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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.

Tom Lawless

1983 Donruss

Lawless played for eight seasons with the Cincinnati Reds, Montreal Expos, St. Louis Cardinals and Toronto Blue Jays between 1982 and 1990. In 343 games he hit .207 with two home runs and 53 stolen bases.

Lawless is the only player to ever be traded for Pete Rose (who he listed as his favorite player growing up). In 1984 the Reds dealt Lawless to the Expos for Rose.

Lawless got to the World Series twice with the Cardinals. He appeared as a pinch runner in the 1985 World Series that saw St. Louis lose to the Kansas City Royals. He played in three games of the 1987 World Series against the Minnesota Twins. In Game 4 of that series he hit a two-run home run off Frank Viola in the bottom of the fourth inning. The home run has become infamous for Lawless’ bat flip, which you can see here. The Cardinals won that game, but lost the series in seven games.

Following his playing career, Lawless was a long-time minor league manager. He also managed the Houston Astros for 24 games in 2014.

We featured John Tudor in 2018 and Ricky Horton in 2021.

Tom Lawless – career stats

1986 Topps

Mike Compton

1971 Topps

Compton played in 47 games for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1970. He hit .164 with one home run in 110 at bats. Compton’s professional career stretched from 1965-1973. After his retirement, he became a minor-league manager and coach.

Compton took San Diego Padre Danny Coombs deep in the first inning of their game on May 5, 1970, for his lone career home run. The blast plated Larry Bowa, but the Padres went on to win the game 11-8.

Compton singled off Tom Seaver in the third inning of a game between the Phillies and the Mets on May 15, 1970. It was the only hit Seaver would give up that day.

We featured Denny Doyle in 2018.

Mike Compton – career stats

Charlie Kerfeld

1986 Fleer

Kerfeld pitched for four seasons in the majors, breaking in with the Houston Astros in 1985 and finishing with the Atlanta Braves in 1990. In 123 games, Kerfeld went 18-9 with a 4.20 ERA and nine saves. He finished fourth in the National League Rookie of the Year vote in 1986 when he posted an 11-2 record, to go with a 2.59 ERA and seven saves.

As he notes, Kerfeld was a member of the 1986 Astros’ team that reached the National League Championship Series. He pitched in two of the games against the New York Mets and took the loss in Game 5 when he gave up a hit to Gary Carter in the bottom of the 12th inning which scoredWally Backman.

We featured Franklin Stubbs in January 2021.

Charlie Kerfeld – career stats

1987 Topps

Lorenzo Gray

1984 Topps

Gray played in 58 games for the Chicago White Sox from 1982-1983. In 106 at bats, he hit .208 with one home run. He played professionally from 1976-1985.

Gray made his major league debut on July 8, 1982, at Comiskey Park against the Detroit Tigers. He entered the game as a pinch runner for Vance Law and scored on a Jerry Hairston walk-off home run that gave Chicago a 3-2 win. Gray started the White Sox next game, which took place at Exhibition Stadium against the Toronto Blue Jays on July 9, at third base. He singled off Luis Leal in the top of the fifth inning for his first big-league hit. Gray came around to score on a Steve Kemp ground out, but Toronto won the game 7-6.

We featured Rudy Law and Harold Baines in 2020.

Lorenzo Gray – career stats

Gary Green

1985 Topps

Green played in 106 games for the San Diego Padres, Texas Rangers, and Cincinnati Reds between 1986 and 1992. In 180 career at bats he hit .222 with no home runs. Green appeared in 62 games for the 1990 Rangers and hit .216. He played professionally from 1985-1995.

Green was a member of the United States baseball team that played at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Baseball was a demonstration sport at the 1984 games, so no medals were given out. The U.S. team reached the finals where they lost to Japan 6-3.

Gary Green – career stats

1991 Topps

Ed Wojna

1986 Fleer

Wojna pitched in 36 games for the San Diego Padres and Cleveland Indians between 1985 and 1989. In 132.1 innings he went 4-10 with a 4.62 ERA. His best season in the majors came in 1986 with San Diego. He won two games that year and had a 3.23 ERA in 39 innings of work. Wojna pitched professionally from 1981-1990.

Wojna got his first win on June 21, 1985. The Padres were hosting the San Francisco Giants and Wojna squared off with Vida Blue. Wojna went six innings and gave up one run. He also singled off Blue in the bottom of the fourth for his first big-league hit. San Diego won the game 6-1.

Ed Wojna – career stats

1987 Topps

Bob Babcock

1982 Donruss

Babcock pitched in 39 games for the Texas Rangers from 1979-1981. In 57.1 innings he went 2-3 with a 3.92 ERA. Babcock was quite good for Texas in his final year with the team. He appeared in 19 games and had a 2.20 ERA in 28.2 innings. He pitched professionally from 1968-1984.

Babcock pitched once in Yankee Stadium, on April 11, 1981. He entered the game in the sixth inning in relief of Danny Darwin and Jim Kern and pitched two innings without allowing a run. He did give up a hit and he struck out Rick Cerone. The Yankees won the game 5-1.

Bob Babcock – career stats

1981 Topps

Steve Fireovid

1987 Topps

Fireovid pitched in 31 games for five different teams during parts of six seasons in the majors. He went 3-1 with a 3.39 ERA in 71.2 innings. He broke in with the San Diego Padres in 1981, then pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago White Sox and Seattle Mariners before appearing in three games for the Texas Rangers in 1992, to conclude his big-league run. He pitched professionally from 1978-1993 and had eight double-digit win seasons in the minor leagues.

Fireovid earned his first big league win on June 15, 1986, while pitching for the Mariners against the White Sox. He entered the game in the sixth inning in relief of Billy Swift and threw 2.2 innings, allowing three hits but no runs. The Mariners rallied with six runs in the eighth inning to win the game 10-5.

We featured Jerry Don Gleaton and Pete Ladd in 2019.

Steve Fireovid – career stats

Outgoing …

Been a long time, but we’re finally doing another mailing. Putting 11 letters in the mail, going to: Skip Pitlock, Rich McKinney, Dan McGinn, Marcel Lachemann, Steve Kealey, John Jeter, Cito Gaston, Charles Day, Casey Cox, Dave Campbell and Dave Baldwin.

10/1 – Wade Blasingame, Dick Bosman, John Edwards, Jack Heidemann, Phil Roof.

Three more on 9/29 – Rich Hand, Billy Grabarkewitz, and Mike Compton.

Rich Bordi

1985 Topps

Bordi pitched for parts of nine seasons in the majors, posting a 20-20 career record with a 4.34 ERA and 10 saves. He broke in with the Oakland A’s in 1980, then appeared in seven games for the Seattle Mariners in 1982. He was not a full-time big leaguer until 1984, however, after he joined the Chicago Cubs. Bordi was solid in 31 games for Chicago that season, picking up five wins with a 3.46 ERA. He was even better in 1985 while playing for the New York Yankees. He won six games that year and had a 3.21 ERA in 98 innings of work. Bordi was with the Baltimore Orioles in 1986 and saw his effectiveness begin to slide as his ERA grew to 4.46 in a career-high 107 innings. He was back with the Yankees the next year before seeing his major-league run end after returning to Oakland in 1987.

Bordi was on the mound when Rickey Henderson stole bases number 102 and 103 on his way to 130 steals in 1982.

He was also the last player ever signed by legendary A’s owner Charley Finley.

Rich Bordi – career stats

1985 Fleer