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A WORK THAT ADDRESSES THE NEEDS OF BASEBALL AUTOGRAPH COLLECTORS

Aug. 03, 1981
Aug. 03, 1981

Table of Contents
Aug. 3, 1981

Blue-Chip Horses
George Rogers
Tracy Caulkins
Boxing
  • Joltin' Jeff Chandler had that—plus a powerful follow-up right cross—in knocking out challenger Julian Solis and retaining the WBA bantamweight championship

Golf
John Hannah
19th Hole: The Readers Take Over

A WORK THAT ADDRESSES THE NEEDS OF BASEBALL AUTOGRAPH COLLECTORS

Memo to Simon and Garfunkel: Joe DiMaggio has left and gone away to 2150 Beach Street in San Francisco. Take heart, Philadelphia Phillies. Yours wasn't the only baseball death in late September 1964; ex-Indian Pitcher Red Torkelson expired then, too. And Gene Baker, in case you didn't know, your old Pirate teammate R.C. Stevens lives just down Mound Street from you in Davenport, Iowa. These tidbits, along with the mailing addresses of just about everyone else who has played in the major leagues since 1871, can be gleaned from The Sport Americana Baseball Address List, a captivating compendium that longtime baseball hobbyist Jack Smalling has collaborated on with Dennis Eckes.

This is an article from the Aug. 3, 1981 issue Original Layout

Smalling is an Ames, Iowa insurance salesman who has been putting out a baseball address list in one form or another since 1964. The project began as a crudely collated stack of mimeographed sheets that he made available to autograph collectors like himself. By 1975, Smalling had compiled his first computerized list, and he now stores his 6,000 or so addresses on IBM cards, one per player. Co-author. Eckes, whom Smalling met on the collecting circuit, approached him two years ago with the idea of professionally binding and marketing the cult item, which is well into a second printing—a total of 10,000 copies.

The book's fleshy midsection contains addresses of living major-leaguers, and dates and places of death of those deceased—important information to autograph collectors because of its role in determining value. There are also separate breakdowns of players who broke in before 1910, Hall-of-Famers, coaches with no major league playing experience, and—this will tempt anyone still seething about some call way back when—the addresses of every living umpire who has worked since 1910.

Not that The Sport Americana Baseball Address List is conceived as a manual for harassment; Smalling and Eckes devote much of a valuable preamble to autograph etiquette. The book's premise is that a John Hancock can be pursued more efficiently, not to mention more civilly, through the mails than by accosting someone in a restaurant or hotel lobby. Most of the addresses are for offseason haunts, in keeping with the authors' belief that ballplayers are more likely to oblige when they're approached at home with a courteous cover letter, a 3x5 file card and a stamped, self-addressed envelope than when they're reached during the season in care of their clubs.

Some of those locations are beguilingly apropos. Floyd Baker, who hit only one home run in 13 major league seasons, lives on Idlewood Avenue in Youngstown, Ohio. Reggie Jackson's address is 22 Yankee Hill in Oakland. Gary Neibauer, a lifetime .069 hitter, lives at 1409 Avenue K, in Scottsbluff, Nev. Sam Dente closed out his career with the Indians and settled at 19 Redman Terrace, in West Caldwell, N.J. Young Cleveland farmhand Rod Craig, who's at Charleston this year for seasoning, lives on—honest—23230 Sesame Street, Torrance, Calif.; ex-Cub First Baseman Phil Cavarretta, a lefthanded hitter and thrower, on 2206 Portside Passage, in Palm Harbor, Fla. Mail for former submarining Reliever Ted Abernathy—who made 681 appearances over 14 seasons—goes to 2211 Armstrong Park Road in Gastonia, N.C. (In Abernathy's case, anything would be more fitting than General Delivery.) And ex-Giant outfielder Lloyd Gearhart can be reached at Diamond Acres in Xenia, Ohio.

Of course, the very moment a book like this is compiled it's condemned to being out of date, but Smalling is forever revising the list, ferreting out death certificates for obscure turn-of-the-century players, as well as the dwellings of living but rootless ones. If they don't know a player's current address, the authors tell you what they do know. A poignant case is that of Sandy Amoros, impoverished since he left baseball. His entry says, "Old Add: 464 E 160th St #3A—Bronx, NY."

To find an address, "sometimes I have to work very hard," says Smalling, some of whose 43,000 autographs are scattered through the book's text. "Every letter I send to a player is marked with 'address correction requested,' and I send out lots of others, to police departments, mayors' offices and libraries in the old hometowns of these guys." He also has a network of kindred spirits around the country—baseball historians and autograph hounds—who keep him posted on changes.

Smalling spent 15 years trying to find Curt Roberts, a second baseman with the Pirates during the 1950s, until, with the help of Brooklyn-based baseball nut Bill Haber and California's Department of Motor Vehicles, he discovered that Roberts had been struck and killed while changing a tire on a freeway shoulder in 1969. Smalling and his compadres currently have all-points bulletins out on Willie (Puddin' Head) Jones, Granny Hamner, Hank Behrman, Bill Froats and Frank Smith. "Most turn out to be dead," he says.

Happily, Amoros isn't. He has since resurfaced at 3542 S.W. 26th Street in Miami. That information is sure to be in the second edition, due, Smalling promises, in March of 1982. The first edition costs $7.95 postpaid and is available from Smalling at 2308 Van Buren Avenue, Ames, Iowa 50010.

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