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The BASEBALL RELIQUARY Inc.


TONY SALIN (1952-2001)

BIOGRAPHY

      The baseball world lost an important historian and researcher with the passing of Anthony Conrad “Tony” Salin on July 31, 2001. The 49-year-old Salin, who grew up in San Rafael, California and lived in San Francisco since 1987, was, among other things, an author, humorist, publicist, activist, and baseball archivist. From the time he was eight years old, Tony was referred to as “Mr. Baseball” by family and friends, whom he regularly astounded with his expert knowledge of facts and trivia related to old-time ballplayers. Over the years, this preoccupation blossomed into a passion for the study and research of unsung players and culminated in the publication of two books.

Tony Salin
Tony Salin delivers keynote address at the Baseball Reliquary's Shrine of the Eternals 2000 Induction Day (photo courtesy of Larry Goren)

      The first, Baseball’s Forgotten Heroes: One Fan’s Search for the Game’s Most Interesting Overlooked Players (Masters Press, 1999), is a compilation of interviews with and stories about Pete Gray, Chuck Connors, Joe Hauser, Joe Bauman, Bruno Haas, Ox Eckhardt, Art Pennington, Frenchy Bordagaray, and others. In the book’s foreword, fellow author Peter Golenbock described Tony’s passion for “collecting baseball memories, not necessarily from the stars who have told their stories over and over, but from the men who played beside the stars and from men who were fortunate enough to spend their lives roaming the small towns of America playing the game of baseball.” A wonderful example of Tony’s more esoteric research can be found in the appendix of Baseball’s Forgotten Heroes -- a player pronunciation guide that he compiled from many sources while working on the manuscript. Nearly 300 players’ names are documented, ranging from Ossie Bluege (“BLUE-jee”) and Doug Gwosdz (“goosh”) to Mike Ryba (“REE-buh”) and Emil Yde (“EE-dee”).    

       Tony’s second book, A Baseball Odyssey (Embarcadero Press, 1999), was self-published. Co-written with Dave Roberts, it is essentially an autobiography of the Panamanian-born Roberts’ fascinating 22-year journey through professional baseball. Roberts’ career began in the minor leagues in 1952 in Porterville, California and ended in 1973 in the Japanese Pacific League with the Kintetsu Buffaloes. In between, there were stops in Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Mexico, and in the major leagues with the Houston Colt .45s and Pittsburgh Pirates. Roberts, who is African American, proved a remarkable subject for Tony, an under-appreciated and largely “forgotten” player whose insights and observations on the game are thoughtful and probing. The book is filled with lessons of inspiration, determination, and sacrifice. “It offers testimony,” wrote Donald James in his review of the book in the L.A. Watts Times, “that it’s not where the journey ends that makes life interesting, it’s the experiences and people encountered along the way that gives life its true meaning.”

      Tony’s passing was felt particularly strongly at the Baseball Reliquary, as he was an enthusiastic member and supporter whose sense of humor and commitment to uncovering “forgotten” aspects of baseball history were uniquely suited to the Reliquary’s sensibility. He was a keynote speaker at the Shrine of the Eternals 2000 Induction Day, delivering an address which encouraged the public to explore the many books written about lesser-known ballplayers, citing the wonderful characters and stories found in works such as Bill Heward’s Some Are Called Clowns and Pat Jordan’s The Suitors of Spring.           

      In the spring of 2000, Tony undertook a three-month-long tour around the country to promote his book, Baseball’s Forgotten Heroes, and to meet many of the players he had interviewed on the phone as well as other players he had learned about in researching the book. That journey resulted in a major acquisition for the Baseball Reliquary: what is believed to be the 70th home run ball hit in 1954 by Roswell Rockets slugger Joe Bauman. Tony’s remarkable account of how the ball came into his possession, along with related photographs, can be accessed in the “Collections” section of the Reliquary Web site.

RESEARCH COLLECTION

      Tony Salin had made provisions for his research collection to be housed at, and maintained by, the Baseball Reliquary. The collection consists of hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles and clippings, correspondence, photographs, and hours of audio cassette recordings of interviews with ballplayers. The Baseball Reliquary’s Archivist and Historian, Albert Kilchesty, is now in the process of cataloging this invaluable reference collection, which is a testament to Tony’s voracious search for gems of lost baseball history, gleaned from magazines and newspapers located in over 60 libraries in the United States and Canada.

      Highlights of the collection include extensive documentation on the careers of Buzz Arlett, one of the most outstanding players in minor league history, and Bill Lange, the legendary Chicago White Stockings (later the Cubs) outfielder of the 1890s, who was considered by many to be the equal of Ty Cobb. Tony also left behind an unfinished manuscript, basically an anthology of magazine and newspaper stories, which the Baseball Reliquary intends to prepare for publication in the future.

      Although Tony was fond of saying that he was a writer who hated to write, but felt compelled to do so, he clearly loved talking to and interviewing old-time ballplayers. His audio recordings indicate that he was a skilled interviewer, and his thorough preparation and self-effacing manner endeared him to many of his subjects. As a result, Tony was granted interviews by a number of players who were generally quite reclusive and difficult to access, such as Pete Gray, the one-armed outfielder who captured the nation’s imagination in the mid-1940s.

      Anyone interested in learning more about the Tony Salin Research Collection at the Baseball Reliquary may contact Terry Cannon at skpubs@earthlink.net.

MEMORIAL AWARD

      In September 2001, the Board of Directors of the Baseball Reliquary announced the establishment of an annual award in memory of Tony Salin. The award will recognize individuals for their contributions to preserving baseball history and for bringing attention to the stories and legacies of the game’s “forgotten heroes” who are largely unknown to the general public.

      Individuals from all fields of baseball will be considered, including -- but not limited to -- authors, editors, publishers, statisticians, researchers, historians, teachers, curators, archivists, and librarians.

      The recipients will be selected by a panel appointed by the Board of Directors of the Baseball Reliquary. The Tony Salin Memorial Award will be presented annually, beginning in the year 2002, at the Induction Day ceremony of the Shrine of the Eternals.

      For further information, contact the Baseball Reliquary by phone at (626) 791-7647 or by e-mail at skpubs@earthlink.net.

      The following short story, originally published in the Shrine of the Eternals 2000 Induction Day Program, is a delightful example of the kind of “baseball memories” that Tony loved to collect:

I KICKED BABE RUTH IN THE SHIN

A True Story by Jimmy Zinn, Jr.
as told to Tony Salin

Jimmy Zinn played second base in the minors from 1947 through 1953. His father, Jimmy Zinn, Sr., was a longtime pitcher/outfielder.

      I remember the incident very well, but I don’t remember why I kicked Babe Ruth in the shin. Maybe he got a hit off Dad that day or something. Anyway, I ran over and kicked him in the shin, then ran away. He just stood there, I guess, probably amazed that something like that happened. That was in 1929. My dad was with Cleveland that year. I was four years old.

      About ten years later my dad was managing Sioux City, Iowa, in the Western League and Babe Ruth came through town to put on a hitting exhibition. It was four or five years after Ruth’s major league career had ended. We were sitting in the dugout, my dad, Babe, and Dan Desmond, a local sports writer. We were just sitting around, relaxing, passing the time before the hitting exhibition was scheduled to begin. Naturally I was thinking about the time I had kicked Babe Ruth in the shin. But I wasn’t about to bring it up.

      Then Desmond asked Ruth, “Babe, was there ever a boy who didn’t idolize you, a kid who didn’t treat you like a hero?” Babe thought for a minute and said, “I remember an incident in Cleveland when a little kid ran up, kicked me in the shin, and ran off. I guess he wasn’t a fan of mine.”

      Dad had told Desmond about the incident. Desmond knew all the details. He asked Babe, “Babe, did you ever know who the kid was?” He said, “Naw, never did know.” I was feeling pretty nervous by that time and then Desmond said, “Well, it’s this boy sitting right here.” And he pointed to me.

      Babe widened his eyes and got a surprised expression on his face. He said, “I’ll get you one of these days!” The Babe wasn’t angry about it. He smiled and I stopped worrying about it.

      Then it was time for the hitting exhibition to begin. I went out to the second base position to relay the balls back from right field that Ruth didn’t hit out of the park. My gosh, he hit those balls a long ways. He hit better than twenty balls out of the park that night. And it wasn’t a short right field fence. It was about 335 feet down the line. The stockyards were right behind the ballpark. He was hitting them into the hay barns behind the fence. Towering drives over the barns in the stockyards.

      There were very few balls that didn’t go out of the park. But one of the balls that Babe didn’t hit out of the ballpark was a screaming line drive that came right at me. I mean, probably the hardest hit ball I ever saw. That includes later on when I was playing professionally. It never did get higher than my waist. I caught it in self defense. The seams of the ball imprinted on the palm of my hand, just at the base of my index finger on my left hand. I was so proud of those seam marks that I didn’t care about it hurting.

      When he was through with his exhibition I came back into the dugout. He walked up to me and laughed, “I almost got you back, didn’t I kid.” I said, “You sure did!” Then he gave me a big hug. That happened at Sioux City, Iowa, when I was fourteen.


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