Colleyville, TX 76034

For more Phillies TTM addresses, check out our TTM database...

2013 Phillies Winter Sale Recap

Saturday was the annual Phillies Holiday Sale at Citizens Bank Park.  Billed as an "all-day shopping event", the Sale is good opportunity to buy some cheap holiday gifts.  I've been going with my brother since the Phillies moved to CBP in 2004, but from talking to some of the more senior collectors in line, it is a tradition that reaches back to the mid-1980s.

It was another less-than-desirable list of game used jersey options, but I didn't let that get me down.  Here is the quick rundown of my purchases:

Jim Thome Signed Photo Frame


Thought this was a cool item - plastic frame that is perfect to hold either the photo card I have in there now, or a 4"x6" photo.  On the bottom is an autograph in blue Sharpie.  From reading online, frames signed by Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley were available later in the day.  Each were $5.

Placido Polanco Game-Used Alternate Helmet


I have a few red helmets, but for some reason, they never seem to put out the alternate ones.  For the past three years I have said, 'My day will be made if f I get an alternate helmet."  Well, needless to say, my day was made with this purchase.  It has a lot of evident game use, and unlike my red helmets, still has the padding intact.

Placido Polanco "Game-Used" TBTC Hat


No, I'm not some Placido Polanco super-fan, just someone who can't pass up a good deal.  This hat was from the Phillies 2011 Turn Back the Clock game when they dressed in 1984 style uniforms.  Though the MLB Authentication listing classifies this as game-used, P.P. did not play in the game - so, I'll call it "kinda game used."  It is also autographed.  For $20, it was a decent pickup...

Programs, etc.

Some of the best stuff available at the sale is found in the media room.  Here is the abbreviated version:

  • Bought one of each 2013 program. For $1 each, this are a low-guilt purchase.  
  • Autographed photo cards.  There was less variety (and notability) than in the selection offered last season - nothing too special to report.
  • One of the more interesting things I got were the 12"x18" vinyl flags of various players (pictured left). Thought I would keep them as possible autograph pieces in the future.  $1 and $2 each.

"Cliff Lee"? Game Issued Shoes


When we go in for the Sale, my brother and I always remind each other to "look for the unusual."  Shoes fit squarely in that category.  This season there was a whole table full of 'em.  I leapt when the ballgirl reading through the numbers written on the shoes said, "33."  Authentication only specifies game issued -  so, no "official" link to Cliff Lee, but it's fun to imagine they were his, anyway...

Steve Carlton VF Outlet Information


December 7th, 2013... A day that will live in infamy!

Ok, maybe I'm being overly dramatic, but tomorrow does promise to be a big day for Philadelphia sports collectors.  Between the Phillies annual Holiday Sale and the December Philly Show, the annual VF Outlets Pro Team Tent Sale, which will kick into high gear tomorrow, has managed to stay out of the headlines.  And, with a FREE autograph appearance by Steve Carlton, it's an event worth noting.  

Here is what you need to know...


Reading VF Outlet Center - 801 Hill Ave, Reading, PA 19610


December 7, 2013, 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM

The line for Lefty will begin at 9 AM, VF Outlet Store, Level 2-Blue Building.


Phillies Hall of Famer, Steve Carlton will be signing free autographs at the Tent Sale.  While Carlton will not sign "outside" items, quality 8x10" photos will be available for free - or, shoppers can purchase a #32, Carlton t-shirt to benefit his charity, "Steve Carlton's Adaptive Sports Association."  

Also, if you are looking for holiday gifts, the tents are packed with officially licensed merchandise - at good prices.  As an incentive to make a purchase, shoppers who spend $25 or more will receive a FREE LeSean McCoy 8 x 10 photo.  One per person. While supplies last. 

Check out the VF Outlet Event Page for more details.