I’m still waiting for my first through the mail (TTM) autograph request sent to Kevin Mitchell in 1991. On the bright side, Seattle Seahawks quarterback of the future Dan McGwire signed and returned my 1991 Score rookie card.
The TTM hobby ended fairly quickly for me in 1991 or 1992. Over the year it would spark back and I would send some requests here and there. By 2007, it became a new passion and over a two-year span I acquired more than a thousand Chicago Cubs autographs through the mail.
Among my favorite returns were former prospects, draft picks, and minor leaguers. Braz Davis never made the big leagues, but he signed three or four of his Peoria Chiefs cards and included a half page written letter thanking me for bringing back so many good memories of his playing days.
So, much like many former baseball card collectors returned to the hobby this past spring during quarantine, I reignited the flame for TTM autographs.
This time, though, I was searching for former Cubs minor league players from the 1970’s and 1980’s. How do you find addresses? My strategy is not fool proof…it’s the old Google search.
I picked five players and searched their history and Google to see what address made the most sense. These requests were sent out in early April and so far I have three still out there, one returned to sender, and one success that came in the mail today.
Brian Vernoy was a star three-sport athlete in California. He was the Cubs’ first round draft pick in 1972, taken 15th overall out of La Quinta High School.
Vernoy was such a standout the Los Angeles Times wrote a feature story about him on March 30, 1972. Times writer Al Carr asked Vernoy who is the toughest batter to face. His answer is a familiar name to baseball fans.
“Gary Carter of Sunny Hills High. I played against him in summer ball. He comes up to hit and does. You can’t fool him. The weakness of most batters is the curve ball.
Carter hits everything. He seldom strikes out. You challenge him with your best hit and he challenges you with his swing. He’s hit me more times than I’ve gotten him out. But I still like to pitch against Carter, it’s fun.”Los Angeles Times, 3/30/1972
While Vernoy was a first rounder in the 1972 MLB Draft…Gary Carter was taken 37 picks later in the third round by the Montreal Expos. When Carter made his MLB debut on September 16, 1974, Vernoy was finishing his season in Class A ball with the Key West Conchs. It was a season to forget as the Conchs finished with a paltry 37-94 record.
Brian Vernoy played one more season of pro ball, 1975, with the Key West Cubs (renamed after the 1974 season). Carter went on to become a National League All Star in his first full season in the big leagues on his way to a 19-year Hall of Fame career.