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Lot # 955 (of 1866)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

Enormous Baseball "Most Memorable Moments" Letter Collection (1,011) with 55 Different Hall of Famers

Starting Bid - $2,500, Sold For - $8,295

Collection of 1,011 signed letters from major league ballplayers, including those of fifty-five Hall of Famers, each of which was written in response to this question: "What was your greatest thrill in baseball?"

This remarkable collection represents the partial result of what can only be described as one of the most ambitious, unique, and simply monumental undertakings in the field of baseball history. Beginning in the 1960s, our consignor, Bill Hongach, who was just a young boy at the time, began writing to ballplayers asking them if they would be kind enough to recount their greatest thrill in baseball. Later, in the early 1970s, he received the opportunity of a lifetime when he was hired as a New York Yankees batboy , which gave him the chance to meet, and become friends with, many of the players he had written to years earlier. During his time with the Yankees he continued his efforts, often handing the players a preprinted questionnaire to fill out. Over thirty years later, in the early 2000s, he decided to revive the project and began systematically writing to every living major league player at the time (approximately 6,000), many of whom he had written to years earlier. Incredibly, he received over 3,000 written responses, all of which will be eventually published in three separate volumes, with each book featuring approximately 1,000 of those responses. Volume 1 of that work, In Their Own Write - Over 1,000 Major Leaguers Tell Their Greatest Thrill And Most Memorable Moment in Baseball, has just recently been published, with the other two volumes to follow shortly. (The book is available on Amazon by clicking here.)

Offered here are the 1,011 original letters that appear, word for word, in Volume 1 of Hongach's baseball trilogy. This is simply an astounding compendium of baseball history, with each player recounting his greatest thrill in baseball. While there is certainly a substantial monetary value in these letters, as all are signed by the respective player (the overwhelming majority are handwritten as well), the history they convey, not to mention the emotional response they illicit, is their far greater value.

What is perhaps most interesting in reading these letters is how different the responses can be to this basic question. By different, we don't mean the actual events they recall, which of course are unique to the individual, but by the many different forms a "thrill" can take, many of which have nothing to do with any achievement on the field. For instance, Jim "Mudcat" Grant writes in part, "Jackie Robinson was the first African American to sign in the Major Leagues, Larry Doby signed thirteen weeks later. One of my greatest thrills was rooming with Larry Doby as a teammate." Hall of Famer Travis Jackson recounts that his greatest thrill "was when they told me in 1922 while playing for Little Rock that I was sold to the New York Giants." For many of the players represented here, their time in the major leagues was very brief, so any little accomplishment could be characterized as a thrill. Les Munns, who only played three seasons (1934-1936), recalls his greatest thrill as "Beating Dizzy Dean, one of the seven games he lost, the year he won thirty in 1934!" Obviously, it is extremely difficult to convey in this brief description how entertaining, interesting, and many times poignant these letters are as the players reflect on their most joyful moment in the game. Anyone who loves baseball will love this letter collection, as well as the book.

As we stated earlier, 1,011 different players are represented here, some of which have responded more than once: first in the 1960s or 1970s, and then thirty years later, when Hongach wrote to them again. Some of the players actually recounted a different thrill in their second letter, showing how recollections can change over time. The Hall of Fame players featured in this collection, with the number of letters for each (if more than one) noted in parenthesis, are Alston, Anderson (2), Averill, Bancroft, Bench, Berra, Blyleven (2), Carter, Conlan, Coveleski, Cox, Cronin, Dickey, Doerr, Drysdale, Feller, Fingers, Ford, Gehringer, Gossage, Grimes, Greenberg, Herzog, Hooper (3), Hoyt, Irvin, T. Jackson, Jenkins, Kaline, Kell, Kelly, Kiner, Tony LaRussa, Leonard, Lindstrom, Lopez (2), Lyons, McCarthy, Molitor, Palmer, Perry, Reese, Rizzuto (2), Roberts, B. Robinson, Ruffing, Sewell, Sisler, Slaughter (2), Snider, Terry, L. Waner, Weaver, D. Williams, and Yount. Other notables include Joe Adcock, George Bamburger, Dick Bartell, Wally Berger, Ron Bloomber, Vida Blue, Bob Boone, Ray Boone, Larry Bowa, Bobby Bragan, Bobby Brown, Mike Caldwell, Rick Cerone, Ron Cey, Del Crandall, Al Dark, Doug DeCinces, Denny Doyle, Ryne Duren, Carl Erskine, Ray Fosse, Bill Freehan, Joe Garagiola, Phil Garner, Ralph Garr, Preston Gomez, Eli Grba, Dick Groat, Ralph Houk, Larry Jensen, Randy Jones, Jim Kaat, Clay Kirby, Jerry Koosman, Tony Kubek, Clem Labine, Hector Lopez, Steve Lyons, Dave Magadan, Marty Marion, Jack McKeon, Bill Melton, Don Money, Bobby Murcer, Jim Northup, Andy Pafko, Roger Peckinpaugh, Jim Piersall, Lou Piniella, Dick Radatz, Dusty Rhodes, Steve Rogers, Al Rosen, Joe Rudi, and Bob Shaw. Many of the letters are written on the preprinted sheet Hongach provided, but some are on index cards or other types of stationery. The vast majority include their original mailing envelopes. The size of the letters vary, but most are approximately 8.5 x 11 inches. Text and signatures are all well executed, with the overwhelming majority grading "9" or 10." Excellent condition overall. A copy of Hongach's book accompanies the collection. LOA from James Spence/JSA. (Please Note: JSA looked at all of the Hall of Fame signatures and then "spot-checked" another random 100 signatures from key players, all of which were fine. They did not examine all 1,011 signatures; however, given the extremely personal nature of these letters, it is highly unlikely that there are any "secretarial" signatures present.) Reserve $2,500. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $8,295

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