My love of history compels me to write about Brewers history. As a kid and as I've mentioned in the past, one of my favorite "books" to read was the Milwaukee Brewers media guide. I pored over those guides, memorizing players' full names (like James Elmer Gantner, for example).
The one section I especially loved was the Brewers all-time roster. In those days before I had access to a Baseball Encyclopedia -- you know, the old 8-pound behemoth that perhaps was last issued in 1996 by Simon & Schuster after first being published in 1969 by Macmillan -- I was left only with the name of a player and the notation of what year(s) he played for the Milwaukee franchise. Names like Bob Coluccio and Dave May jumped off the page, but even names like Dick Selma, Bruce Brubaker, and, yes, Ray Peters stuck with me.
It's what led me to my "Meet the Brewers" posts. When I started them, I guess I did not think that any of the players I was writing about would actually read the posts. Why would they? I mean, it's just some Brewers fanboy writing, right?
And then I wrote about Ray Peters. If you have not read that installment, the short story on Ray is that he was drafted five times before he finally signed a professional contract. That happened because Ray was finishing up his degree at Harvard. He debuted the very next season in the major leagues -- 1970 -- and made two starts. But after suffering injury problems and being traded to the Phillies organization, he called it quits after the 1971 season.
Writing about Ray was a very fortuitous undertaking. It led to Ray and me exchanging multiple emails and my getting to hear great stories about walking Al Kaline, meeting Arnold Palmer when Arnie redesigned Ray's local golf course, and his dinner with Jorge Luis Borges, the famous Argentine writer, poet, and essayist.
Oh, and a few stories about his classmates at Harvard -- Al Gore, Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Wallace, and the late Gram Parsons.
And, did I mention his internship with G. H. Walker & Sons brokerage firm on Wall Street? G.H. Walker, Jr. -- a/k/a Herbie -- was the second generation leader of the firm at the time, and Herbie was the one who told Ray that the Mets had drafted him in 1968. That led to Ray going to Shea at the All-Star break and meeting Gil Hodges, Yogi Berra, and later teammate Greg Goossen, among others. Herbie's nephew ended up doing pretty well for himself, what with getting elected as Vice President in 1980 and President in 1988.
There's tons more that I've learned about Ray. He's an incredibly interesting guy to correspond with -- and one who even has ties to one of the guys who is a player collection for me. Indeed, one of Ray's roommates in Clinton is the Brewers all-time leader in victories: Jim Slaton.
But I'm rambling now.
Ray also was incredibly kind enough to indulge me a bit. He sent me some great custom cards of him.
Let's start, though, with the photo of Ray with Bob Lemon:
Next, in honor of his time in major league camp in 1969, Ray has this 1969 Topps-style card:
The back of this card is awesome. Rather than describe it, let me show it to you:
For whatever reason, I've always like those sleeve cuffs. Because they carried over to the early years of the Brewers -- along with the color scheme, which Bud Selig had wanted to change to red and black to mirror his old Braves -- many of the early Brewers photos show players with those same sleeves. After all, ole Bud wouldn't get rid of all those uniforms that the team had paid for already!
Like this one, on a 1970 Topps-style card:
I guess this card looks strange to me because it is literally the first 1970 Topps card of a 1970 Brewers player that I have ever seen in my life. Sure, the style was resurrected by people like Baseball Cards Magazine in the early 1990s and had Robin Yount and Paul Molitor on it, but having Ray is just better.
Of course, the 1971 design -- with the bold black borders that are nearly impossible to find in perfect condition -- are still a big fan favorite. It appears that Ray agrees, having two different cards in that style:
The one on the right is especially cool, since that 1971 set featured the facsimile signatures on them. I think, though, that the card on the left is closer to the actual fonts used. Both of them are awesome.
They are not my favorites though. My two favorites are based on completely different card sets altogether:
The 1956 Topps cards were such a well-designed card. An action shot along with a portrait is just a great look. This one is particularly cool because the action shot featured on the card is from Ray's minor league season in Triple-A Portland in 1970, and it is the photo of his teammates congratulating him on hitting a grand slam (using Floyd Wicker's bat, in fact!). This is a Bobw card, of course.
But, my absolute favorite is this one:
This card is in the style of a set from which I actually still have most of the cards. In 1983, Renata Galasso issued a Seattle Pilots set. For a couple bucks extra, you could get card #1 autographed by "infamous" author, Jim Bouton. I had read Ball Four twice by the time this set came out, and I talked my mom into buying it for me along with the complete sets from Topps, Donruss, and Fleer from that year. It wasn't a cheap buy -- probably $50 or $60 for all of those together -- but considering how that year's rookies turned out, it was worth it.
Still, because of that purchase, I love this set. It's weird, it's strange, and it's perfect for the 1969 Pilots.
Ray is a great guy, and he is willing to sign cards or possibly send you a thing or two about him. He even said I could share his address -- he truly loves the game of baseball! Here's his address:
11013 Southerland Drive
Denton, TX 76207
And, since no post would be complete without a little music, how about "Return of The Grievous Angel" by Ray's departed classmate, Gram Parsons:
Many thanks to Ray for indulging my curiosity about him, for sending me cards, and for being so giving of his time.