Last week I posted a YouTube video showing off my George Gibson T206 card after receiving my copy of a book I ordered in the fall, George “Mooney” Gibson: Canadian Catcher for the Deadball Era Pirates. I’ve completed a Q&A with the co-authors, Richard Armstrong and Martin Healy Jr., to share. They are just like you and I, sports fans, collectors and neither had written a book before now.
In the video, I mentioned picking up my T206 Gibson after meeting Armstrong on Net 54. He informed me that George Gibson is actually connected to Scoops Carey, a man whose cards I collect because he attended my alma mater, West Virginia University. It turns out that Carey was signed by the Buffalo Bisons in 1903, on the same day as George Gibson. Both were picked up after a pair of every day players were injured. Carey was signed to play first, and Gibson to catch. Carey was delayed getting to Buffalo, so Gibson actually played in his first professional game by filling in at first, fielding with his catcher’s mitt.
Anyway, if you read some of the comments that were posted with that video, I mentioned doing a little Q&A with the authors, so here we are. I’ve hit them up with a short list of questions, and they’ve both given their answers.
Q: So who are you guys? Are you collectors?
Marty: Yeah I collect. I started with hockey as a kid. My Dad would buy me O-Pee-Chee hockey cards. Eventually I also got into baseball, and now I guess I can consider myself a Canadian baseball historian, and a member of SABR. I’m @martinhealzjr on Twitter, if you want to follow me. I add baseball content there regularly.
Richard: Oh yeah, I collect. Started in the 80’s with the same junk wax as a lot of us, returned to collecting when I was older, and have slowly made my way back to the Deadball era. I try to blog regularly over at moongibson.com, but have been avoiding joining Twitter. That’s changing though, I’ll be on Twitter soon and from what I hear, a YouTube channel might not be far off either.
Q: What’s your main area of collecting, now? Any cool pickups lately?
Richard: My main collecting focus is George Gibson. That probably won’t shock anyone. I’ve also started to branch out to cards of other Deadball Era Canadians. The last thing I picked up was a 1915 Cracker Jack of Yip Owens.
Marty: Now I mainly collect Canadian baseball players — both modern and vintage. The last thing I picked up was a 2020 Topps Inception Abraham Toro Auto (Orange / 50).
Q: So what is it with George Gibson? Why him?
Marty: Pretty random, really. I attended a ball game in his home town (London, Ontario) and they had a memorial plaque in his honour. I hadn’t heard of him before, so I went and researched him. The rest is kinda history, I guess.
Richard: I read about Gibson in Lawrence Ritter’s “Glory of their Times” and learned of him there. I had no idea there were Canadians starring in the big leagues so long ago. That led to me looking to see if he had any cards, and as Marty says, the rest is history.
Q: There can’t be that many diehard Gibson collectors out there. How do you guys know each other?
Marty: We met on Net54. I messaged Richard about a Gibson card he owns…still won’t sell it to me.
Richard: What Marty said. If I send you a scan of that card, can you add it to the blog so everyone can see what a sweet card it is?
Marty: If you’d sell me that card, I could send him scans.
Q: Okay, but how does this turn into writing a book. Is either of you an author?
Marty: Nope. Not until now, I guess. Before this, the closest thing I’ve come to writing anything is music lyrics when I was in my 20s.
Richard: Ha, not even a little bit.
Q: So what causes two guys that aren’t authors to just up and write a book?
Marty: Richard and I just thought Gibson’s story might want to be heard. In actuality, we were surprised nothing had been written about him previously.
Richard: Yeah. After I read Ritter’s book, I wanted to read a biography about Gibson, and one just didn’t exist. When Marty pitched the idea that we should write that book, I couldn’t jump at it fast enough. We’re biased of course, but we feel it’s a story worth telling. Gibson seems to have been forgotten in some ways.
Marty: Yeah absolutely. Gibson had a reputation for being tough in an era known for tough catchers. He had a long career, and played with guys like Wagner and Cobb. Baseball fans, should know about him. And as Canadian baseball fans, we felt like we should tell people about him.
Q: Okay, so I get why a couple of diehard Gibson guys want to read this book, but what about everyone else? Why do I want to read this book?
Marty: Right. So if you’re a Gibson fan, you should read this. But if you’re a Pirates fan, a fan of Canadian baseball, or a fan of the Deadball era, I think there’s something in here for you. You won’t just learn about George Gibson, you’ll learn about other characters of the Deadball era as well.
Richard: I’d agree with that. We’ve tried to capture the spirit of the Deadball era, and write about Gibson’s place in it. We scoured thousands of newspaper articles, read dozens of books, and even got in touch with Gibson’s family. There are stories and pictures in the book that have simply not seen the light of day in decades.
Q: Right on. So for a couple of non-authors, it can’t be easy to do something like this. What was the most challenging part about writing this book?
Richard: Looking back, what we did is kind of crazy. I mean, we just decided to write a story about a guy’s whole life. Knowing where to start something like that was tough. We had a lot of different bits and pieces — a wikipedia page, a SABR bio, the odd snippet out of a book. We decided early on we wanted as much original source as possible. Figuring out how to actually get those sources was tough.
Marty: This might sound too obvious, but it was the research. Getting access to newspapers from over 120 years ago, for example. But it was also the most enjoyable. As a collector, there’s something to be said about the thrill of the hunt. The research is like that too. You’re going through newspaper after newspaper, sometimes on microfilm, and don’t even know if there’ll be anything in there for you. It’s a great feeling though when you do find something, especially if it’s something you think nobody else knows.
Richard: At one point, Marty was making regular tips from Hamilton to London to scour through microfilm, and I was having the library in Guelph searching all over Canada and the US trying to get different microfilm couriered in for me to look through.
Marty: I made a lot of trips to London. Once George made it to the majors, it was easier to track down newspapers on him, because of newspapers.com. We still had to go to microfilm for some of the Canadian papers, and were reading a lot of books to get the whole story, though. It was a lot of work. And then trying to tie together all these different ideas, and sources. But yeah, a lot of fun too.
Q: So what was the most rewarding part about writing the book?
Marty: Getting to know Richard.
Richard: I pretty much have to say getting to know Marty now, don’t I? But honestly, getting to know Marty. We had already agreed to do the book before we ever met in person. You can be a totally different person behind email, so I remember heading to London to meet him at the library for the first time, and just thinking, like, what the hell am I gonna do if this guy is weird? But I think we’ve had a lot of fun doing this, and getting to know each other, and becoming friends along the way.
Q: Just two more questions, guys. Any advice for somebody thinking about writing a book?
Marty: Write it with a co-writer. It’s fun to have someone to bounce your ideas off of.
Richard: Yep, go for it. But I could have never done this alone. So I won’t say don’t go it alone, but if you’re lucky enough to have somebody else you can work with, do it. It’s way more fun, and I think more productive. Oh, and if you can be so lucky, find a really good editor. We should probably shout out Ted Golden, from Atlanta (@foodiebuddha on Twitter and Instagram). He played a big part in helping turn this into a coherent story.
Q: Right on guys. Last question then. Where can I get a copy of it?
Marty: If you’re in the US, you can buy the book from Amazon, or you can get it directly from the publisher. Actually, if you do buy it from McFarland, you can use the coupon code POSTPONED40, and get it and any other baseball book they sell, for 40% off. I think that code is good until the end of this weekend (through April 5, 2020).
Richard: If you’re in Canada, I mean, you can buy the book from us by going through www.moongibson.com, but honestly, unless you want your copy signed, you should order it from The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. They had a hand in the book, so if we could support them back, that’d be awesome.
Q: Sorry guys, one last question: Can I keep telling people I was the first person to buy the book?
Richard: Yeah, I think that’s okay. The day Marty told me the book was available for pre-order on Amazon, you bought a copy. Unless somebody can prove you wrong, you’re the first one who bought the book. And thank you, by the way.
Marty: Absolutely. Tell as many people about it as you can. Thanks for letting us do this little Q&A session. We appreciate you helping get the word out about the book.
So there you have it guys, just a couple of card collectors that went out and wrote a book. You should pick it up and if you have more questions, reach out to the authors or comment below and I’ll see if I can get it answered. I hope you enjoyed the interview.
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Having had some contact with Richard over the last couple of years, I can confirm that he is really good people! And I’m very happy for him, and his friend, on their accomplishment… hopefully this’ll be the start of many more to come 🙂
Thanks for the kind words, Jon. I really do appreciate the support. And thanks again, Kin, for letting us do this Q&A session.