As a kid my friends and I would often pass the time in the pre-internet era by writing letters to our baseball heroes in the hopes of getting an autographed response.
It started with the modern players but we quickly found our letters only drew team photo cards in response. Most had no autographs and the ones that did were stamped as we learned when comparing the signatures.
But when one of my friends found a magazine listing the addresses of retired players, we quickly learned this was where the true treasure lied.
The letters we sent were always hand written, short, from the heart and to the point. We would praise their contributions to the game we loved and ask for the honor of an autograph.
Enclosed were never more than two items that I was requesting the player to sign usually something I made up myself (as you can tell by the funky art work) and a self-addressed stamp envelope to make it as easy as possible.
They often responded quickly and obligingly and so it was with excitement one day I came across the address of one of the most unique men in baseball, former Cleveland Indian pitcher Satchel Paige.
Paige joined the Indians in 1948 from the Negro League winning six of seven down the stretch.
A rookie at the age of 42 he played a key role in the Indians’ pennant run and his appearance in the 1948 World Series, which the Indians won, was the first ever by an African American.
I would write my letter praising his prowess and include in it a picture of an old baseball card that I had clipped out of a magazine and a simple piece of paper asking him if he would do me the honor of signing them for me.
I sent it off in February, 1982 and waited patiently like an old fisherman with a line in the water to see if I would get a bite.
Then one day around four months later on June 8, 1982 I heard on the news that the great Satchel Paige had passed away.
My fishing line in the water had broke and this one had got away.
No big deal I thought, it wasn’t like it was an actual card that I sent that I would now never get back and so I basically forgot about it.
Then a couple of weeks later a letter arrives in the mail with my hand writing, it was one the self-addressed stamped envelopes, I was puzzled.
I opened it up to find the replica card and the blank piece of paper both now baring the signature of Satchel Paige.
Did he sign it before he died and simply never got around to sending it I thought or did possibly his widow grant the final wish of a young fan by signing it for him.
To this day I don’t know the answer and the reality is I have never needed to know, I wrote to Paige and the others as a fan of the game not some sort of investor looking to sell what I gathered and while my collection includes some of baseball’s greats those two flimsy pieces of paper are forever my favorites.