Monday, April 23, 2018

Brewers Autographs: A Follow Up

My post yesterday was okay. Not great in my mind, but okay. What was wrong with it?

A few things. You see, I put together my list looking both at statistics and through going with my gut or my heart. Sometimes, when you do that, it gets disjointed. What I mean is this: the advanced statistics like WAR put the four starters I had (Ted Higuera, Ben Sheets, Yovani Gallardo, and Mike Caldwell) higher than a guy who should have been on this list.

The guy that should have been on the list was Jim Slaton. Slaton is still the team's leader in career wins with 117. He's only one appearance behind Dan Plesac for career pitching appearances with the team. Plesac, though, was a reliever for all but 14 of his career 365 games with the team and only threw 524-1/3 innings. Slaton threw nearly four times as many innings -- 2025-1/3, which is still tops in team history. He is #4 in strikeouts, first in shutouts, and first in batters faced by exactly 2000 over Mike Caldwell.

He's also the only player with whom I have a photo as a kid:

My only defense is the disconnect of thinking of him as a starter, I suppose. From 1971 (as a 21-year-old rookie) through his trade to Detroit after the 1977 season and then his return as a free agent in 1979 and his shoulder injury three starts into the 1980 season, Slaton made 255 appearances as a Brewer. Of these, just 15 were relief appearances. Even in 1981, he made 21 starts in 24 appearances. But in 1982 and 1983 -- the seasons most ingrained in my brain -- Jim started only 7 times and actually had more saves (11) than starts. 

Still, I should have included him somehow -- not only for his place in Brewers history, but also because he was one of the most consistently nice guys and good signers on the team. And, also because he indulged me with an hour of his time in January of 2017 thanks to Ray Peters introducing me through telephone calls and the like to Jim. Slaton returned to Milwaukee after the 1978 season as a free agent because he loved the people and the club and the players on the team, so the least I could do is thank him for all of that.

So, Jim, thank you once again for being one of the good guys -- the patient one with obnoxious Wisconsin kids like me who dressed terribly and were loud and always wanted autographs and, maybe forgot to thank you every time. Thank you.


The other thing I should have done but didn't was to look outside of my autographed baseball cards for autographs. In looking through old programs and yearbooks, I surprise myself with the number of random autographs I have found. 

I would often find the yearbook reasonably early in the year on the newstand at the local grocery store and talk my mom into springing for the $2.50 to buy the thing. Then, I'd take the yearbook to one game and end up with random autographs in it or on the cover. For example, Ted Simmons was drawn jumping into Rollie Fingers's arms on the cover of the 1982 Brewers Yearbook. 

If you look closely at Simmons's large hindquarters, you might see some handwriting:

Apparently, 10-year-old Tony thought it was a good idea to have Charlie Moore autograph Ted Simmons's drawing.

On the bottom right, you'll see former pitching coach Pat Dobson's autograph. Dobson was a Buffalo guy who played in the majors for the Tigers, Yankees, Padres, Orioles, Braves, and Indians and, most notably, was one of the four members of the 1971 Baltimore starting rotation to win 20 games (Mike Cuellar, Jim Palmer and Dobson all won 20, and Dave McNally won 21) on a team that was put together by then Orioles General Manager Harry Dalton. Dobson passed away in 2006 in San Diego from leukemia one day after being diagnosed with the disease.

Inside the yearbook, there are two player autographs and one broadcaster autograph. It is not a surprise to see that one of the player autographs is that man again:

The other two autographs are from Ned Yost and broadcaster and former first baseman Mike Hegan.

A similar story is told from other yearbooks and programs from that era. 
  • My 1983 Official Yearbook is signed by Paul Molitor, Charlie Moore, and Pete Ladd. 
  • Two 1982 World Series Programs: one is autographed by Charlie Moore and the other is signed by Paul Molitor, Pete Ladd, and Mark Brouhard.
  • My 1982 ALCS program is signed by Pat Dobson, Jerry Augustine, Sal Bando, Tommy John, Mike Hegan, Bowie Kuhn, and Jim Slaton. 
  • My 1981 Team Yearbook is signed by Paul Molitor, Jim Gantner, and Jim Slaton.
  • Even my 1984 Yearbook is signed by manager Rene Lachemann. 
By 1984, I was focused on getting cards signed, so that ended my chasing with the yearbooks. I wish in many respects that I had focused on filling up the 1982 Yearbook with autographs on every player photo in the book. That would have been a very cool keepsake.

One more item from 1982 saddens me more than anything thanks to the deterioration of its condition. At a signing in 1982, I won a free Brewer-logo baseball. Jim Gantner was the first to sign it. Thereafter, I added tons of autographs to it, including: Ned Yost, Robin Yount, Marshall Edwards, Bud Selig, Buck Rodgers, Paul Molitor, Rollie Fingers, Don Sutton, Mark Brouhard, Bob Uecker, Dwayne Mosley (radio guy), Steve Shannon (TV guy), Mike Hegan, Sal Bando, Pete Ladd, Don Money, Mike Caldwell, Bob McClure, Bob Gibson (the white guy again), Charlie Moore, Roy Howell, and even Ted Simmons:

You can see, though, the problem. The autographs written in blue pen have nearly completely disappeared from the ball's surface. I mean, you have to squint to be able to see Bob Uecker's autograph across that MB logo. I will even admit to trying to trace over some of the autographs in sharpie in a vain attempt to resurrect those autographs. 

It was my pride and joy as a 10-year-old, but 36 years later, it's just something I wish I had done a little differently by using a sharpie with all the autographs. 

As a final postscript, I purchased a program from the 2002 All-Star Game on eBay several years ago because Robin Yount is on the cover. I don't recall seeing any mention of this in the sales description for the program, but inside, there were several autographs:

Thanks to the holograms and other exemplars in my collection, I know that the top autograph is Gorman Thomas. Under that is Dennis Martinez, Don Money, and Sweet Lou Johnson. Martinez was the only one who did not play for a Milwaukee team, as Johnson played in 61 games for the 1962 Milwaukee Braves. 

I then turned the page, and in the middle of an adidas advertisement, there was one more autograph:

Cubs and Rangers great and baseball Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins!

So, if I go back to my original autograph post, how about giving me a starting rotation of Warren Spahn, Fergie Jenkins, Bert Blyleven, and Don Sutton and maybe Blue Jays great Dave Stieb as my fifth starter? 

I'd take that. 

Thanks for stopping by, and perhaps sometime soon I'll go through some cards that some of my trading friends have been nice enough to send my way.


  1. Oh man I'd heard about that ball but hadn't seen a photo before. That sucks. Cool story on the program though.

  2. I'm well versed in Jim Slaton cards because I search for Steve Slaton a bunch!