Friday, March 26, 2010

Baseball card stories from Ray Smith

Ray Smith played ten years of professional baseball, playing in the major leagues with the Minnesota Twins from 1981 to 1983. He is still a member of the Twins organization today, as manager of the team's rookie-league affiliate, the Elizabethton Twins. He kindly answered my questions about baseball card experiences, including sharing a great story about former teammate Dave Engle.

- Do you have any stories about cards of yourself or of other players?
One story that comes to mind, that I am reminded of every time I see one of my old bats in my office here, has to do with a shipment of Louisville Sluggers, Dave Engle (one of my roomies with the Twins in the early '80's), and a baseball card. Kind of funny. Anyway....

I had broken my wrist in spring training vs the Mets, only nothing showed up on the x-rays until half way through the season. We had been on strike, so I was able to rehab without losing too much time on the field. September rolled around, and the Twins had decided to send me to Clearwater, FL to work out with our instructional league team prior to the start of winter ball in Venezuela. I had ordered a dozen bats sometime in August, and they had never shown up in Minneapolis. I told Engle to keep a look out for them (as well as the clubhouse guys), and to send them to me in Clearwater so that I could take them with me to winter ball. They never showed up, and after a few calls to Dave E. (where he told me that no, he had not seen them numerous times), I guessed that they had been lost somewhere.

To continue, the winter passed and spring training came and went. Early in the season the new baseball cards came out from all of the various companies. Somehow I had seen one of Engle's cards and it showed him posing with ONE OF MY MISSING BATS (saw my autograph on the bat head)! Picture must have been taken that previous September. Ha! I confronted him and he gave me some lame excuse. "Oh, THOSE bats..." or something like that. Bats HAD shown up after all.....

They were 7 and 8 grained T - 85's. Unfinished. Big league wood. Really nice. The same bats that George Brett used to use. He ended up giving me a couple that he still had (at least). I still have one of them here (says ENG on the end of it - he claimed 'em). I guess he recognized their quality and thought they would do him some about that from a roomie?

- Do you have a favorite card of yourself or of another player?
Don't really have a favorite card of myself. Wife keeps all that stuff. First one was somewhat special at the time it came out - but don't think about them much anymore.

- Do you collect baseball cards?
Don't collect cards. We used to gets boxes of freebies from all the companies during the playing days, but I used to give them away to the kids in the stands. Growing up, I used to collect them. Still have them too. All sealed in plastic, and some good ones. Many various Mantles, Roses, Nolan Ryan rookie etc. mostly from early to mid '60's (some earlier). Some valuable cards I'm sure.


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