Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about five notable rookie cards of newly elected baseball Hall of Famer Larry Walker:
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about a photo for sale at the RMY Auctions site. It shows Jackie Robinson during spring training in 1947, looking dejected as he checks a Brooklyn Dodgers roster and does not find his name on it.
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about a RMY Auctions photo of Jim Thorpe and the 1907 Carlisle Indians that is being auctioned:
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about a baseball exhibit coming in October that pays tribute to the influence Latin American players had on the game.
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about Sean Walsh, a Cleveland native who restores old stadium seats:
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about another lawsuit Panini America has filed, claming trademark infringement:
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about the annual Cranston Card show in Rhode Island, which will be held during Super Bowl weekend:
Here is a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about a lawsuit filed by Panini America against Jamie Nucero of Pennsylvania, alleging trade mark infringement. It's the third such lawsuit Panini has filed in the last six months.
Here's a story I wrote about Matteo Melodia, who was more than 6,000 World Cup soccer tickets in his collection and has published a book about them:
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about a California man is has been charged with selling more than $1 million in forged autographs:
Here is a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about the 1909-1912 Sweet Caporal Domino Discs set.
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about an auction involving the jersey George Brett wore during the infamous "Pine Tar Game" in 1983:
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about an offering for a T206 Honus Wagner by Rally Rd. $52 per share for a piece of one of the most valuable baseball cards in history? Wow.
Marvin Miller would probably be appalled to learn he was finally elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. But after missing out the first seven times he was on the veterans committee ballots, the former executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association finally received what he deserved — enshrinement in Cooperstown.
It’s about time.
Miller, along with Ted Simmons, will be part of the 2020 induction class in Cooperstown, New York, on July 26. They were among 10 candidates considered on the Modern Era Ballot (1970 to 1987), and they received the required 75% from the 16-man committee.
Miller never threw a pitch or swung a bat in professional baseball. But he did more to revolutionize the game than any baseball executive since Branch Rickey. Through collective bargaining, arbitration and free agency, Miller’s negotiating skills and grit put lots of money in the players’ pockets.
Hall of Fame players George Brett, Rod Carew, Dennis Eckersley, Eddie Murray, Ozzie Smith and Robin Yount all became wealthy thanks to Miller’s hard work, and it appears they recognized his contributions.
Miller was feisty to the end. Four years his death in November 2012 at the age of 95, Miller wrote a letter to the Baseball Writers Association of America requesting he never be considered for Cooperstown.
“At the age of 91 I can do without a farce.” Miller wrote in his letter to the BBWAA.
In 2012, Miller’s family said they would boycott any future induction ceremony.
Let’s hope they change their minds.
Miller was the MLBPA executive director from 1966 to 1982 and butted heads with the owners and then-Commissioner Bowie Kuhn — who gallingly, was elected to the Hall of Fame 11 years ago while Miller could only muster three votes from the veterans committee.
During Miller’s tenure, players won the right to free agency after six years in the majors. Players also secured salary arbitration and grievance arbitration. Miller led the players through five strikes and advised them on three other work stoppages after his retirement.
Peter Seitz, whose arbitration decision in 1975 struck down the reserve clause and created free agency, called Miller “the Moses who had led baseball’s children of Israel out of the land of bondage.”
Perhaps less religious and more pragmatic, former pitcher Bob Locker called Miller relentless.
“If he has a point he jumps on them with both feet and never gets off,” Locker observed.
Miller was responsible for getting Topps executives to double the fee to players from $125 to $250 in 1968. That seems like small potatoes now, but 50 years ago any extra money was welcomed by the players. Miller convinced the players not to sign contract renewals or pose for new photographs with the trading card giant in an attempt to gain leverage.
Topps knew when it had been beaten.
“I see your muscle,” Joel Shorin, the president of Topps, told Miller in 1968. “Let’s sit down and talk.”
Miller also secured a two-year, $120,000 group licensing deal with Coca-Cola for the players in 1966 (remember those Coke cap liners that featured players?).
“Marvin Miller showed the players how to become free agents,” former pitcher Jim Bouton wrote in Ball Four.
Miller accompanied Bouton to a meeting with Kuhn in 1970 after the commissioner wanted the pitcher to recant his controversial baseball diary. Miller believed in solidarity and instituted a dues framework for the players.
Salaries averaged $19,000 for players in 1966, but by 1982 had jumped to $241,497.
When it came to labor negotiations, Miller turned baseball’s union into sports’ strongest. John Helyar, in his 1994 book, Lords of the Realm, said Miller used a “building-block approach” in negotiations: Pursue “limited objectives and winnable fights” at first.
Helyar said Miller’s approach was similar to a hitter’s strategy.
“Swing for the singles. The home runs will come,” Helyar wrote.
They would come in bunches over the next 16 years.
Miller was feisty, but not bombastic.
At the Dodgertown spring training site in March 1981, I attended an impromptu news conference Miller held after a 90-minute meeting with members of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He reacted sharply but firmly to an inference by Kuhn that players were willing to accept the owners’ compensation proposal.
“That’s bull. And what’s more, (Kuhn) knows it,” Miller said. “This is a take-back attempt of the rights of the players. That’s not what makes it crazy.
“When you break it down, here’s what it really is: it’s an admission by the owners that they can’t regulate themselves.”
Miller was born to negotiate. His mother, Gertrude, was a members of the New York City teachers union. His father, Alexander, was a clothing salesman active in the International Garment Workers Union.
Miller earned a degree in economics from New York University in 1938 and eventually became the chief negotiator for the United Steelworkers Union in 1950.
After butting heads with U.S. Steel, taking on major league owners and Kuhn must have seemed like child’s play.
Some baseball executives sputtered. Atlanta Braves executive Paul Richards once referred to Miller as a “mustachioed four-flusher.”
Others had respect.
“Marvin Miller’s genius … was that he portrayed the owners as an evil force and made the battle a moral fight instead of just an economic one,” former Commissioner Fay Vincent wrote in his 2002 book, The Last Commissioner. “Any time you mix morality into an economic issue you make it very hard to resolve.”
Miller upset the comfortable fiefdom major league owners had.
“He had come crashing through the doors of their exclusive men’s club, agitating the help and trying to rewrite the bylaws,” Helyar wrote.
Marvin Miller won many negotiations during his lifetime, but he is going to lose this one.
Welcome to Cooperstown, Marvin Miller, whether you (or your family) like it or not. You deserve to be there.
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about a memorabilia that Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski will be selling on New Year's Day:
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily previewing the 2002 Topps Definitive Collection baseball set, which will be released in late April:
Here's a review I wrote for Sport in American History about The New York Yankees in Popular Culture, edited by David Krell:
Baseball is a sport steeped in history and tradition, and it is an added bonus when a writer can enrich our understanding of the game and the players who shaped it.
This is particularly the case with black baseball. Recordkeeping was limited and hazy when the Negro Leagues were operating, and newspaper accounts were sporadic and at times unreliable.
And that was in the black press. Even though newspapers consisted of black ink on white paper, very few black athletes received a great deal of ink during their careers from the white press.
Thanks to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the work of Negro League historians, deserving players have been enshrined. But while the casual fan can name Satchel Paige or Josh Gibson as stars when only the baseball was white, Oscar Charleston draws puzzled looks.
That’s unfortunate, because Charleston excelled as a player and manager and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1976, 22 years after his death. What is fortunate is a new, deeply researched and thorough account of Charleston’s life.
In Oscar Charleston: The Life and Legend of Baseball’s Greatest Forgotten Player (University of Nebraska Press; hardback; $29.95; 417 pages), Jeremy Beer takes a deep dive into the career of a five-tool player who would have been a superstar in the major leagues — if there had been no color line.
Alvin Moses of the Pittsburgh Courier wrote that Charleston hit “with the cunning of a Ty Cobb and the power of a Babe Ruth” was a fast baserunner and played the outfield “only like a Tris Speaker could.”
There have been some fine books written on black baseball and the Negro Leagues. Some of the best are about pitcher Satchel Paige — easily coming to mind are Larry Tye’s 2009 work, Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend; and Averell “Ace” Smith’s 2018 book, The Pitcher and the Dictator.
But while Charleston has been mentioned in books about stars of the Negro Leagues, researchers were hampered by a lack of solid information. The Jim Crow era was not conducive to accurate statistics, so one can only speculate what complete Charleston’s statistics were.
The Hall of Fame credits Charleston, who played from 1916 until 1941, with a lifetime .339 average, with 141 home runs, 602 RBI and 226 stolen bases. Beer compiled statistics from seamheads.com and reports that Charleston had a .352 average with 209 home runs, 1,264 RBI and 358 stolen bases. Beer’s numbers reflect exhibition games and Cuban League totals.
It is unlikely there will ever be complete statistics for Charleston, but even these two samples show his talents were considerable.
Beer was able to access Charleston’s personal scrapbook and photo album, “unpublicized and unindexed,” at the Negro Leagues Museum in April 2016. The articles, cartoons and photographs, which spanned 40 years of Charleston’s life (from 1914 to 1954) proved to be invaluable and gives the reader a more rounded picture of Charleston and what made him tick.
The album was put together by Charleston’s estranged widow, Janie, and was in the possession of Anna Charleston Bradley, who was the ballplayer’s niece.
The scrapbook was the crowning piece in Beer’s research, which is extensive. His bibliography large and diverse, containing books, magazine articles and internet sites. Beer’s chapter notes are more than listings of sources. He adds context and nuance and explains points that might not have been immediately clear in his narrative.
Charleston’s temper tended “to overshadow his abilities” in the minds of some writers, Beer writes.
“Charleston could explode in rage,” Beer writes, “… But he was not a hooligan.”
Tye said Paige’s pitching gave him a reputation similar to 19th century gunslingers. “It was the Wild, Wild West, and he was Jesse James,” Tye wrote in Satchel. That being said, Charleston carried a big stick in those days, and wasn’t afraid to use his fists, either, to mete out justice.
n an October 1915 mixed-race game, Charleston punched an umpire — a white umpire — during a dispute when his teammate, Bingo DeMoss, began grappling with the arbiter. Even in a northern state like Indiana, Charleston’s actions could have brought about severe reprisals.
Indianapolis in 1915 was not a friendly place for blacks to begin with, and “blacks who assaulted white representatives of authority were not assured of dispassionate justice,” Beer writes.
While it might have been the “last time he ever ran away from a fight,” Charleston’s discretion allowed him to continue his career. Even though he was charged in absentia with assault and battery, Charleston slipped away to Cuba to play winter ball. The judge, meanwhile, treated Charleston with leniency.
In 1924, Charleston lost his temper again in a game against the Harrisburg Senators. Called out on strikes, Charleston whirled to punch the umpire but was clocked with a counterpunch to the jaw by the arbiter.
Beer traces Charleston’s life from his childhood in Indianapolis, providing a vivid slice of life in the black section of Indiana’s capital city. Indiana Avenue was “one of America’s most vibrant black communities,” Beer writes. Although several of Charleston’s brothers ran afoul of the law, Oscar avoided major trouble by enlisting in the Army, lying about his age and joining the service when he was 15.
Charleston served in the Philippines, where he refined his baseball skills. When he returned to the United States, Charleston latched on with the hometown Indianapolis ABCs, where he had once been a batboy. From the mid-1920s, when he became a player-manager, Charleston emerged as one of the Negro Leagues’ top stars. In 1932, Charleston managed a Pittsburgh Crawfords team that was a who’s who of black baseball —Paige, Gibson, Cool Papa Bell and Judy Johnson were on the roster — along with Charleston.
Charleston’s power was always respected by his peers and by reporters who saw him play. In 1924, according to media in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Charleston had hit 36 home runs by Aug. 24. Even though Charleston achieved these numbers against non-league games against semipro and club teams with exotic names — Shamokin, Conshohocken and Wentz-Olney — they were still “perceived as astonishing.”
In 1935, Charleston hit three home runs as the Crawfords defeated the New York Cubans in a seven-game championship series.
In an interesting sidelight, Beer recounts Charleston's long home run in 1926 against Lefty Grove, who was pitching for an American League barnstorming team put together by Earle Mack, the son of the Philadelphia Athletics’ owner-manager. Connie Mack. Many players remembered Charleston’s blast, but Grove “preferred to pretend not to remember this contest,” Beer writes.
Beer digs into Charleston’s personal life, including his marriages. Most significantly, his second marriage to Janie Howard would set the tone for his life. Beer traces their courtship, their travels while Charleston played baseball for numerous teams and leagues, and their eventual estrangement.
Beer also defines Charleston’s role as a scout during the 1940s for Branch Rickey. It was Charleston who pointed the Brooklyn Dodgers’ general manager toward players like Roy Campanella, but he had nothing to do with the recruitment of Jackie Robinson, Beer writes.
There are times when Beer is forced to speculate, since records or primary sources are simply nonexistent. For example, he notes that Charleston “must have had considerable experience” playing baseball before joining the Army. Or, that Charleston “almost certainly gave substantial input” on players like Don Newcombe, Roy Partlow and Dan Bankhead.
The only real glitch is Beer’s penchant to spell Ebbets Field as “Ebbetts.” Annoying, but only if you are an OCD baseball fan like me. It does not detract from the overall narrative.
Beer includes an appendix that includes the statistics that can be verified about Charleston’s career. Certainly, it is incomplete, but even then it displays some impressive numbers — power, speed and batting averages in the Negro National League, Cuban League, Eastern Colored League, the Negro American League and even the Florida Hotel League.
Charleston’s sudden death in 1954 prevented him from receiving more publicity and accolades. However, Beer, who is a founding partner of American Philanthropic in Phoenix and has written a previous book, The Philanthropic Revolution: An Alternative History of American Charity, in 2015, gives Charleston his due.
Oscar Charleston fills a void in baseball history, providing context and nuance to a great player who was enigmatic in life — and in death.
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about Lelands fall sale:
I’ve always believed old school professional wrestlers were great storytellers. Traveling miles and miles on the road, grapplers from the 1960s, ’70s and even ’80s have memorable tales to tell.
It started with Joe Jares’ 1974 book, Whatever Happened to Gorgeous George, and has continued through the years, with autobiographies by Mick Foley, Bret Hart, Chris Jericho, Ric Flair and Terry Funk, to name a few.
The latest in the genre comes from Rocky Johnson, a WWE Hall of Famer who starred for more than two decades. Many modern-day wrestling fans will recognize Johnson as the father of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, but Rocky Johnson was a star in his own right.
In Soulman: The Rocky Johnson Story (ECW Press; hardback; $28.95; 285 pages), Johnson and collaborator Scott Teal trace a life that had humble beginnings in Nova Scotia and blossomed into a pro wrestler who headlined cards all over North America.
Johnson is refreshingly humble as he writes about his life, giving credit for those who helped a young aspiring wrestler from Amherst, Nova Scotia, hit the big time. Teal is respected for his research and connection to pro wrestlers and an author, editor and publisher of more than 140 books. Together, they stitch together a compelling story.
Johnson, with his tight, short Afro, menacing look and sculpted body, was a fan favorite who dazzled audiences with his acrobatic moves, especially his high dropkicks. Johnson writes that he worked more than 10,000 matches over a 27-year career and was always a “babvface,” or good guy — except when he was in Japan, when he wrestled as a villain, or “heel.”
As a youth, Johnson — born Wayde Douglas Bowles in 1944 — overcame the loss of his father and the actions of an abusive stepfather, packing a cardboard suitcase and moving several hundred miles away to live with his brother in Toronto. He had holes in the bottom of one of his shoes and two dollars in his pocket.
“I know, I’m beginning to sound like all the other old people,” Johnson writes. “What’s the old story? I walked five miles to school … uphill … both ways.”
At the age of 15, Johnson began working as a helper for a delivery driver of a Toronto fish company, but he “never intended to make a career of washing cars or delivering fish.”
“They were simply a means to an end that allowed me to pursue other goals,” Johnson writes.
Johnson began dabbling in boxing — his shadow jabs and “Rocky Shuffle” were standard fare during his wrestling career — but an encounter with a wrestler named Rocky Bollie changed his life. Johnson switched from boxing to wrestling and began a successful career.
Johnson trained at a wrestling school in Hamilton, taking a bus from Toronto twice a week. He worked for several promotions in Canada, including in Toronto, Calgary and Nova Scotia. Johnson stood out as a black wrestler and was coveted by promoters for that reason, but he never played the race card and refused to take part in angles that perpetuated racial stereotypes. However, he did endear himself with promoters by working well with other wrestlers, taking bumps when asked and “putting over” other wrestlers.
“I never had a problem putting anyone over,” Johnson writes. “If a promoter asked me, I did it without arguing because I knew they had a reason behind it.”
Johnson shunned the backroom politics and pettiness sometimes associated with wrestlers. Was there jealousy because Johnson got shots at championship belts —and winning them — sooner than his older counterparts? Certainly. But Johnson was the kind of wrestler who brought in money, and promoters loved him for it.
Johnson’s stories are vivid, but he does not share many anecdotes about tricks and “swerves” the wrestlers played on one another. Rather, he brings the reader behind the scenes at various promotions, explaining how matches were booked and how finishes were worked out.
The reader discovers which promoters were generous (Sam Muchnick, who ran the St. Louis promotion, was “the best payoff man in the business and honest to a fault”), and which ones fought to hold back as much as they could. Johnson also reflects on the bookers, who put together the finishes for each match. He is especially complimentary toward Jerry “The King” Lawler in the Memphis territory.
Johnson also names Buddy Colt as “the best worker I ever met,” and one of the “top two or three” heels of all time. It’s hard to argue that opinion, since Colt was one of pro wrestling’s top draws until he was seriously injured when the small plane he was piloted crashed into Tampa Bay in February 1975.
“We were like salt and pepper,” Johnson writes. “When we wrestled, our match flowed like water.”
One memorable story involves Johnson’s meeting with television comedian Jackie Gleason and the night “The Great One” served as his manager in Miami Beach during the summer of 1975.
How sweet it was.
Johnson writes that none of the wrestlers could trust Bearcat Wright. In one incident, Wright made a deal to sell a truck to Johnson, but five months later, when Johnson returned to Atlanta from St. Louis, Wright had used a spare set of keys to take the truck and sell it to an elderly couple.
“When I confronted Bearcat, he just laughed,” Johnson writes.
It was later discovered that even though he seemed to have registration papers, Wright did not own the truck he sold — twice.
“I knew all along that Bearcat could not be trusted, but I never thought he was a thief,” Johnson writes. “… If anything, I’d call him a con man.”
Johnson does not call out too many wrestlers, although he accuses wrestler/booker Ole Anderson of being racist and suggests he had to babysit Tony Atlas. He spends several pages refuting some passages in Atlas’ 2010 book, Atlas: Too Much ... Too Soon, which was ghostwritten by Teal.
Johnson and Atlas made history in the WWF (now WWE), becoming the first black tag team to win that organization's world tag team title by beating the Wild Samoans.
Johnson does not get into a petty squabble with his one-time "Soul Patrol" partner and credits Atlas for trying to make amends after the book came out.
“I give Tony credit for standing up like a man and apologizing for what he had written,” Johnson writes.
Johnson does not gloss over his dalliances and affairs while on the road, and he speaks warmly of his former father-in-law, the late Peter Maivia. Quite naturally, Johnson is proud of his son, and “The Rock” certainly has made his mark in pro wrestling and in film. Father and son even found themselves together in the ring during WrestleMania 13 in 1997, when Johnson bolted into the ring to help his son.
The Rock also had the pleasure of inducting his father and maternal grandfather (Maivia) into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2008.
Many wrestlers were celebrities during the 1960s and ’70s, but Johnson writes that his son “has taken the word ‘celebrity’ to a level far, far beyond anything we experienced.”
Rocky Johnson was a celebrity in his own right, back when wrestlers conducted their business inside the ring with few gimmicks and with sweaty determination. That’s why Soulman is such a good read, because Johnson and Teal strip away the gloss and give the reader a clear view of the wrestling business.
Sometimes that view is subtle. Other times, it smacks the reader in the head like a Johnson dropkick.
Here's a story I wrote for Sports collectors Daily about Rally Rd., a company that sells shares in valuable sports memorabilia, not unlike shares in the stock market:
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily, previewing the 2019 Donruss Optic Football set:
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about the 1933 Senators, the last time a team from Washington made it to the World Series:
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about a movie script about the life of Mickey Mantle that never made it to the screen. However, Mantle's notes are all over the script, making it a valuable piece of memorabilia:
Here's a review I wrote for Sport In American History about Blood, Sweat, and Tears, by Derrick E. White. It's a book that traces the history of black college football, and specifically the Florida A&M program run by Jake Gaither from 1945 to 1969.:
I love to blog about sports books and give my opinion. Baseball books are my favorites, but I read and review all kinds of books.