Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Tribute to Herb "Briefcase" Simpson...

I know that I am not the first person to post up a TTM auto of this 2009 Allen & Ginter card of Herb “Briefcase” Simpson. I saw this card autographed up on the Carl Crawford Cards blog before I had even pulled a copy of this card myself. Since then I’ve seen it posted on “My Past Time, I Love It” and on a few other blogs. Basically, the guy is a very GOOD signer. I wrote him one of my typical LONG letters and asked him many questions. He and I have much in common. We are both abnormally short, played baseball, married the loves of our life’s in very unique ceremonies and we are both Ministers and have married others. We both have nicknames that relate to our stature as well. His nickname was “Briefcase” and I have read a lot of speculation as to the reason, but I decided to go right to the source and check with Deacon Simpson himself. I asked him quite a few questions and he provided me with many answers and I truly enjoyed corresponding and speaking with Mr. Simpson. He is eloquent and to the point, while being very gracious and patient. His most memorable moment in baseball came during the 1954 season while he was playing for the Oakland Acorns of the Pacific Coast League. The memory wasn’t a home run or getting a game winning hit, he married his sweetheart that day and they did it at home plate on August 13th in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He lamented on how much he misses her since her passing, but he gains solace through his work as Deacon at the First Tree Mission Baptist Church in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he has lived since his retirement from baseball over 50 years ago. When I asked who the greatest slugger he ever saw was, he answered quickly and simply-Luke. He was referring to the late, Great, Luke Easter. Briefcase and Luke were teammates on the Cincinnati Crescents in the late 40’s before Easter joined the Cleveland Indians in 1949. Easter played 6 seasons with the Indians, his best came in 1952 when he was second in the AL with 31 home runs. Herb remembered that physically Easter towered over all of his teammates and the distance that he could hit a ball was unmatched by anyone he had seen. We both agreed it was a horrible shame that his life was taken from him in such a way 30 years ago. Some other amazing talents that he remembered sharing the field with over the years were Piper Davis, Goose Tatum, Lefty McGinnis and Sherwood Brewer. My letter had missed Mr. Simpson’s 89th birthday by two weeks, but I wished him a belated one, he spent his special day with the extended family of his Church. All pleasantries aside, I got down to the business of his famous nickname, I told him the theories that I had heard and he set the record straight. The nickname was given to him by a sportscaster poking fun at his size. Herb’s last name was Simpson and Herb was 5’8” tall. He was playing for the Birmingham Black Barons as the same time that Harry “Suitcase” Simpson was breaking into baseball stardom with the Philadelphia Stars in the late 40’s. According to Deacon Simpson, Harry was 6’3” (Baseball Reference lists him as 6’1”). Anyway, Harry, the larger of the Simpsons already had the nickname “Suitcase”, when a writer and sportscaster saw Herb Simpson playing first base and holding Harry on, he pointed out the disparity in their height. If Harry is a Suitcase, then Herb is a Briefcase. The name stuck and 60 years later he still signs his name with that moniker and he enjoys it. People remember the nickname he says, they don’t know what it means, but they remember it. Herb “Briefcase” Simpson is a remarkable man and I truly appreciate him taking the time to enlighten me on the etymology of his name and share his stories with me. He has noticed a huge increase in the amount of mail he gets since the 2009 Allen & Ginter set included his card in it. He doesn’t mind, he said he enjoys the letters he receives and he signs every card he gets. He doesn’t require a donation to sign, but does appreciate offerings to the First Tree Mission Baptist Church in New Orleans. Mr. Simpson has a certified autographed mini insert in the set, but I think I now prefer the one he just signed for me through the mail. Although the insert is an SP and less than 250 were made, this one is a true 1/1 with a thoughtful and inspirational message AND he actually spelled my name correctly! He may be the first…Thank you so much Deacon Simpson, I look forward to meeting you in person someday soon, happy belated 89th birthday! As an end note: Unlike most blogs were everything is on the block for me, these 4 cards as a treasured part of my collection and they are not up for trade. They are also the only cards that I own of these 3 legends and I would like to increase that number, get in touch if you have cards of these fine ball players you may be willing to trade. I am going to add a full list of everyone I collect to the side bar of this blog very soon. On a totally unrelated topic, Mr. Night Owl, this is for you...Go Rays! Troll out.


  1. Dude, since I totally whiffed on the matter of the nickname "briefcase" I'm glad you got the DL! That is awesome!!

  2. Noooooooooooooo!!!!!

    I just hit "send" on an email agreeing to send the Crawford card to another Kershaw auto offerer!!!!

    Stupid. I'll have to track down something else Rays-like for that beauty. Sorry.