By: Guest writer Justin Evans
I started autograph collecting at the age of 6 and have been nonstop since. I have never been the type of person to sell my autographs mainly because I feel like with each signature I have made a personal connection with that individual. Sure, collecting autographs is a great hobby but, I wanted to do something more personal for each player and to show them that they are not just another signature to add to my collection.
In 2010 I changed the style of collecting by sending questioners to each player that played 1 or more games in the Major Leagues. At this time I have written letters to every player that played in the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s. Currently working on the 60’s with a mix of the 70’s. As much as I would love to write each letter by hand, it’s almost impossible for others to read my chicken scratch handwriting so I type each one.
After a couple of years of sending out questioners, I wrote to a player by the name of Barney Mussill who only played in a hand full of games for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1944. On the letter back from him he wrote “As we all know Baseball Friends are forever.” That quote has always been stuck in my mind mainly because Mr. Mussill was right.
Ever since I started writing and sharing my letters I have met many people across this country and around the world that I may never meet in person but have become great friends through Facebook (Where I share my questioners on a daily post). Many of them are as much of a baseball fan as I am and others just like the history.
Since writing questioners, I have also had the opportunity to talk to players on the phone such as Ken Retzer, Hal Naragon, and Tito Fuentes who were wanting to go into more detail on the questions that I had.
My most memorable experience since I started sending questioners was the summer of 2013. I wrote to former Reds, Cubs, and Dodgers player Bob Borkowski. I sent Mr. Borkowski a questioner but received in back with a note saying, “I would like to answer your questions but I’m legally blind”. I decided to write back and gave him my phone number. Since he only lives 30 minutes away and noticed that my phone number was local he called me up to talk. After we talked for about 20 minutes he invited me over to visit.
I stopped by the following weekend and we went out to lunch at some ma and pa’s Diner in downtown Dayton, Ohio. He talked about his family and how he lost his wife a few years earlier then continued to talk about life, baseball, and even how he signed some certified baseball cards for TOPPS with “Bob” and an “X” because his vision was so bad.
After lunch we went back to his house and he brought out this book from his trip to California for the Dodgers 50thanniversary of their 1955 World Series win. It was the last big trip he took with his wife before she passed away. Even though he couldn’t see each page very well he had me tell him what picture I was looking at and he told some amazing stories.
My Letter from Barney Mussill has taught me that nothing is more satisfying then hearing baseball stories from the players who lived it and knowing that they are not just another autograph in someone’s collection but a friend.
“Baseball Friends are Forever”
Born in Bower Hill, Pennsylvania on October 1, 1919.
Died in Detroit, Michigan on January 27, 2013.
Pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1944.