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.

Bob Bonner

1982 Donruss

Bonner played in 61 games for the Baltimore Orioles between 1980-1983. In 108 at bats, he hit .194 with no home runs. He was called up for 10 games in 1981 instead of future Hall of Famer Cal Ripken. He responded by hitting .296 and scoring six runs, which would go down as his most productive stretch in the big leagues.

Bonner was a member of the Rochester Red Wings when they played a 33-inning game with the Pawtucket Red Sox on April 18, 1981. He had three hits in 12 at bats in the contest, which Pawtucket eventually won 3-2. It is the longest professional baseball game every played.

Bonner worked as a a missionary following his playing days. His experiences are chronicled in the book “From The Diamond To The Bush.” It is available here.

You can learn more about his missionary work here.

Bob Bonner – career stats

1983 Fleer

Billy Jo Robidoux

1987 Topps

Robidoux played for six years in the majors, hitting .209 with five home runs for the Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox between 1985-1990. He never played in more than 56 games in a season and his best year at the plate came that year when he hit .227 with 21 RBIs and 15 runs scored for the Brewers in 1986.

Unfortunately, I could not find any information on the book Robidoux refers to. Roger Kahn wrote a book called The Boys of Summer, but it is about the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Billy Jo Robidoux – career stats

1988 Score

Brian Meyer

1990 Fleer

Meyer pitched in 34 games for the Houston Astros between 1988-1990. In 50-and-2/3 innings, Meyer went 0-5 with two saves and a 2.84 ERA. Despite losing four games, 1990 was Meyer’s best season as he had a 2.21 ERA in 20 innings for the Astros.

Meyer pitched his first game on September 3, 1988, at the Astrodome against the St. Louis Cardinals. He entered the game in the ninth inning after Nolan Ryan had thrown seven innings and Dave Meads pitched the eighth. Meyer retired the side in order, striking out Denny Walling to seal a 10-1 Houston win.

Brian Meyer – career stats

1990 Donruss

Bill Dawley

1986 Topps

An all star as a rookie in 1983, Dawley pitched for seven seasons in the majors, going 27-30 with a 3.42 ERA for the Houston Astros, Chicago White Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies and Oakland A’s from 1983-1989. He came up and made an immediate impact for Houston, going 6-6 with a 2.82 ERA and 14 saves for the Astros in 1983. He won 11 games and had a 1.93 ERA for Houston the following season while still pitching exclusively out of the bullpen. He was not as effective in 1985 and was traded to the Chicago White Sox. He went 0-7 for the ChiSox and then spent a year each with the Cardinals, Phillies and A’s before retiring.

Dawley relieved Atlee Hammaker in the bottom of the third inning of the 1983 All-Star Game. He got Jim Rice to end the inning, then retired George Brett and Lance Parrish to start the fourth. After Dave Winfield singled, he induced a Manny Trillo fly ball to end the inning.

Dawley was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds who traded him to the Astros for Alan Knicely.

Bill Dawley – career stats

1988 Donruss

Bob Kipper

1991 Donruss

Kipper pitched for eight seasons in the majors, coming up with the California Angels in 1985, then with the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1985-1991 and finally with the Minnesota Twins in 1992. In 271 games he went 27-37 with a 4.34 ERA. While he began his career as a starter, Kipper’s best seasons came while working in the Pirates’ bullpen. He won three games and had four saves to go along with a 2.93 ERA in 1989, which was arguably his single best season.

Kipper threw his complete game shutout on April 16, 187 at Wrigley Field. He gave up four hits and struck out eight to lead the Pirates to a 6-0 win.

Kipper pitched in one game of the 1991 National League Championship Series for the Pirates. He threw two innings and gave up one run in Game 3 which Pittsburgh lost 10-3 to the Atlanta Braves.

Following his playing career Kipper became a coach. He has worked for the Boston Red Sox organization since 1999. He was the team’s bullpen coach in 2002 and again, on an interim basis, in 2015.

Bob Kipper – career stats

1992 Fleer

Wilson Alvarez

1990 Upper Deck

An all-star in 1994, Alvarez won 102 games during a 14-year career that saw him pitch from 1989-2005. He arrived in the majors as a 19-year old with the Texas Rangers but made his mark with the Chicago White Sox a couple years later. Alvarez went 15-8 with a 2.94 ERA for Chicago in 1993 and followed that with a 12-8 season in 1994, which was the year he went to the All-Star Game. He won 15 more games for the White Sox in 1996 and posted 13 wins in 1997, which he split between Chicago and the San Francisco Giants. However, that was the end of the productive stretch of his career. He signed as a free agent with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and lost 14 games in 1998. He went 9-9 in 1999, which would be his last year as a full-time starter. An injury to his shoulder forced Alvarez to miss the next two seasons and when he returned in 2002 he was not the same pitcher. He pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers from 2003-2005 and then retired.

Alvarez pitched in the postseason three times, first for the White Sox in 1993, then with the Giants in 1997 and again with the Dodgers in 2004. His best performance by far came in Game 3 of the 1993 American League Championship Series against the Toronto Blue Jays. He pitched a complete game, limiting Toronto to seven hits and one run and leading Chicago to a 6-1 win. The Blue Jays, however, won the series, 4-2.

On August 11, 1991 Alvarez threw a no-hitter for the White Sox at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore against the Orioles. The game was actually his debut for Chicago. He struck out seven and walked five. The White Sox won 7-0.

Alvarez is a member of the Caribbean Baseball Hall of Fame.

Wilson Alvarez – career stats

1992 Fleer

Swings and misses

1980 Topps

Dave Rajsich pitched in 55 games for the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees from 1978-1980. In 115 innings he posted a 3-4 record with two saves and a 4.60 ERA. His best season came with Texas in 1979 when he had a 3.52 ERA in 27 games.

1985 Fleer

Jay Tibbs pitched for seven seasons in the majors, going 39-54 with a 4.20 ERA for the Cincinnati Reds, Montreal Expos, Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates from 1984-1990. Tibbs won 10 games for the Reds in 1985, but he also lost 16. He was a 15-game loser for the Orioles in 1988.

1989 Donruss

Mackey Sasser played in 534 games for the San Francisco Giants, Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Mets and Seattle Mariners from 1987-1995. He hit .267 with 16 home runs while serving primarily as a backup catcher. Sasser hit .307 with six home runs while playing in 100 games for the Mets in 1990. It was the only season where he appeared in 100 or more games and his best year at the plate. Sasser was once traded by the Giants to the Pirates for Don Robinson.

Kevin Bass asked for $12 for his signature and did not fill out the questionnaire.