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Lot # 895 (of 1512)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

Enormous Baseball "Most Memorable Moments" Letter Collection (1,003)

Starting Bid - $2,500, Sold For - $4,200

Collection of 1,003 signed letters from major league ballplayers, 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, was published in 2013 and the second volume has just been published this year.

Offered here are the 1,003 original letters that appear, word for word, in Volume 2 of Hongach's baseball trilogy. Billy Southworth is the only Hall of Fame player represented in this grouping; however, the collective content of these letters represents an astounding compendium of baseball history. While there is certainly a substantial monetary value in these letters, as nearly 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. Mark "The Bird" Fidrych's response was very simply "Making it to the Big Leagues and playing on the All Star Team." One of Gene Hermanski's biggest thrills was "Playing in 1947 W. S. (Never Been to Yankee Stadium)." Tug McGraw responded, "Just putting on a major league uniform!" Fred McGriff's biggest thrill was a job well done: "My biggest thrills were just contributing to the team and really getting the respect and acknowledgment from coaches and teammates." 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. Stan Pawloski, who only appeared in two games with the Indians in 1955, left the majors with just one single thrill: "My one and only major league hit with Cleveland Indians in Sept. 1955." 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.

It should be noted that 1,015 letters are featured in the published book but only 1,003 of those 1,015 letters are included here (the originals were somehow lost during the printing of the book). The MISSING letters are those from Roy Davis, Harry Fanok, Dan Firova, Russ Gibson, Al Naples, Dick Nen, Tom Tellman, Lou Thornton, Frank Torre, Bob Turley, Jim Weaver, and Lenny Yocchim. This volume also includes letters from thirty-seven major league umpires, which offers a different perspective regarding the "thrills" they enjoyed. Among the many letters featured in this collection are those from Wally Berger, Don Blasingame, Lew Burdette, Clay Carroll, Chris Chambliss, Wilbur Cooper, Pat Darcy, Darrell Evans, Mark Fidrych, George Foster, Debs Garms, Jake Gibbs, Dave Goltz, Billy Grabarkewitz, Ross Grimsley, Mike Hegan, Gene Hermanski, Teddy Higuera, Butch Hobson, Gil Hodges, Walt Hriniak, Ruppert Jones, Tom Kelly, Ed Kranepool, Cookie Lavagetto, Bill Lee, Charlie Leibrandt, Greg Luzinski, Jon Matlack, Tug McGraw, Fred McGriff, John McNamara, Ed Ott, Babe Pinelli, Dennis Rasmussen, Doug Rau, Pete Reiser, Jerry Reuss, Cookie Rojas, David Segui, Luke Sewell, Rip Sewell, Bob Shirley, Bill Skowron, Billy Southworth, Marty Springstead, Don Stanhouse, Terry Steinbach, Riggs Stephenson, Ron Swoboda, Chuck Tanner, Dick Tidrow, Hal Trosky, George Uhle, Ed Vargo, Mickey Vernon, Bill Virdon, Harry Walker, John Wathan, Al Weis, Lou Whitaker, Ed Yost, and Gus Zernial.

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. Total: 1,003 letters plus Hongach's book. LOA from James Spence/JSA. (Please Note: JSA  did not examine each and every letter in this collection but instead "spot-checked" a small sampling, all of which were fine; 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 $4,200

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