What’s all this?

It all started with a box of keepsakes my father kept on his closet shelf, far from the dirty hands of his only son. The box was full of magic, as far as I was concerned, and I spent many a day staring at it on that ledge, just out of my reach, hoping he would take it down again and show me the treasures it held within. What as in it, you might be asking? Well, I will tell you. It was full of wonder. Postcards and baseballs and other things from the baseball players he had loved to watch when he was a child. Pictures like the one of Ted Williams (above) or Stan Musial.

Scan 173 copy (1)

Or Red Schoendienst

Scan 176

After years of looking at my father’s collection, I got the idea to start my own. Initially this involved me trying to get Red Sox Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski to write me back. My campaign involved numerous yearly letters as well as Christmas Cards, but Yaz was never that interested in becoming my pen pal, so I chose to move on to others and there were certainly plenty of successes. However, one thing that stood out to me when I was a kid was that I could never really get the players to write back to me. Yeah, it was great to get back an autographed card, but what I was really looking for was a little bit extra. Maybe just a few words on a piece of paper, telling me about their careers and what it was like when they played, maybe an entire letter. Whatever the case, I decided I should try for more.

This led to the questionnaire. The idea is not to take up too much of anyone’s time. In fact, it should just take a couple minutes to answer the questions. But it was a ready-made form that would get a response in a way that simply asking questions in a letter did not. Over the years, the questions have changed a little, and there have been times when more than five were included, but for the most part the same core questions have always been asked and the many answers I have gotten back have been amazing.

Of course none of this was ever supposed to be released into the wild. I figured it was just a nice way for me to pass some time and continue the collection my father started in the early 1950’s. But, a job posting for a person to collect the oral histories of World War II veterans eventually convinced me otherwise. While they are certainly short, some more-so than others, these documents still are micro-histories of the men who played the game of baseball in their own words. These are not just the stories of the players we have come to know so much of. Yes, there will be all-stars here, but there will also be journeymen and guys who only ever got a cup of coffee in the majors. When I worked as a sports editor, I liked to say that no one sport ever held more importance in any paper I worked for than any of the other sports. This meant I paid as much attention to the local cross country runners as I did to the football team. That is the case here. All of the stories are equal and hopefully, equally enjoyable.

I have started the site off with a few entries, but will be adding more in the coming weeks and even more as I get more back in the mail. I hope to add oral history video in the future as we get out into the field and interview some of these men in person. I dream that one day we will have a completed questionnaire from every living person who played Major League Baseball. While I know this is not going to happen, for reasons of time and cooperation, it does not mean I cannot try – and have fun in the process. So, take a look around, and make sure to check back regularly for your daily dose of baseball history.

Franklin Stubbs

1989 Upper Deck

Stubbs spent 10 seasons in the majors, hitting .232 with 104 home runs for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers and Detroit Tigers. He played from 1984-1992, then returned to the majors in 1995 with Detroit. He twice hit 23 home runs in a season, for the Dodgers in 1986 and the Astros in 1990. The latter was his best year, seeing him hit .261 while setting career highs in RBIs (71), runs (59), stolen bases (19), hits (117) and doubles (23).

This is not our survey, but I am sad he did not answer the candy question

As you can see, that’s not our questionnaire. Apparently there are copycats afoot! And they are 15 years old! I do love the candy question though. I hope, whomever they are, they are enjoying the answers to our survey.

Stubbs was a member of the 1988 Dodgers team that defeated the Oakland A’s in the World Series. He hit .294 with three runs scored, two doubles and two RBIs in the Fall Classic.

Franklin Stubbs – career stats

1989 Donruss

Stan Wall

1976 Topps

Wall pitched in 66 games for the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1975-1977. He won four games and saved another while posting a 3.86 ERA in 98 innings. His best year was 1976 when he went 2-2 with a save and a 3.60 ERA.

Wall’s first appearance came on July 19, 1975, at Dodgers Stadium against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He entered in the eighth with the game tied 3-3 and did not allow a run. However, the Pirates scored twice in the top of the ninth against Mike Marshall and won the game.

Stan Wall – career stats

1977 Topps

Wes Chamberlain

1992 Topps

Chamberlain played for six years in the majors, breaking in with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1990 and finishing with the Boston Red Sox in 1995. In 385 games he hit .260 with 38 home runs. He had a strong showing for the Phillies in 1991 as he hit .240 with 13 home runs, 50 RBIs and 51 runs scored. It was a good enough performance to earn him fifth place in the National League Rookie of the Year vote. He hit .282 with 12 home runs for Philadelphia in 1993, but soon the team traded him to the Red Sox where he struggled in his final major league games.

Chamberlain played in two games of the 1993 World Series for the Phillies against the Toronto Blue Jays. He had two at bats, but did not get a hit. The Blue Jays won the series 4-2.

Chamberlain played professionally from 1987-1999. His book is available here.

Wes Chamberlain – career stats

1992 Fleer

Swings and misses

1967 Topps

A member of the 1969 world champions, Art Shamsky played eight seasons in the majors, hitting .253 with 68 home runs for the Cincinnati Reds, New York Mets, Chicago Cubs and Oakland A’s from 1965-1972. Shamsky’s best season came for the Mets in 1969 as he helped them reach and win the World Series. He hit .300 that year with 14 home runs, then hit .538 in the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves. Shamsky is a member of the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. He runs a web site, artshamsky.com.

1976 Topps

Gene Locklear spent five seasons in the majors, playing for the Cincinnati Reds, San Diego Padres and New York Yankees from 1973-1977. In 292 games he hit .274 with nine home runs. His best year came for the Padres in 1975 when he hit .321 with five home runs in 100 games.

1982 Topps

John Martin pitched for four years, going 17-14 for the St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers from 1980-1983. He had his best year in 1981, posting an 8-5 mark with a 3.42 ERA for the Redbirds.

Bill Wegman

1988 Fleer

Wegman pitched for 11 years for the Milwaukee Brewers from 1985-1995. In 262 games he went 81-90 with a 4.16 ERA. He won 12 or more games for the Brewers four times. His best year was 1991 when he went 15-7 with a 2.84 ERA.

Wegman’s first start came on September 14, 1985 at home against the Boston Red Sox. He pitched seven innings and gave up five hits and two runs, but did not factor into the decision. (Boston won the game 10-8.)

Wegman’s last game came on October 1, 1995, also at home against the Boston Red Sox. He entered the game in the bottom of the ninth inning, taking B.J. Surhoff’s spot in right field. He recorded a put out on a fly ball hit by Reggie Jefferson. The Brewers won the game 8-1.

Bill Wegman – career stats

1990 Score

Bobby Witt

1989 Topps

Witt won 142 games over a 16-year career that spanned from 1986-2001. He broke in with the Texas Rangers and won 11 games as a rookie. This would be one of seven seasons where he posted at least 10 wins. Witt went 17-10 with a 3.36 ERA for Texas in 1990. He also struck out 221 hitters in 222 innings in what was arguably his best season. Witt went on to pitch for the Oakland A’s, Florida Marlins, St. Louis Cardinals, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Cleveland Indians and Arizona Diamondbacks.

Witt made it to the World Series in the final year of his career. He pitched in Game 6 of the 2001 Fall Classic for the Diamondbacks, entering in relief of Randy Johnson in the eighth inning. He walked New York Yankee Bernie Williams then got Todd Greene to ground into a double play before striking out Shane Spencer to end the inning. Arizona won the game 15-2. They won the series the next day.

Bobby Witt – career stats

1989 Donruss

Brent Gaff

1985 Topps

Gaff pitched in 58 games for the New York Mets from 1982-1984. In 126.1 innings he compiled a 4-5 record with a 4.06 ERA and one save. He had his best season in 1984, winning three games and posting a 3.63 ERA in 84.1 innings. However, a torn rotator cuff derailed his career and by the following season he was done with baseball.

Gaff pitched in his first game on July 7, 1982, at Shea Stadium against the San Francisco Giants. He made the start and pitched 7-and-2/3 innings. He struck out six and gave up no earned runs, but the Giants scored three unearned runs and Gaff took the loss.

Brent Gaff – career stats

Marvis Foley

1981 Topps

Foley played in 203 games for the Chicago White Sox and Texas Rangers between 1978-1984. In 419 at bats, he hit .224 with 12 home runs. Typically serving as a reserve catcher, Foley caught a career-high 64 games for the White Sox in 1980, hitting .212 with four home runs.

After his playing career ended, Foley became coach and manager in the minor leagues. He is the only manager to win every Triple-A league (International, Pacific Coast and American Association) championship. He is currently the catching instructor for the Colorado Rockies.

Marvis Foley – career stats

1985 Topps

Scott Terry

1990 Upper Deck

Terry pitched for six seasons in the majors, going 24-28 with a 3.73 ERA and eight saves. He came up with the Cincinnati Reds in 1986, then spent the rest of his career with the St. Louis Cardinals. He enjoyed the best year of his career in 1988 while pitching for St. Louis. Terry won nine games that season and had a 2.92 ERA in 129.1 innings.

Scott Terry – career stats

1990 Donruss

Swings and misses

1989 Topps

Bill Long pitched for six years in the majors, breaking in with the Chicago White Sox in 1985 and finishing with the Montreal Expos in 1991. In 159 games, Long went 27-27 with a 4.37 ERA. He won eight games twice for the ChiSox, first in 1987 and again in 1989. The only other team he played for was the Chicago Cubs in 1990.

1993 Topps

Chris Hoiles spent 10 years catching for the Baltimore Orioles. He played from 1989-1998 and slugged 151 home runs while serving as Baltimore’s primary catcher most of those years. He had his best year in 1993 when he hit .310 with 29 home runs, 82 RBIs and 80 runs scored. Hoiles finished 16th in the American League MVP vote that year. He is a member of the Orioles Hall of Fame.