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A Yankee Autograph Collector and Artisan

by Paul Semendinger

March 9, 2021


About a week ago, I received an e-mail from a Yankees fan who was seeking more information about my upcoming book The Least Among Them. The message came from a man named Jerry. It seems he had seen an article I had written about one of the players featured in the book, Rugger Ardizoia.

Jerry and Rugger had become friends in a unique and fun way that he soon shared with me when I called him at the phone number he left in that first e-mail.

Jerry lives in western Virginia. Now retired, he had been a United States Postal worker for 37 years before retiring, In his retirement, he decided to pick up a new hobby – collecting the autographs of every living Yankee and Hall-of-Famer.

A patient man, Jerry started the task of reaching out to the ballplayers through letters. He wrote as many players as he could, personalizing each letter to each player.

If anyone has ever tried to collect autographs by mail, this can be a tedious and frustrating process. Much of the time, autograph seekers don’t end up with much success. Many players current and past don’t respond to letters, even if a self-addressed stamped envelope is enclosed. Often times, players’ addresses change. Items sent in the mail for a signature are often never returned resulting in the dual disappointment of the lost item and the lack of a response.

Jerry, too, has faced his share of disappointments. But, he soon found a special way to connect with many of the players, he calls it his secret. (And I’m not here to share anyone else’s secrets…) In short, Jerry found a way to connect with the players through his secret, but I also believe through the kindness and sincerity in the letters he wrote.

Today Jerry estimates that has about 1,500 autographs, the vast majority of them collected just through the mail. Amazing!

One of the players Jerry corresponded with, and a person he became friends with, was Rugger Ardizoia. Jerry and Rugger corresponded all the time. Rugger shared many stories with Jerry about playing with the Yankees, about playing with, and being friends with Joe DiMaggio (they were both from San Francisco), and playing in the Pacific Coast League.

For a period of time, Rugger was the oldest living Yankee. Sadly, he passed on July 19, 2015. (I believe the oldest living Yankee today is Eddie Robinson who is 100-years-old.)

It’s wonderful when friendships can be formed by just sending a letter, but that’s exactly what happened with Jerry and Rugger and numerous other players. When Jerry writes, he writes from the heart. I have to assume that when the players receive letters from Jerry, they react in ways differently than with the countless other autograph seeking letters. The players must see in the letters from Jerry a certain kindness, a gentleness, a sincerity.

I imagine that Jerry touches the players in the same way that the players touch us – their fans. Somehow, even though we never meet personally, we often find that we connect with certain players. It seems many of those players connect with Jerry.

Since that first e-mail, Jerry and I have talked on the phone a couple of times. He’s down to earth and talks about the Yankees, baseball, and his hobbies with enthusiasm. He laughs a lot as he recounts stories of the players he saw and the ones he’s made friendships with through the mail.

In our discussion, Jerry asked me who my favorite Yankees player of all time is. I, of course, told him Graig Nettles. A few days later, a package arrived in the mail, addressed to me…from Jerry.

Inside were two wonderful homemade Graig Nettles magnets and this business card holder – all made by Jerry just as a way of saying thank you for our new friendship.

I am humbled, often, by the connections I have made through this blog and through the ways that my books have touched others. People write to me and tell me how my stories and writing have helped change their own lives. I have met, at book talks, conferences, through e-mail, and through the regular mail, many great people. There is so much goodness out there.

So much.

People like Jerry spread kindness, friendship, and more to so many… just through some kind words. It is great to know that there are people like Jerry that are out there. People who help make the lives of others just a little bit brighter, just by being themselves.

Isn’t this what life really is all about?


If you are a collector of autographs, especially Yankees autographs, and you’d like to reach out to Jerry. Please let me know in the comments or by reaching out to me through the blog. I’m sure Jerry would love to talk to you to share his secret and to talk baseball. It’ll be a discussion you’ll be glad you had.


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