Friday, December 8, 2023

2021 and 2023 TTM autographs from Vern Law and Pittsburgh's fielding safety helmets

Our hobby's fortunate several 1950s veterans remain with us who sign through the mail (TTM) in 2023. Pittsburgh Pirate pitcher Vern Law's own history goes all the way back to 1951 Bowman and he signs for $10/card to support his son's cancer care and no doubt pay other living costs that come from being 93 years old. Check out some of those card inscriptions! (Comeback Player of the Year, Lou Gehrig Award, 1960 World Series Champ, Cy Young, 2x All-Star, etc.)

My 2021 return from Vern Law

Edited letter from Vern: "Our son is home with us and is doing quite well under the circumstances, as when the doctor opened up his chest he couldn't believe he was still alive with all the damage he saw -- he spent 7 straight hours repairing all the damage -- it was a marathon operation -- it's hard to just watch 7 jours of TV let alone working on an intense operation like that. To me it's a miracle and an answer to prayers."

Last month, I found four more cards at New England's biggest annual show, including two 1953 Topps Archives "expansion" series and a 1979 TCMA Japan Pro Baseball card from two years coaching the Seibu Lions in Japan, and asked him about that experience. (I majored in Japanese, so like to know how others intersect with their culture.)

Vern: "I enjoyed my 2 years there in Japan. They wanted me to sign a ten year contract -- I said no -- as if you don't like me you can send me home -- if I don't like you I stay home. I was promised they'd take care of my taxes -- etc. -- they did care of Japanese tax, but not US taxes, so with that problem -- I stayed home and coached here at Brigham Young University. The kids were great to work with and with what I taught them they won the Championship in 1981 [ed note: they won in 1982] so I did have a good impact on the way the pitchers approached how to get their hitters out. Their system was totally different than ours."

Several mid-50s cards show Vern wearing Pittsburgh's on-field safety helmet, the same style later sported full-time by select players like John Olerud.

While Pittsburgh failed to get player buy-in for this protection back in the 1950s, enough guys wore it during spring training to show up on many 1950s Pirate cards. I'm surprised their MLB uniform history lacks those details!

Keith Olbermann's baseball blog, Baseball Nerd, covered Branch Rickey and Pirate fielding helmets in detail in 2013, in the context of contemporary and vintage pitchers struck by line drives. 

Pirates fans could build a solid collection of fielding helmets without spending more than a few bucks per card! Let me know if you take on that challenge.


Matt said...

Awesome to get written responses from him!

Trevor P said...

Vern is a great guy. I met him a few years ago at a Minor League game and I talked with him and his wife for about 15 minutes. He was flattered that I knew who he was. I didn't have him sign anything that day, but one of my favorite cards in my collections is a Topps Archives Reserved auto of his.

Bo said...

Never knew that about the helmets. Very interesting!