Coming Soon to The Catch: Minor League Time Machine

Beginning next week, The Catch will be sharing some minor league baseball treasures on the site that we haven’t shared anywhere else. I hope you’ll follow along and enjoy. I also hope you’ll take some time to read the following to see how the time machine came to be.

Back when I was a kid in the late 1970’s to the mid-1980s, I was obsessed with sports. I mean, it was all consuming. I played multiple sports, watched every game that came on tv, read books about sports, had a subscription to the Sporting News, wanted to go to every possible game I could (which wasn’t often), and spent entirely too much time drawing uniforms, logos, and pennants of every team, in every sport that I could find, whether I knew what they looked like or not.

In 7th grade, I got the bright idea to send letters to the St. Louis Blues and St. Louis Steamers (my favorite hockey team and my favorite now-defunct indoor soccer team) asking for team schedules so that I could follow their games more closely. I listened to the Blues via AM radio back in the day, turning the dial just so in order to get the best signal on cold winter nights in Ohio. But I missed games every now and again as I didn’t know when they were playing next. As for the Steamers, well, I just wanted to know when they might possibly be on tv so I could catch a fleeting glimpse of the team.

I wrote my letters to the teams over Christmas break that year. And then I just hoped that I might hear back from them at some point.

About two or so weeks later, I received a nice big letter in the mail from the Blues. There was a team roster, a merchandise price list, and a pocket schedule so I could follow along when the team played. I was happy, but I had no idea what was in store for me when the Steamers return mail arrived a few days later.

I remember coming home from school on a Friday afternoon. It had been a lousy day. I checked the mailbox at the bottom of the staircase leading to our small apartment. To my absolute delight, inside was a long and heavy envelope from the St. Louis Steamers. It had to be something good, no doubt.

I raced up the stairs, carefully opened the envelope, and pulled out an actual game program from a little earlier in the season. A GAME PROGRAM! For a 12-year old kid, that was absolute gold. I must have read it from cover to cover a half a dozen times that night. What caught my eye as much as anything was the fact that the addresses of all of the other Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) teams were included. It didn’t take me long to connect dots: if you take the time to write to teams, and they send you stuff, then writing to more teams means you might get more stuff. Who doesn’t like more stuff? Especially stuff that comes in the mail?! So I immediately wrote to all of the MISL teams and sat back to see what happened.

What happened was more stuff came my way. Some of it cool and awesome, some of it a little less so. (I’m looking at you Kansas City Comets and your lame postcard!) But I was hooked. I now had to expand my campaign to get more sports stuff.

In the days before the internet, we had to spend time looking up information. So, Like any good middle schooler, I started with the reference librarian at the public library how to get addresses for teams. She referred me to the World Almanac, which had the addresses for the four major sports leagues (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL). All of those teams got letters shortly thereafter.

Every time I got something back from a team, it seemed to lead to another source of team addresses which I could then send letters asking for schedules or whatever they wanted to send. I was never greedy or demanded anything in particular. I just asked them to send what they could so I could follow the team. But it was just so much fun to get mail with awesome stuff inside from all corners of the country that I had yet to explore.

Winter turned to spring. Spring turned to summer. I was still writing letters to teams. But as I ran out of major league teams to write to, I had to find something new. That’s when I decided that yes, of course it would be totally logical to write to all of the minor league baseball teams next. That’s just what I did. Now some team addresses I could get from the information received from the major league parent clubs. I had to be crafty to get others, since there was no Google at that time. So I wrote to a number the Minor Leagues themselves, asking for the addresses of their member clubs. Once obtained, I wrote to the clubs.

I think I wrote to minor baseball league teams at every level that first summer, from Triple-A teams down all the way down to rookie league teams. Not every team responded, of course. Those that did, however, helped develop a love for the minor league game that has never really gone away. The towns – big and small – that hosted the minor league clubs loved their teams. The teams were part of the community. They were not just one more part of a bigger baseball ecosystem, but helped to define the towns in which they were located. The smaller the town, the more important the team was to the town.

The United States was a much different place 35 years ago. It is so easy to forget that before the internet, 500+ channels of cable tv, and cheap road trips/air travel, small town America – even medium-sized America – had to make its own entertainment. There wasn’t much baseball on national tv, aside from the NBC Game of the Week or the occasional Monday Night Baseball game on ABC. If you wanted to watch baseball, but the local MLB team tv affiliate wasn’t showing the game (home game blackouts were still a thing), you went to the closest minor league town. Minor league baseball was vital back then to ensuring that the sport we all love was available to the entire country. (I would argue that it still is).

Before finally growing out of the letter writing phase a few years later, I had sent letters to teams/leagues all over the world. All major US sports, and their minor league teams, European soccer, European ice hockey, Aussie Rules Football, Canadian Football, foreign embassies, foreign leagues, foreign sport federations….you name it. The things I received in return are items I will treasure forever. They are a window into a wonderful and carefree part of my life – which absolutely every child should have.

It’s now been 36 and a half years since that first outgoing letter went into the mailbox. It’s hard to believe that so much time has passed. The responses from all of the teams have been sitting in my closet or office in various locations, looked at every so often for the purpose of some nostalgia, but not much more than that. So I have decided to use this site to display the minor league baseball stuff that I received. If nothing else, it will have a home to live on far longer than I ever will. I know at least a few readers might find it interesting. The logos, the uniforms, the advertising, the letterheads…you name it. I’ll be sure to post it. It will be the mid-1980s at its finest, and I hope you’ll enjoy it as much I have.

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