Once upon a time, I was very into writing to people associated with Major League Baseball in hopes of getting autographs for my collection. I’d guess more than half of the 920+ signed cards in my All-Time Mets collection were acquired that way.
As I got signatures from most of retired Mets players who were still willing and able to sign, and as current players became less willing to respond to fan mail, I wrote fewer letters.
Last year, SportsCollectors.Net tells me that I sent out 14 autograph requests and got back signed cards as a result of eight of them.(In comparison, as recently as 2014, I sent out 83 letters resulting in 58 successes.)
Last month, I wrote to a half dozen short-time former New York Mets players whose autographs I didn’t have. Today, I got three responses.
The first was a Return to Sender from Lute Barnes, an infielder who was a late-season callup for the 1972 and 1973 Mets. If I can find an up-to-date address, I’ll have to give him another try.
The other two envelopes were more promising.
The Mets selected Billy Murphy from the New York Yankees in the Rule 5 Draft prior to the 1966 baseball season. As a result, they had to keep the 22-year-old outfielder in the major leagues all season, or offer him back to the Yankees. Murphy played in 84 games for the Mets that year, hitting .230 with three home runs and 13 RBI. He never played another major league game afterwards and was out of baseball after 1970.
Rich Puig was the 14th overall pick in the 1971 June Amateur Player Draft. The Mets chose him ahead of Rick Rhoden, a pitcher who had a solid 16-year MLB career; Craig Reynolds, a 15-year MLB shortstop who was twice an All-Star; and Jim Rice, a future Hall of Famer.
Puig’s major league career lasted for just four games with the 1974 New York Mets. After 1976, he was out of baseball. Still, Puig had 11 more major league plate appearances than I ever will and is part of the Mets’ story.
I wrote a handful of letters to current Mets players at spring training this afternoon, so hopefully I’ll have some more autographs to show you in a few weeks.