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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.

John Stuper

1984 Topps

Stuper pitched for four seasons in the majors, going 32-28 with a 3.96 ERA for the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds between 1982-1985. He had his best year in 1983 while playing for St. Louis. He won 12 games that season to go with a 3.68 ERA in 198 innings pitched.

Stuper was a member of the 1982 world champion Cardinals team. He made two starts in the World Series against the Milwaukee Brewers. In Game 2 he lasted four innings and gave up four runs, but the Cardinals came back to win 5-4 and Stuper got a no decision. He started again in Game 6 and had much better results as he threw a complete game, allowing four hits and one run, to lead St. Louis to a 13-1 victory in a must-win game for the Cardinals. St. Louis won the next game as well to capture the championship.

In 1993 Stuper took over as the head baseball coach at Yale University. He has won 535 games in the years that followed and is the winningest coach in school history.

John Stuper – career stats

1984 Donruss

Butch Davis

1985 Topps

Davis played in 166 games for the Kansas City Royals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Baltimore Orioles, Los Angeles Dodgers and Texas Rangers between 1983 and 1994. In 453 at bats he hit .243 with seven home runs. Davis never played in more than 62 games in a season. That happened in 1993 while he was with the Rangers. He hit .245 that year, with three home runs, 20 RBIs and 24 runs scored.

Davis hit his inside-the-park home run on Aug. 22, 1993, helping Texas to a 11-4 win over the Baltimore Orioles.

He was starting in right field and leading off for Texas at the Ballpark in Arlington on July 28, 1994, when Kenny Rogers threw a perfect game against the Angles. Davis did not get a hit in the game. The Rangers won 4-0.

Butch Davis – career stats

Swings and misses

1966 Topps

A two-time all star, Jimmie Hall played for eight years in the majors, hitting .254 with 121 home runs for the Minnesota Twins, California Angels, Cleveland Indians, New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves from 1963-1970. Hall blasted 33 home runs for the Twins as a rookie and finished third in the American League Rookie of the Year vote. He hit 25 home runs for Minnesota the next year and earned a trip to his first All-Star Game. He had what was arguably the best year of his career in 1965 when he hit .285 with 20 home runs while setting a career high with 86 RBIs. He made his second all-star trip that year and finished 13th in the MVP tally. He played in the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers that season as well. Hall appeared in two games and had a hit in seven at bats as the Twins lost in seven games. Due to his struggles against left handed pitching, Hall saw his playing time wane and his power drop off precipitously in the years that followed. By 1968 he was a part-time player and two years later he was out of the majors for good.

1988 Fleer

Mike Stanley spent 15 years in the majors, playing for the Texas Rangers, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays and Oakland A’s from 1986-2000. In 1,467 games he hit .270 with 187 home runs. He was an all star in 1995 and won the Silver Slugger in 1993 when he hit .305 with 26 home runs for New York. Stanley played in 20 postseason games and was particularly good, hitting .356 with a home run. On May 1, 1991, Stanley caught Nolan Ryan’s final career no hitter.

Randy Johnson (third baseman)

1983 Topps

Johnson played in 204 games for the Atlanta Braves from 1982-1984. In 484 at bats he hit .267 with six home runs. His best season was actually his last in the big leagues. He played in 91 games in 1984 and hit .279 with five home runs.

On Sept. 6, 1984, Johnson broke a 2-2 tie at Dodger Stadium by taking Larry White deep to lead off the top of the 18th inning. Atlanta held on to win the game 3-2.

Johnson played two years in Japan for the Hiroshima Carp following his time in the majors. Following his playing career he has worked as a scout for various clubs. He is currently a scout for the Detroit Tigers.

Randy Johnson – career stats

1984 Fleer

Swings and misses

1980 Topps

Mike Barlow pitched for seven seasons in the majors, playing for the St. Louis Cardinals, Houston Astros, California Angels and Toronto Blue Jays from 1975-1981. In 133 games he posted a 10-6 record with a 4.63 ERA and six saves.

1981 Fleer

Mike Griffin appeared in 67 games for the New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres, Baltimore Orioles and Cincinnati Reds between 1979 and 1989. In 74.1 innings he went 7-15 with three saves and a 4.60 ERA.

1986 Fleer

Craig Gerber played in 65 games for the California Angels in 1985. He hit .264.

Jeff Twitty

1981 Fleer

Twitty appeared in 13 games for the Kansas City Royals in 1980. He went 2-1 with a 6.04 ERA. He pitched professionally from 1979-1982.

Twitty made his major league debut on July 5, 1980, against the Mariners in Kansas City. He entered the game in the fifth inning in relief of starter Renie Martin and pitched 2.1 innings, giving up three hits and a run. Kansas City won the game 5-4 and Twitty earned the victory.

Jeff Twitty – career stats

Mark Lee

1979 Topps

Lee pitched for the San Diego Padres and Pittsburgh Pirates from 1978-1981. In 118 games he posted a 7-8 record with a 3.64 ERA and nine saves. His best season came during his rookie year in San Diego. He went 5-1 with a 3.28 ERA in 56 games for the Padres.

Lee made his big league debut on April 23, 1978, at Jack Murphy Stadium against the Atlanta Braves. He entered the game in the seventh inning in relief of Bob Shirley and pitched through the ninth. He did not allow a hit, but did walk one batter. San Diego won the game 5-4 in the bottom of the 12th.

When his playing career ended, Lee worked as the general manager of two independent league baseball teams in Amarillo, Texas.

Mark Lee – career stats

1980 Topps

Dave Van Gorder

1983 Donruss

Van Gorder appeared in 183 games for the Cincinnati Reds and Baltimore Orioles between 1982 and 1987. In 420 at bats he hit .212 with three home runs. Van Gorder was typically a backup, but did catch 70 games for Cincinnati in 1985. He hit .238 that season with two home runs and 24 RBIs.

Van Gorder played collegiately at the University of Southern California. While there, the Trojans won the 1978 College World Series.

Dave Van Gorder – career stats

1985 Donruss

Luis Tiant

1974 Topps

Tiant pitched for 19 years in the majors, compiling a 229-172 record and a 3.30 ERA, while playing for the Cleveland Indians, Minnesota Twins, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates, and California Angels from 1964-1982. Tiant went 10-4 as a rookie for the Indians and won at least 10 games over his first five years in the majors. He went 21-9 while leading the American League with a 1.60 ERA and striking out a career high 264 hitters in 1968. Tiant also led the AL with nine shutouts that season and earned a trip to the All-Star Game. At the year’s conclusion he finished fifth in the MVP race. He went on to win at least 20 games three more times (1973, 1974, 1976) while playing for Boston. He led the league in ERA (1.91) again in 1972 and was an all star in 1974 and 1976. He signed as a free agent with the Yankees in 1978 and won 13 games the next season. It would be his final double-digit win year. Tiant remained in the majors until 1982, when he retired at the age of 41.

Tiant played in his first game on July 19, 1964. He made the start for Cleveland that day and pitched a complete game shutout against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. He struck out 11 and the Tribe won 11-0.

Tiant pitched for the Red Sox in the 1975 World Series. He made three starts and was the winner in Games 1 and 4. Boston lost the series to the Cincinnati Reds in seven games. He is a member of the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame.

We featured Tony Oliva in 2020.

Luis Tiant – career stats

Rafael Palmeiro

1987 Topps

Palmeiro spent 20 years in the majors and amassed 3,020 hits and 569 home runs. He was a four-time all star, in addition to winning three Gold Gloves and two Silver Slugger awards. He broke in with the Chicago Cubs in 1986 and made his first all-star team while playing for them in 1988. However, he did not really become a star until joining the Texas Rangers in 1989. He hit .319 for Texas in 1990 and led the American League in hits (191). He was an all star again in 1991 when he led the AL in doubles (49). Starting in 1993, Palmeiro factored into the AL MVP race for eight of the next nine years. However, the highest he would finish was fifth in 1999 when he hit .327 with 47 home runs after returning to Texas from the Baltimore Orioles. He remained with Texas until 2004 when he went back to Baltimore for the final two years of his career.

Palmeiro hit his 500th home run on May 11, 2003, off David Elder of the Cleveland Indians.

Palmeiro is one of six players with over 3,000 hits and 500 home runs in their careers. He played in 2,831 games in his career which are the most by a player who never played in a World Series.

In 2008, Palmeiro was inducted into the Mississippi State University sports Hall of Fame. In 2009, he was inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame. In 2012, he was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.

Rafael Palmeiro – career stats

1988 Fleer