By Bert Lehman
Twenty-seven years ago, Joe Zaccaro, of Orange County, New York, encouraged his daughter and son to politely ask for autographs from baseball players by sending baseball cards and a self-addressed-stamped-envelope to them.
“I did it for two reasons,” Zaccaro said. “One was to help with their writing skills. I wanted them to be very polite and write to a professional athlete. And then when they received something back in the mail they would be excited. When you’re 7 or 8 years old and you get something in the mail addressed to you, you’re pretty excited to open it. The more they received, the more encouraged they were to continue to do it.”
Zaccaro said they did this for six months to a year.
“They got close to a couple hundred cards,” Zaccaro said.
Zaccaro’s daughter, Jessie, was seven years old at the time, while his son was a couple of year’s younger. He added that if his children weren’t enjoying writing to baseball players, they wouldn’t have done it.
“When they started getting the cards back it was great,” Joe Zaccaro said. “The thing that was most impressive, not only getting the card back, but the letters they’d send to the players, a lot of the players would send the letter back and they’d put notes on it – encouraging notes on the letter itself. We saved all those letters. I saved all the cards for them.”
Jessie would get creative when writing her letters, Joe Zacccaro said.
“She wrote these baseball sayings on them,” Joe Zaccaro said. “They all got a kick out of it and all responded in a very positive way.
“One that was really good, there was a pitcher for the San Francisco Giants, he was a relief pitcher. She sent it (letter)to Japan and he sent the card back and he signed it in Japanese and in English. He sent the letter back and he wrote it in Japanese.”
About 80 percent of the cards that the kids sent out were returned.
“That’s what really encouraged my kids to go on,” Joe Zaccaro said.
The return percentage recently increased, as Joe Zaccaro recently received an envelope in the mail addressed to his 34-year-old daughter. The handwriting on the envelope was that of his daughter from when she was a child. Inside the envelope was a letter Jessie had written to Zack Monroe, as well as two Monroe cards that were autographed. Monroe also wrote a note on the letter that was originally sent 27 years ago.
“I was shocked,” Joe Zaccaro said. “I recognized the envelope right away because it had my daughter’s handwriting on it.”
It was the same SASE that was sent out 27 years ago, but had postage added to it.
Joe Zaccaro said he doesn’t know what happened to the letter over the past 27 years, but assumes Monroe placed it somewhere and it got forgot about, only to be recently discovered and returned.
In the note that Monroe wrote on the originally letter, he stated that he found the letter while cleaning.
“Sorry I’m late, but hopefully you are still collecting cards. However, it’s many years later, you are probably not collecting anymore,” Monroe stated in his note.
Joe Zaccaro said Jessie laughed when she found out the letter was returned, and that she is in the process of writing a thank you letter to Monroe.
“It was a good experience and we had a lot of laughs over it,” Joe Zaccaro said. “It was to teach my kids how to be polite and how to be professional and polite to players. If you do this, you have a good chance of getting it back. As long as you’re polite, you’re always going to have a positive response. And sure enough, they did.”
Who knew that sometimes the response takes 27 years.
Bert Lehman is the editor of Sports Collectors Digest. He can be contacted at Bert.Lehman@fwmedia.com.