Tuesday, June 04, 2013

300 Game Winners and Their Graves

The 300-win club is the most prestigious milestone club for pitchers. 24 pitchers have had the skill, luck and longevity to cross the border. I have been big fan of the 300-win club for several years now, and two years ago I decided to try to visit as many of the gravesites as I can. Of course ten of the 300-game winners are still alive, so I've tried to meet up with them at card shows and the like. Now on the fourth anniversary of the last time anybody joined this milestone club, I present this album of my misadventures.

James Francis "Pud" Galvin (1856 - 1902) was a bigger than life figure in 19th century baseball, even though he stood only 5'8". He was nicknamed The Little Steam Engine for his durability and also for his fastball, which reportedly turned batters into Pudding. Thus came the nickname that he would come to be remembered by over 100 years later. He became the first person to win 300 games, either on September 4, 1888 or October 5, 1888, depending on whether or not you accept his National Association season. This will also determine whether he finishes with 365 or 361 wins.

Galvin died on March 7, 1902, of "catarrh of the stomach" at the age of 47. Catarrh is apparently a non-diagnostic condition related to buildup of mucous membranes in a cavity. Galvin was rumored to have ballooned to over 300 pounds, well over his playing weight of 190 pounds, near the end of his life, which may explain his condition. (Interestingly enough, Galvin was reportedly close friends with another historical figure that weighed over 300 pounds: former president Grover Cleveland, namesake for another 300-game winner.) As a Roman Catholic, Galvin was buried in the Catholic Calvary Cemetery in Pittsburgh, PA.

I went to go visit Galvin's grave in June of 2011. Calvary Cemetery was just down the street from my sister's apartment so I stopped by to visit it on June 15 before going to my sister's. The grave wasn't too hard to find because Find a Grave listed the section where the grave was, and the cemetery had them carefully labeled. Unfortunately they didn't say the lot number so I had to walk around, but it didn't take me long to find the "Galvin" headstone.

I didn't see the headstone for Pud. Instead they had a little flag sticking out representing the gravesite for Pud Galvin. It was a little bit disappointing, but nevertheless I took a picture of the flag along with my 300-win memorabilia (300-win club autograph ball, my Randy Johnson's 300th win game-used ball, and the ticket stub from Randy Johnson's 300th win) along with a box score for Galvin's 300th win.

The flag was pretty minimal, saying only his name. So I added his birth and death year on the flag. And I underlined his name because he is a Hall of Famer and I underline the names of Baseball Hall of Famers. You got a problem with that?
When I got back I saw on Find a Grave and Deadball Era that Pud did have a headstone, listed as "J.F. Galvin." I thought that it might have been possible that the gravestone was taken out for renovations or something. On August 11, 2012 I went back to Pittsburgh to see a Pirates game, and before the game I decided to stop at Calvary Cemetery again. It didn't take long for me to find the grave since I had been there before, and lo and behold there was the "J.F. Galvin" headstone in all its glory. It's all that's left of the fireballer that turned hitters into Pudding.
Since the "J.F. Galvin" headstone was buried in the ground, the Galvin headstone represents what I assume to be his daughter Margaret A. Galvin and his grandson Arthur J. Galvin, who died at the tender age of 12. If that is indeed his relatives that means the Pud Galvin lineage had ended.
Timothy John "Tim" Keefe (1858 - 1933) was one of the most dominant pitchers in the era when the pitchers mound was 50 feet away. He struck out over 300 batters three time, and was the all-time leader in strikeout when he retired in 1893. He has since fallen to 27th, but he is still in the top 10 for pitching wins, with 342, with number 300 coming on June 4, 1890. At the time he was pitching for the New York team in the outlaw Players League. He was the second man to reach 300 wins. 119 years later on the same date Randy Johnson would become the 24th.

Of course by then Tim Keefe was long dead. He had died on April 23, 1933 from heart failure. He was 76 years old. He was buried in the Cambridge City Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts where he had lived. Interestingly enough it was the same cemetery where another 300-game winner, John Clarkson, was buried 24 years earlier.

Keefe is buried in Cambridge, Massachusetts, just outside Boston, which is rather far for me to go even when I was staying with my parents. I wasn't able to take the trip until I had a weeklong vacation May of 2014. I had gone to visit some friends in Scranton, PA on May 14, and then used that as a launching pad to get to Cambridge, as the drive was only four and a half hours as opposed to the seven and a half it would take from my parents' house. I left with my sister in the early morning of May 15 and took the long drive to the Cambridge Cemetery. I had scoped the cemetery and figured out where Keefe was buried, so once I got there it was only a matter of following the map to the correct location. And when we got out it didn't take too long to find the headstone where Tim was buried alongside two of his sisters Katherine and Mary.

A close-up of the last name Keefe listed in the headstone.

And a closeup on the name of Timothy J. Keefe, where the J stands for John.

Michael Francis "Mickey" Welch (1859 - 1941) was a genial fellow, which led to his nickname as "Smiling Mickey." However, he was none too friendly on the mound, as he bared down on hitters. He teamed up with Tim Keefe to form one of the most formidable pitching tandems in 19th century baseball, as the two men led the Giants to back to back pennants in 1888 and 1889. In 1890 Keefe jumped to the outlaw Players League, but Welch stayed behind. He would win his 300th game on July 28, 1890, less than two months after his old teammate. However by then he was winding down and he wound up with 307 wins.

Welch lived a long and happy life after retirement. He was still around when he saw Lefty Grove become the 12th member of the 300-win club on July 25, 1941. However, he was not in good shape. He had heart problems and a gangrenous foot. On July 30, 1941, Welch passed away at the age of 82. He was taken back to New York where he was buried in the Calvary Cemetery in Queens, New York. (However, Baseball Reference claims that he is buried in Ascension Cemetery in Lake Forest, California.)

Welch is listed as being buried in two places by two different sites, and in the end I decided the Calvary Cemetery site was more reliable since there is actually pictorial evidence. I was originally wanting to go visit the grave on May 15, 2014 after I went to Cambridge to visit the graves of Tim Keefe and John Clarkson, but I underestimated New York traffic, so by the time I got there the cemetery was closed for the day.

I had to wait until the next time I was off and was able to travel to the east coast, which turned out to be late January and early February of 2015. On February 3, 2015, I left for New York from Scranton, PA (where I was visiting the same friends) and made the two hour drive. I ended up getting stuck in traffic and so I didn't arrive there until over an hour as planned.

I knew from Findagrave that Welch was buried in Section 4 Range 17 Plot 2. I found Section 4 easy enough, but I had no idea where the Ranges were. I tried looking at a map but it wasn't really helpful, since the Ranges didn't fully match the rows. I would have gone and looked at each grave, but this was after a major snowstorm, and so most of the gravesites was buried under a foot of snow. I had a picture of the grave as taken by grave expert Stew Thornley, so I knew what the gravestone looked like. The problem is I looked at the graves that had the "SH" design on it and nothing came up. The picture of the headstone had a tree in the background, but it wasn't near any of the trees in the section. Besides, the picture was from 2001 and it's likely the tree was no longer.

After wandering around for two hours and ended up trudging through a lot of the ankle deep snow, I gave up and called the cemetery office and ask to make sure the Findagrave plot was correct. As it turned out Welch was not buried in Plot 2 but Plot S. And I also found out that the Ranges would be on the bottom of the headstones. I began digging out the Range information and finally located Range 17. Once I found out I began going through the snow again and finally came across the headstone for Smiling Mickey Welch, who was buried under his birth name of Walsh. The gravestone was located behind a pair of tall shrubbery which I had seen in my searches, which would probably explain why I had a hard time finding it.

As expected, the back of the half-frozen headstone featured the name Walsh instead of Welch. I never did understand why Welch played under a different name. Perhaps it's due to the blatant Irish-ness of Walsh during a time when it was not cool to be Irish.

One feature about many of the headstones at Calvary Cemetery is that it was often dedicated to many members in a family. In this case, Michael Walsh decided to honor both of his parents Bridget and John, his older sister Mary who died as a child, and his wife Mary. Because it says who the headstone was erected by, Welch was listed twice.

At the very bottom it lists the man of the hour, Smiling Mickey Walsh. Welch must have been very proud of his nickname to have it accompany him on his gravestone.

Charles Gardner "Old Hoss" Radbourn (1854 - 1897) was one of the most colorful characters in 19th century baseball. He loved showing off his middle finger to unsuspecting photographers, and is credited as the first to do so in a team photograph in 1886. Beyond that, however, Radbourn was a workhorse who relished taking the mound. His best season came in 1884 when he started 73 games, throwing 678 and 2/3 innings with a 1.38 ERA, and winning 59 games, which is still a record. With such excellent work Radbourn was able to make up for a late start (he didn't win his first game until he was 26) to claim his 300th win on June 2, 1891. He would retire home to Bloomington, Illinois after that year with 309 wins.

However, retirement was rocky for Old Hoss. He lost an eye in a hunting accident and withdrew from public life. Even more damaging was his contraction of the Treponema pallidum bacteria in one of his escapades. The spirochete eventually traveled to his brain, where he developed paresis that killed him on February 5, 1897 at the age of 42. He was the first 300-game winner to pass away. He was buried in the Evergreen Memorial Cemetery in his hometown.

But not even death can silence the man. Over 110 years after his death he is still reminiscing about the olden days of baseball in 140 characters or less on Twitter.
November 24, 2012 was a bitterly cold day, but it was the day I had to drive from Kansas to Pennsylvania for the event that would ruin my life. Since I was driving through Illinois I decided it would be the perfect opportunity to stop by Bloomington, Illinois to visit the grave of Old Hoss Radbourn. The location of the grave was not listed, but it wasn't a big cemetery, and I eventually found the headstone after driving around for a bit.

He shares the headstone with his wife Carrie, so I took a picture of just his name showing that Radbourn was indeed the first 300-game winner to be born, and the first to die.

Even though the accepted spelling of his last name is Radbourn, he was often credited as Radbourne, and that includes on his headstone.

Old Hoss Radbourn was the first of the 19th century 300-game winners to get elected to the Hall of Fame, but he was still relatively unknown. So in the 1940s, a group of baseball fans in Bloomington decided to create a plaque to honor the greatest baseball player to come out of their fair city. The plaque rests on the back side of Radbourn's headstone.

As I mentioned earlier, Radbourn shares his headstone with his wife Carrie Stanhope. Their romance forms a subplot in Edward Achorn's excellent book about Radbourn's 1884 season, "59 in '84." It is the quintessential book about Radbourn's, even if the main focus is on his best season.

Behind Radbourn's headstone are two smaller headstones for his parents Charles Sr. and Caroline. Note that they outlived their son by over ten years before dying at the ripe old age of 85 and 84.

Also buried alongside Radbourn is his younger brother John.
John Gibson Clarkson (1861 - 1909) is one of the most obscure pitchers in the Hall of Fame. When Roger Clemens won his 300th game the YES Network showed a slideshow of all but one of the 300 game winners to that point. The one 300-game winner they left out is none other than Clarkson. It's a shame because Clarkson was certainly one of the finest pitchers in the 19th century. His ERA+ of 133 is the highest of the pitchers that won their 300th win in the 19th century. He won 53 games in 1885, and came one win away from achieving the 50-win milestone again four years later. He was the losing pitcher in Old Hoss Radbourn's 300th win in 1891, but he joined the club himself a year later on September 21, 1892. He would go on to win 28 more games for a final total of 328 wins.

Alas retirement was not kind to Clarkson. He is often claimed to have a fragile ego during his playing career. Whether or not this was true is uncertain, but he struggled heavily with depression and paranoia after his playing career ended, spending several years in sanitariums. Plus he was a heavy smoker and drinker in his playing days, and he ended up contracting pneumonia early in 1909. This was the era before antibiotics, and the infection killed him on February 4, 1909. He was only 47. He was buried in the Cambridge City Cemetery, the same cemetery where his good friend Tim Keefe would be buried 23 years later.

The fact that Clarkson was also buried in Cambridge Cemetery is certainly convenient, as I'd be able to knock out two 300-game winners in one trip. So on May 15, 2014, after I had gone to see Tim Keefe's grave, I traveled to a different part of the cemetery and looked for John Clarkson. The cemetery map was fairy useful and I was able to identify the location, and all it took to find the grave was to go to the designated location and see the grave with the word Clarkson.

At the foot of the family marker lies the gravestones of Clarkson's parents and his brother Thomas. You could see that Thomas Clarkson outlived his son, as well as the location of John's grave relative to the rest of his family.

And there, lying slightly behind the grave with the family name, is the gravestone commemorating the life of John G. Clarkson, who was once one of the most fearsome pitchers in the 19th century National League but is now one of the most forgotten players in the Hall of Fame. It's a pity.

Charles Augustus "Kid" Nichols (1869 - 1953) burst onto the scene at the tender age of 20 in 1890. He won 27 games as a rookie and increased it to 30 a year later. He would go on to win at least 30 games seven times in eight seasons, which still stands as a record. His consistency combined with his early start helped him reach 300 wins on July 7, 1900 when he was only 30 years old. Nobody had reached 300 wins at a younger age. He retired in 1901 with 329 wins to become a player manager in the minors, but he came back in 1904 and pitched three more seasons to bring his win totals to 361.

Nichols retired to his hometown Kansas City after his playing career ended where he eventually became a championship bowler. He lived long enough to enjoy his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1949. However, a few years after that he developed a cancerous tumor in his neck. The tumor eventually spread and ended up killing him on April 11, 1953. He was 83 years old. He was buried in Mount Moriah Cemetery in Kansas City, MO, close to the Kansas-Missouri border.

I had grew up in the Kansas City area and had known about Kid Nichols from the book for Ken Burns's Baseball documentary. However, I didn't realize that he was buried near my childhood home until I began planning this project. I signed up for a rotation in Olathe, Kansas and one of the first things I did after getting to Kansas was go out to the Mount Moriah Cemetery. It was a massive cemetery. Find a Grave listed the block and lot number for Nichols's grave. The block was easy to find, but the lot number didn't match any of the lot numbers listed on the side of the road. So I had to get out and inspect each grave one by one. I was just about ready to give up when I finally saw it: the grave of Charles A. "Kid" Nichols.

I had looked at many graves in that block and many of them had a symbol to describe the club they were in or something. One of the symbols was a diamond. Since I had seen pictures of the grave online I knew that Nichols's grave had something like a diamond as well, but was really two bats and a ball. There were plenty of times when I saw the diamond and thought I was finally at the grave, but realized later that it wasn't the bats and ball. Eventually I found the grave, and I must say the bats and ball are much cooler than the diamond on the other graves.

The sun was still out when I first found the grave and created an effect where part of the grave was bright and other parts were obscured by the shadow. Eventually a couple of clouds blocked the Sun so I took another picture so the grave could be uniform in color.

Buried next to Nichols is his beloved wife Jane. They were married for 43 years.

Denton True "Cy" Young (1867 - 1955) is one of the most famous pitchers in baseball history, partially because his name lives on in the annual award for the best pitcher in each league. Of course the reason the award was named after him was because of his unbreakable record of 511 career wins. That is 94 more than his closest competitor, and he has more wins than all but 22 position players have home runs. That mind-blowing win total is a testament to his excellence and his longevity. He was a fireballer who was like a cyclone on the mound, which led to his immortal nickname of "Cy." He made his debut in 1890 when the pitchers mound was 50 feet away. He had over 4,000 innings, 286 wins and a 138 ERA+ when he made the jump from the National to the upstart American League before the 1901 season and pitched another 3,300 innings in 11 seasons with an ERA+ of 137 and 225 wins, including his 300th win on July 12, 1901, his 400th win on August 22, 1904, and his 500th win on July 19, 1910.

Cy Young's arm finally gave out on him in 1912, and he retired to his farm in rural Peoli, Ohio. Things were fine until he lost his wife in 1933. After that he sold his farm and struggled financially. Still, he was in good health and lived to be 88 before he died of a heart attack on November 4, 1955. He is still the longest living 300-game winner. He was buried in his hometown of Peoli, Ohio.
I went to visit Cy Young's grave as part of my massive trip in June 2011. On June 16, 2011 I left from my sister's house in Pittsburgh where I was staying and drove down through Akron and finally to Peoli following my trusty GPS. However, not even the GPS prepared me for how rural Peoli was. It was the middle of Amish country and was mostly farmland with a few farmhouses in between. The cemetery was next to an old church and was very small, but that made finding the grave very easy. It didn't take long to spot this headstone of the surname Young flanked by baseballs.

The other side honored both Cy Young and his wife Roba, who died exactly 52 years before I was born. The couple was married for 43 years.

A close-up on the message that is inscribed on the headstone, which allowed for a closer look on the sheet that held the newspaper article describing Young's 300th win.

A close-up on Cy Young's name

Despite how far out of the way Peoli is, there are still plenty of baseball fans that will make that trek to visit the grave of the great Cy Young. Here is a ball that somebody named Nicaru left before I arrived there. I like the smiley face that they drew on the ball.

Christopher "Christy" Mathewson (1880 - 1925) was one of baseball's earliest superstars. He was ruggedly handsome and college-educated, very different from the image of baseball players as hooligans. He pitched in New York, which was the main market even over 100 years ago. And he was real good. He won over 30 games four times, and in five seasons he had his ERA below 2.00. And he led the Giants to the World Series victory with his legendary three-shutout performance in 1905. His success was thanks in part to a repertoire that included a blazing fastball and a mind-bending fadeaway, as well as an analytical mindset. He showed off his intellectual approach to the game of baseball with his 1912 book "Pitching in a Pinch." Later that year, he would win his 300th game, although sources disagree as to whether that occurred on June 13, 1912 or June 28, 1912. He ended his career by pitching one game with the Cincinnati Reds in 1916, the team that he will manage for the next three seasons. He won that game over his nemesis Mordecai "Three-Finger" Brown. It was his 373rd career win.

Mathewson didn't get to enjoy his retirement long. He served in World War I, where he was exposed to mustard gas and had a bad case of the flu. He survived but still had a terrible cough. He was eventually found to have tuberculosis, which was certainly possible as his brother Henry died of the disease in 1917. Mathewson went to the Sanarac Lake sanitarium, but the effects was limited as this was the days before isoniazid. He felt good enough to serve as president of the Boston Braves, but the mycobacteria eventually got the best of him, and he died on October 7, 1925, eleven years before he would become one of the first five players elected to the Hall of Fame.

Mathewson was buried in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, not far from Bucknell University where he attended college.
I took my trip to Lewisburg to see Mathewson's grave as part of my big trip of June 2011. It was June 18, 2011 when I made it to the Lewisburg City Cemetery. Find a Grave said that the grave was found on the Path of Love, so I followed it and eventually saw the headstone for the Mathewson family plot.

Christy Mathewson's grave was in front of the Mathewson headstone. The gravestone didn't make mention of his baseball career, choosing instead to focus on his service in the US Army in World War I. But it wasn't hard to figure out that he was a former baseball player, as somebody left a baseball on the gravestone. That meant the game-used baseball from Randy Johnson's 300th win had to be left somewhere else.

It was kind of hard to see, but the words "Perpetual care" was inscribed on the side of the gravestone.

There was a medal or whatever you want to call it commemorating Mathewson's service in World War I. It was a proud moment, but it could also have contributed to the weakening of his lungs that led to the reactivation of his formerly latent tuberculosis.

Buried next to Christy was his wife Jane Stoughton. The couple were married for a good 22 years, and then she lived on over 40 years after his death.

In fact, she outlived her son Christopher Mathewson Jr. by almost 17 years. The fact that he served in the Air Force and died in 1950 made me wonder if he had died serving in the Korean War, but I later found out that he had been discharged after WWII and died in a explosion at his home near San Antonio.

There was also a billboard with a poster commemorating Christy Mathewson's life at the entrance to the cemetery. It was very informative and could conceivably keep him from becoming forgotten.

Edward Stewart "Eddie" Plank (1875 - 1926) was the ace pitcher for one of the first great American League teams, and one of the earliest great left-handed pitchers in baseball history. He infuriated batters with his agonizingly slow pace, and made them even madder when he'd get them out consistently. Yet nobody could argue with the results. He burst onto the scene at the advanced age of 25 with Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics out of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and quickly became a consistent 20-game winner. He teamed up with Chief Bender to help the A's to win four pennants and World title in 1911 and 1913. After losing the 1914 World Series to the Miracle Braves, Mack allowed Plank and Bender to jump to the outlaw Federal Leagues. Plank prospered in the Federal Leagues, winning 21 games for the St. Louis Terrier including his 300th career win on September 11, 1915. He was the first left-hander to reach the coveted 300-win mark. He returned to the American League with the sad sack St. Louis Browns after the Federal League folded, and stayed with them through 1917, bringing his career win totals to 326.

He eventually returned to his home in Gettysburg, settling down with his new wife and raising a young son. He kept a low profile in the famous battleground city, but it was not for long. He suffered a stroke in his right cerebral hemisphere that left him comatose early in 1926. He was declared dead in February 24, 1926 at the tender age of 50. He was buried in the Evergreen Cemetery in his native Gettysburg.

I had convinced my sister to visit the grave of Eddie Plank when she took a trip to Gettysburg. She wasn't a baseball fan and had no idea who he was, but she ended up going, probably because she had a friend who was a big baseball fan and had heard of Plank. Well after I decided to visit these graves I ended up making the trip myself. On June 18, 2011 I drove to Gettysburg from Lewisburg where I had visited Christy Mathewson's grave. After making the two hour drive and navigating through the numerous tourists that packed the city streets that Saturday evening, I made it to Evergreen Cemetery. However, it was a massive cemetery, and even though I knew that the grave was in Section X, I had no idea where in the cemetery Section X was. I ended up driving around the cemetery for a good long while, even going as far as to call my sister for help before I finally saw the headstone with the Plank name. I was at Eddie Plank's grave.

I had seen pictures of the grave when my sister visited, but seeing it in person was something completely different. It was much more effective when I was able to experience the cool breeze in the summer dusk and the dying lights of the setting Sun; to feel the coolness of the stone as I placed my memorabilia to prepare for the picture, and to admire the name carved into stone of the man who once frustrated opposing players and fans 100 years ago but was now just a name remembered by hardcore baseball buffs.

A closeup of his name. From this angle you can see the pennies that people have left on his grave. I have no idea what those signify. Maybe it's like burning paper money or something.

Eddie Plank's obituary talked about his ten year old son Edward Stewart Plank Jr being present at his father's bedside when the old man died. Well that was so long ago that little Eddie grew up and lived a full life and passed away himself at the age of 66. He is buried with his wife, the daughter in law that Eddie never knew. Unless the two had known each other in childhood and Eddie knew her as that little neighborhood that was a good playmate for Edward Jr. Or something like that.

People had left baseballs in one of the vases to the side of the grave. It's a good sign that even though Eddie Plank pitched 100 years ago, people still know him enough to come visit his grave, even bringing mementos to leave even though the cemetery says that they clean them out every week. Either this ball from Darryl and Maimarie had been left alone for three years, or they were married on that day and recently brought the ball commemorating their marriage and left it at the grave of a pitcher whose career came before World War I.

Walter Perry Johnson (1887 - 1946) was one of the nicest men that ever played the game of baseball. He was a kind-hearted gentleman that got along with anybody, even the crotchety old Ty Cobb. He was reportedly so nice that he refused to pitch inside, for fear of injuring the batter with his blazing fastball. Despite giving hitters the advantage with plate position, Johnson still managed to become quite possibly the best pitcher in baseball history. Pitching on mostly sad-sack Washington Senator teams, "The Big Train" kept hitters off balance with his fastball that was so fast it was said to be invisible. He was the master of the strikeout in an era when the name of the game was contact. He led the league in strikeouts 12 times, more times than even Nolan Ryan. He also led the league in wins and ERA five times each, en route to three pitching Triple Crowns. His 110 complete game shutouts is 20 more than any other pitchers and 34 more than the great Cy Young. He won his 300th game on May 14, 1920 in a relief appearance, the only time somebody reached the milestone in relief, and still had enough left in the tank to win the pitching Triple Crown once more in 1924. That year he led the Senators to their first ever pennant, and he was on the mound when they toppled the New York Giants in the 12th inning of the thrilling seventh game. He led the team back to the World Series a year later, though the team lost to the Pirates. He joined Cy Young in the 400-win club a year later on April 27, 1926. He could have won more, but he had his leg shattered by a line drive in 1927 spring training and decided to retire after a decidedly un-Johnson-like year. He had 417 wins.

Johnson had some success as a manager after his playing career ended, leading the Senators to three straight 90-win seasons and the Indians to a third place finish in 1934. However, he was haunted by the death of his beloved wife in 1930. He tried to keep himself busy by dabbling in politics and making public appearances, but soon he began suffering from neurologic problems. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The mass wore him down and finally killed him on December 10, 1946. He was only 59 years old. He was buried next to his wife in Rockville, Maryland's Union Cemetery.
When I embarked on my trip to visit the graves of these 300 game winners in June 2011, I made Walter Johnson's grave my first stop, since Rockville was only 40 minutes away from my parents' house. I left on June 15, 2011. Finding the cemetery was easy enough with the GPS, but once I was there finding the grave itself was much trickier. Find a Grave didn't have any information about where the grave was located, so I had to drive around the cemetery. I ended up calling my sister to have her look up information as far as where the grave might have been. After calling her back a couple of times and actually getting out of my car into the muggy summer, I finally found the "Johnson" headstone.

Walter Johnson's gravestone was hiding underneath a tree in front of the headstone. It was a simple little thing, but that is probably fitting considering Johnson's humble demeanor.

A closeup where did a better job of blocking the sunlight so the color would be uniform.

Buried next to him is his beloved wife Hazel, whom he married when he was at his peak but died far too young.

Like many other graves of baseball stars people leave their baseball memorabilia on top of the headstone. However, it seems like the people that take care of the Union Cemetery don't clean them off that often. The caps are all worn out and covered with spider webs, and one of the baseballs had lost its leather cover.

Somebody had also left a cute little ceramic model of a ball and glove. I used it to prop up the newspaper article describing Johnson's 300th win. They made no mention that it was his milestone victory. It wasn't until Lefty Grove was approaching 300 wins in 1941 that the milestone became a big deal.

Grover Cleveland "Pete" Alexander (1887 - 1950) was one of baseball's most tortured individuals. He was named after the sitting US president because his parents had aspirations that he would study law, but young Grover was more into baseball. He played in various minor league teams and was doing well when he was hit in the head by an errant throw. He developed double vision that lasted for months and epilepsy that would plague him for the rest of his life. But he pitched well between seizures and ended up with the Philadelphia Phillies, where he made an immediate impact, winning 28 games. He excelled for Philadelphia, winning 30 games in three consecutive seasons, but they traded him to the Cubs knowing he'd be drafted. He was indeed drafted and was shipped to the Western Front, where he lost part of his hearing from the artillery fire and came back with a strong case of PTSD. The anxiety and the epilepsy led him to embrace alcohol, and he would spend the rest of his life an alcoholic. Yet he was still in command on the mound. He pitched well with Chicago, including a 12-inning complete game on September 20, 1924 for his 300th win. The Cubs sold him to the Cardinals in 1926, with whom he would have his most famous baseball moment. Coming in as a reliever with the bases loaded in Game 7 of the World Series against the Yankees, he struck out super-rookie Tony Lazzeri, then shut out the Yankees to save the game that ended when Babe Ruth was thrown out trying to steal second. He would have a few more good years with the Cardinals before returning to the Phillies for one last season in 1930. He would retire with 373 wins, third all time, and 90 shutouts, which is second all time.

Without baseball to distract him, he soon fell victim to the alcoholism, PTSD, and epilepsy that was plaguing him. He could never hold onto a steady job, even working for a time at a flea circus. He separated from his wife, though they remained close. He lived in constant poverty, and suffered from many health ailments. He was well enough to attend the 1950 World Series, but shortly afterward his heart gave out on him and he died on November 4, 1950. He was only 63. He was buried with military honors in Elmwood Cemetery in St. Paul, Nebraska.
Visiting Grover Cleveland Alexander's grave was always troublesome for me because it was so out of the way. It was 12 hours from where I lived in Texas, and 5 hours from my old home in Kansas. But I was starting a rotation in Kansas in October, and I decided it was now or never. I left Texas on the night of October 26, 2012 and drove all night, finally arriving in St. Paul in midday of October 27, 2012. After stopping by for a Subway sandwich and finding out that the Nebraska baseball museum was closed, I made my way to the cemetery.

Even though the location of the grave was not listed on Find a Grave, it was still easy to find. After all, there was this sign pointing the way to Grover Cleveland Alexander's gravesite that was hard not to notice. I suppose enough people made the journey for them to put it up.

Alexander has two graves. The first is the standard grave done in the same style as the rest of his family. The darkness of the stone combined with the overcast skies made the text kind of hard to read, and the bumpiness of the ground made it hard for the memorabilia to stay in a nice and organized configuration.

The second is his military gravestone. This one is shaped more like the gravestones that are found in the Arlington National Cemetery. The stark difference in the shape of this gravestone led me to create the Veteran's Day comic with Rainbow Dash and Derpy.

Buried alongside Alexander are his parents, the ones that had presidential aspirations for the guy. They never materialized, although a film was made about his life shortly after death with Doris Day as his wife Amy and movie star Ronald Reagen as Alexander. Reagen would eventually enter politics and get elected president in 1980. I'm sure William Alexander would have approved, but by then he had been dead for almost 64 years.

And then there is his mother, the former Margaret J. Cootey. She was still alive when Alexander won his 300th game, struck out Tony Lazzeri, and earned his final win. She had passed away before he was inducted to the Hall of Fame, though.

Robert Moses "Lefty" Grove (1900 - 1975) had a fiery personality to go along with his blazing fastball, and that helped him reach the ultimate pitching milestone even though he didn't debut until the age of 25 after spending five seasons in the minors. He was determined to win at all times, and he would explode at anybody that dared to keep him from his goal. His locker tantrums following bitter defeats have become the stuff of legends. Yet this competitive spirit also propelled him to gaudy win totals with the Philadelphia A's dynasty of the late 1920s/early 1930s, including a 1931 season where he went 31-4. He led the league in ERA nine times, which is still a major league record. However, by 1940 he was beginning to slow down. He won only 7 games a year to bring him to 293, and it took him 15 starts before finally getting his 300th on July 25, 1941. He was the 12th member of the club but the first pitcher to get celebrated for reaching it. He made six more start but couldn't get number 301. He retired at the end of the year with a 300-141 record, a .680 winning percentage that is the highest of any 300-game winner. His 148 ERA+ is also the highest of any 300-game winner, edging out the great Walter Johnson by one.

Grove retired back to his home in Maryland, being a much more gentle spirit than his playing days. He owned several successful bowling alleys and coached kids' teams. He moved to Ohio after his wife passed away, and lived their peacefully until his own end came at the age of 75 following a heart attack on May 22, 1975. He was buried in the Frostburg Memorial Cemetery in Frostburg, Maryland, not far from his hometown.
Lefty Grove's grave was the first 300-game winner I ever visited. (I had visited the grave of my childhood favorite player Mickey Mantle back in October 2010.) I had driven past Frostburg on my way to West Virginia several times, even stopping by the Burger King for a burger. However, I never realized until I had moved to Texas that Lefty Grove was buried there. I finally found time to go during winter break of my second year, and made the trip on December 30, 2010. I carried along the list of Lefty Grove's 300 wins. I visited a baseball card store in Frostburg where I heard about how to find Grove's grave. It was still rough finding the grave since the cemetery was so big. I eventually found it and left the list as like an offering.

Later I realized I had my 300-win memorabilia that consisted of the 300-win autographed baseball (even though it was missing Grove's signature), the game-used ball from Randy Johnson's 300th win, and the ticket stub from Randy Johnson's 300th win. I realized that what I needed to do was to pose with the memorabilia. So on June 15, 2011, after visiting Walter Johnson's grave, I made a detour at Frostburg again to pose with the memorabilia. I preferred the overcast day in December with snow on the ground over the super sunny June day, but I still got the pictures.

Grove was buried with his late wife Ethel, and they were both commemorated on the same headstone. Here is a closeup of just Robert M.

On the corner where Grove's grave rests there is a plaque commemorating his baseball accomplishments. It's a bit hard to read, but it says:

"One of baseball's greatest pitchers, in 17 seasons (1925-1941) as an American Leaguer, he compiled a record of 300 victories and 141 defeats for a .680 percentage.

A native of Lonaconing, Lefty was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1947 and in baseball's centennial year (1969) he was honored as the greatest lefthanded pitcher of all time.

He won 20 or more games on eight occasions, led the American League in earned run average nine times, won 16 straight games in 1931 (a league record) and was the American League's Most Valuable Player in 1941 when he won 31 games and lost 4."

Somebody left a Red Sox cap because he finished his career (and won his 300th game) with Boston.

Warren Edward Spahn (1921 - 2003) survived action in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II to become one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history. He was known for his high leg kick, but used his impeccable control and ability to change speeds to frustrate hitters for 20 seasons. He achieved 20 wins in a season an astonishing 13 times, a mark surpassed only by the great Cy Young. He teamed up with Johnny Sain to help bring the Boston Braves to post-season glory in 1948, a season memorialized in the "Spahn and Sain pray for rain" poem. A decade later he teamed up with Lew Burdette and Bob Buhl to bring the Braves to World Series glory in Milwaukee in 1957 and 1958. He was also an accomplished hitter whose 35 home runs ranks second only to Wes Ferrell. He pitched two no-hitters, with the second coming in 1961, the same year he became the first pitcher in 20 years to reach the milestone when he did so on August 11, 1961. He still had plenty left in the tank, which he proved when at the age of 42 he pitched into the 16th inning in a duel against the Giants' Juan Marichal. Even though he lost the game, his 363 wins were the most ever by a lefthander and 5th most of all time (or 6th most depending on how you view Pud Galvin's National Association wins).

He hung around in the minors for a couple of years before finally hanging up his spikes for good. He settled down in the rural Oklahoma town of Hartshorne where he raised cattle, but never strayed far from the game. He was prosperous and happy, but died suddenly on November 24, 2003. The cause of death was not made public. He was 82 years old. He was living in Broken Arrow at the time, but his body was buried back in Hartshorne, Oklahoma next to that of his beloved wife LoRene.

I was in Fort Worth when I began getting interested in visiting these graves of 300-game winners. A Google search revealed that Hartshorne was only about four hours away from Fort Worth. I didn't have time to make that drive, at least not until spring break of my second year. I had to stay around Texas so I decided to make that drive. Four hours was longer than anything I had driven at that time, but on March 13, 2011 I filled my iPod with music I liked, buckled down and went for a drive. It was a lovely drive. The sky was cloudy, just the way I liked it and I passed through several small towns. Eventually I made it into Hartshorne, which was much smaller than I imagined. I made my way to the cemetery, which was down at the end of a residential street, and it didn't take me long to find Spahn's grave. It had his number "21" etched on the back. I stopped and admired the sight.

For this trip I had brought along a of Spahn's 363 wins, echoing what I did for Grove two and a half month earlier. I had also brought along the one Warren Spahn card I had, his 1962 Topps card released the year after he won his 300th game.

Of course on March 13, 2011 I already had all three of my 300-win memorabilia. I just didn't think to bring them. But I had brought them to all of the graves for the June trip, so for consistency's sake I made a return trip to Hartshorne, this time with the 300-win memorabilia, on June 23, 2011. By then driving four hours was nothing special, especially since I had made the drive before. Unfortunately it had become an ugly sunny day. There was no cloud cover to be found, which I disliked. At least the flower was no longer obscuring the words "Our Hero" at the bottom of Spahn's grave.

For some reason I decided it was a good idea to take a picture of the back of the Topps card with Spahn's birthday, just to show that it's the same. You can hardly even see the birthday on the card. I suppose I was just so awestruck at being there that I had this idea. After all this was only the third Hall of Famer grave I visited.

I also took a picture of the "21" that was on the back of the gravestone.

One of the things I realized in my second trip was that the autographed 300-win ball was somewhat old, so it had the signatures of both Warren Spahn and Early Wynn, both of whom have since passed away. So I did a closeup. Unfortunately if you zoom in to where you can see the autograph you can really only see the "21" that is at the top of the front of Spahn's grave. Oh well.

Buried next to Warren is his loving wife LoRene. Thanks to her financial wherewithal the Spahns were able to enjoy prosperity that was missing in the lives of most former baseball players. Unfortunately she also died young, at the age of 57.

On my way into Hartshorne the second time around I noticed this billboard honoring the most famous denizen. When you're a town of 2,000 located in rural Oklahoma you'd celebrate any modicum of success one of your residents have. Still, it's a very nice looking and colorful billboard.

Early Wynn Jr. (1920 - 1999) was one of the meanest pitchers ever to play the game of baseball. If Walter Johnson was too nice to throw inside to keep aggressive hitters off the plate, then Early Wynn was determined to keep hitters off at all costs, even if it meant beaning them. He once said that he'd throw at his grandma if she was crowding the plate. Perhaps his ferocity was due to his frustration at being on terrible Washington Senators teams early in his career. He was 15 games below .500 despite league average pitching by the time he was traded to the Cleveland Indians after the 1948 season. Finally pitching on a good team, he teamed up with Bob Feller and Bob Lemon to form a terrific rotation. Despite suffering from gout in the last several years of his career, he helped the Indians become one of the premiere teams in the American League. He lead the league with 23 wins in 1954, the year they finally beat the Yankees for the pennant. He was traded to the White Sox in 1958 and he just continued where he left off, winning 22 games and the Cy Young award in 1959 while leading Chicago to the pennant. However, he began to slow down. He won only eight games in 1961 and seven in 1962 to put him at 299 wins. He failed in his last three tries for 300 that year, and found himself released at the end of the year. He went unsigned that off-season and was without a team until the Indians took pity on him and signed him on June 21. They threw him into action that day but watched him lose. They kept throwing him out there hoping that he can get a win someday. This finally happened on July 13, 1963. He pitched five innings, left with the lead, and let teammate Jerry Walker pitch the final four. He finally had his 300th win. He pitched mostly in relief the rest of the year and never got another win.

Wynn retired to Florida, although he kept active in the game by becoming a pitching coach and broadcaster. He was proud of his 300-win accomplishment, believing that none of the young whippersnappers had it in them to get to 300 wins. A legion of pitchers came and proved him wrong, but by then he had come to terms with the world. He lost his wife in 1994, the year when they were to celebrate their 50th anniversary, and soon suffered several strokes. A stroke eventually ended his life on April 4, 1999. He was cremated, and according to his wishes his ashes were scattered over the pitching mound in Jacobs Field, the home of the team where he had his greatest success. As such he does not have a gravestone.

Gaylord Jackson Perry (1938 - ) was a crafty pitcher. He had good stuff, but he knew that one of the greatest advantages he had over hitters was psychological. So he got into their head by publishing a book in the 1974 season admitting that he had thrown spitballs, illegal since 1920, somewhat regularly when he was a young pitcher with the Giants, but then proclaimed that he was free from the illegal pitch. Still he kept hitters guessing, especially after adapting a ritual on the mound where he would tap his face and his cap and rub his ears. Still, what made him a great pitcher was his longevity. He had a good career with the Giants, winning 134 games through his age 32 season, but they cut ties with him and traded him to the Indians. However, he had his best season in Cleveland, winning 24 games, kept his ERA under 2.00 and won the Cy Young award. The Indians and the Rangers both traded him and he found himself with the Padres, and won the Cy Young again at the age of 39. He was still going strong at 43 by the time he signed with the Seattle Mariners just three wins from 300. The Ancient Mariner achieved the mark on May 6, 1982, becoming the first pitcher to do so in almost 19 years. Even after becoming baseball royalty Perry still courted controversy. He was ejected for throwing suspicious pitches later in the year. A year later he was suspended for hiding his teammate George Brett's bat after Brett was called out for having too much pine tar on the thing. He retired after that year with 314 wins.

Perry's post-baseball life was quite rocky. He lost his farm shortly after retirement, and soon lost his beloved wife as well. He eventually found peace when he was elected to the Hall of Fame in his third try in 1991, and was able to use his baseball fame in making public appearances.

As a former Rangers player, Gaylord Perry receives invitations to attend Rangers events, including the Rangers Fan Fair in 2012. He had a panel and an autograph session, but otherwise spent his time sitting at the table for the Fergie Jenkins Foundation chatting with fans and signing autographs for $10 with the money going to charity. I heard about this when I attended on January 14, 2012. By then I had started working on a second 300-win autographed ball using the game-used ball from Randy Johnson's 300th win. I knew that Perry would be signing autographs the next day, but the line was limited to 250 people. I couldn't take that chance, so I decided to pony up the $10 and go see him at the table. He was sitting alone so I was able to strike up a nice conversation with him. There was an embarrassing moment when I couldn't remember exactly how many complete games he had (303, the same as the number of wins Randy Johnson had), but overall he was very nice. He was even willing to pose with me for a picture, even though I was short and fat and ugly and annoying.

The next day I arrived late, but was still able to get his autograph at the standard autograph line. Instead of having him sign the ball again I had him sign my Topps 1982 Gaylord Perry card. It was the first card of Gaylord Perry I ever had and the one on the top of the pile when I was obsessing over 300 game winners and carrying around their cards in 2005.

The unfortunate thing about having them sign a game used ball is that the autographs seem to fade quicker. By July the autograph was faded and smeared. I noticed he was going to be at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Baltimore, and decided to have him sign again. This time he signed with a Sharpie, which I heard was a big no-no for baseballs. At least the autograph isn't fading anymore. Thankfully I don't ever plan on selling that baseball.

Steven Norman "Steve" Carlton (1944 - ) was one of the first pitchers to utilize a zen approach in conditioning. He would use meditation and martial arts to keep himself fit. That certainly helped him pitch effectively for a long time, although having perhaps the most vicious slider in the history of the game also helped. He began his career with the Cardinals, winning a World Series title with them in 1967 and getting a 20-win season in 1971. However, they traded their young southpaw to Philadelphia for Rick Wise before the 1972 season. In retaliation Carlton went on to have one of the most significant pitching seasons ever. He won 27 games on an absolutely terrible Phillies team that won only 59 games. He also struck out 310 batters and kept his ERA at 1.97. That year solidified Carlton as one of baseball's best pitchers. He teamed up with third baseman Mike Schmidt to lead the Phillies into respectability while winning four Cy Young awards. He pitched the Phillies to another division title in 1983 and along the way won his 300th game on September 23, 1983. By then he was still going strong and there were many that felt he could make it to 400 wins. Things started out well with a 13-win 1984 season, but the floor fell out and he wound up winning 1 game in 1985. He bounced around the next three seasons, although he did chalk up his 4,000th strikeout as a member of the Giants. He soon found himself being a reliever for the Indians, saving a game for Phil Niekro, who was five years his senior. By the time he retired he had 329 wins, having gone 29-45 since his milestone victory.

Carlton had a rocky relationship with the media, refusing to speak to them after they had misquoted him in a few articles. He didn't even answer questions after his 300th win. However, despite the cold relationship they still admired his body of work so much that when he first appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot in 1994 they voted him in with over 95% of the vote. Now he can make card show appearances with the title of Hall of Famer.

One such appearance was at a Tristar Productions card show at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, California on April 14, 2012. By then I had four autographs on my game-used baseball and was eager to get more. I realized that even though I was on my OB-Gyn rotation there was room in my schedule to go that weekend. I went to Fort Worth for Research Appreciation Day on April 13, and then flew to San Francisco the next morning. After an awkward moment when I took a picture of my old house in Pleasanton, I made my way to the Cow Palace for my destined meeting with "Lefty" Carlton. I had a photo op ticket, and soon it was time to meet him. He was very soft-spoken, which was fitting considering his policy of silence, but he was also very friendly. I asked him if I could film him signing the autograph later and he graciously accepted. It was overall a very pleasant encounter, which is much better than what the media in the 1970s and 1980s had.

George Thomas "Tom" Seaver (1944 - ) was the stuff of legends even before he threw a major league pitch. He was with USC when he was drafted by the Braves. He signed a contract, which was voided by Commissioner William Eckert because USC had played two game already. He couldn't return to USC because of the contract so Eckert decided to hold a lottery for Seaver's services. The Mets won the lottery. They were still a terrible team when Seaver made his spectacular debut. He led a youth revolution that sprung the Mets into instant credibility when he led them to the 1969 World Series with a 25-win season. The Miracle Mets knocked off the Baltimore Orioles and Seaver was the toast of the town. He continued to stun hitters while pitching for the Mets. He had a 19-strikeout game and won three Cy Young awards. He left the Mets for the Reds in a stunning trade deadline deal in 1977, but continued to sparkle for Cincinnati, even throwing a no-hitter in 1978. However by the 1980s he was beginning to slow down. He returned to the Mets for one more season after a miserable 5-13 year, but was picked up by the White Sox after the Mets left him unprotected in the free agent compensation draft. It was with Chicago that he won his 300th game on August 4, 1985. He finished his career with the Red Sox where he mentored a young pitcher named Roger Clemens, but a knee injury kept him out of the playoffs. He attempted to make a comeback in 1987, but it went nowhere and he retired with 311 wins.

He was still one of the most celebrated pitchers in history. He was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1992 with a record 98.8% of the vote. He probably could have broken 99% if voters hadn't submitted blank ballots to protest Pete Rose being left off. After that he settled into retirement life, eventually opening his own vineyard where he made his own brand of wine. Unfortunately somewhere along the lines he was bitten by an Ioxedes tick carrying the Borrelia burgdorferi spirochete. He had to battle the bug as it gave him the neurological manifestations that are so fearful, and didn't make many public appearances during the time. Unfortunately that was around when I was going around collecting autographs. I'm hoping this is just a temporary setback.

Philip Henry "Phil" Niekro (1939 - ) is the master practitioner of one of the most unique pitches in baseball: the knuckleball. The knuckleball is thrown in such a way to minimize spin, letting the wind and the elements determine its path. It has been dismissed as nothing more than a trick pitch, but Niekro commandeered it to a successful 23-year career. He learned the pitch from his father as a young farmboy in rural Ohio, and the defending World Series champion Milwaukee Braves took a chance on this youngster and his trick pitch. He bounced around in the minors before making his debut at age 25. Yet by the time he left the Braves almost 20 years later he had become one of the team's most accomplished hurlers. The Braves were awful during his tenure, but he was still the big man on the mound the two times they made the post-season. Along the way he was extremely durable, surpassing 250 innings almost every year, reached the 3,000-strikeout milestone and even threw a no-hitter in 1973. They finally let him go at the age of 44, but he signed on with the Yankees and pitched effectively for two more seasons. He won his 300th game on the last day of the 1985 season, on October 6, 1985. He wanted to prove he can pitch without the knuckleball, and so he saved it until the very last batter. Along the way he threw a shutout, the only player to record a complete game shutout for his 300th win. He was also the oldest to record a shutout at the time, although Jamie Moyer eventually shattered his record 24 years later. He went on to pitch until he was 48 before finally stepping down with 318 wins.

After retirement he stuck around close to the game of baseball, but not in the traditional manner. He managed the all-woman's baseball team the Colorado Silver Bullets when they played in the mid-1990s. He also served as a mentor for young aspiring knuckleballers like Tim Wakefield and R.A. Dickey. He was finally named to the Hall of Fame in 1997.

I finally met with Knucksie on August 5, 2012 at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Baltimore. It was the sole reason why I was willing to drive from Texas to Virginia before my rotation in Akron, Ohio. He didn't seem to have aged much after he retired, although he already looked like he was in his 70s by the time he played his last game in 1987. He was very friendly and was very gracious in signing my game-used baseball.

Donald Howard "Don" Sutton (1945 - ) was one of the steadiest hurlers in major league history. He rarely missed a start in his 23-year career, and pitched effectively, being above league average in all but a few seasons. Even though he won 20 games only once, but he reached double digits in victories in 21 seasons, which is even more than the great Cy Young. Sutton got his start with the Dodgers alongside baseball legends Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale. He became a mainstay in the Los Angeles rotation after his two mentors retired, helping them to division titles three times in the 1970s. By the time he left via free agency he had become the winningest pitcher in Dodgers team history. He bounced around in the final years of his career, but found success wherever he went. He was part of playoff teams with the 1981 Astros, 1982 Brewers, and the 1986 Angels. It was with the final team that he won his 300th game on June 18, 1986. Sutton eventually made his way back with the Dodgers, and it was there that he retired with a remarkable 324 wins.

After retirement he found a second career as a broadcaster. He eventually became the longtime commentator for the Atlanta Braves, where he became a first-hand witness to some other pitching greats like Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz. Along the way he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1998.

Sutton had worked as a broadcaster with the Nationals for two years in 2007-08, and I had tried very hard to meet him there. I even made an elaborate poster for him welcoming him to Washington in his second home game, but it didn't work out as the Nationals played the Diamondbacks, where his son Daron was a broadcaster. I eventually found out that Sutton would be at the Tristar Sports Collectors Show in Houston, Texas on January 22, 2012. Even though I had driven from Longview to Dallas and back the two days before, I knew this was something I couldn't miss, especially since I was working on that second 300-win autographed ball. I got up early in the morning and made the peaceful 3.5-hour drive down to Houston. I got there before Sutton was set to appear, so I wandered around, looking at all of the expensive goodies. I saw a vendor who had a ball with signatures of 12 300-game winners. It was basically the same ball I had, only he got Tom Glavine's autograph. He was selling it for $1,000. Along the way I saw Don Sutton wandering the convention as well. There was no mistaking his curly gray locks. I didn't want to bother him because I knew I would be seeing him later. Finally the time rolled around for the photo op. Sutton had a reputation for being a nice guy and he proved it, getting my name and greeting me as though we had known each other for a long time. When it was time for the autograph he was very gracious, even willing to pantomime signing his name when I told him I wanted a video after he had signed it. It was very nice.

Seven months later, on September 1, 2012, I made my way to Atlanta to watch a Braves game. It was a kind of a spur of the moment decision because that is what I like to do. Anyways I got to Atlanta early in the morning and was able to hang around outside the players parking lot for autographs. I didn't get much, but one I did get was Don Sutton again. He was going in to perform his duties as a radio commentator. He didn't remember me from January, so I was able to get my Topps 1988 Sutton card, which I carried around in my wallet for a whole year back in 1998 because it was my first Hall of Famer Topps card

Lynn Nolan Ryan Jr. (1947 - ) is perhaps the most awesome pitcher in the history of the game. With his blazing fastball and knee-buckling curve, Ryan put up over 5,000 strikeouts and threw a mind-numbing seven no-hitters in his remarkable 27 year career. And he won 300 games. Those are numbers that nobody expected out of the timid flamethrower out of Alvin, Texas when he was drafted by the hapless New York Mets in the first draft. He split time as a starter and a reliever with the Mets, even recording a save in the 1969 World Series. But the Mets decided that he wasn't part of their future plans and traded him to the Angels. He blossomed with the Angels, throwing four no-hitters and established the modern record with 383 strikeouts in 1972. However, he struggled to keep his record above .500 playing for light-hitting Angels teams and they let him walk as a free agent. He signed with the Astros to become the first million-dollar player, and after nine relatively successful seasons he wound up with the Texas Rangers, where he struck out 301 hitters at the age of 42, including his 5,000th. He threw his sixth and seventh no-hitters, and on July 31, 1990 he won his 300th game. By the time he retired at the age of 46 he had 324 wins and 5,714 strikeouts. His 9.5 K/9 total may have been passed, but his achievements are more remarkable considering that hitters of the time felt striking out was the worst possible thing.

Ryan continued his success in his post-retirement life. He worked as a rancher, growing cattle for beef, but he also worked in banking, and owned several minor league teams with his sons. He became a special assistant with the Astros, and later jumped to the Texas Rangers, reflecting his career. He worked his way to become the president of the Rangers, and later its Chief Executive Officer.

As a Rangers executive he made public appearances representing the team, including the Ranger Fan Fest. He had a special autograph session on January 14, 2012. Each fan had received lottery numbers going into the Fan Fest, and a drawing was held for 250 lucky fans to get the Ryan Express's autograph for free! I was not picked, but later Nolan Ryan had a special Q&A session with Chuck Morgan. At the end of the session Morgan decided to hold a trivia contest for five lucky fans to win Nolan Ryan's autograph. He did it Jeopardy style where he'd say a player's name and the contestant must say their significance in the form of a question. I was too slow in the first three answers, but for the fourth answer Chuck Morgan said "Julio Franco." My hand shot up like a rocket, so much so that Chuck Morgan was able to see me in the crowd. He acknowledged me, and I walked up and proudly said, "Who hit a grand slam in Nolan Ryan's 300th win?" I'm sure that wasn't what Morgan was looking for, because he repeated Julio Franco for the fifth answer, but he accepted my answer! I was going to get Nolan Ryan's autograph! After much deliberation I decided that I wanted to start another 300-win autographed baseball. It was nice having the one with the late Warren Spahn and Early Wynn, but the ball already had eight signatures when I got it, and I got the other three through mail-ins. I wanted to be able to get their autographs in person, so I took out my game used ball from Randy Johnson's 300th win and used it to start my new collection. Unfortunately I couldn't get a picture with Ryan because he was a busy man and couldn't waste any more time on the thousands of Rangers fans, but I did get this cool relatively close-up picture in line. It's the best that I can do.
I wasn't able to get a photo op during Rangers Fan Fair since it was a "sign and move on" session, but in early 2014 Nolan Ryan released the "Nolan Ryan Beef & Barbecue Cookbook." And to promote the book he traveled to bookstores around the country with autograph sessions. While surfing around on Twitter one day I found out that he was having a signing at the Barnes & Nobles across the street from the NorthPark Center in Dallas, Texas in a few days! It started at 7, so there would be enough time to make it to the bookstore after work if I hurried. So on May 21, 2014, the day of the signing, I left work and sped all the way to Dallas and made it in enough time to obtain a pass for an autograph. Unfortunately once again he didn't do a photo op, but the employees at the Barnes & Nobles was nice enough to take a picture with both of us, so at least there's a picture that had both Nolan Ryan and me. Good enough

William Roger Clemens (1962 - ) rode a blinding fastball and a ferocity not seen since the likes of Early Wynn, Don Drysdale, and Bob Gibson to become the most successful pitcher in baseball's five-man-rotation era. He was drafted out of the University of Texas by the Boston Red Sox, and after two middling seasons where he showed glimpses of his potential while battling numerous injuries, he burst onto the scene in 1986. He struck out 20 batters in nine innings in an early spring game against the Mariners, then went on to win 14 straight decisions and finished the year 24-4, leading the Red Sox to the division title, and the World Series. Even though he couldn't close out the Mets, he won an MVP award and the first of seven Cy Young awards. He soon became the first superstar hurler for the Red Sox since Smokey Joe Wood and won two more Cy Young awards, although he probably deserved more. However in the mid-1990s he dealt with injuries, poor run support, and a season-ending strike to put up only 40 wins in four seasons. Even though he tied his record with 20 strikeouts in one of his last starts in the 1996 season, the Red Sox still let him go to the Blue Jays, believing him to be in the twilight of his career. He signed with the Blue Jays, winning back to back pitching Triple Crowns. Then they traded him to the Yankees, where he fit in by dominating in the World Series after struggling mightily in the regular season. He won a sixth Cy Young award, and then won his 300th game on June 13, 2003, in the same game where he recorded his 4,000th strikeout. He announced that he was definitely retiring at the end of the season, but came back and signed with the Astros. He pitched well for the Astros, winning a seventh Cy Young and helping them get to their first World Series. However, by then he became embroiled in the steroid mess. He made a comeback with the Yankees in 2007 but was named in the Mitchell Report at the end of the career and that effectively ended his major league career with 354 wins.

Clemens would spend his post-retirement life defending his irreversibly soiled reputation. He testified before Congress saying he never used steroids, only to have Congress take him to trial for perjury. He was acquitted of all charges after a media circus type trial, and pitched a few games with the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League. However, he has no desire to make a major league comeback, even though that could push back his Hall of Fame eligibility after making a disappointing 37.6% debut, half of what he needed for election.

Gregory Alan "Greg" Maddux (1966 - ) never had the awe-inspiring fastball of most pitching phenoms, but he made up for it with baseball smarts, impeccable control, and the amazing ability to push the umpires' limits of the strike zone. He teamed up with Tom Glavine and John Smoltz on the Atlanta Braves to form one of the most formidable rotations in the mid to late 1990s, and that was following a successful career as a young pitching star for the Chicago Cubs, where he led them to a surprise division title in 1989. He was very stingy with his earned runs and kept his ERA below 3.00 in the majority of his seasons. He was a consistent 15-game winner, doing so every season between 1988 and 2004, beating out even the great Cy Young for consecutive 15-win seasons. And even though he never had an overpowering fastball, he still places in the top 10 with 3,371 K's. He was already done being an elite pitcher by the time he won his 300th in his second stint with the Cubs on August 7, 2004, but he hung around as a league average pitcher for several seasons. By the time he finalized his retirement at the end of the 2008 season his 355 wins were enough to make him the winningest living pitcher and the second winningest since World War II. There will probably be a day where he'd give up bragging rights to the first record, but his place in baseball history is forever solidified.

After retirement he worked in various capacities throughout the game, first as a special assistant with the Cubs, and then moving on to join his brother Mike as a special assistant with the Rangers. That probably mostly means working with the team in spring training and then spending the rest of his time in Las Vegas making few public appearances.

I had tried to get Greg Maddux to sign when the Cubs played the Rangers in 2010, but he never did appear. I heard from other fans that he was there but wouldn't sign. I later found out that he did autographs with Mounted Memories, which allowed me to obtain his autograph through mail-in on my 300-win ball, but I still had to get his autograph in person. In May of 2014 I found out that he would be in Chicago for an autograph show with Mounted Memories, now operating under name Fanatics Authentic (or something like that.) To my delight, I found out that I would be able to go that weekend. I quickly bought a ticket and invited my friend Adam Latham to keep me company. He agreed to accompany me for the 14-hour drive, and so after work on June 27, 2014 we left to go to Chicago, finally arriving in the morning of June 28, 2014.

After a quick breakfast, we made our way to the convention site. We waited around for his autograph session to begin. I had bought a photo op ticket and it turned out that Adam can be a part of the picture too. So the both of us were able to get a picture with the great Greg Maddux. Later on when he was signing my game-used baseball I asked if he still played Nintendo, as that was one thing I remember about him during his playing career. Alas, he said he outgrew it and now spends most of his time playing golf. Oh well.

Thomas Michael "Tom" Glavine (1966 - ) was a magnificent hockey player in high school, even getting drafted by the Los Angeles Kings, but he decided to follow his heart and pursue a baseball career with the Atlanta Braves. At the time the Braves were a miserable team, but Glavine teamed up with fellow pitcher John Smoltz and manager Bobby Cox to bring them back on the road to respectability. After a few inconsistent seasons, Glavine found his groove in 1991, winning 20 games for the first of three consecutive seasons, his first Cy Young, and helping the Braves to their first pennant since 1958. Even though they lost in a hard-fought World Series, he would be an integral part of 11 of the Braves' 14 straight division titles. He would win 20 games two more times, won another Cy Young award in 1998, and had his own personal defining moment when he held the Indians to one hit in the decisive Game 6 of the 1995 World Series. He would eventually leave the Braves in a contentious free agent negotiation and joined the Mets. He struggled for a few years, but eventually adapted to a new style of pitching and held on to win his 300th game on August 5, 2007. He wound up back in Atlanta where he dealt with injuries for the first time in his career. He was rehabbing from off-season shoulder surgery when the Braves suddenly released him on June 3, 2009. He eventually announced his retirement early the next year, retiring with 305 wins.

Since then he began a personal services contract with the Braves, and serving as a guest analyst on Braves telecasts. That would allow him to remain close with the team that brought him unimaginable success.
I was relatively successful in getting the other three 300-game winners to sign my autographed 300-win ball through mail-in orders, but one never seemed to appear for Tom Glavine. I continued to search autograph shows for his appearances, but he never seemed to make one. I made a trip to Atlanta on September 1, 2012 to watch a Braves game, hoping that he would appear. While a regular said that Glavine usually appears on weekends, he was in Massachusetts that weekend for a hockey tournament. Curse my luck! By the time 2013 rolled in I was thinking of either making the drive back to Atlanta or just waiting until he gets elected to the Hall of Fame. One day I was sitting around in Taiwan and decided to check to see if Tristar Productions has updated its list of guests for the Houston show. They had. There were only three baseball guests, but one was...Tom Glavine! I quickly snatched up a photo op ticket and two autograph tickets, one each for the autographed baseballs I was maintaining. When June 1, 2013 rolled around, I left Temple Texas, where I was visiting my friend Rachel, and made the drive to Houston. I got there with plenty of time, and wandered around wasting money and talked with another fervent 300-win fan. Then the photo op time rolled around. He didn't seem much different from during his playing career, just with a little bit of gray in his hair. Otherwise he was nice, and was more than willing to sign two autographs for me. (Probably not a big deal considering the other 300-win fan had more than half a dozen items for Glavine to sign.) He didn't comment about my 300-win balls, but it didn't matter. One of them was finally complete! Too bad the vendor that had the other 12-signature ball that I met in Houston, San Francisco, and Baltimore wasn't around.

Randall David "Randy" Johnson (1963 - ) was more of a sideshow freak than a future 300-game winner when he made his major league debut with the Montreal Expos in 1988. At 6'10" he was the tallest player in history, though that record had since been broken by Jon Rauch. Yet nobody else 6'10 or taller has had the amount of success that the Big Unit achieved. Early in his career Randy could throw 100-miles an hour, but he had little control of where the ball was going. Finally in 1992 he threw a bullpen session under the watchful eye of Nolan Ryan and longtime pitching coach Tom House, and they suggested a mechanical change that would change his career. He soon had control to go with his speed, and also developed a slider so nasty it had its own nickname. He became the most feared left-hander on the mound of his time, striking out at least 300 batters six times and reaching 290 another three times. He won five Cy Young awards, including four straight between 1999-2002 where he struck out at least 330 batters a year. He threw a no-hitter in 1990, and then a perfect game at the age of 40 14 years later. He helped the Arizona Diamondbacks to the World Series over the Yankees in 2001. He fought back from a bad back that required several surgeries. Finally, on June 4, 2009, just four months away from his 46th birthday, Randy Johnson became the 24th man to achieve 300 wins. It is a testament to his endurance and determination. He tore his rotator cuff only a month after the milestone win and was not the same when he returned. Even though he was within striking distance of 5,000 strikeouts, he chose to retire with 303 wins and 4,875 strikeouts.

Since retiring he had been living with his family in Arizona pursuing his one true passion of photography. He had also made numerous commercial appearances including ads for Just for Men and GEICO. He even designed a luxury watch that sold for as much as a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card in decent condition. Not a bad life for the Big Unit.


Ryan H. said...

Such an interesting project!
I have recently realized that both Walter Johnson and Lefty Grove are within in one hour's drive from my home. Might just take up this project myself!

陳朗 said...

Oh you should. It's definitely well worth it, especially if you're a big baseball fan!