The Spring is upon us. Yes, this time of year, baseball fans are going crazy waiting for live games. And also during this time, baseball card collectors who are familiar with through the mail (TTM) autographs start sending out their requests.
If you intend to send cards to prospects and other players this year and haven’t already started mailing stuff, you’re running behind schedule. The idea is to have the cards there, ready for them when the players arrive. If you time it right, you just might get a big-time TTM request returned.
More times than not, the big name players will not sign through the mail once they become established players. That is why prospects are the target during this time of year. But things were not always that way. In fact, one of the greatest players who ever lived was also one of the best TTM guys. That man is Ted Williams.
Long before the market for autographs transformed into a big industry and turned many major stars away from signing anything and everything that was placed in front of their face, Teddy Ballgame vowed to sign every TTM request that came in the form of a donation to The Jimmy Fund, a charity that raises money to fight cancer in children.
We’ve all heard about Ted Williams the great baseball player. Hell, we’ve all heard about Ted Williams the great fighter pilot who fought in World War II. But not many people are aware of Ted Williams, the great man who raised money for cancer using a ball point pen.
In the 1950s, autograph seeking was a hobby on a much different scale that it has become these days. As mentioned earlier, people sent letters to their favorite celebs and they would actually get something back. I heard a story this week in which a man’s wife sent letters to all cast members of the Brady Bunch and was able to get all of their autographs.
I digress. The deal with Ted Williams was that if you sent a check donating any denomination to the Jimmy Fund, he would endorse (sign) the back of the check. And in those days, after the check was cashed, it was returned to the person whose account it belonged. In other words, if you wanted Ted Williams autograph, you were going to donate something to the organization.
Like many people, I had no idea this is how Williams handled his TTM request. That is until two years ago when I hit the market looking for a Ted Williams autograph. His signatures are not rare. You can find many variations of them, anything from a signed note card for less than $100 to a baseball card either hard-signed, or containing a cut-signature, for much, much more. But I was in the market for a nice Ted Williams signature at a good price.
Then I found this signed check in a small lot of otherwise not-so-interesting autographs on eBay. I paid less than $40.
Signed checks are not really my thing, although I do find them interesting. But in a case like this, it was hard to pass up. Being a Red Sox fan, I felt that this was an awesome price for a Williams signature, and then the story that goes along with the check was just too cool. I think it adds value (whether real or not) to the piece.
I have no idea who Shirley and George Damato of Connecticut are, but I thank them — particularly Shirley, who apparently sent the check in the first place — for sending away for a Williams autograph. As you can see, this check was sent to Williams and the Jimmy Fund in August of 1954 and returned to the Damatos less than a month later.
Now 56 years later, the piece sits in my collection and has given me the opportunity to tell you about Ted Williams the great TTM signer.