Collection of approximately 1,000 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 were 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. The second volume was published in 2015 and Volume III will be released this spring.
Offered here are the approximate 1,000 original letters that appear, word for word, in Volume III of Hongach's baseball trilogy. Lee MacPhail 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. Don Newcombe's response was "My biggest thrill was being signed by the Dodgers in 1946 with Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella: It was huge." Newcombe also writes that his biggest "baseball thrill" occurred in the first game of the 1949 World Series against the Yankees: "I had the good fortune to be the only pitcher in history to strike out the great Joe DiMaggio 4 times." Jerry Manuel responded "Fielding Hank Aaron's last hit as SS for Detroit Tigers." 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. John Romonosky, a pitcher, only started 9 games during his major league career, so his biggest thrill occurred during his first start with the Cardinals in September, 1953: "Since coming from a small mining town in Harrisburg, IL, and growing up as a kid rooting for the Cardinals and my 'Hero' Stan Musial and hearing Harry Carry the Cardinals announcer say on the P.A. and pitching for the Cardinals today from Harrisburg, IL John Romonosky." 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 while this collection features what our consignor believes to be all of the letters reproduced in the book, it is possible that a few may have been lost during the process (as was the case with the past two books). In addition to players, the collection also included letters from a few umpires. Included among the many players whose letters are represented in the book are Bill Almon, Joe Amalfitano, Ken Aspromonte, Ray Berres, Cloyd Boyer, Dave Bristol, Rick Burleson, Buzz Capra, Frank Crosetti, Denny Doyle, Herman Franks, Travis Fryman, Dallas Green, James Grimsley, Clint Hartung, Tom Henke, Tommy Holmes, Johnny Hopp, Steve Howe, Clint Hurdle, Tommy John, Eddie Joost, Johnny Klippstein, Bill Laxton, Stump Merrell, John Montefusco, Jerry Mumphrey, Buck O'Neill, Roy Oswalt, Dusty Rhodes, Lonnie Smith, Mel Stottlemyre, Dickie Thon, Bill White, Roy White, and Bump Wills.
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: approximately 1,000 letters plus Hongach's book. Auction LOA from James Spence/JSA. Pre certified by Steve Grad and Brian Sobrero/Beckett Authentication. (Please Note: neither JSA nor Beckett examined each and every letter in this collection but instead "spot-checked" a very small sampling, all of which were fine. Given the extremely personal nature of these letters, it is highly unlikely that there are any "secretarial" signatures present, but the possibility does exist.) Reserve $2,500. Estimate (open).
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