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Old 09-27-2013, 01:35 AM
Michael B Michael B is offline
Mh wߥ
Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: Virginia
Posts: 878
Default Karma can be a great thing!!

I am sure there are more than a few members who over the years have written to athletes for their autograph. I count myself among that group. When I first started collecting baseball, hockey and basketball in person at hotels in 1983 I never thought of writing to athletes. As I got to know some of the collectors in the Boston area I learned that they would write to the athletes care of the teams and, using Smalling’s book, at home. I purchased ‘The Baseball Address Book’ and started writing retired baseball players. I ventured a little into retired football (Original Boston Patriots) and Basketball Hall of Famers when you could get mail forwarded in care of the hall. In the early 1990’s I started doing a lot of retired basketball and Olympians. Both of these thanks to my good friend C.J. Aponte, who was the first person to produce good lists of athletes in other sports. I eventually focused most of my energy on Olympians, both active and retired and continued for a few years until I moved from Massachusetts to Virginia for my job in Washington, D.C.

I had stopped writing Olympians when I moved down here. Quite a few other pursuits were occupying my free time. In 2010 I casually started writing to Olympians again. For me it is not just the medal winners, but anyone who competed. Very similar to those who try to get the signatures of anyone who played for a particular team. Even though there are multiple methods to reach current athletes, including their national governing body (NBG), such as USA Swimming, USA Track etc. there are less avenues to consistently track down retired Olympians. When I decided to start writing again I thought I would work on the athletes from the earlier games that are still living, including 1936, 1948 and 1952. Using several databases and internet phonebooks I was able to locate quite a few. What helped me was that I always keep a reporter’s notebook handy to make notes whenever I hear about or read about an athlete.

This long introduction brings me to the reason for this post. In 2012 I wrote this gentleman who competed in athletics (track and field) in the 1948 Olympics in London. He finished fourth in the finals. Interestingly, the gold medal winner of that race lives in Washington, D.C. about a mile from my office. Shortly after writing him I received back my SASE with two signed index cards and a note saying he had not signed an autograph since the 1948 Olympics. This was one of the more interesting notes I have ever received. While I enjoy collecting the autographs of Olympians, my true passion is my photography collection of U.S. Olympians. This collection has grown greatly since that first unpublished (type 1 for those who follow that) photo of Jesse Owens in 1936. It is now 3,000+ original press, studio, personal and other photos, 1500+ transparencies (slides) plus glass plate negatives (30 or so), regular negatives and magic lantern slides. I checked my archives and saw that I have a nice official London Olympic photo in my collection showing him winning a preliminary heat. I made an 8x10 print and sent it along to him with a note. Part of my philosophy is that it is easy to take, but it is just as important to share when we can. He sent me a nice letter thanking me for the photo, talking about finishing 4th, but setting a personal best in the race and the fact that at 85 years old he is a bit heavier than in 1948. I thought that would be it until two weeks ago.

I arrived home from work and there was this large box that came in the mail (1’ x 1’ x 6”). I was not expecting any new purchases in a box that large. I looked at the return address and saw his name. I opened in up and what you see below is what was in the box. The actual cloth number (9x14) that he wore during the 1948 Olympics matted and framed and signed by him and 44 track and field teammates. He included a letter that said his children were more interested in the photo and he though I may enjoy this as an autograph collector. He also quoted me about not just taking but sharing when we can. I was speechless. Over the years I have received quite an array of items from athletes: photos, postcards, letters, cards, stickers, bible tracts, patches and even a few books. This just tops them all. As someone who really enjoys Olympic history and history in general, it cannot get any better than this.

See also the scan of the photo in my archives of him wearing the number.

For those who read this, thank you for indulging my long-windedness.

Attached Images
File Type: jpg barten 1.jpg (78.2 KB, 378 views)
File Type: jpg barten 2.jpg (75.1 KB, 378 views)
File Type: jpg barten.jpg (78.2 KB, 378 views)

Last edited by Michael B; 09-27-2013 at 01:38 AM.
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Old 09-27-2013, 02:01 AM
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baseball tourist baseball tourist is offline
Chris Wood
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Vancouver, BC. Canada
Posts: 1,396

Awesome story!
Looking for Toronto baseball items. Please contact me at
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Old 09-27-2013, 02:09 AM
dgo71 dgo71 is online now
Derek 0u3ll3tt3
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 909

That is amazing! What a cool story, thanks for sharing it.
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Old 09-27-2013, 04:23 AM
Big Dave Big Dave is offline
Dave Millhouse
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 512

A truly awesome story.
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Old 09-27-2013, 06:37 AM
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Scott Garner Scott Garner is offline
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Midwest
Posts: 5,270
Default Wow!

What a cool story! Congrats, that's definitely one for the books.

BTW, I completely subscribe to the giving back philosophy with regards to collecting. It not only is fun, but sometimes it pays amazing dividends...
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Old 09-27-2013, 07:00 AM
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David Linardy
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: southport, CT
Posts: 2,424
Default Story

Great story. Thank you for sharing!
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Old 09-27-2013, 07:29 AM
Mr. Zipper Mr. Zipper is offline
Steve Zarelli
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 1,515

Wow. Truly a moving story.
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Old 09-27-2013, 08:03 AM
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ibuysportsephemera ibuysportsephemera is offline
Jeff G@rf!nkel
Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: Hudson Valley, NY
Posts: 1,378

Great story, congrats.

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Old 09-27-2013, 09:07 AM
mighty bombjack mighty bombjack is offline
Wayne Walker
Join Date: Feb 2010
Posts: 940

Nice story and unbelievable piece!

You've got quite a big and enjoyable job researching the names on that tag.
My Hall of Fame autograph collection
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Old 09-27-2013, 09:09 AM
cubsguy1969 cubsguy1969 is offline
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 182

Wonderful story. Thanks so much for sharing.
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