View Full Version : Who is Roy Castleton and why is his Autograph So RARE

06-06-2012, 10:35 AM
I was in the middle of writing this story about Roy Castleton and I read on the forum that someone had already did a story on him for SCD which I have not read , so hope this one is not repetitive or redundant. To my knowledge no signature of Castleton has ever been offered for sale and he is still on my list of 1907 debut year players of which no autograph has ever been offered for sale.
Who is Roy Castleton and why is his signature so RARE?

He lived almost his entire life in Utah. His grandfather was Brigham Young's gardener and he was first Mormon major league professional baseball player.
It was a warm August morning in Youngstown Ohio in 1906. A 21 year old left handed pitcher from Utah sat nervously awaiting his assignment for that day. It was to pitch against the powerhouse Akron team which was comprised of mostly former major league veteran ball players. What he was to eventually accomplish at the end of that nine inning game would be nothing short of miraculous. Less than six foot tall his uniform hung loosely on the youngster's 150 pound frame, he did not look like an athlete.
Royal Eugene Castleton was born July 26th, 1885 he had worked as a clerk and bookkeeper for railroad offices in Salt Lake City Utah he had been a good student who excelled at math and in his free time played baseball for local teams. In 1906 against the wishes of his father Charles and mother Mary Ann both devout Mormons he elected to pursue his passion and boarded a train east. He arrived in Youngstown Ohio and promptly signed a contract to pitch for their minor league baseball team. At the turn of the century professional baseball was largely a game played by roughnecks , recruited from coal mines, farms and the bustling inner cities these ball players bore no resemblence to their modern day counterparts. Both in the stands and on the playing field, tobacco chewing, cussing, drinking and fighting was the norm. Gambling on games was openly practiced and fans sometimes brought guns to keep the betting on the level. Ladies rarely if ever attended baseball games.
Roy surveyed the field that August morning. It would be a hot and humid day he knew that and he would need to pace himself, as a pitcher he knew too that the humidity would make his curve ball break nicely making it harder to hit. Slowly, deliberately he walked to the pitchers mound , the hometown fans applauded. He took the baseball and began to pitch. He retired one batter after another as the tension began to build and by the 9th and final inning not a single Akron batsman had reached first base. In fact only four balls had even found their way out of the infield only to be snagged quickly by the Youngstown team's outfielders. With the final out of the game he had done it , The bookish looking Mormon from Salt Lake City had done it. He had pitched a perfect game ! Giving up not a single walk or hit while striking out ten in a 4-0 Youngstown victory. He would become an overnight sensation.
Word quickly spread to major league teams who clamored to learn more about this Utah "wonder" , Scouting reports read that "his fastball strikes the catchers mitt like thunder and appears much faster than is possible for a 150 pound human to throw, his curve ball is one of the best we have ever seen" He was compared to the major league's Cy Young who himself the year before had also hurled a perfect game. Cy Young would eventually win a major league record 511 games in his career and become one of the original five members of the baseball hall of fame. Roy Castleton would not be as lucky.
Major League teams were so excited about Castleton that he was immediately offered a contract for $2,000 an astonishing amount of money in 1906 when the average wage in the United States was twenty-two cents an hour ! Considering him too valuable, the Youngstown team refused to let him go. Finally a deal was struck whereby Roy would be allowed to finish the season with Youngstown before signing on with the New York Highlanders a team which would later be called the New York Yankees. He was considered by most sports writers to be one of the most promising rookie pitchers ever. Early in the 1907 season he was to make baseball history again when he took the mound for the Highlanders in the 9th inning he became the first ever major league baseball player born in Utah as well as the first LDS major league player. He did not allow a hit in his brief but historic outing. In his next major league appearence he retired the first 12 batters he faced and pitched effectively but his team mates afforded him only one run and he lost 3-1. In his next and last American League appearence he won his first major league game and finished the season with one win one loss and a 2.81 era. Highlander fans looked forward to the 1908 season where it was hoped the promising rookie would help lead the team to their first championship. Roy returned to Salt Lake City for the winter and his old job in the railroad office to await the promise of spring and the 1908 baseball season.
Typhoid fever was a dreaded and feared disease a century ago. Many people died from it and few were the same after they had contracted it. In 1908 disaster struck when Castleton became one of them. He lost 35 pounds and spent his twenty third birthday in a hospital bed. By the time he was ready to return the baseball season and his chances at major league stardom were over. He fought back and in 1909 and 1910 pitched briefly but effectively for the Cincinnati Reds in the National League but his fastball was never the same again. It was reported that "Roy does not look well and its doubtful the boy will ever pitch again". Wanting to be closer to home he returned to Salt Lake City and continued to pitch in the minor league's Pacific Coast League until physical problems forced his retirement from the game in 1913. In 1918 he married Esther Kelson in Salt Lake City and took a job with the stock brokerage firm of "Scott and Hadley". After the Great depression struck in 1929 he remained in Salt Lake City working as a accountant and book keeper. Which would mean he would have signed literally thousands of items yet to my knowledge as a baseball autograph collector and historian not a single Roy Castleton autograph has ever been offered for sale and the only example of his John Hancock ever seen is that pictured here from his World War One draft registration card. Why ?
Sometime in the 1940's he and Esther moved from Salt Lake City to southern California. They had no children. He was employed as a water heater inspector by a company called GWH Corp in Santa Monica. They lived in a somewhat upscale two story home at 1320 S. Highland Ave in Los Angeles. Suffering from diabetes his health gradually worsened and he died of a cerebral hemorrhage on June 24th, 1967. His body was returned to Salt Lake City for burial and his wife Esther then 75 years old chose to move back to the city of her birth and remain in Salt Lake where much of both her and her late husband's family still resided. Her health declined and she spent the last 10 years of her life in a nursing home and died in Salt Lake City on October 4th, 1987.
They say that baseball is "A game of inches" and it is true. Where inches can determine the outcome of an entire season, A ball caught in the tip of an outfielders glove at the end of his stride or a batsman swinging a second to early or too late or a pitcher who's once lightning fast pitch suddenly has lost its thunder. What is true in baseball may also be true outside of it. Away from the green grass of the outfield and the dried earth of the pitchers mound where in 1907 once stood a young left handed pitcher on the verge of greatness. Life is a game of inches.

Jim Stinson is a free lance sports writer, autograph collector, Baseball historian and long time member of SABR (The Society for American Baseball Research)

06-06-2012, 10:51 AM

Great story....It's great to be acclimated with a player/story that you have never heard before.

Great stuff.

06-06-2012, 11:47 AM
It would probably cost more to find his autograph than it would be worth. It took me 3.5 years to find former mexican heavyweight champion boxer Manuel Ramos' autograph from deep in mexico and it's probably not worth 100 dollars and it is one of a kind as far as i know.

But if someone wanted to go on a crusade and leave no stone unturned, they could maybe find a R. Castleton autograph. Is it worth it is the question? A guy spent a decade looking for Jim Robinson's boxing autograph and couldn't find one so the prospect of putting in tons of time and money and not getting anything out of it is a possibility that people will weigh before deciding on investing the time/money to find a signature of his. We are trying to find an Charley Retzlaff autograph and looking high and low and nothing, and there should be a few around but connecting the current whereabouts of the autograph to the person looking for it is quite a task sometimes.

That said owning a R. Castleton autograph would be cool and I hope someone does find one.

06-06-2012, 12:01 PM
An authentic Roy Castleton autograph would in my opinion sell for anywhere from $1,000-$3,000, at least. As a former Highlander (Yankees) he's on every Yankee's "Want List" I see and also on every single 1907 debut year want list also, Not to mention the Mormon connection.
Baseball autograph collecting is a little different in that very obsure non-hall of famers can command more dollars than big name famers. The autograph of Clancy Smyres who played in only 5 games for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1944 and died in 2007 would sell for more than Honus Wagner, Rogers Hornsby & Ty Cobb COMBINED.

06-06-2012, 12:05 PM
To me that's the difference between a collector and an investor. An investor weighs the time and cost of acquiring an item to maximize profit, where a collector doesn't care because it's the thrill of the hunt.

06-06-2012, 12:09 PM
Jim, what's the deal with Clancy Smyres? Did he not do shows in the 80's or sign by mail. Strange that someone who died in 2007 and lived in or around Los Angeles and played for Brooklyn would not have done at least a couple of shows in the 80's. Was he unable to sign?

06-06-2012, 12:26 PM
For reasons known only to Smyres he would not sign, anything. Collectors sent him expensive gifts via certified mail requiring only his signature and he refused them. In the 1990's I called him on the phone and he was very nice on the phone until the word "autograph" came up and he kept saying "Good bye, Good bye", (smile) I was doing private signings then and offered him $5,000 to sign 10 items and he hung up on me. He was perfectly able to sign but steadfastly refused. Since his death I have heard of collectors offering his son far more money than I did for anything signed by his father, and the son (so far) responds the same as his father used to

06-06-2012, 12:34 PM
What it takes is someone who wants one bad enough to give it an all out blitz and that might be enough to find one. but it takes quite a Herculean effort sometimes.

Try getting an Alfredo Evangelista (Muhammad Ali opponent) autograph, exasperating.

06-06-2012, 12:44 PM
To me that's the difference between a collector and an investor. An investor weighs the time and cost of acquiring an item to maximize profit, where a collector doesn't care because it's the thrill of the hunt.

But investors dont go on crusades like this, only the collector is insane enough to go on a multi-year wild goose chase to find a near impossible autograph like this, but after spending tons of money and time, even a collector has to know when to call it quits, like my friend who spent probably over 10 grand and couldnt find a jim robinson autograph. There is such thing as throwing good money after bad. When you cover about 95% of the bases, the remaining 5% will cost you more than the first 95% ever did, and some autographs just aren't meant to be found. I've went on a few of these chases and have about a 50% hit rate.

Marvin Hart a good example. The very few that are around are either in public institutions like museums or gov't archives, and only a couple in private hands but have been around awhile, but I never see new examples come into the marketplace, I wish they would, finding some of these autograph is like finding sasquatch sometimes. You get a lead but it ends up evaporating before your very eyes.

I found autographs of over 90% of all the champions and challengers for the heavyweight crown unified, wbc, wba, ibf, (and all of them from 1923-1996 except one, leroy jones, and that is a story unto itself.)

You have to do a systematic approach with included geneaology, work history, friends, geographic location, etc. i am quite good at it now and will take on autograph cases if anyone wants a certain one.

06-06-2012, 01:39 PM
Travis, although I agree with most of what you're saying, I do believe that the internet and social network sites have made the world so small, that almost anything can be found (if it can be found) by just sitting at your computer. There are collectors right here on this site that network all over the U.S and the World and have found some stuff that I would have thought was extinct. All it takes is one person to happen upon an item in someone's collection or yardsale etc, take a picture of it on their smartphone, and then text it to multiple collectors to see if they need it.

06-06-2012, 02:15 PM
Travis, although I agree with most of what you're saying, I do believe that the internet and social network sites have made the world so small, that almost anything can be found (if it can be found) by just sitting at your computer. There are collectors right here on this site that network all over the U.S and the World and have found some stuff that I would have thought was extinct. All it takes is one person to happen upon an item in someone's collection or yardsale etc, take a picture of it on their smartphone, and then text it to multiple collectors to see if they need it.

I don't think that is true with VERY tough to find autographs. thats why they are hard to find. Once you go through the collectors and dealers, then you end up with the super hard to find, like Roy, then you need a specialist who has a systematic approach. we did a search for jim robinson and his autograph like you wouldn't believe, the sane things, the insane things. thousands of man hours, thousands of dollars. Checking every lead. It was totally insane. The guy from espn the magazine wrote a story about it.

No Jim Robinson, no autograph.

You find out all the info on the guy as possible, you run his geneaology reports, you locate all the jobs he had, all the places he lived. you try to contacts relatives, friends, you run ads, you post on forums. its a system.

you have to keep a log or a whiteboard flow chart.

otherwise it is hit and miss and you have to start over, because if you ask around and get nowhere, you will miss the one avenue that could have the answer. It's like looking for a raft on the ocean, they go in a certain pattern, so they dont miss a spot. if they just go here and there, the raft could be in a small area they didnt get to, then they dont know where to go next.

but that's just my ramblings. everyone can have their own opinion about it.

06-06-2012, 02:26 PM
Care to share any of the insane things? Sounds interesting!

06-06-2012, 02:44 PM

In 2000 I found an article talking about Castleton in an old scrapbook and it mention he was Mormon. The focus of the article was a perfect game he threw in 1905 for the Youngstown team. At the time the earliest documented Mormon athlete was Spencer Adams in the 1920's so when I made the discovery it was pretty significant and completely unknown. I was working on an article about him to submit to the LDS church and I was not very careful about keeping the research private and the cat got out of the bag before I could finish. Years later Bob Lemke did an article in SCD which made my research pointless so I never finished. I have been hoarding his cards and photos for years and years along with my brother and we have just about everything of his except for the Western Playground card and of course, an autograph. I have been asking around to old time collectors and dealers since 2000 and supposedly one old timer has an autograph but I cant confirm it. I even became friends in Law School with a guy who was his great great nephew (named Castleton) and neither he nor his geneology rich family knew anything about Roy. I sent about 2 dozen letters to all his descendants and relatives about 5 years ago and never got a response from any of them. Forget the Yankee collectors, if one ever came up for sale I would buy it. I would be prepared to pay whatever it took. Aside from Louis Sockalexis, Roy Castleton's autograph is one of my absolute "Holy Grails". I hope that helps explain a little better.

Rhys Yeakley

06-06-2012, 02:50 PM
Care to share any of the insane things? Sounds interesting!

You do whatever it takes within the law. In boxing, you check all their fights, which cities they fought in and what dates, then you look at the boxing card, and try to contact all the fighters that fought with that guy in that city on that date. i found someone who fought with manuel ramos in seattle area, and actually roomed with him that night, but he didnt have an autograph. but he gave me the name of another guy who was there too, so then you go to that guy, and the next guy. i ended up going to the wbc in mexico city, they found his brother, but his brother didnt have the autograph.

they found out he worked for the armada de mexico, the mexican navy as an office manager. they called in a favor and the navy scoured their records for a couple of weeks until they found his resignation letter. but before i got that far i contacted every boxing promoter, manager, organization on planet earth to try to find this guys autograph. that's the insane part, there is no end to it. it's hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of leads, even the obscure ones, because i have found out that the obscure ones sometimes pan out.

i contacted everyone with the same last name that i could find. hundreds of them, you send out letters, you email and email and email, you write stacks of letters until you cant write any more. you offer rewards.

you google every key word you can think of, you have to know your way around ancestry.com , google, spokeo, all sorts of other search programs.

you run gov't records, wwi registration, census records.

and it's all a race against time, because every year, someone that knew him passes away, files get thrown out, signed checks get tossed.

you contact libraries, museums, halls of fame. gov't agencies, family members, friends, acquaintances, anybody, anything forever and ever, and ever, and if you are very lucky, you find 1 autograph.

this is what I did for many obscure boxing autographs, sometimes i got lucky, sometimes I didn't.

If the guy is living, but is a recluse, like leroy jones or jose roman, or alfredo evangelista, you have to read all you can about them, you have to try to get in their head, figure out what makes them tick, you have to try to think like them. you have to figure out what is important to them. it's obviously not signing autographs. you have to try to locate them. they don't want to be found. family members will cover for them, tell you he doesnt live here. you have to figure it out, find a side of them that you can reach, an empathy side. Or find a close relative that has sympathy for your cause that can get an autograph for you.

i wrote to evangelista and as far as i know, i am the only one to ever get a letter back from his with autographs. but i didnt go in cold. i didn't just ask him for an autograph. that request goes in the trash can. i wrote a long letter that worked up to an autograph request. i found out what his interests were, why he is the way he is. i made a connection.

he thinks everyone who wants an autograph just wants to sell it for money. he's apprehensive that way to sign for strangers. so i decided to not be a stranger, but it took time and a strategy. all this and more goes into find an autograph of a long ago deceased person, or a living person who doesn't want to be found or sign autographs. It's a crusade, it really is. Once you start, you enter a strange world, and you can't be afraid of insanity. It's like a really good private eye, only you are a collector so it is much more personal for you.

06-06-2012, 03:38 PM
Oh, thoooose kinds of insane things :)

That takes some real dedication to get to that level.

06-06-2012, 03:55 PM
Oh, thoooose kinds of insane things :)

That takes some real dedication to get to that level.

yes, it's not like putting on fake moustaches and trench coats and meeting a dark stranger in an alley and exchanging cash for a paper bag or anything. But it's the constant perserverance that is insane. sometimes a few years, with correspondance inches thick. and hundreds and hundreds of emails. All failing and you find yourself not any closer than you were at the beginning. but you keep trying.

There are many times you say to yourself that you have to stop, that it is a lost cause but you gotta keep going, you have too much emotionally invested to stop. It's when the guy is living but you can't find him that is really frustrating, because you know he is out there somewhere. if the guy is dead for a long time, the trail is cold for a reason, a lot of time has passed, but for the living recluse who doesn't want to be found, it's very frustrating. Leroy Jones who passed away a couple of years ago, didn't want to be found at all.

Jose Roman, who evidently lives in the tampa area, and works at a grocery store, doesn't want to be found. Frustrating. He could sign a few autographs and make a little money, but he evidently doesn't want anything to do with boxing.

i think these guys who fought for the championship and lost had a sense of failure, that they didn't want to talk about it, that they felt they got cheated and wanted to move on with their lives.

Tom Hufford
06-08-2012, 01:04 AM
I actually tracked down the biographical info that is listed for Castleton in the various baseball encyclopedias.

The Turkin-Thompson encyclopedias of the 1950s-60s, as well as the 1969 and later editions of the Macmillan Baseball Encyclopedia simply listed him as "Roy J. Castleton b. 1886 Salt Lake City, UT", with no exact birth date, and no death info.

When the 1969 Macmillan Baseball Encyclopedia was published, it contained far more detailed birth and death data than any other previous work. The fact that there was no death info for Castleton wasn't particularly surprising, since he could quite possibly still be living, at the age of 83. If he were still living, though, no researcher had been able to locate him (if anyone was even trying). He was listed as "Among the Missing" in a listing put together by one of the other founding members of SABR, Bill Gustafson, in the early 1970's.

In November 1976, I had occasion to spend a few days in Salt Lake City, and had always wanted to visit the LDS genealogy library there, to work on my own family history. I quickly found out, though, that the vast majority of books they had on the section of Virginia where I grew up were ones that I had already seen, and I really ended up doing very little research on my own family. I decided to work instead on some of the "Missing Ballplayers."

I was able to find a book of cemetery records from Texas that gave the full name, birth and death info of the 1915 player who had been listed as Reeves H. McKay (actually Reeve Stewart McKay) - who is included in the T210 Texas League card set, and got a bit of data on some other players. I also did some work on Roy Castleton. I didn't find any birth or death info for him at the LDS library, but I did find a marriage record, with the name of his wife (probably in a published book of Salt Lake City marriage records!).

Since I was in Salt Lake City, it only seemed logical to see what else I could find on him there. But, I knew that HOF Historian Lee Allen had started his player questionnaire project in 1959, and if Castleton could be easily found in SLC, Lee would probably have found him long ago. Anyway, that night in the motel I thought I'd just call all the Castletons in the phone book and see what I could find. After several calls and talks with people who had never heard of Roy, I hit pay dirt - I found Roy's wife! I don't remember how she was listed in the phone book - it must not have been under Roy or Esther, maybe it was listed with her initials. Anyway, she was living in a nursing/retirement home. We had a nice talk, she told me about moving to the Los Angeles area, and how she came back to SLC after Roy died. She provided me with his full name - Royal Eugene Castleton (rather than the Roy J. listed in baseball sources), and the dates and places of his birth and death. I passed that info on to Cliff Kachline, who was the HOF Historian at the time, and that's what's been listed in the Baseball Encyclopedias ever since.

And yes, I did ask her about the possibility of getting something that Roy had signed. They didn't have any children that might have saved something, and she said that in moving from LA back to SLC after Roy died, and then moving into the nursing home, she had gotten rid of pretty much everything she had except some clothes, and items that you might expect, like a couple of photos and decorative items in the room. Certainly there was no room in the nursing home for old business papers, letters, etc. So, no, she wasn't sitting on a hoard of autographs, contracts, scrapbooks, uniforms, or anything like that. She did seem to enjoy our conversation, and was somewhat surprised that someone would be interested in those few years from her husband's life. I've often wondered if anyone after me ever talked with her about her husband and baseball.

Roy Castleton didn't hide - he simply went on with his life after baseball, moved away from his hometown. Maybe some people ran across him in LA who remembered him from his PCL days, who knows. If researchers in the 1950s and 60s had had the same internet resources that we have today - telephone directories, real estate records, vital records indexes, the Social Security Death Index, etc. - Roy certainly wouldn't have remained "Among the Missing" for so long - and might have signed an autograph for everyone who asked him!

06-08-2012, 08:22 AM
Excellent post Tom, The amazing part to me is that he spent almost his entire life after baseball as an "accountant" and "Book keeper" which means he would have signed if not thousands than hundreds of items in that capacity. Along with having been fairly active in the minors in the mid west and also PCL. BUT.....Nothing !
And too this was a man that died in 1967 ! Not 1927 ! The closest I have came to what could be called a lead. Is the mother of his nephew (now deceased) who helped take care of his wife in the Salt Lake nursing home. Her husband ended up with the wife's personal effects and supposedly some of Roy Castleton's before he moved from Salt Lake to California but even SHE was surprised to learn he had been a baseball player. I too did a cold call search of the Castleton's in the SLC directory as he had quite a few siblings that remained there for their entire live's and what is especially strange is that of the relatives I found that were related to him , none knew that he had been a baseball player.