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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.

Rod Gilbreath

1977 Topps

Gilbreath spent seven seasons playing in the Atlanta Braves infield. He came up in 1972 and by 1976 he was the team’s starting second baseman. He held the spot for two years, then shifted between second and third base in 1978, which would be his last year in the big leagues. He spent two seasons playing at AAA before retiring in 1980. In 500 games, Gilbreath hit .248 with 14 home runs.

Following his playing career, Gilbreath worked in various roles for the Braves organization, including scout, minor league manager and player development executive.

Rod Gilbreath – career stats

1979 Topps

Swings and misses

1987 Donruss

Benny Distefano played in 240 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Houston Astros between 1984-1992. In 360 at bats, he hit .228 with seven home runs. In between his stints in the majors, Distefano played in Venezuela and Japan. He is the last left-handed throwing catcher to appear in an MLB game, catching three times for the Pirates in 1989.

1988 Fleer

Twice a world champion, Mark Eichhorn pitched for 11 years in the majors. In 563 games, he posted a 48-43 record with a 3.00 ERA and 32 saves. Eichhorn pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays, Atlanta Braves, California Angels and Baltimore Orioles. He was a member of the Toronto teams that won the World Series in 1992 and 1993. He pitched in one game of each series. He led the American League in games pitched (89) in 1987. He won 14 games as a rookie in 1986, pitching exclusively out of the bullpen for Toronto. He finished third in the Rookie of the Year and sixth in the Cy Young vote that season.

1989 Donruss

A three-time all star, Terry Steinbach caught for 14 years in the major leagues. Steinbach played for the Oakland A’s from 1986-1996, then finished his career with the Minnesota Twins from 1997-1999. Steinbach hit .271 with 162 home runs in 1,546 career games. His best season came in 1996 when he hit .272 with 35 home runs, 100 RBIs and 79 runs scored. He was an all star in 1988, 1989 and 1993. Steinbach played in the 1988, 1989 and 1990 World Series with Oakland. The A’s beat the San Francisco Giants to win the 1989 championship. He hit .250 with a home run and seven RBIs in the series.

Lee Guetterman

Guetterman pitched for 11 seasons in the majors. He came up with the Seattle Mariners in 1984, then joined the New York Yankees, New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals, before concluding his career in 1996, back with the Mariners. He started a career-high 17 games in 1987 for Seattle and won 11 of them. He won 11 games again in 1990, this time pitching for the Yankees exclusively out of the bullpen. His best year, however, was arguably 1989 when he saved 13 games and won five more to go along with a 2.45 ERA for the Yankees.

Guetterman’s first game came on September 12, 1984, at the Kingdome against the Texas Rangers. He entered in the eighth inning, in relief of Bob Stoddard, who took over for the Mariners’ starter, Matt Young. Guetterman pitched 1.2 innings and gave up four hits and a run. Seattle lost the game 8-1.

Lee Guetterman – career stats

1992 Fleer

Mike Trombley

1993 Topps

Trombley pitched for 11 years in the majors, breaking in with the Minnesota Twins in 1992 and finishing with the Twins in 2002. In between his two stints in Minnesota, he pitched for the Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers. In 509 games, Trombley posted a 37-47 record with 44 saves and a 4.48 ERA. He enjoyed his best season in 1999 when he saved 24 games for Minnesota.

Trombley gave up Hall of Famer Eddie Murray’s 3,000th career hit on June 30, 1995. The Twins were hosting Murray and the Cleveland Indians and Trombley got the start that day. Murray singled to right field in the top of the sixth inning for the milestone hit. Trombley took the loss in a 4-1 Cleveland win.

Mike Trombley – career stats

1993 Upper Deck

Geoff Combe

1982 Fleer

Combe pitched in 18 games for the Cincinnati Reds in 1980 and 1981. In 24.1 innings he posted one win, 19 strikeouts and an 8.51 ERA. Combe made no big league starts, but did finish six games for the Reds in 1981. He pitched professionally from 1975-1982.

Combe fanned Dodgers legends Baker, Garvey and Cey in the seventh inning of a game at Riverfront Stadium on September 12, 1980. He pitched two innings that night and struck out five hitters.

Combe saved 27 games for the Nashville Sounds in 1979, earning him a place on the Southern League All-Star team.

We featured Steve Garvey in 2018, and Ron Cey and Dusty Baker in 2019.

Geoff Combe – career stats

1981 Topps

Swings and misses

1984 Topps

Bob Gibson pitched in 98 games for the Milwaukee Brewers and New York Mets from 1983-1987. In 269.2 innings he went 12-18 with a 4.24 ERA and 13 saves. He had his best season while pitching for the Brewers in 1985. Gipson appeared in 41 games that year, and picked up six wins and 11 saves, to go along with a 3.90 ERA.

1990 Donruss

Jack Howell hit 108 home runs during 11 years in the majors. He played for the California Angels, San Diego Padres, and Houston Astros from 1985-1999. In 941 games he hit .239. He was the Angels starting third baseman from 1988-1990. However, he had his best year in 1987, when he served as a utility man for California. Howell hit .245 that season while setting career highs with 23 home runs, 64 RBIs and 64 runs scored.

Pat Bourque

1974 Topps

Bourque spent parts of four seasons playing in the majors for the Chicago Cubs, Oakland A’s and Minnesota Twins. In 201 games he hit .215 with 12 home runs. He broke in with the Cubs in 1971 and had his most productive season two years later when he hit .204 with nine home runs, 29 RBIs and 19 runs scored while playing for both Chicago and Oakland. Bourque saw action in 73 games in 1974 for the A’s before being traded to the Twins in August. Minnesota traded him back to Oakland after the season, but Bourque did not ever play in the majors again. Instead, he joined the Mexico City Reds in the Mexican League where he stayed for the next four years before ending his baseball career in 1978.

Bourque got into two games of the 1973 World Series. He pinch hit for Ray Fosse in Game 3, to lead off the seventh inning. He hit a fly ball to right field off Tom Seaver, but then singled off Ray Sadecki in the top of the ninth. Oakland won the game 3-2. He took over at first base in the bottom of the eighth inning of Game 5 after Blue Moon Odom pinch ran for starter Gene Tenace. The A’s lost that game 2-0, but prevailed in the series in seven games.

Bourque was the American Association’s MVP in 1972. He hit .279 with 20 home runs, 87 RBIs and 73 runs scored for the Evansville Triplets, the Cubs’ AAA team.

Pat Bourque – career stats

1975 Topps

Outgoing …

It’s been a while since we’ve done a big mailing, so today we’re putting 13 letters in the mail, going to: Lee Tunnell, LaRue Washington, Israel Sanchez, Frank Riccelli, Eddy Putman, Rafael Palmeiro, Phil Mankowski, Tim Leary, Curt Ford, Mark Eichorn, Benny Distefano, Mike Diaz and Del Alston.